By: Elesi Azumah

“2018 is going to see a boom in young South African brands and artists, but the one you need to keep an eye on is SmangaOG’s First Touch”.

These are the encouraging words Hip Hop Artist, Entrepreneur, Film Creator and Streetwear Influencer; Smanga Mtshali has embodied within his creative movement not only in the streets of Johannesburg but also in Durban.

With his journey dating back to 2015, The 23 year old ‘Artiste’ focuses on building an empire of creatives all through an exciting and relevant project aimed at motivated youths to watch and get involved in.

The innovator oozes strong traits fellow creatives can look up too and carries the spirit of a bonafide hustler. Travel with Smanga and myself as we explore the powers of thought this young man has put into action in 2018.

Behind the Rapper, Fashion, Film and creator of the movement; First Touch, who is the ‘Real Smanga OG Mtshali’? The real Smanga Mtshali is a young black boy who was born in Durban and relocated to Johannesburg to start his high school career and chase his dreams in ‘arguably’ one of the toughest cities in the world to establish myself. My relocation forced me to be independent, which I think proved to be a blessing in my life when I look in hindsight.

What brought upon the creative process into First Touch? The creative process of First Touch came together with my manager initially, because we stayed together. It allowed for us to bounce ideas back and forth about the concept as a whole and by the beginning of 2017 we started collaborating with creatives, friends and collectively worked on different aspects of content.

“First Touch is about the genesis of creative ambitious youthful voices”

Who has played a major influence towards your craft within the African continent? My older brother’s taste of music was the main influence of my musical direction. They listened to the likes of: Salif Keita, Lebo Mathosa and Brenda Fassie just to name a few. South African series such as: Yizo Yizo, S’gudi Snaysi also played an influence in my life but my family has been a major influence within my life and craft.

You have obtained a ‘relevant podium’ all through the impact of your work dating as far back as 2015. Individually what have all these attributes done for your career?

They have made me realise that it’s only the beginning and there’s still more “dope work” to put out. I’ve learned and gone through a lot in my journey since the inception of the First Touch concept and steadily building a strong team in order to have an impact as well as to inspire the youth I firmly believe in.

Tell us a bit more on your E.P which is also titled First Touch? My EP First Touch is the introduction of my musical journey. I open up quite a bit in the mixtape and have incorporated different hip hop sub categories as I wanted to touch on different sounds for my debut mixtape, ‘First Touch’. The 14 Track E.P is accompanied by voice note messages from friends and family where I wanted to portray and highlight the different elements of life.

Which creative artists/ establishments would you be highly interested in collaborating with in 2018 Besides this year being the introduction of SmangaOG in the music industry, I’d like to collaborate with young artists like myself, directors, composers and producers. I want to be able to have a helping hand in expanding and improving the South African music industry as a whole.

“A matter of fact by also introducing new artists like me through music, art, fashion notably” 

What up and coming projects can we expect from your movement? I’ve just recently finished shooting a short film with my team which will be doing screenings around Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town throughout the year. I’m also releasing three music visuals in the coming weeks, a new mixtape and my website is nearly complete so people can look forward to purchasing merchandise they will certainly ‘vibe’ with.

If you weren’t into the creative art space, what line of work would Smanga be in? I’m a college dropout and was studying I.T, so I’d probably be the ‘I.T Guy’ in an office somewhere.

What advice would you give to upcoming creatives such as yourself looking for a platform to break into? “Stay humble but take care of business and keep going. It’s supposed to be difficult if it’s worth anything and independence is power,” he concludes.

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