“It’s a cold world, and I wanna be the boss, not just a hype man screaming ‘cole world’”, Vanessa Ndlovu aka Venus Raps spits over the beat in “War Cry”. The song is the story of her journey from humble beginnings in Newcastle to where she is now. At age 22, Rap’s is navigating her own path in SA’s hip hop world.
A skim through her Soundcloud reveals an artist wrestling with her own past and present while also trying to find her place in this industry. From first picking up her pen at age 12, after hearing Eve’s “Love is Blind”, she has yet to slow down. Recalling her first track, boldly called “I’m the Best”, Raps laughs. “That song got really popular in my area. It was what set me off. But after that, I took time to learn how to write. I knew I needed to get better and that I never wanted anybody to write my shit for me.” That dedication to writing has paid off. Her track “Dank” is a selection of well-penned verses that see Raps take on a darker tone than most 20-somethings in her position. “Hip hop can open all the windows and all the doors, but the most important is knowing all your friends and foes” she muses over the beat. The song is an interesting reflection of an MC in a hip hop world in which bottles, fast cars and fat cheques are not the norm.
The journey to hip-hop stardom for Raps is one that is rocky and still being travelled. It’s this journey that Rap’s speaks to honestly in her music. After years of rejection and abuse from her father, Raps fell on tougher times when she uprooted, moved to Johannesburg and was forced into homelessness. These experiences almost pushed her to a breaking point. “When I first stepped into that shelter, I was angry at music”, she says. “I was angry that it couldn’t feed me and keep me comfortable. But I had to learn certain things about myself to learn that I could be okay in the end.” It’s this type of growth that has pushed her to use music as a pivot on which to turn things around.
Now, at 22, Raps has a YoMTV Raps appearance, a GrindMode Cypher and a Soweto Youth Festival appearance under her belt. It’s this final gig, in which she was on a line-up with industry heavyweights like Nadia Nakai and Boity, that she is most proud of. “Performing for young kids is so much more validating than performing for an older crowd” she says. “Older people are more superficial, they care about different things. But kids don’t have that problem, so they always have a good ear for genuinely dope shit.”
Her latest track “Glock” is the perfect medium against which to tally her growth and progression. Far different from her other tracks: Glock is cocky, confident and filled with the lyrical bravado of someone who knows just how good she is. “Took me a while to believe in myself, and now I don’t rap just to clap for myself, I rap so the claps come from everyone else” she raps over a beat harder than any she’s used yet. It seems like the people are finally starting to clap. When asked what she wants for herself in the future, she states “all I’ve ever wanted from music is to be busy. To know that I’m not seeing my mom and my brothers because I’m doing something important with my craft. I want people to invest in me and me be able to invest in them”. With plans to expand her visuals, start a line of durags and have new music out in August, she’s within earshot of that goal.