Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Correspondent
Towards the end of last year, the region was introduced to a gifted Zulu rapper from KwaZulu Natal, Big Zulu (real name Siyabonga Nene).
Although he started doing music in 2008 as an independent artiste, the 33-year-old artiste only released his debut album titled Ushun Wenkabi in 2018, but the album apparently did not live up to expectations. Despite Big Zulu not blowing up as a musician that year, he landed gigs as an actor on popular soapies such as Isibaya, Uzalo and Isithembiso. A year later, he decided to give his music another try with the release of a single, Vuma Dlozi that featured Mnqobi Yazo. Once again, Mzansi did not instantly click with the song.
Not giving up, last year he decided to form his own record label which he named Inkabi Records and he dropped visuals for Vuma Idlozi. Interestingly, following the video’s release, the song took over radio stations in the neighbouring country with many people singing along to its catchy hooks.
This song paved the way for the artiste because in November last year, he released yet another single, Imali Eningi that became an instant hit as people were in the festive mood. With the heavens seemingly smiling down on Big Zulu, former South African president, Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane propelled the song by recording a video clip dancing to the track in what turned out to be a viral #DuduzaneChallenge. Many famous artistes including DJ Fresh, DJ Tira, and rapper Riky Rick took part in the challenge, increasing the song’s appeal across the region.
Now, Big Zulu is a sought-after hip-hop act in Africa. What makes him outstanding is that he created his own sound in hip-hop. Embracing his roots, his Zulu rap and clothing style have also earned him huge deals.
But behind this brand is a producer, L.A Beatz whom many do not know.
Using the stage name, L.A Beatz, the down-to-earth producer is a proud Zimbabwean who has claimed his mark by producing quality works for Big Zulu and many fast-rising artistes including Mduduzi Ncube of the Isiginci hit.
But who is L.A Beatz?
Born, Lazarus Nyashanu, L.A Beatz who hails from one of Bulawayo’s oldest townships, Old Lobengula, is a 25-year-old who is keeping millions of people on their feet through producing hit songs for Big Zulu.
From playing drums at the Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa in Zimbabwe, L.A Beatz left Zimbabwe in 2014 and joined River of Life Ministries in Johannesburg and played drums there. A year later, he joined the professional musical sector.
“I was born and raised in Bulawayo. From my childhood, I’ve always been passionate about music explaining my role in church bands. I only started doing music professionally as a producer six years ago as I wanted to provide enthusiastic creators, the chance to express themselves through original music production that would be artistic and creative in its composition,” said L.A Beatz.
“I have always had a passion for music and that drove me to pursue music professionally,” said L.A Beatz.
He said he worked with the likes of Tik Take Music, LBee and Musiholiq before meeting Big Zulu in 2016.
L.A Beatz said his production skills have improved tremendously over the years, something that is clear for all to see as some of his works have been certified double platinum (Imali Eningi). Having worked with Cassper Nyovest and Kwesta among many others, he said he is very proud of his works which are a resemblance of how he has settled well in the cut-throat music industry.
“I’ve worked on a number of albums that include Stimela By Mduduzi Ncube and singles — Imali Eningi by Big Zulu featuring Intaba yaseDubai and Ricky Ricky; Amamillion by Big Zulu featuring Musiholiq; Wena by L.A Beatz featuring Anzo; Isiginci by Mduduzi Ncube; Putsununu by Mduduzi Ncube featuring Qwabe Twins and Stimela by Mduduzi Ncube,” said L.A Beatz.
Impressively, most of these tracks are topping charts across the region.
L.A Beatz said he is working on his album as he wants to introduce a new sound in the industry. He said he is also grooming up-and-coming talent in order to boost the music industry.
“Having worked with top artistes, I’m now working on my album and grooming up-and-coming artistes that include vocalists, musicians, producers as well as established artistes. I’m on a drive to create music that has a different sound for all ages,” he said.
Artistes that L.A Beatz is working with include Celza, Droopy, Musiholiq, Anzo, Mduduzi Ncube, Aya Msani, Marley Girl, Mk Feaz, DJ LBee and The Vocal Three.
Asked how he met Big Zulu, L.A Beatz who is also good with the camera said: “We stayed in the same complex. One day, I approached him and gave him my beat which he loved and used on his first album, UShun WeNkabi.
“After that, we began working together and I produced Imali Eningi, Amamillion, and Amabillion. I was also involved in the making of Vuma Dlozi, a track Big Zulu featured Mnqobi Yazo as well as Big Zulu’s Ungqonqgoshe Wongqongqoshe album.”
The rise of Big Zulu, L.A Beatz said, was a big nod for his production skills.
“Big Zulu has become a world favourite and this is a big achievement for both of us. I am grateful that my work is out there and being recognised and appreciated by many,” he said.
On his working relationship with Big Zulu, L.A Beatz said the two have an amazing relationship which is growing from strength to strength. He said his greatest moment with the artiste was when they were certified platinum.
“On the production of his songs, most of the times, I make a beat and let him listen to it. If he likes it, we then work together on the concepts of the song. I also help direct the making of the songs, from vocals and lyrics.
“My greatest moment was when I got awarded three Platinum Plaques from streams for iMali Eningi, iSiginci and Amamillion.” – @mthabisi_mthire.