Jonny Joburg and the Spaza Shop Boyz’s frontman, Jonny Joburg, spoke to Helen Herimbi about their sound, selling CDs and sacrifice.

I don’t remember when I first heard Jonny Joburg and the Spaza Shop Boyz. But once I had, the hip hop group made it hard to go to a live gig in Joburg or watch’s Shiz Niz without seeing the ever-jolly $ir Charlie Macc dougie-ing and Jonny Joburg fervently reciting his rhymes.

Luthando Sithole, aka Jonny Joburg, has gone from being behind the scenes (he once managed rapper F-Eezy) to pulling faces at the cameras thrust into his own.

He laughs when I remind him of the various hats he wore in the past, then says: “That time with F-Eezy was like my baby project. I found him, was managing him and even directed his music video. I was proud of my work because it proved I could take nothing and turn it into something.” But then his tone changes: “Joburg started showing me flames, you know, when everything just starts becoming too much and you lose yourself.”

So he took time out of the City of Gold and spent a year in England to try and find what he’d lost. “Not to say that I found myself in England,” he laughs, “because there were just more drugs and parties over there.”

But there was something more important Jonny discovered in that country. Electronic music.

“There was a range of music that opened my eyes,” he says. “Electro (music) impacted heavily on my life and it’s part of the reason Spaza Shop Boyz sounds like this.”

With $ir Charlie Macc, Jonny Joburg formed the group whose sound is a mixture of hip hop’s ancient art of chopping samples, punk/rock-like choruses and even the machismo modern rap that’s tailor-made for the clubs. The friends became Spaza Shop Boyz two years ago and just last month, for 24 hours only, they released their highly-anticipated self-titled debut album free online.

Jonny says they decided to go the digital download route because “people wanted to hear the music so we decided not to be stingy with it. Once you’re done with a song you have to realise that song is no longer yours, it belongs to the people. No one goes through this bullshit just to bump their music to themselves. When you’re not a Top 20 charting artist then it’s hard to get music stores to stock you. But if people can have our album on their cellphones then what do I need Musica for?”

Not much, is the answer, if watching cool kids rap along to Money On The Fire, Strobe Lights and Smoke Screens or Blak On Blaque is anything to go by. We know young people like them. But does Sipho Sithole? The founder of Native Rhythms, South African hip hop enthusiast and the man who gave Skwatta Kamp a mainstream recording deal is also Jonny’s father.

“My dad says our music is really good, but I’m not sure if he’s heard the whole album. I know he loved the song I did with Zuluboy, though,” says Jonny.

For most rappers, metaphors are a tool to convey their messages while flexing their skills. Jonny loves metaphors. He says this album is loaded with them. Take, for instance, Money On The Fire, which sees a Malcolm X speech become swallowed by industrial-sounding drums.

“I’ve had that sample for a long time,” explains Jonny. “I’ve always wanted to use it. Malcolm X goes on about being duped and hoodwinked so maybe we’re pulling a big trick over everyone, or maybe the trick is on us. I felt I needed to tell everyone that. Throwing money on fire is a metaphor for sacrifice,” he says.

I ask him what they are sacrificing.


There is silence. “I know it may sound difficult to understand,” he says, “but we’re sacrificing ourselves because you never know if what you want to do is what the universe wants for you.”