Once in a while, a crew pops up that changes the course of rap music. For the past couple of years, heads have debated whether Teargas did that in South Africa, but it looks like with their new group, called Cashtime Fam, they plan to do just that. Helen Herimbi spoke to a sixth of the group, Smashis.

Smashis is in stitches.

“You sound so hyped,” he tells me between guffaws.

“Your voice is like a TV presenter’s.”

I try not to wince: “Like a YoTV presenter?” I ask.

He does not waste any time thinking about it: “I don’t know, I don’t watch it.”


“Because I write raps and record them. That’s what I do with my time.”

While not the most punctual of rappers, time seems to be a significant theme in the lives of Smashis, Bonginkosi “Kid X” Mahlangu and Tumelo “AB Crazy” Dibakwane. As in, they have none of it to waste. When they are super-late for our meeting, the trio’s spent the day braving the rain and contending with electrical problems at a university performance during orientation week.

Comprised of Teargas members KO, Ntukza and Ma-E and the three aforementioned up-and-coming rappers, Cashtime Fam has run through the past year like sands through the hour-glass in Days of Our Lives’ opening credits.

And they’re not about to stop now.

When Smashis, whose real name is Sthembiso Simelane, finally stops laughing at me, I ask him what it’s like to be performing their debut album, Now Or Never, at campuses around the country to people in their age group. The 21-year-old says: “For me, it’s the coolest thing ever. Like literally, ever. We are performing in front of people my age and older, and they want to be like me.”

Delivering a sound that is big in terms of production (think Rick Ross’s Maybach Music vibe) and lyrics that are signifiers of what’s on the minds of young men, it’s no wonder this group seems to be cashing in on fame.

“I’m that boy your mom warned you about,” they talk-sing in No Good. And, of course, punchlines such as “paedophile flow idla abantwana” – which girls go crazy for upon hearing – that are lost in translation.

Following a model that the likes of TKZee Family set up, Cashtime Fam includes the multi-award winning Teargas.

A group that has had to win audiences and hard core hip hop heads over, one hit single at a time. Part of their winning formula has been delivering their lyrics in Zulu and Sotho – something Smashis wasn’t used to.

“I was an all-English rapper back then,” he recollects. “I had never rapped in vernac. So it was a very difficult transition for me. Not only did I have to go from all-English to including vernac, but now I also had to be a good vernac rapper.”

And if he hadn’t told on himself, we wouldn’t have guessed that mixing SA’s indigenous languages into his rhymes (as on the chart-topping feel-good song, Goodbye) wasn’t his forte. But, luckily for him, the group’s dynamic just goes together.

Teargas give their industry experience and take a swig from the fountain of youth through the boys. Kid X is a solid rapper.

Smashis has the playful steez (style and ease) and punchline-driven rhymes on lock. And the ace up Cashtime Fam’s sleeve is probably AB Crazy, a double threat rapper/producer who was once a part of the popular Octave Couplet. But they weren’t always the tight-knit unit they are today.

Smashis, who was raised in KwaZulu-Natal before he moved to Joburg to study drama, was rapping on Siz ’n’ Scoop’s Full Clip show on YFM when Teargas called him up to be a part of Cashtime Fam. Back then, known rapper Molly and AB Fab were a part of the original line-up.

A self-described “Teargas groupie”, Smashis swears that semi-snort laugh KO is famous for laying on tracks is not what he’s learnt from Teargas. “Laughing on songs is a rapper thing,” he chuckles. “But personally, I have learnt a lot from working with Teargas. I think I went from being a rapper to being a musician. I was all about killing it and punchlines. Now I’m about saying things that may sound cool, but have people be able to relate to it.”