“I spent a lot of time by myself so I never really engaged in what was happening” explains RRA of his childhood in Rustenburg. While his older brother lay his rap foundation by introducing him to hip hop in Primary School, his attraction to alternative sounds and artists came from scouring the internet discovering music through sources such as NME and Spin.
“My biggest thing as an artist is that you need to disrupt the fabric of everything. You have to change everything”. The rapper cites Kid Cudi, Radiohead, David Bowie, Kanye West and St. Vincent (who he discovered via a Kid Cudi sample) as his major influences.
For local music that suited his tastes, the internet also played a key role. “Even if I found something from home like Okmalumkoolkat or Petite Noir or Spoek Mathambo it will always be from online. There are a lot of dope people in this country but they’re not seen on TV”. He especially credits Spoek Mathambo for creating a space for kids like him to express themselves. “Spoek Mathambo created this whole generation of kids that are doing these weird things even though he doesn’t get the props. But he is one of the starters of us, the young kids that are trying to do things differently”.
“The darkness and the depression is something that’s very important to me. It’s something that I work into every song. Even if the song is kinda happy, if you read between the lines there’s always going to be darkness” says RRA of his music. The rapper and producer holds the issue of depression close to his heart. “We know that people in their early 20s and their teens have very serious depression happening and no one in the country is talking about it on a beat level”. It is this theme that is central to his single “Fuck Up” from his 3rd mixtape ‘Dog Days’ released earlier this year.
Sampling Alex G, RRA flips the line “If I fuck up”, adding the internal voice of depression that says “when, not if”, highlighting the negative self-image that depression creates within. “Depression is something people talk about on Twitter but when it comes to the song, everybody’s happy”.
The video for “Fuck Up” directed by Peter Smuts echoes the isolation and darkness that RRA speaks of in his music. Shot in one take, the video is meant to show that while depression feels real in the moment, the feelings aren’t true. “It’s not true, people don’t think that about you, people don’t think you’re nothing. You do mean something to people and in the moment, you don’t feel that. When the lights come back on [in the video], it says that it’s not real. Even though it’s not as easy as telling somebody don’t be depressed, it’s not real, that’s not how it works, unfortunately”.
Ultimately RRA believes that the best that can be done to combat depression is radical self-expression. “People need to be as weird as possible. Don’t be afraid. Have fun, do what you feel inside. We’re not in that space yet in this country, some areas you can do that but I want it on a bigger level, a mass level”.