AWARD-WINNING South Africa-based Zimbabwean hip-hop artiste Ngonidzashe “King 98” Dondo yesterday said he had come to accept negative criticism associated with the cut-throat music industry. The youthful rapper said he had so far travelled a painful journey in music, but through determination he would soldier on. NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio caught up with King 98 (K98) and below are excerpts from the interview.
ND: King 98, how did you come up with such a stage name?
K98: Many people have been asking me this question lately. In brief, King 98 is a personal brand and name that I believe I retrieved from the annals of my destiny. When I was in high school, my colleagues called me Asap after they saw the early days of my talent manifestation. With the passage of time, I ended up calling myself King 98.
The 98 came from the fact that I was born in 1998.
ND: About a fortnight ago you were signed up with a top American music label, Cinq. Can you share more on how you struck this deal and what it entails?
K98: Concerning being signed by the music label, I am not yet in a position to comment on that, but what I would like my family and fans to know is that greater things are yet to come.
ND: After the launch of your debut album, Francesca named after your mother, you have been doing mainly singles. Are there any plans to drop a second album as yet?
K98: My team and I are continuously working towards ensuring the entertainment and music industry of Zimbabwe be lifted to international levels. As I have said earlier, greater things are yet to come but for now, I would like my fans to expect some hit singles.
ND: You have dangled an $18 000 monetary prize to three of your lucky fans and you have been involved in a number of charities including donations to fellow artistes, vulnerable children and the elderly. Has music been that profitable or you have other streams of income?
K98: As an artiste, I also perceive that we ought to introspect and take lessons from our cultural heritage that is rich in ethics and morals that have a bearing on life. We do not give because we have much, but we give because we are guided by deep Godly and moral ethics such as ubuntu which notes that “I am because you are…”
ND: What inspires these charity initiatives?
K98: The Lord blessed me with a very generous father who chairs a charity arm called Alfred Dondo Foundation. Many a times, children become an expression of the character of their guardians and I am glad that my parents have taught me much and have passed unto me a heart that longs to see a smile on every face.
ND: Your parents actively support your music career. How did you convince them to do so?
K98: Apart from them being my parents, they are a wonderful couple that believes in my calling and gift. In any case, in the genesis of my story, my mother was the one who knew that I made music. At that time, my father didn’t know. It came to pass that when Cassper Nyovest came to Zimbabwe, he alerted my father that I made music. It was easier since my talent had been endorsed by an African icon already.
ND: What kind of challenges, if any, have you faced in your music career?
K98: Formerly, people never believed in my music. So hurting has been this prejudice that people assumed that I was just spoilt not knowing that it was a real expression and manifestation of talent.
ND: You have shared the stage and collaborated with some of the regional heavyweights such as Nigerian star Davido, South Africa’s Nasty C as well as Laylizzy, one of Mozambique’s biggest and most famous performers. What have you learnt from them and what has that meant for your career?
K98: Sharing the stage with African icons and having collaborations with them is not only an opportunity but a rarest privilege. Among the many things that I have learnt from them, a common yet powerful life lesson I have learnt from their humble characters is never to give up.
ND: I understand you have been studying towards a degree in music and arts at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. What role do you think this will play in your career?
K98: Like any great artist, be it in technology or any other field, I have synchronised my education with my talent. Education tends to provide the technique, talent tends to give the art but it is passion that tends to give the feathers.
ND: It appears South Africa and Nigeria have become your other homes considering how frequently you have visited these countries before the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Has your music managed to penetrate those countries’ market?
K98: Yes, our penetration has been currently good and we still hope to achieve more. In brief we are getting there.
ND: What are your current projects?
K98: Like any other clever artist, I like keeping my art under my arm. Formerly, I released the Twisted video. However, this month I am dropping a single with an African giant.
ND: In December last year you won big at the Zim Hip Hop awards, scooping three gongs (Best Collaboration, Best Album and Best Hustle). How was the feeling on that night?
K98: It is scientifically proven that the award system brings satisfaction and fulfilment to every artist. Having your own people acknowledge your effort is at times the best moment of your life. Honestly, after receiving the awards I felt grateful, but the awards inserted in me the desire to achieve more.
ND: Apart from music, what other interests do you have?
K98: Hahaha! It is very difficult to detach an artist from his art because his art tends to be his life. For me music is not a hobby, music is my life and my passion. However, apart from music I enjoy reading books.
ND: How would someone get your special attention?
K98: I have been coached to treat everyone equally neither do I treat anyone lesser than me. To say someone has to do something extraordinary to get my attention will be against my moral ethics and beliefs. I just believe that people have to be themselves around me.
ND: What is the most courageous thing you have ever done?
K98: Many things actually, but I would like to boldly underline an event when I jumped on the stage with Casper Nyovest.