After 3 Quarter Pace, Kid X is ahead of many rappers. Helen Herimbi caught up with the artist.

Cashtime Life has had a good shot at running the hip hop game. But Kid X is in his own race. The member of K.O’s collective, who was born Bonginkosi Mahlangu, broke into the scene as a third of Teargas’ protégé crew, Cashtime Fam.

He went solo, gave Nomoozlie the perfect introduction to the industry with Se7en and deserved half the credit for Caracara, which ushered in the skhanda sound. A sound that pretty much most mainstream rappers have bit (along with his cadence).

Instead of sprinting into a debut album with the expected sound that his fans had become accustomed to, Kid X took off his skhanda bucket hat and put on his rapping cap. His mixtape, 3 Quarter Pace, is probably the most slept-on project that was released at the tail-end of last year.

When I meet up with him at a spot in Rosebank’s trendy side, he tells me he “just felt like something was missing”. So he set up a gmail account specifically for less popular producers to submit beats, collaborated with the likes of Kwesta, L-Tido, Blaklez and Ginger Trill and 3 Quarter Pace was born.

When the mixtape cover came out, old rapper, Selwyn, had a storm in a teacup when he claimed the picture of a running track was inspired by his Foundation album cover.

“I’m a Selwyn fan, but I’d never seen that cover,” Kid X tells me. But the audio and not the visuals is what matters most. Here, Kid X is not doing his familiar low-tone drawl. He presents a variety of flows.

He takes the listener into a world where he ponders how happy he’d be if he’d stayed in ’varsity to become an accountant or stock broker. He’s cocky with lines like: in vernac or English/This is everything your favourite rapper isn’t.

His dexterity in the languages and the ease with which he can be the voice of the low income, white-collar worker (listen to Se7en and Imadlana Yokgcina) and speak to the kids who party at Kong is better than what one-dimensional rappers are putting out.

He is also vulnerable as he raps on a song called Fire Drill: Fans at my shows wanna know when I’m going to drop a disc/I tell them I’m inspired, I’m just not convinced/That they’re going to pick up my vibe or let alone listen.

He smiles when I quiz him about these lines and I notice, for the first time since this 27-year-old sat down, that the gap in his teeth is something he doesn’t necessarily try to hide, but he doesn’t smile all that much in videos and press photos. “I’ve got my own ideas of what music should be,” he says of people picking up his vibe.

“We tend to look to America to see what the next wave is. I made Fire Drill and played it to a popular DJ and he said he didn’t understand it. That maybe I still needed to find my voice. But I challenge myself. I never want my consumer to think I’m an easy listen.”

As much as he’s passionate about word- play and punchlines, Kid X wants to meet the trend-driven consumer half way. “What I put out as a single is, sadly, different from what I’ll put out on a mixtape,” he says. “What I’m actually trying to say is on the album, but to lure you in, I have to use those kinds of singles that people are used to. Some of which may not be my best work,” he continues.

“People used to tell me I’m only popular by association and I took offence to that. So the reason I put out 3 Quarter Pace for free initially was to build consumer confidence.”

The mixtape reached a whopping 500 000 downloads within a week and Cashtime Life decided to sell it on iTunes instead.

“Awards only recognise you if your album was released on an official platform like iTunes,” Kid X smirks. “So it was a seed for me, an investment in my career.”

The success of his debut album will likely be the fruit of this seed. Called Thank Da King – or TDK for the social media savvy – the album will be released this year. “I felt like my first album should be my name,” he explains, “but an album called Bonginkosi sounds like the music is probably gospel or Afro-pop. I’ll have ‘Bonginkosi’ in brackets under the title because I don’t look down on my real name but TDK sounds like a rap album!”

With it, Kid X plans to “break into the rest of Africa. South African audiences aren’t willing to listen to a song and decide for themselves. Wizkid’s Ojuelegba probably would have been slept on in South Africa if Drake wasn’t on the remix.

“You could make a terrible song and it’ll pop off in South Africa. That worries me! So my target is the rest of the continent and then Europe.”