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DJ Citi Lyts speaks out about ProKid’s death: ' I can't believe my brother died like that'

2019-06-20 16:24
DJ Citi Lyts. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
DJ Citi Lyts. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

It’s been ten months since his brother’s passing and he still misses him every day. At first he was too devastated to speak about the tragedy, hiding behind a wall of silence, but now he’s finally ready to confront his grief and he’s doing it the only way he knows – through music.

DJ Citi Lyts (30) recently released a single called Cel’Ukuthi (Can I please), dedicated to his late brother, rapper ProKid, who was found dead in his girlfriend’s apartment in downtown Johannesburg last August.

“Cel’Ukuthi is a party song, sort of like an after-tears celebration by artists who were influenced by big bro,” he tells DRUM.

The song features up-and-coming rappers Touchline and Red Button, who were mentored by ProKid, and Gigi Lamayne, whom he discovered.

Before Pro died the brothers had been working on releasing their first song together. “Pro never wanted me to ride on his fame, that’s why it took longer for us to make a song together,” Citi Lyts explains.

He wants to build on the legacy Pro left behind but still battles to accept his brother is no more.

“I’m still going through a lot,” he says.

“I shared so many special moments with my bother and we had so many plans. I’m trying to accept it, but the pain won’t go away.”

Pro, whose real name was Linda Mkhize, died of a bleeding pancreas, the family later revealed. The rumour mill went into overdrive in the weeks following his passing, worsening his loved ones’ grief.

“People said he overdosed on drugs and that he’d been drunk,” Citi Lyts says.

“They said I inherited his money and was spending it recklessly and that he died in the arms of his side chick, Mandisa Mbanjwa, but I don’t know any of that. My brother wasn’t a very open guy – he protected me a lot and there were many things he didn’t share with me."

“All I knew is he and Mandisa were friends. When she opened up about their relationship I was shocked.”

Mandisa was initially blocked from attending Pro’s funeral and the drama made national news headlines. City Lyts, real name Sandile Mkhize, says Mandisa was barred out of respect for Pro’s baby mama Ayanda Dlamini. He says all is well now. 

“Mandisa had a cleansing ceremony like everyone else and she meets up with my father sometimes.”

When ProKid died, Citi Lyts hadn’t seen him for a month.

“We both had busy schedules and I was preparing to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment to be an independent artist.“I’m sad I didn’t get to spend time with him in the last month of his life,” Citi Lyts says.

He was at home when he got a call from one of ProKid’s friends asking him to come to Mandisa’s apartment urgently. Initially he thought Pro had been arrested.

“I thought of many things, but I didn’t think he was dead,” he says.

When he arrived Citi Lyts found his brother on a bed in the three-bedroom apartment, covered with a duvet.

“There was vomit all around the bed,” he recalls.

“I was too late – he was already gone.”

According to his friends, ProKid hadn’t felt well the night before.

“He kept having seizures and needed them to massage and stretch his  arms,” Citi Lyts says, “but they didn’t think anything of it and they went out clubbing when he fell asleep.“

When they came back home they found Pro had become worse. He was unable to speak and had been vomiting green stuff. They called the paramedics but it was too late to save him,” he says, his voice trembling.

“I couldn’t believe my brother had died like that. I just broke down.”

A grief-stricken Citi Lyts blamed ProKid’s friends for his untimely death.

“I was upset that his friends were chilling with him and they knew he was sick but didn’t take him to the doctor. They just went out and didn’t check up on him,” he says, shaking his head.

The first person he called that night was ProKid’s best friend, Orlando Pirates soccer player Thabo Qalinge.Then Citi Lyts phoned his father, Zwelakhe Mkhize.

“I told my dad something had happened to Pro and he needed to come,” he says. “I didn’t want to tell him over the phone.”

Ayanda saw the news on social media and phoned Citi Lyts to confirm it.

“My mom was the last person to find out,” he adds.

“I knew she wouldn’t take the news well and I didn’t know how to tell her. She had a soft spot for Pro.”

The Dankie San rapper’s death has taken a toll on his family. His mother, Fezile Vilakazi, has been in and out of hospital since the tragedy and a lot of responsibility has fallen on Citi Lyts’ shoulders.

“Pro was the one who supported everyone’s dreams in the family and now he’s gone,” Citi Lyts says.

As one of the trustees of his brother’s estate he now has to take care of Pro’s daughter, Nonkanyezi (3). 

“Nonkanyezi is growing up so fast,” he says, “but I avoid speaking to her on the phone. It kills me because my voice sounds like Pro’s and she thinks it’s daddy.”

Citi Lyts says he also needs to ensure his parents and siblings, Paul (40), Nhlanhla (38) and Nonkululeko (22), receive royalties from Pro’s music.

“I need to remain strong for everyone.”

His newfound responsibilities took a toll on his relationship with singer Gigi Lamayne (24), whom he had been dating for almost two years. So overwhelmed was he with grief and pain he didn’t notice Gigi had slipped into a downward spiral of depression.

“I wasn’t there for her. I just pulled myself into a corner,” he says.

“When she reached out to me I was cold and unresponsive. Sometimes when she was feeling down I’d say let’s go to the gym, let’s read more, let’s get up and take a walk. It took time to realise depression is a serious thing that needs professional help.”

In a way, Pro’s death has brought Citi Lyts and Gigi closer and they’ve rekindled their romance.

“I had to experience pain to understand depression. Now our relationship has improved. We’re happier and I’m more sensitive towards her needs,” he says.

Citi Lyts, who sought professional help after his brother’s death, says he’ll continue going to therapy to help him deal with his loss. He also intends to work through his emotions with music, he adds.

“I know my big brother will be smiling down on me from heaven,” he says.