Twenty-three-year-old eMtee, whose real name is Mthebeni Ndevu, ended 2015 as one of the most played artists in the country, despite the fact that his massive single – Roll Up – only came out in the latter part of the year.
In terms of local artists, eMtee was the third most played, beating the likes of music heavyweight Cassper Nyovest. He was also the 10th most played artist overall (local and international artists included).
Popularly known as “eMtee Da Hustla”, Ndevu was born in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, but grew up and polished his lyrical talent in Rockville, Soweto. He says he started rapping when he was nine and partook in a variety of musical and artistic activities throughout his childhood.
“I was always an arts kid. I did choir at school; I was leader of the school band; I did dancing, acting ... I believe in practical skills and honing and perfecting your craft, so I have been doing the music thing for years now.”
The youngster, currently signed to Ambitiouz Entertainment, released Roll Up within four months of joining the stable. It spawned two remixes, including one featuring Nigeria’s Wizkid and South Africa’s AKA.
He says Roll Up was never even meant to be a single.
“[It] was just me having fun. I didn’t even write. I got into the studio and just jumped in. It was meant to be one of the songs you record and don’t release, but then my producer suggested we release it. I hated it because I wasn’t being serious and was just playing around. I was doubtful, because the sound is also new to South Africa,” he says.
Despite his concerns, it scooped the 2015 Song of the Year award at December’s SA Hip Hop Awards.
At 17, Ndevu became a music instructor at different high schools, which marked the beginning of making an income from his passion. The small amount of money he made helped him deliver his first mix tape, titled The Introduction. In 2008, he pushed mix tapes for two years among his peers and gained street cred for his work.
His 2010 collaboration with rapper Maraza, a song titled In It To Win It, established them on Channel O’s show Headrush as the second-best emcees in Africa.
Ndevu, together with Maraza, also belonged to a quartet called 4front, specialising in electro, dubstep and rap. In 2013, the group split to focus on solo careers.
Ndevu’s first solo album, named after his daughter Avery, is a solid offering, which is no small feat, considering it has a massive 18 tracks.
Avery is doing well on iTunes – much better than Ndevu had anticipated. He says that at some point it was number two on the local iTunes chart.
“There have been some major changes. I am now getting calls from people who wouldn’t give me a chance ... I am topping charts and getting love from my idols and people I never dreamt I would hear from or meet. Everything has just completely flipped,” he says.
His plans for the new year involve an Avery album tour.
“I am also working on merchandise, which I want in stores this year. I’m working on a company, which I started a few years ago, which I want to use to give other youngsters a chance in the same way that I was given a chance.”
eMtee’s debut album Avery is now available in stores and on iTunes