Friday, May 25, 2012

Interview With Neo-Pop Art Muse, Khaya Bhubesii Sibiya

Courtesy of Thesis
 You’re forgiven for not instantaneously knowing who Khaya Bhubesii Sibiya is. He’s the kind of creative being that exists in the silence of brilliance while doing what he does because he loves it, rather than because it can make him famous. With a multitude of layers and a Swiss-army knife of skills and talents to match, Sibiya reveals himself as possibly one of the more distinct definitions of a South African Renaissance Man. We interchange questions for answers and discover new gems about a man we already know too little about.

In a nutshell, who is Khaya Bhubesii Sibiya?
KBS: I am an artist, fuelled by creativity in all forms. Although I specialise in music, fashion and creative direction, in no particular order, they’re all just as important as the other. It’s what I’m good at and what defines me if you had to take a look at my portfolio. Besides that, I have a chronic case of sweet teeth (yes more than one sweet tooth). I’d sell your mother for a cupcake lol.

Do you differentiate between Khaya Sibiya and Bhubesii or do you consider those two names as part of one person?
KBS: Initially it was two different characters. Khaya was more fashion orientated and Bhubesii was music. It’s funny because I’d run into acquaintances who would ask me after years of knowing me if I was Bhubesii or vice versa.  So for a while the two were separate entities making headway in each respective medium. And it got to a point where I had to fuse the two to make one super Saian. I had to bring everyone up to speed. The fashionistas had to know about my music and the music industry had to know about my work in fashion.

Some positions/job titles under your belt include musician (rapper), fashion stylist, artist and creative director. Which of these comes first and why?
KBS: They all come first. I’m either making music or styling. Both require creative direction. I’m passionate about them all.  Fashion and music go hand in hand.

You’ve been noted as having worked for some pretty top-notch employers, including True Love Babe, Shine and Glamour Mechanics. Has the move to working for yourself truly been a move into greener pastures?
KBS: Definitely. It has given me more leverage. I can afford to do way more projects than I would’ve if I had stayed with one employer. Mind you, there’s no disregard for my previous employers, who played a pivotal role forth my becoming. It’s just that if I had been complacent and settled for what I had, then I wouldn’t have had that urge/hunger to want and know that I could be better. Me being with an employer meant learning enough to carry myself through what I was going to go through. It was a form of preparation. You have to learn the rules to break them.

Why do you think this move has worked for you?
KBS: I always had a vision that matched or surpassed my employers. I always strived for dopeness and was very competitive (I don’t know, blame it on the all boy school memo). And when it came to creative shit, I was always arming myself with what’s next. Looking for inspiration everywhere.

So now you’re a freelance agent. What exactly does that entail? What is you typical day or week like?
KBS: Briefs, meetings-sourcing, shooting, writing and recording in studio, performing and djing.

With music, there seems to be quite a bit of movement in the field, past and present. Do you agree with most people’s perceptions that your hip-hop/rap career was launched during the fury of Black Sunday in Soweto?
KBS: Actually even slightly before then. By the time we did Black Sunday, I was already on the move. So it kinda played a vehicle for me to get to point B. When we created that movement it was about setting up platforms for us to showcase the music we were making amongst the folks who saw us go through/support those tribulations of being an artist. And once we got that, it was inevitable that others outside our neighbourhoods would wanna get a peek of what was popping. We just replicated the templates that were already in place regarding Hip-Hop. Those were our guidelines. The 10 rap commandments. Same shit different toilet. We stays on it. Nothing changed but the shoes…

On that note, do you consider yourself of the hip-hop/rap genre or do you classify yourself as something entirely different in the realm of music?
KBS: I am Hip-Hop. That’s where I started. Even though I cast my net far and wide in terms of the sounds I experiment with. I love music. And that’s the bottom-line. I will play with what I like. Whether it’s shit I heard as a kid or how I wanna feel. It’s about capturing moments. Documenting the now. That’s why I can’t just do that radio club shit. I don’t always feel that way. And I don’t conform or feel the need to do a certain kind of song just because some douche bag playlist editor doesn’t think it’s a hit. I’m a storyteller or social commentator if you may. So that means I talk about everything. Hip-Hop is the mentality and music/creativity is the outcome.

What is it about music, laying down lyrics and beats, that attracted you to the point of actually producing your very own mixtapes?
KBS: The thrill of writing my own history. The power of documenting my life and of those around me. I could take a track you grew up listening to and flip it on its head and create something that redefines where you are right now. It’s all about worthwhile moments. Past, present or future and encapsulating them into something that can be experienced/reflective right now. Nahmean? I once ran into some ninja I didn’t know from a bar of soap and he asked me when I was dropping (this was when I was on my hiatus) my new shit. I was like – “eish, I’m taking a break from music and I had shit to handle”. His response really shook me. He was like – “DUDE! Fuck YOUR problems. I need your music to get through my problems! Tjooo! That was really humbling and inspiring at the same time. My music has made such a difference to so many peoples lives and that’s what keeps me going.

After listening in on your tracks available on Soundcloud, one finds your lyrics seem so anecdotal on the surface, but I gather there is plenty of fact to them. Do you see yourself as just another artist making music, or do you consider yourself a social commentator, bringing light to the every day struggles of township dwellers dreaming the big dream?
KBS: The latter. Although I don’t dwell on struggles. Don’t wanna be a preacher. I touch on every aspect of life. I make music that plays a soundtrack to life and captures different moments one experiences.

Bhubesii - Starring As Himself

Are there any local and/or international producers you’re keen on working with in the new future?
KBS: Kabomo, Klein Baas and Taz Arnold.

So when should we expect something new, musically, from you?
KBS: I’m launching my new ‘Members Only’ mixtape, blog and video on the 30th May 2012.

Art is a realm you’ve delved into, very successfully I might add. In what I’ve been exposed to, you tend to depict popular culture and the influences of mass media on the general African population, a theme that seems to run through your fashion work too. These depictions are sometimes done in a highly hyperbolic manner. Do you see yourself possibly becoming the South African Neo-Pop Art movement?
KBS: Definitely. Africa has such a rich history and there’s so much inspiration to draw from. So I always attempt to include our [African] culture in whatever I do. We have to re-interpret that history to create something new. Otherwise, we’ll stay in the past and/or others will do it for us.

Kudzanai Chiurai is considered one of Africa’s most prominent artists. He has seemingly created a dialect that most young Africans understand and identify with. Can you talk us through your participation in his magazine: Lines, Volume 2 – The Black President?
KBS: I’ve contributed to both volumes. With the second one we were asked to interpret Black President in way we wanted. So Zac (graphic designer) and I decided to do an assassination of a dictator with a pig head sitting on a gold human throne carried by child soldiers. We felt that represented the continent in terms of greedy leaders (or other continents) that rape us off our wealth, belief and livelihood. We created the human throne by painting me gold head to toe and posing in different angles that’ll fit into the end design of the chair. After that I dressed up as a dictator that would be sitting in the throne with a bullet between his eyes. You see all of this through the snipers’ scope in which the measurements make a symbol of the cross. Touching on Africa and religion. It’s a very powerful and intense piece. It was so intense that we decided to have the gold human throne as its own contribution next to the assassination. So you can imagine my excitement months later when the Goodman Gallery asked me if we’d be keen on getting the chair made into a sculpture for Kudzis’ exhibition. Because after creating it, Zac and I were like; we HAVE to make this chair into a sculpture. And it happened, with a slight change. Instead of my face they wanted to put his face. The sculpture was made of bronze and weighed 300kg and has since been exhibited worldwide.

What kind of creative knowledge, skill or technique did you incur from the experience and how have you applied it to your work/projects since?
KBS: Nothing that I didn’t know and apply to my work already. That’s the reason they approached me. We created something amazing and submitted it. And they loved it. I strive for continuous improvement with my creativity.

Okay, jumping into fashion, I have to ask. GQ SA’s Top 50 Best Dressed Men in SA 2011 list… What does it feel like to get nominated?
KBS: It felt awesome to find out I was nominated. Although I was very disappointed when I discovered I wasn’t in the top 10. There’re cats in that top 10 who got nothing on me. Even on a bad day. Whatever. You can’t keep a good thing down. Hence, I’ve been handpicked by GQ UK to work with legendary photographer Peter Hugo in creating a spread using the new collection by Kim Jones, head designer at Louis Vuitton, for the GQUK Style issue, 14 May 2012. Done.

Does it change how people approach you, generally and professionally?
KBS: Not really. Instead people were like – Finally! Lol.

In your point of view, what is the current state of menswear in South Africa?
KBS: It has improved dramatically. Guys are paying more attention to what they wear and that’s great. There’s still room for improvement though.

Who do you think are the current key role players in the menswear industry in our country?
KBS: Boy$in Buck$

The Smarteez popped hot like Chappies no so long ago. It was stated by their founders that guys forming part of this movement are not necessarily gay, but are hetero and brave enough to express themselves through bold fashion. Do you think we will see more guys taking risks with their wardrobe and style?
KBS: I certainly hope so. Although there’s a thin line between stylish and just gay.

What do you think is the defining attribute between a man who’ll wear a tangerine pair of socks with a brown suit, as opposed to the gent who plays it safe with his department store uniform?
KBS: It’s all about looking good and comfy. And sometimes the guy who tries too hard might not always look good. I know guys who wear all black all year and they’re very stylish.

Digging through my stack of 22 issues of One Small Seed, I found a fashion spread you styled for the cult pop culture quarterly magazine. African Warrior, one of my favourite fashion spreads in SA print publishing, is featured in issue 14, March – April 2009, of One Small Seed. Here you worked with Tebogo George Mahashe, a gem in the fashion photography quarters of SA. Walk us through the processes of, 1) developing the concept of the editorial from idea to shoot, and 2) the creative experience of working with Tebogo George Mahashe.
KBS: We were approached by Angolan model Karina Da Silva who’s based in Brazil and she wanted to do some African shoot for her portfolio. She had to do it here in S.A because of our infrastructure and aesthetic. She wanted to do something very African but couture as well. And when George got her brief, he felt I was the right person for the job because him and I had always spoken about doing a high fashion shoot together. She gave us carte blanche and we just went crazy. I wanted to style something that would be distinctly African but very high fashion. And George wanted to go very dark (non glossy). So the styling and photography just gelled coz of the textures, extreme make up and the model. We had a good team.

Looking back at the styling work done within fashion, and looking at the current state of fashion in South Africa, do you think your work has shaped or influenced any part of the industry? And how? (or) Why not?
KBS: Oh hell yeah. I’ve done so many shoots for magazines, ads, music videos etc. I been styling the people that the masses look up to and emulate. A lot of the trends I see now are what we were busting years ago. Boy$in Buck$ (my crew – scoop, mkay frash, okmalumkoolkat, the gooddokta and kool urk) has been very influential on the fashion scene especially on the streets. Who do you think bought back skinnies and hi-tops. Boy$in Buck$!

Any chance of us seeing you behind the lens, as a director, creating a fashion film in the near future?
KBS: Yebo yes. That is part of the plans. I recently directed my 1st music video for my single –Members Only. It’s all about fashion. So you’ll tell me what you think once you see it.

Who are your ultimate muses?
KBS: Don’t know about ultimate but right now it has to be my crew Boy$in Buck$ and my girlfriend Bianca Miles.

Define the South African version of a renaissance man.
KBS: Intrepid. Bold. Relevant locally and respected globally.

What’s next for Khaya Bhubesii Sibiya?
KBS: Same thing we do every night Pinky…Taking over the world! (Insert evil laugh here)

Image courtesy of Team Uncool

And there you have it. South Africa is clearly just first base for this young creative and the globe is where it’s at. We can only watch, listen carefully, take notes and wish him success as he continues to strive for excellence in everything he does. One thing’s for sure, nothing is likely to prevent Bhubesii from taking on and over the world except for himself. It’s going to be a dope ride and I’d like to ride it shotgun.

Follow Khaya on Twitter: @Bhubesii



  1. Loved this innerview. Well done and thank you!

    1. It's a pleasure. Thanks for reading it and appreciating it. Hopefully I can keep 'em coming. Please feel free to suggest other SA personas I should look into doing Q&As with. I enjoy providing the consumers with content they find interesting and relevant.

  2. One time for brother nice interview BOY$IN BUCK$

    1. Thank you - glad we could bring this Q&A to you.

  3. This is the best interview I've read in a long time. Inspiring. I first came across Khaya, through True Love Babe... I've been a fan ever since. I'm looking forward to seeing more big things from him.

    1. Hi Thando,

      Thank you very much for the comment and trust me, we keeping tabs on him very closely. I know he's got a new mixtape, Members Only, coming out soon. I've seen the cover art work, so I'm sure the album is on the way.