Amapiano artists DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small, aka Scorpion Kings, teamed up with Congolese vocalist TRESOR for 14-tracks of South Africa’s best amapiano fusions. The collaboration is something of a victory lap for artists who have more than established themselves in their respective lanes. DJ Maphorisa has been pumping out hits for just under a decade, including Uhuru’s “Y-tjukutja” and gqom anthems like “Oncamnce”. Kabza, on the other hand, holds the crown for King of amapiano, a self given title from his debut album I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet & Dust which was instrumental in bringing amapiano to the mainstream today.
After the chart topping release of Scorpion Kings and The Return Of The Scorpion Kings, the duo has returned, this time bringing TRESOR into the mix. TRESOR is no stranger to musical royalty as a three-time award winner of Best Pop Album at the South African Music Awards. On the upcoming album Rumble In The Jungle, set to release April 9th, TRESOR will have the high task of blending his distinct vocals with the heavy and mighty sounds of The Scorpion Kings. Funu, the trio’s first single released in January 2021 is a good start. The track is soulful and uplifting, matching the rhythmic dance of amapiano with the touching emotion of TRESOR’s unmistakable vocals. “Folasade”, out March 26th, is another convincing notch on the kings’ belt, blending the snappy percussion with a slow build of soulful, amapiano energy. After making a few calls and sending a couple of emails we ended up getting the notoriously-hard-to-reach duo of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small, along with TRESOR, to respond to some questions we sent their way. The conversation below happened over two rounds of interviews, and has been edited for both clarity and brevity. DJ Maphorisa speaks about finding a workflow with TRESOR; while TRESOR sheds light on what inspired some of the songs on the album.
Why the name Scorpion Kings?
Maphorisa: It’s the title of our first album, and one of the first songs we produced together. We titled it ‘Scorpion Kings’ because the sound reminded us of the desert in Egypt.
Can you recall the first few production sessions you had? Any special stories from those?
M: The first few sessions for us was really understanding each other’s sound and trying to fuse ideas to create a sound that would be distinct, without realising that we were creating Scorpion Kings. It was about the music, it was about collaboration.
Is there a difference in approach when producing work with other artist, versus when you produce work for yourselves? If so, what is it?
M: Each artist is different, everybody has a unique sound and when you’re working on production, you have to make sure that the instruments gel together with the artist. But the most important part of production is making sure that you and whoever you’re working with, have synergy.
How did y’all meet, and what made you want to start working together?
M: We obviously had heard of each other prior to meeting up, but I had booked Kabza for one of my shows, and soon after that we linked up, hit the studio and created magic. We then decided to make loads of music and that was really the birth of the partnership between the two of us.
TRESOR: I have known Maphorisa for over 5 years and we’ve done some unfinished work together, but this is the time we’ve completed a project. I met Kabza through Maphorisa about 2 years back.This will be our first ever release.Right timing was important for us to make the music we’ll all be proud of.
When do you know that a song is a hit?
M: There’s no secret recipe to making hits but we’d say, it’s a hit when you can’t get the lyrics or beat out of your head. It’s hard to explain!
Can you tell us about your most recent single “Folasade”?
T: I have always loved the name Folasade because of Sade who is a great African singer and fashion icon that I love very much. I love the ‘70s and ‘80s era; the nightlife of vibrant African cities such as Lagos, Kinshasa — they really made a way for great pop culture moments happening today in music and fashion. This song was inspired by that — the era, the pride, the unapologetic youth, the fashion. In this song, I also celebrate African women’s beauty through Sade.
Are there memorable dancefloor stories that you can share? If so, what are they?
M: There are a lot of stories and memories – it would be hard to distinctly pick one, but more than anything we do this for the people, we are nothing without them, so every engagement in whatever form is memorable. When you have chills when people sing your songs word for word haha that will never get old. Its an amazing feeling.
Does the approach to songwriting change when doing an amapiano song? If so, how?
T: My songwriting approach shifts when writing to amapiano. The rhythm, the drums and the moody , dark and sweet sound of amapiano take me back to the source . I write from our our roots with limits and feel free to be inspired by sounds from all over the continent….West African , central africa , East Africa and Southern Africa
Is there anything you took away from working with the duo?
They have really reminded me again how to have so much fun making music , to let it flow freely and sometimes not over think the music. It’s a really beautiful process.
What were the challenging bits about working on this project? How did you overcome them?
We started working on this project online during early stages of lockdown and it was challenging in the beginning because we need to align sonically but couldn’t be in one room. So I started to send Scorpion Kings songs and they will build the production and eventually we had a workflow after I trusted the process. It’s been so much fun and an honour to make this project with the boys.
Where would you like to see this project go in terms of reach? What would you like it to achieve on a global scale?
T: I would really love to see the project reach the whole African continent and connect with different generations as well as introduce the amapiano sound to the global mainstream audience. It’s such a beautiful project and I hope the world will get to connect with it beautifully
Pre-add the album Rumble In The Jungle on all platforms.
Listen to “Folasade” in our afro + club playlist on Spotify and Deezer.