With the Sandton skyline as a backdrop, Helen Herimbi sat down with the North God himself, Da L.E.S.

The din caused by month-end shoppers mixed with screeching trolleys and the chatter of shop clerks on their lunch break is quickly drowned out by the chilled sophistication of classical music. That’s the split-second change that occurs when one crosses over from the plebs’ side of Sandton City to the opulence that houses high end stores like Prada and Dolce & Gabbanna.

This side feels like the perfect place to meet Da L.E.S. When he walks onto the veranda of the San Deck, the self-proclaimed deity of Johannesburg’s northern suburbs is the picture of the luxe life he projects in the lyrics on his second solo album, North God.

His Versace silk shirt is slightly blown back by the cool breeze and his vintage Medusa head sunglasses complete the look. Behind him, his A&R representative and friend, Sbu, walks in and is followed by Da LE.S’ daughter and her mother, holding a few shopping bags.

This album presents an evolution of the artist who blazed the trail for some of the jiggiest artists to be themselves. At the height of conscious rap in South Africa, Da L.E.S was bucking the trend, wearing colourful A Bathing Ape hoodies and sing-rapping about his money, his suburban bliss and getting girls on their tippy toes.

So when exactly did it become cool to rep the burbs in Mzansi rap?

“There’s a lot more people living this kind of life than there were before,” he explains, “A lot of the stories in hip hop back in the day were really Soweto based. Which is dope. But we created a new lane. There’s also a lot of money in hip hop now than there was before. I think when you make a lot of money, you obviously want good things and you’ll end up talking about the nicer things in life.”

But it doesn’t end with the paper for Da L.E.S. The verses rest on a lush sonic bed – think Rick Ross’ beats – that is mostly produced by VAM, a Mozambican production duo who’ve worked on L.E.S’ first album, Mandela Money and songs for Khuli Chana and ChianoSky. Cashtime Life’s Ma-E also gets co-production credit on Freak Nasty and 6AM featuring him and NoMoozlie. Other features include AKA, Burna Boy, Tamara Dey, Kid X, Maggz and Tumi Molekane.

On North God, Da L.E.S peels back a few more layers of his personal life. For instance, on Church Bells, he raps about his father leaving him and his crying mother in a mansion. He also shares things like his daughter’s name. “Obviously the people around me always want me to be a little more direct and vivid. To dig into my feelings a little more,” he says.

Then his daughter, from the table next to us, exclaims: “hi daddy!”

He laughs, waves back at her then continues: “as an artist, that’s me growing to new heights and trying new things. Music is expression and why not tap into some personal feelings?”

On Made It (Outro), Da L.E.S, who was actually born in Washington DC and raised in Texas before his family returned to South Africa in 1994, chronicles his journey to stardom as a part of Jozi with Ishmael, Crazy Lu and Bongani “Bongz” Fassie.

There, he raps: “I departed that part of my heart because of pain/One of the hardest decisions I think I ever made.” The decision refers to continuing as Jozi with Ish but without Lu and Bongz. He’s very forthcoming when I quiz him on this part of his life, sharing: “It was just a painful process. Planning and putting in a lot of time and hours spent on a dream that you think you’re getting close to.”

“That was obviously being a part of Jozi. And all the plans we had and the international connections we made – all of that was thrown away for selfish reasons. I was under a lot of pressure and had to just stay and fulfil my obligations that I signed up to do. I’m in a happy place now but I’m just saying, then it was heartbreaking and overwhelming.” Last year, Bongz released a diss track aimed primarily at Da L.E.S but name-checking others too.

“To be honest, it was garbage,” he says matter-of-factly, “Whatever Bongz was trying to do was stupid. That’s where it stands. There’s no beef, no friendship, there’s nothing.” Da L.E.S speaks to Crazy Lu on the phone sometimes and often sees Ishmael around but he maintains that he’s the type of person who lets bygones be bygones.

Heads will remember that Tumi was a part of the old guard that wasn’t really feeling Da L.E.S brand of rap. But now, they’ve recorded a remix of Tumi’s VISA and the Poet-MC appears on Da L.E.S’ song, Mood.

Da L.E.S laughs: “Yeah, I think he did diss me back in the day! You can look at me from a Tippy Toes perspective until you chill with me. Tumi is like the OG, we play basketball almost every single week. You don’t know somebody until you get to know them.”

“Hip hop is freedom of speech and I’m not going to hold a grudge for something from 2008 or whatever. Maybe it’s good because maybe in 2008 I was wack. It’s 2016 now and we’re doing some stuff on Tumi’s new project. And he’s not the same person from 2008 because the hip hop he was doing in 2008 compared to what he’s about to do right now, his 2008 self would be dissing himself right now.”

Da L.E.S can talk about Christian Louboutin in one breath and Funisu skateboards in the next. For every “girls getting bare like a koala,” there’s a reminder that he grew up on Souls of Mischief and a nod at Biggie lines.

But he doesn’t care whether people rate him as a real rapper or not. “When I dive into the music,” he explains, “I just zone out. It’s not always about proving to people I can rap.” As for what he’s still got up his silky sleeve, the All White Party don says a deluxe album is on the way. “There’s a track with (his daughter) Maddi on there and a track with Anatii that we’re saving. We want to work on the North God concept tour. There are also opportunities in the App space that I’m working on.”