Saudi on being part of 'Black Panther' soundtrack - 'It did nothing for my career'

2019-07-19 17:23
Saudi. (Photo: DRUM)

Cape Town - As a teenage hustler he dealt drugs on the streets of Soweto to help his family survive. It was a rough, tough existence and when he was just 16 years old Anele Mbisha contemplated ending his life to escape the misery that had engulfed him.

But he hung in there – and it’s a good thing he did because he became part of a global success story, performing on the record-breaking soundtrack for the hit movie Black Panther, alongside superstar Kendrick Lamar.

READ MORE: Black Panther soundtrack features South African artists

But Saudi, the stage name Anele now goes by, is the first to admit he’s still “just a chill guy from ekasi”. And although he appreciated the opportunity to work on such a prestigious project, it hasn’t really changed his life.

“I was humbled that Kendrick saw some talent in me, this kid from Soweto,” he says. “But it didn’t do anything for my career.”

Saudi says Kendrick knew his music, and contacted his record company, Ambitiouz Entertainment, with the proposal that they collaborate. “He was a fan of and aware of my music.”

Kendrick gave him freedom to do his verse for the track in his style. And when his sound became part of the award-winning soundtrack for the hit movie, Saudi was thrilled.


“It felt good knowing I’m part of something that successful. I didn’t have any high expectations but the whole experience was a positive shift in my career.” However, his management team should have capitalised on the huge Black Panther hype to push his brand internationally, he adds.

Still, it is what it is and he doesn’t blame anyone.

“I’m just saying the album didn’t do anything for me. And Kendrick didn’t have to do anything for me – he’s not my father.

“I am the only person who cares about where I come from and where I want to be. I want to be the best, the most influential, lucrative and successful artist. I am always fighting to achieve that.”

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Saudi (22) was bitten by the rap bug when he was just 10. At the age of 13 he recorded his first song on an electronic keyboard and by the time he was in high school at Eldorado Park Secondary, he formed a rap group known as O. V. L. O. E which stands for Ozmuzik Victory Lane Over Everything.

His budding hip-hop career came to an abrupt halt when he learnt his mother, Carmelia Mngomezulu, didn’t have money to continue sending him and his siblings, Loyiso (25) and Nomathibane (17), to school.

He decided to hustle to help his family and dropped out of school when he was in Grade 11.

“My mother was breaking her back trying to provide her kids,” he says. “I realised it was up to me to make my own way and help get my family out of debt, poverty and despair.

“I sold drugs to help my mother. It was the only way I knew. This was the life I was exposed to in the township,” he says, referring to Senaoane, in Soweto, where he grew up.

Soon after, he was living on the streets.

“My mother and grandmother taught me great morals and principles but that all evaporated once I got involved in street life. To this day I live by checks and stripes – which means money and maintaining a respected and even feared reputation.”

He also started using drugs, he admits.

“It was a hard life for a kid and it all got too much.

“At some point I wanted to kill myself because I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to end it all. But music saved me.”


He was given a second chance when he met music producers Ruff and the late Swati in 2012 at the DogMow Studio in the Jozi CBD, where the African Trap Movement was born. He also met fellow recording artists Emtee and Sjava who he describes as “my brothers”.

The trio moved in together into a flat in the Jozi CBD, where they cooked up “some of their best songs”.

In that flat Emtee recorded Washa, which got the rapper signed by Ambitiouz Records in 2015. Emtee, Saudi says, didn’t forget his friends. He introduced Saudi to Kgosi Mahumapelo, the label’s owner, who signed him too. Their flat was also where Amafu by Sjava was recorded, along with Africa, a song on Saudi’s debut album, as well as We Up by Emtee.

“Ruff became my mentor. It was the first time I’d met someone who believed in me. He didn’t judge me or lie to me.”

Emtee and Sjava inspire him, he says. “I feed off their energy. Together we make sense, we fight to be the best.”

Saudi went back to school, matriculated and briefly attended a music college before dropping out. “I realised it wasn’t going to help me become the best and most lucrative artist in the world, which is my current goal.”

He does, however, intend to someday get a degree in psychology so that when he has kids he can show them the value of education.

“I won’t give [my kids] an excuse to not complete school.”

Despite his fame and success, the rapper describes himself as a “socially awkward and broken, but good-hearted person. This is who I am and there is nothing I can do about it. Life goes on.”

He has deep-seated trust issues, he confides, explaining that from an early age he became distrustful of people.

“I grew up thinking life is unfair. I went to see a therapist but I don’t think therapists can do anything for you. Lots of people are prejudiced anyway so there is no point,” he tells us.

He delved into his inner world on his 2017 album, Drugs Inc, but got more attention for the record’s title than its content, he says.


“The title is an acronym, for Devil’s Revenge Upon God’s Servant is Not Crime, which sums up my upbringing and life experiences . . . But people misunderstood my album’s name. I don’t glorify drugs at all,” he told TimesLive.


The one person who does understand him is his girlfriend, Nthabiseng Nketsi (20). The couple have been together since 2016, Saudi says.


“She is my best friend. She is always there for me. She is the realest person I know. She gets me.”


His music, Saudi says, will be his therapy.

Read more on:    saudi  |  music

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