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IN CONVERSATION with Jimmy Wiz: On his beginnings, the journey so far and his debut album, According To Jim.

In 2015, Jimmy Wiz was thrust into the spotlight as a contestant on VUZU’s reality Hip Hop competition show, The Hustle, in its inaugural season. While he was sadly eliminated on the 4th episode of the show, he has managed to have a fairly successful incline within the Hip Hop industry since then. An industrious work ethic can be credited as what has kept him relevant thus far, and after amassing a substantial niche fan-base, this has culminated in the release of his debut album, According To Jim, which was released on the 23rd August 2019. We caught up with him and engaged him on his beginnings, his journey so far and the conception of his debut album.

Thinksllow: Most people only got acquainted with you and your music during and after The Hustle, but surely you had already been active prior to that period. Where and when did it all start for you?

Jimmy Wiz: The genesis of it all, is my father. He is an avid Jazz lover and collector. So, growing up I was immersed in Jazz, by way of my pops. I went to every Jazz event he went to. Consequently, I fell in love with Jazz. Later on, my brother and his friends started rapping. That’s when I was introduced to the art form of Rap. Every day after school him and his friends would hang around the crib and just be rapping and I remember, more than anything, I was fascinated by the fact that they were telling stories in these raps. Not only were they telling stories, but they would be rhyming as they did. That really blew my mind. It was at that time, at about 5 or 6 years old in ‘95/’96, I became cognizant of the art of Rap. I then heard Rap records on radio that for some odd reason, reminded me of my father’s jazz records, but weren’t quite that. I would later learn that this was known as sampling. Some of those Rap songs I would hear on the radio, were sampled from old jazz and soul records. I thought that was really dope. Suffice to say, I have been in love since then and I’ve never looked back.

The transition from being a passive listener and fan of the music, to being an active participant in it is always is interesting. When did it happen for you?  

It was only after High School when I started taking the pen seriously. Before that, we would just rap other people’s songs. I still remember the first script that I ever penned. It was titled The Beatitudes. This is because I came up in a staunch Catholic home, so I was heavy on the Church. I was about 10 when I wrote that script. But truthfully, when I think back on some of my earliest stuff – that I was writing when I was starting out – them joints was wack, bro. We all started somewhere though. My man Dub knows this because when we started, we all used to spit and I remember I’d be spitting for a bunch of people, and when I’d check for their reactions, cats wouldn’t be feeling my stuff, you know? That’s what motivated me to get better and sharpen my tool. I had to get to a point that when I spat, cats would really listen and give me props. At this stage though, I’m very confident that that’s what I illicit. Nobody touching me now, man.

As you took the foray into music and started pursuing it seriously, there must have been instrumental people who helped shape you and put things into perspective, in relation to how far you could really take the passion you had for music. Who are some of the people who served as an integral cog in that whole scheme of things?

Dub, my producer, is one such person who has been a very important part of my journey. He’s one of the people who have always believed in me from the day we first met. We’ve been rolling together since. I met him through his sister, who was a friend of a friend of mine. She knew I rapped, so she suggested that I link up with her brother, who was a producer. Now, at the time, I didn’t know that there were any producers around our neighborhood. I grew up in the East, in Kempton Park. Nonetheless, I was curious to meet this cat. Plus, when she described him, I realized that this was someone I had seen in the hood many times. I was in a group back then, me and my mans Element, we called ourselves Knights Of Anarchy. So this one time we’re on a stake out, waiting for this nigga Dub, at the suggestion of his sister. We finally met up with him and we told him that we rap. As if on cue, dude starts beat-boxing. He did the Amu “Attention” joint and I just ripped it. Ever since then, bro – our relationship has been ever so strong. That was probably in 2004 but here we are today, still riding. That’s my mans.

Who were your foremost inspirations in the South African Hip Hop scene when you started out?

The Hip Hop culture in SA was already vibrant when I was coming of age, so I was listening to and getting inspired by Jabba, Amu, Tumi and them, you know. More than anything, this is also because my brother was old enough and already running in the same circles as these guys. During the Rap Activity Jam era on Y-FM, he was into all that. When Tumi was still Fat-Bouy and all that. Through my brother, having such an affinity to all these guys, I was catching the wind of all of it happening. As far back as when Specs came out with Rhymes I Wrote. I was like, ‘Okay, this is something that real people in South Africa are doing? So I can pretty much do it too.’ That reality shifted my way of thinking when it came to taking this art seriously. Everyone, from Cashless Society, to ProVerb. I was inspired.

I can imagine how tricky it must have been finding your voice and your person, as a youngin’ coming up in the game. It’s not easy drawing from one’s inspirations and yet still maintaining one’s true sense of self in an increasingly synthetic industry where a lot of times, everyone starts sounding the same. In more ways than one.

That’s very true. For me, the modelling of Jimmy Wiz took so long, to be honest. I came up listening to a lot of acts. I consumed a lot of Wu-Tang and I wanted to be Meth for a while. But because I listened to so much, and was ultimately influenced by just as much, it ended up interfering with how I eventually sounded. I mean, I still listen to some of the music I created circa 2010, and I genuinely hate how I sounded. It took a while for me to get comfortable and reach a place where I was happy with how I sound. It only happened in 2014. So, the formation of Jimmy Wiz as you know him today, took shape at around that time, and honestly, this was built on type-cats like (Rick) Ross, Jadakiss, Guru, Black Thought – especially when it comes to the pen – then I got into cats like Ransom later on. But of course, Big Pun and The Notorious B.I.G. are a heavy influence on me. I mean, name a cat that’s big and ain’t nice. You’d be hard-pressed because even Fat Joe got busy, bro. (Laughs)

How did being a contestant on The Hustle come about for you?

Before The Hustle came in the fold, I was already heavy on the grind, recording and creating music. I was in a couple of groups even, one of them being what we called The Cartel. However, I eventually decided to go solo and indie. My DJ at that time, Trey, is the one who put on The Hustle on some, ”Yo! Man, there’s this Hip Hop competition coming up. I think you should enter.” He showed me the advert but to be honest with you, I wasn’t that keen on entering. Reason being, I’ve always been pessimistic when it came to those sort of things, you know. Like, the competition shows where the format involves many hopefuls who enter and then get eliminated, safe for the eventual winner, has always been suspect to me. I’ve always felt that organizers of such shows already know who their winner will be, so regardless of how good I am, if I don’t fit that mold, then I won’t win. Nonetheless, my man Trey kept encouraging me until the one day I sent a clip of mine through. I then got the call letting me know I made the cut. And that’s how The Hustle happened.

 

You formed what seemed to be a very good relationship with Shabzi Madallion around that period. Did you and him know one another before you were both contestants on The Hustle? How did your relationship come about?

The first time I saw Shabzi was on The Hustle Facebook page. I think it was his audition clip. I remember thinking to myself, “Man! Son is nice!”. I hit him up right then and there, on Messenger, like “Bro you’re really nice.” It’s funny because he never responded to that message. Understandably though because at that point, the successful contestants for The Hustle had not been announced and so he didn’t really know me. However, fast forward a week later, both he and I, as well as other cats got called up as successful entrants to the competition. That’s when we would officially meet at the House they couped us all in for the duration of the show. And man, Shabzi and I just gravitated towards one another. He had me rap during one of the very first ciphers we held once all the contestants had been booked and he came to me and told me that he really messes with me. After I left the show, he reached out to me wanting to work on some music, and the rest is history, bro. We’ve been brothers since.

Despite being knocked out of the competition relatively early, you remained one of the fan favorites upon the conclusion of that first season of The Hustle. What did it mean for you to have had that experience?

Being on The Hustle was one of my biggest blessings, bro. A blessing in disguise because it was me taking a chance on something I never really believed in all that much. To this day, I always thank my DJ for urging and encouraging me to enter that competition because if it wasn’t for him, most of the things I know now, I most probably wouldn’t know. Had I not gone down The Hustle route, most of the crucial information I amassed during my time there, most of the networks I made and most of the doors that eventually opened for me – none of those things would have happened for me, or at worst, they would have taken way longer than they have. I had never been on radio before that show, you know. The market it exposed me to – like, regardless, if cats want to front, they can front, but irrespective of whether I won or lost, that show really did a lot for me, bro. So I will forever be grateful for that opportunity.

And this helped pave your way to creating your debut album which came out to critical acclaim a while back on August 23rd. What was the conception behind According To Jim?

Man, this is my first album and you know what they say right? You take your whole life to make your first album. My all went into this jawn, bro. And my whole thing when creating this joint, I was telling my man like, “Dub, I listen to so much music locally but I don’t feel like I know any of these people. I mean, I listen to their music but nobody is really putting themselves into the music to an extent that I can confidently say, as a listener and as a fan, I know this person (artist).” So with According To Jim, I wanted people who listened to really get to know who I am. I want people to grow with me because, when you listen, you get to know who Jimmy was before blowing up. His upbringing, his outlook, what shapes him and so on. And this isn’t even in a contrived way. Its mad real. Ultimately, when the sophomore comes, the story and the journey will continue. The biggest pay off with my music is that, you as the listener, will get to really know me, form a genuine, meaningful relationship and grow with me.

Jimmy, thank you kindly for your time and sharing so much with our readers. We wish you all the best moving forward.

Thank you kindly for having me, brother. I truly appreciate it. Peace.

Stream/Buy According to Jimmy below.

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