Benzo known as Enzokuhle Aviwe Ngeyake is a young South African rapper and singer from the North of Johannesburg. During lockdown, she made a name for herself while dropping freestyles on Instagram and hasn’t looked back since.
Even though her music career is in its infancy Benzo has already reached milestones that seasoned veterans in the game can be envious of. Her accolades include landing her first synchronization deal with JIVA! on Netflix where her song titled “Imali” was used as the soundtrack to one of the scenes in the series.
Her distribution deal with Symphonic Distribution allows Benzo to remain an independent artist through Black Butterfly Records which is her label that she co-owns with her manager, Kay The Manager.
Three years later from her breakout year and Benzo “The Kumkanikazi of Rap” reflects on her rise and is looking to solidify her name in the history books of South African rap music. She is looking to change the status of rap music and prove that women in music are not to be taken lightly. Her bars and punchlines far exceed her age. Proving that she can hold her own with anyone on a record.
Outside of music, Benzo has collaborated with brands like Sportscene, Redbat, and Reebok South Africa.
The following interview has been lightly edited for context and clarity
Daniel Young: Talk to me about the process of going from recording freestyles in your room to having to record in a studio?
Benzo: I hit up choppa since he is one of my friends and I knew that he would be able to help me. His reaction was so surprising. He asked me “oh really you want to record? You’re always in the studio but you never really record are you sure that this is something that you want to do?” After the recording session I remember that he said that this could actually work for me. After that moment I guess it become a thing.
Did you have any fears? Was there any moment of doubt that you had.
The only fear that I had was being compared to other female artists that were already in the industry. It’s a thing that people do all the time and it starts a lot of unnecessary conflict between artists. Most of the time a lot of women aren’t respected in the industry and that was another fear of mine that I wouldn’t be respected enough.
Were you ever in a situation where you were not respected for your craft? How did that feel?
Yes I have. I felt very degraded if I am being honest with you know. I didn’t feel seen as a human being. Even just as a woman I felt very disrespected because in everything that I do I keep it very professionally. At the end of the day business is business you know what I am saying…
Tell me are you signed to anyone yet? The reason why I’m asking is because I don’t think you would have made the jump from doing freestyles on Instagram straight to getting a deal.
I have a distribution deal with Symphonic but I am fully independent. I didn’t get the Symphonic distribution deal after I started getting noticed on Instagram there was a few steps in between. I was doing deals with Reebok when Cardi B had a shoe with Reebok so I was part of the team that was tasked with posting about that. There were “wins” before I got that distribution deal so they could see that I was working. It was more of Symphonic joining my movement and assisting where they could.
Is there anyone that you look up to in life?
I look up to my mother. She has been through so much and even now she sacrifices so much for me. I found my way to some extent, and I still am I still trying to find my way through life. My mother doesn’t crucify me for still waiting to explore things. She supports my music 100% which I am very grateful for. Even though she doesn’t fully understand what goes on in the industry she is there for me no matter what.
What was your mother’s first reaction when you told her that you want to do music?
You know my mom is pretty understanding. The first thing she asked me what happened to wanting to become a producer. I was studying Television production, writing and sound. All I said was girl I don’t want to be behind the scenes. I want to be on camera! She never shot the idea down which I think is very important especially in today’s era. All I asked of her was to trust me. When I sent her my first song her reaction couldn’t have been more genuine, she knew it was me but at the same time she couldn’t believe that I made the song. She knows a few hiphop artists and she told me that I was giving off Cardi B vibes, totally boosting my confidence and all.
What drives you to continue to make music?
The love that I receive from my Benzonites online which is my fanbase. The love that I receive from my friends and family, and I would say my love for music is what drives me. I really don’t see myself doing anything else besides music. Wait venturing into acting within the industry is something that I would look into.
Looking back now do you think that you would have accomplished everything that you did so far?
Wow, I have to be honest here. I don’t think so. I do believe in myself, but everything just came so fast. I’m not complaining about any of my achievements, it was just very surprising because for a lot of people the things that I have accomplished in my short time here – other people take years to do. It took me about a year to achieve those things and that was it. The thing is I even surprised myself. All of the people that I look up to who are getting all of these wins, I myself am slowing but surely getting there. It is very shocking but also very affirming and I know that this is what I am meant to do.
What keeps you grounded? I know that achieving so much at a young age and get to your head…
I think that would be my family. The way that I was brought up, we are very humble people, and I will forever be grateful for that. I think other thing that helped me a lot was being on boarding school. I got to see different people from different backgrounds and accepting them for who they are.