Who is ByLwansta?

He’s your new favourite rapper.

 

ByLwantsa by Erin Wulfohn

 

Lately, ByLwansta is all we ever hear about. Wherever we go, he’s either performing live, playing on the sound system, or being discussed. 3 years ago he left his hometown to take on the city, now the 21-year-old rapper from Kokstad is making a name for himself in the 031. The sincerity and artistry of his music mixed with his incredible DIY hustle is beginning to pay off, and it should. With 2 highly acclaimed releases, multiple self-directed music videos, stickers, caps, sweaters and more, ByLwansta has been putting in the work. We sent our prized shooter, Erin Wulfsohn, to pay ByLwansta a visit and shoot the breeze as well as a dope series of photos, so you can get to know your new favourite rapper a little better. Here’s Mr NORMVL in his own words.

 

“Some people don’t like hip-hop but they like a good story”

 

DIY: Hi Lwansta, for those who don’t know, who are you, where are you from and what do you do?

ByLwansta: My real name is Lwandile Nkanyuza. I’m from Kokstad originally which is 3 hours away from here. I spent most of my life there and that’s where I became the person that I am now. I’m an all round creative. I call myself ByLwansta because I like to do everything myself. Not really because I want to or because I have pride in my skills, it’s usually because no one else can do it the way I want it. So things like my music videos are “ByLwansta” Graphic Design – “ByLwansta”, Lyric Videos – “ByLwansta”. My Wikipedia page – typed “ByLwansta”. My website- designed “ByLwansta”.

It’s like all those things that a label would be good for – when they assign you this or somebody to do that.. I could be my own label – I could do all these things for myself. It’s not necessarily that I get pride from all of that its just a case of “I want to do it my way”. You know I could definitely give someone 10k to shoot my video but at the end of the day would they shoot it the way I want it? Nobody will know your vision exactly 100% the way you know it. I just took the liberty of doing things myself.

 

When did you start rapping and how has that journey been so far?

I started rapping when I was 13, grade 7 going into grade 8 during that transition to high school. I remember saying the word ‘kush’ on a song. I had no idea what that was. There was a phase in Kokstad where everybody was becoming a rapper. My brother captained it, he was the guy. We had an outside room that my brother turned into a recording studio so people would wait for us. As soon as we got back from school there were people sitting at the gate wanting to come record, so I was always sitting in sessions and watching my brother do his thing. In my mind I’d start writing to their beats and in my head I used to say, “Please! Come ask me for a verse.”

As soon as my brother left for varsity he took everything with him so that phase ended. I had some money left over from a mixtape I’d dropped and I bought my own mic. I didn’t record immediately; I just carried on honing my skills. A lot of people stopped when my brother left but for me it was a case of “Okay. I’m doing this, I’m doing this!”

Fastforward to 2014.

A lot of things happened in 2014, 2014 was the year I left home for Varsity and came to Durban. I’ve been here in this room for three years now. When I was younger I used to internalize a lot of things, not intentionally, it was just a case of, “Okay, this is happening. I’m gonna get up and I’m gonna leave.” As soon as I came to Durban, everything started coming up. I threw up everything that I’d been internalizing. Most of it was negative. But I’m not going to be ashamed of the things that made me who I am.

I’m happy with the pace that everything has happened for me. I’m still hungry. I want to achieve everything. I’m happy that I haven’t blown up yet. If it had happened in 2013 I wouldn’t have made NORMVL because there wouldn’t have been a need.

 

ByLwantsa by Erin Wulfohn

 

Speaking of which, what is NORMVL?

Your idea of NORMVL isn’t mine. Your idea of weird isn’t mine. The dictionary defines normal as a standard that’s been set. I’m thinking that can’t be right, we all find things that are normal for us. I took normal and made it my own. I put a V there because I wanted people to find it and it links to me. People can google it now and it shows the definition. I feel like we’re human at the end of the day, and there is no perfect human.

“Normal” in the English dictionary is “conforming to a standard, usual, typical or expected”, however, NORMVL is a state of mind and train of thought, based on the contrast and contradiction between what society deems to be “normal” and “weird”, and basically renders the dictionary definitions of said words non-existent, because the “normal” and “weird” of each individual human varies on a small to enormous scale, what’s “normal” to you may not be “normal” to the next person, same principle applies with “weird”. The idea of a set standard of “normal” as defined by society becomes nonsensical and the individual precedes society. The concept also serves as a sort of bridge between the varying semantics and syntax between cultures.”

The NORMVL mixtape dropped in August 2014. It was the start of everything, everything that I’m doing now. Before that mixtape dropped, I wasn’t making that kind of music. The mixtape dropped when I was in Durban, my first year away from home. It was a new environment for me and I was dealing with a lot of things. Everything that I internalized as a young ‘un, started leaking out of my pores, my eyes. It was everywhere. All those emotions that I’d kept inside from painful experiences etc. came out. The nature of the music was affected. The way I wanted to convey my message changed, the beats I chose changed and it wasn’t anything I did much thinking about. Everything just became that way and it was only appropriate that I rap about my surroundings. The NORMVL mixtape was the advent of everything that I stand for now. The title suggests that concept of NORMVL so I named the tape after that and then it became the brand. The NORMVL mixtape is much darker in comparison to Your Absolutely Right EP. I was offloading a lot of frustration and depression and wasn’t 100% happy. It was pretty dark and my vision was clouded because I was isolated. I was worried about Durban artists feeling territorial so I didn’t really expose myself. NORMVL was very isolated, hence it was so dark, that was just me finding myself and the kind of music that I wanted to make. The mixtape was a lot of me getting my grievances off my chest and everything just came out. I’ve been sleeping really well since then. It was therapeutic, as soon as I spoke about it, its out of my system. The music is still alive of course, but I don’t feel it as much as I would have before the music was made. The NORMVL mixtape is that important to me. It was phase one of Lwansta development. Phase two was the EP.

 

ByLwantsa by Erin Wulfohnimg_5836

 

 

Do you remember your first performance?

I do! I was coming home from school – my brother and I had transport that used to pick us up and drop at home. As soon as we got home we got a call from some guy and he asked us, “Yo. Where are you guys? Can you make it here in 30 minutes?” I think we ran to the show. We burned a CD and just put songs there (backing tracks), got to the venue and it was an outside event. The people there were older – I was in grade 8-9. I actually met the girl who I speak about on “Lindiwe” there (Short Film: directed produced and edited ByLwansta). She was there. We got told to take off our ties because we couldn’t be seen in uniform. We got on stage and it was surreal. I felt like I walked into a box and there were holes for people to see us. I felt high. I think that whole event was “Miss Kokstad” or something, the organizer came and snuck us a little trophy.

It was, wow. Feeling so nostalgic right now.

 

ByLwansta by Erin Wulfsohn

 

You’ve had many performances since then, tell us about your most memorable?

There are two gentlemen who are my triangle. One of them is Champ (the gentlemen who mixed my EP) the other one is a gentlemen named Olwethu (OB). We work within each other. I design the visuals, Champ mixes and OB is almost like a manager. The three of us wanted a platform to perform so we hosted a free show and we called it “The Backyard Sessions”. That was my first performance in front of members of the industry. I showcased “NORMVL – Lwansta” to these guys. That performance to me was the best performance I’d ever had because I was performing NORMVL the way I wanted to. I had a twenty minute set so I could choose which songs I wanted to perform. That day I learnt that I woudn’t just perform the songs that people would vibe with more, I’m going to do the lineup that I want. It made me feel good.

 

ByLwansta by Erin Wulfsohn

 

Who or what influences you?

The guys I’m listening to now are definitely the guys I can learn something from. When I listen to music I try and imagine if they are doing it authentically or are they putting on something. I’m living what I rap about. A lot of my influences are not direct influences – usually I’m with these guys {points to a stack of CD’s}. The influence is subconscious. I listen to music under a magnifying glass. I’d like to take some time off, making instrumentals – I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to the sound that I want to sound like. I made these beats out of desperation.

One day someone will find my music from a sticker. The slowness of my blow up is what I appreciate. Labels don’t teach artists effort. A label is an investor. They need you to make what’s selling. How else would they get their money? Me signing to a label would kill the whole NORMVL thing. When I consider a label will be when someone comes to me and tries to sell “Lwansta”.

 

ByLwansta by Erin Wulfsohn

 

 

Can you share a little on your creative process and inspirations?

I use music as an avenue to vent, not to always complain. I think of ideas for songs. I’m a chronic list maker. I used to make a lot of lists on my blackberry before it got taken. I record myself because I pay a lot of attention to detail, I know what I want to sound like. I know what words I want to emphasize, if I’m recording at someone else’s place its like, ”Thanks brah!”, but I wish I did this. I don’t want any of those. I don’t want any “I wish” If you ever hear a “Lwansta Project” it will always be recorded by me. By Lwansta.

So for example I’d say this mixtape is going to be called NORMVL and these are the topics I want to talk about. I’ve grown to a point where I am very aware of my feelings. I’m able to step back and understand the why’s of certain feelings. What happened, especially in NORMVL was that I’d always be doing something else and a lyric would hit me. A lot of the time I’d be walking to campus and just be rapping something. Maybe repeating something, adding to it. Inspiration is always there.

 

ByLwantsa by Erin Wulfohn

 

 

You’ve just put out a fantastic EP  “Your Absolutely Right?” What’s with the name and how’d it all come together? How does it compare to NORMVL?

I got a gentlemen by the name of Tre’ Flips to help me out with the design of the cover art. He inboxed me wanting to work on music and I asked him to work on other stuff as well. How I communicated the whole concept on the cover art is the facial expression – that’s the focal point.

I called it Your Absolutely Right because it hit me and it felt right. I didn’t even have it on a list of titles I wanted. There is “YOU” are absolutely right then there’s YOUR absolutely right, so your idea of what’s absolutely right. Then it goes back to the idea of NORMVL. Your idea of normal. I’ve always said people can bite your flow, but they can never bite your story. That’s the way its always been for me. This EP became another NORMVL body of work.

With Your Absolutely Right it was a different kind of release in comparison to NORMVL because NORMVL was a bit more of a therapeutic thing. YAR was similar, but I had a bit more control over my emotions. I chose the colour orange because it was more of a ‘tame’ red. Orange was the colour I saw every time I was recording. With the project being released, it was something I had full control over. Hello world, there you go, here’s “Your Absolutely Right”. With NORMVL it was more like therapy, with this EP I was owning my frustrations, pain, anxiety. It wasn’t necessarily more frustrated because I’m still pretty frustrated but it’s a more controlled “Lwansta”.

The response has been crazy amazing. I’d never done an EP before. The recording process was very organic for this EP. It wasn’t as dark as NORMVL. This EP is me solidifying the stuff I did in NORMVL. In NORMVL there was a lack of surety because I was isolated and very vulnerable so there was nothing I could say with confidence. With this project there is definitely confidence but more in the delivery. I don’t make songs “for”, I make songs “about”. Why would I make things that I’m not feeling?

 

 

 

“Some people don’t like hip-hop but they like a good story”

 

ByLwansta by Erin WulfsohnByLwansta by Erin Wulfsohnimg_5857ByLwansta by Erin WulfsohnByLwantsa by Erin Wulfohn

 

ByLwansta’s links and social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ByLwansta

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bylwansta

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bylwansta/

Website: http://www.normvlizm.com

Lindiwe Short Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6JHaIwpg_s

Dominic’s Interlude Short Film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ku-WDJSIVNE

The Come Up Montage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmLbYjyjYO4

The Sigh Unplugged: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mstN7hDRi8U

Outland Fest Doccie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GM7e9GCAkLM

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