From Tatea da MC to TATEAGURU - Exclusive Interview with the H-Town King As He Speaks On Career, Hip Hop, and New Album

 By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza 

Most people who follow Zimbabwe's urban music, particularly Zim Hip Hop, will attest to the fact that they know the name Tatea da MC very well. And MMT, of course. The inimitable rapper has created a respectable career in Zimbabwe’s arts/music scene, showing his artistic grit through solid street cred exemplified in him being the H-Town King. Deservedly.

Once Tatea da MC, now TATEAGURU, leading forth his #IWE!!! clothing apparel brand.

He has seen a lot, done a lot, achieved a lot, and been through a lot. But where you may know him as Tatea da MC, be ready for this huge permutation he now presents to the world, as we now call him Tateaguru. Again, deservedly.

And, more than ever, he is determined on achieving what has never been achieved before [the crux of this article, as you read on]. He wants to create opportunities not only for himself but for others who reflect the true embodiment of what real, organic art is. As informed by the streets, of course. And he is planning on dropping an album. Shedding off the Tatea da MC skin, the new Tateaguru is bolder, hungrier, and more focused; yet, with exquisite artistic maturity, exemplary leadership, and profound business acumen.

We had the glorious chance to have a conversation with him over these and other matters, and below are the excerpts of the interview. 

[Slightly edited for clarity and brevity. Interview by Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza for ZimSphere.]

ZimSphere: Who is Tatea da MC? If you may walk with us through your journey in the arts.

Tateaguru: Tatea is a 36-year-old Harare-based Zimbabwean Hip Hop artist. My journey in music has been written throughout my life. I was born in The Avenues and raised in Greencroft in Zimbabwe's capital city. I attended David Livingstone Primary School in an era when 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Bone Thugs and Harmony and The Fugees were dominant in rap music. I was the leader of a childhood band we formed in Greencroft called The Miyagi Band named after a popular action movie, The Karate Kid. I did my high school at Murewa Mission where in Form 1, I performed a rap piece at the school's variety show and become known as 'a rapper's. I would have clashes with dancehall a toaster who got his music from his older brother, who hailed from a sound called Badd Bwoys Crew, who were some of the pioneers of urban music at the time. I then went on to Speciss College in Harare where I was introduced to the rap scene. Guys would link up from all over the city for rap cyphers after school and as the movement grew I would participate in cyphers at Book Café and Avondale Flea Market.

My introduction to the mainstream was through my affiliation with my childhood friends, the late DJ Leon and DJ Noxx who were DJing at parties and clubs from as far as Maze, Synergy, La Dolce Vita, and Circus. I also went under the tutelage of lengedary DJs Dee Nice And Dee Vine who introduced me the the corporate sector, and to Nigerian Superstar DJ Waxxy. I  was given a platform by Serious DJs Africa, Lindsay The Dude and DJ L-Roy. MC'ing at clubs and parties gave me solid experience and a view of the game most MCs sleep on. I learnt how to control the crowd and also how to rap properly because the DJ would throw an instrumental in his set and I'd spit my flow so I learnt how to control my tone and be audible.

I recorded my first single in 2009 and went on to drop my first mixtape Remix Killa in 2011, which was followed up by Remix Killa 2.0 and Sunshine City Swagger successively.

In 2013, I partnered up with Hip Hop powerhouses Mariachi and MC CUT and we formed MMT which went on to garner commercial success and a lot of recognition. Our collective released one single titled The MMT LP.

I also did a stint in television as a host of the premiere of Star Kidz for our only TV channel at the time, ZTV. I also went on to feature in Zimbabwe's first reality television show, a project called Culture which was aired widely on ZBC.

They brought me back on board for an Urban Music Video Show as presenter on a programme called Urban Limelight; it aired on what was then ZTV2 and gained me mass appeal.

I've cameo'd in numerous music videos namely Winky D - Controversy, Nashie - Kuchibhorani, and Black Bird - Waiting For Love. Behind the scenes I've also been doing mentoring and life-coaching.

ZimSphere: Whats the story behind the moniker #HTownKing?

Tateaguru: As I was doing an assessment of the game before I established myself, I followed a lot of what was trending in the streets and what was on television; and in America the hype was about who was claiming King - with T.I vs Lil Flip for King Of The South being a hot topic then. I felt I needed an entry point so I decided then to claim Harare; if there was an act out there better than me their work would prove it, and I wouldn't be the H-Town King. I knew it was a move that would create a buzz and also coming from on of my favorite folk stories, King Arthur's Sword In The Stone, kingship had a personal appeal to me. I was just a little kid who pulled Excalibur out of a spell casted rock.

When I announced it no one objected, and I've been the H-Town King since.


ZimSphere: And TateaGuru?

Tateaguru: TateaGuru or Tate A Guru, loosely translated in my indigenous language Shona, simply means Ancestor. It's a name I chose because I feel I'm at a plateau where I'm more like a Guru in this game, having been here for as long as I have. A lot of the artists known right now are children to me similar to how Soul Jah Love called himself ChiBaba. I've grown from Da Mc to A Guru which is what I want people to understand through my music


ZimSphere: Why has the H-Town King been silent all this while? Where's Tatea? What's he up to? Is this your enigmatic aura?

Tateaguru: After our group [MMT] parted ways I took a pilgrimage to South Africa. The pressures of being perceived and regarded as a 'celebrity' in Zim had me anxious and depressed at the same time. I didn't want to fall into the ‘most-Zim-artists-trap where you're broke and famous. I decided to step away and recalibrate, I've been 'Ghost' since. I go out every now and then and people still think I'm in SA.

My main hustle has been the #IWE!!! merchandise which has built a niché clientele. I've engaged a designer and a business partner so I'm looking at doing some mass production with the clothing apparel because the demand has been high.

When I'm not in the streets I'm at my Uncle's farm in Banket. I'm a country boy and I like the slow life so when soya bean season is in,  I'm out! The reason I'm 'Ghost' is simply because there's too much unnecessary pressure out there and I'm the type of guy that just wants to go chill by the corner with the gang and not have to worry about what's going to be said by the media


ZimSphere: People have had all sorts of stuff to remark about the trajectory of your craft over the years. Can we assert that MMT disbanding led to a downward spiral in the individual careers of group members? And why? If that's not the case, why?

Tateaguru: A group dynamic has always been a fragile arrangement. We weren't the first group to part ways and we won't be the last. The thing is, you invest a portion of yourself into the collective and finding your individual footing out of that is difficult, a lot of artist don't.

When the group formed our mission was simple: to bring out some quality street music. Our group wasn't strong on social media like our rival group Few Kings, so a lot of what could be said about MMT is purely speculation. When we'd drop new music we'd have to make clean edits because radio requested it but we had our audience on lock.

Mariachi released a solo album MUZUKURUUU in 2018 which I featured on a track with GZE - Apa Hauna Cash, and MC CUT is sought after as an MC in the events scene.


ZimSphere: What has been the crowning point of your hip hop career so far?

Tateaguru: 2012 Zim Hip Hop Awards was the night. I was dressed nice, I had a pretty young thing on my arm and the event was red carpet on some Hollywood. I remember when I received my third award for the night, Video of the Year - the whole auditorium went crazy with the hottest girls from Harare yelling 'IWE!!!' for the boy. I went on to get a lot of television, newspaper and radio coverage after that event.


ZimSphere: And the lowest?

Tateaguru: The loss of my little sister Nicole Amelia David to a stroke. She was someone I was grooming and I even wrote some of her bars. I'd just linked her to Bryce Nation and she was making commercial moves, radio, videos and all of a sudden then she lost her life. I had  not even put out my first video yet and her death as much as it hit me hard, moved me to actually do something and put out some music and win awards.

Also the loss of my protejé DJ Leon who lost his life to depression in 2015. That was also a huge blow for me because my plan was to align our brands; as he grew bigger as a DJ on the Jo'Burg circuit I'd grow big in H. I had a whole plan worked out.


ZimSphere: What more do you still hope or aspire for?

Tateaguru: I want to grow and have so much [organic] power and influence that I can facilitate international collaborations and shows. I want to be able to sit down with the greats and have conversations about Zimbabwean music and where it can be taken. I'm still piecing together the management arm of my corporation but one of my biggest dreams right now is to set up and run my own private radio station, that's where you'll hear all the good stuff you didn't think Zimbabwe has.


ZimSphere: We've noticed how you're adding some dope tweaks to your brand #IWE!!! May you take us through this [marketing] experience. And what do you hope to achieve with this newly strengthened move?

Tateaguru: I'm actually still in the Research & Development stages of the brand #IWE!!! I've enlisted a business partner and designer so the goal is to go full merchandise with the brand. For the longest time it's been a niché market brand with a few loyal clients but we're ready to scale up and do some mass production. We're about to put out the clothing for the winter season and drop more brand extension products as the entity grows. One of my visions is to have an #IWE!!! product in the supermarket.


ZimSphere: You have new music out. If you may share with us the making of and inspiration behind your new single 007.

Tateaguru: 007 is my first single for 2022. It was recorded three weeks ago and has made me $100 through crowdfunding via WhatsApp. Production was done by one of my producers Zviro Beats and the title of the beat was '007' -  it had a bounce to it and I remember saying to Beast "iri ziku 007" and at that moment, we realized we had a banger on our hands. I'm a huge fan of the James Bond franchise so putting the storyline together wasn't too difficult. It's more like I was just talking about how I operate similar to the fashion of a an MI6 operative. There's references in there to M who represents a person I have I go to for my missions, I also like to have a good drink every now and then so there's a martini reference in there too. The rest I gotta leave you to enjoy when you listen to it.


ZimSphere: And that [clever or misunderstood] Tanto bar...

Tateaguru: If one fails to master a deep understanding of Hip Hop, this will come off as a diss but the thing is this. I name-drop quite a bit in my flows, this is one of my signature styles. Referencing someone is simply recognition that that person is out there doing something that's valid. And a shout-out by an artist of my calibre actually means you’re being put on because your name and what you're doing are being exposed to an audience outside your own. A classic case would be our 2013 smash Wake Up off the MMT LP. A lot of names of people who were relevant and influential at the time were dropped on a street record and had the whole industry talking. You weren't it if your name wasn't mentioned.

With the Tanto bar, I was simply paying recognition to the Trap Su originator -  his sound has definitely made a wave and I think it's also creative ingenuity that he is on the James Bond wave, I like his taste in hero's. Chi-Town Stand Up!


ZimSphere: Word on the street is you're working on a new album - the 15-track T A T E A G U R U - and that 007 is your statement of intent. Tell us the story of this album; the abstract, the intelligible, the message, the vision, aim, etc, etc; what does this album mean? 

Tateaguru: 007 came out because I needed release therapy, it'd been over a year since I dropped anything so this and a few more singles will be the build up to T A T E A G U R U . These singles have no reflection on the direction of the album.

The album itself is a 10-year H-Town story that paints a picture of why I claim to be The H-Town King. I've been in these streets, I've seen a lot, done a lot and I've seen changes over different periods of life in Harare, I feel like I'm  a custodian of the streets so now I'm ready to present it to the world in the fashion of Oral Tradition. I venture into subjects such as the party scene, girls, suicide & depression, motivation and obviously a lot of bravado. I'm striving to make this a wholesome musical experience.


ZimSphere: What's the progress of the album and when should the ardent followers of #IWE!!! tentatively expect its release?

Tateaguru: TATEAGURU is 70% complete as we speak. Initially I had set out to release it in May as a birthday present to myself but I've been advised to push it back to August so I can properly polish it up and a deliver a product worth putting on repeat. With music the more time you take the better the record sounds if you're aiming to make a classic that is.


ZimSphere: We also understand it has some relatively fresh producers whom most may not be familiar with, and these include Zviro Beast, Shi'loh, Big Midget, Buouy Truth, Johnny Infinite, DJ Hypa, among others. Who are these people? What was your motivation in entrusting the making of Tateaguru to them?

Tateaguru: When I set out to put a complete project out the first group of people I hit up we're the producers. I been blessed to interact with quite a number of producers and I felt that these guys are the best people to help me tell my story. I believe producers don't receive the credit they deserve so this is me trying my best to put my guys on and get their music heard. You really have to be in the streets to know who has the best sound and most people including artists only know a few producers that are in the limelight but over the years I've met so many talented beatmakers I even have beats for future projects.

I believe in these individuals' talents so much that after TATEAGURU drops, everyone will be asking who is who; I really want to put my producers on.


ZimSphere: Boi Mac is one of the doppest spitters in the game. What is your relation with him?

Tateaguru: Our relationship is both personal and professional. We have relation ties that go far - his older brother dated Amelia, and we have blood connections through Projusa Xndr, then and even Take Fizzo; our cousin network is strong so somehow we're kinda related. On the grind, Boi Mac is The New H-Town King. I passed him the baton because he felt he could claim it, his rap style is different, he has actual street cred and him moving into events MCing has opened up new doors for him. As a producer he is also doing the beat selection and mixing on some of my projects.


ZimSphere: Your top 5 MCs in Zimbabwe?

Tateaguru: Top 5 MCs - Metaphysics, Synik, KapCity, R Peels & Mu Netsi.


ZimSphere: Your Top 5 MCs in America and Top 5 Producers in America?

Tateaguru: Top 5 MCs - Jay- Z, Nas, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes & Snoop Dogg.

Top 5 Producers - Pharrell Williams, Timbaland, DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz & Kanye.


ZimSphere: Word of solidarity to all the cats in the game?

Tateaguru: Let's bring the culture back, Let's engage the DJs, let's engage the dancers, let's bring the music back to the hood.


ZimSphere: For people who wanna work with you, how may they get in touch with you?


Instagram : @tateaguru


#ZimSphere: Thank you for your time, and best wishes with the album!

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