Gift “pH” Nkuna puts his Air Max 90s-clad feet on the coffee table. Near his sneakers, an unused fireplace shoulders a framed Lost In Time CD cover. The disc is the history-making second album by Khuli Chana and the SAMA-winning offering was largely produced by pH.

But he’s not resting on that laurel. He’s actually trying to teach me the correct way of pronouncing the XiTsonga greeting “Avuxeni” – also a title of one of the songs from his debut album, From Giyani With Love. “That v is actually more like a b-sound,” he explains, “so it’s like 70% b and 30% v.”

We laugh that I’m sounding like one of the girl’s on a skit on the album. The Jozi girl and her crew are headed to Giyani and they make jokes about how far the Limpopo province is and they also attempt to pronounce the greeting. But one of the points of the really long album is to force people to look at themselves and how they treat people from Limpopo as if they are “other.”

pH tells me: “the album title came from something my cousin, Allen, would always scream out from the last three years. He was like: ‘we’re two Giyani boys doing well in Joburg.’ At the same time, it felt like Giyani sent me here to tell everyone that we exist. That we’re not as dumb as people think and to tell people from Giyani that we are all capable of anything we want to do.”

The catchy lead single off this album, Wan N’tiva, saw the iconic Thandiswa Mazwai unapologetically sing in XiTsonga. “Thandiswa and I have worked together before,” pH explains, “and whenever I think of traditional African singing, she’s the only person I think of.”

“I wanted to write a song introducing Shangaan culture to the mainstream,” he continues, “and if Thandiswa acknowledges the song by singing on it, then maybe people will say ‘ok, we must give this a listen.’ The song is basically saying ‘we want money. Don’t waste our time, we just want our money.’”

Money is a big theme on this album. In fact, From Giyani With Love opens with part of a sermon by Pastor Farai of Christ Community Christian Church – where pH is a member. On the intro, the Pastor breaks down wealth according to the bible and how one’s faith, and not riches, will guarantee their afterlife.

“I wasn’t a churchgoer before,” admits pH, “and I felt lost three years ago. I didn’t want to go to my parents’ church because it had that old school thinking. Pastor Farai’s church is all young people and it was a good place to find Jesus. The biggest subject in hip hop is accumulating and showcasing money. Yes, I want money but that’s not the only reason behind everything that I do.”

Some of it has to do with wanting to marry his musical and business minds – like Papa Penny. pH often refers to himself at The Rap Papa Penny and it stretches beyond them sharing traditions. “Papa Penny was a rockstar AND he was Shangaan,” pH grins, “and I want people to know three things about me. That I’m Shangaan and a rockstar and I want my culture to shine through!”

“The more I get involved in my music,” says pH, “the more I want to embody Papa Penny in that he is a musician and a businessman. He never had just one way. Plus he was bling-ey, which is a rap element.” The business side is something he learnt from his father who owns a successful construction company.

pH’s wildly popular Raw X Studios was built thanks to his shortlived stint in the construction business. At first, says pH, his parents didn’t understand why he’d forsake a secure career in the family business for the unchartered terrain that is music. So I ask him what his parents think of him now that he’s an award-winning producer who is trying his hand at rapping at getting a lot of love for it. “Well,” he smiles, “now my dad has a poster of my album as his Whatsapp profile picture.”