By Helen Herimbi

“If you remember nothing else about tonight, remember that I was here with Papercutt.”

Tumi Molekane, the popular frontman of the band Tumi and The Volume, is a respected rapper. When he says your name in the middle of a performance, it’s a big deal. How many of us wish our names were Maria (men too) every time he performs the exceptional song of the same title?

Since momentarily stepping away from The Volume to pursue his solo endeavours, Tumi decided to go back to the roots of hip-hop. No weave-wearing back-up dancers, no hype man or fancy props on stage, just the emcee and the DJ. The emcee: Tumi. The DJ: Papercutt.

Papercutt’s been by Tumi’s side for over a year now and will perform with him at the Hunter’s gig.

“I was originally supposed to work with Zubz,” Papercutt says of the beginning of his DJ days. But then Nyambz, the Pretoria-based producer, introduced Papercutt’s mixtapes to Tumi.

The rapper then “downloaded my mix and called me up to do scratches on the Tumi and The Volume album in 2005.” Impressed by Papercutt’s efforts, Tumi then told him he needed a DJ for his shows.

Far from being the reserved guy he claims to be, Papercutt nonchalantly explains why “no one in the country has got a show like ours. My method is simple, I make sure all the scratches are relevant to the tracks and there are lots of blends.”

The duo provide memorable nights as they bring nothing less than fire to the stage and Tumi’s vibe is heightened by Papercutt’s musical precision. Says Papercutt: “Everybody used to think Tumi is this deep, far-away cat.”

But Papercutt had only one mission when he joined Tumi. He explains: “I wanted to show people that he really can rap. And I did that.” Papercutt even provided beats and scratches to a mixtape of Tumi’s songs which he titled The Volume of Tumi. “If you’re a DJ and you don’t have a mixtape out then you don’t exist in my vocabulary,” he laughs. “You’re just a poser.”

Arguing that many DJs don’t produce music, Papercutt can point to Lebo Mashile’s song Tell Your Story, which is “a track that means a lot to me because I flipped this beat on a Pentium One computer” and The Original Backpackers Mixtape 3 on his list of accomplishments.

However, even Papercutt knows he can’t replace The Volume – which is why he isn’t trying to. “There’ll always be that soul sister at our shows who wants to know where the band is,” he shares. “But Tumi is appreciated more now as an emcee and people are getting to understand that ‘intellectual’ music can still have that swagger.”

So while you get drunk off their performance this weekend, remember what Tumi said.

This article appeared in Tonight on 8 January 2008.