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Bravo Le Roux gives Khayelitsha a voice

Author: Themba Kriger
Photos: Bulumko Gana

Having recently moved into his own home in Khayelitsha’s Village 1 South, Bravo Le Roux is proud of this what this achievement means, a move out of Zone 2’s rough streets and the associated lifestyles. The move is thanks to his burgeoning rap career, something he was close to giving up in 2018 due to depression and a desire to end all his creative pursuits.

Bravo can’t pinpoint a specific point of inspiration for these creative endeavors but found himself drawn to them in his early teens. “I was always just a funky kid.” This led him to explore everything from drawing and dancing to music and fashion.

He blames this depression party on his teachers, who sold him false promises for what happens after matric, with the promised success not materializing. “My mom took me to a model C school, why am I flopping now?”

Two reasons kept Bravo from giving up. 

The first was when he got the opportunity to perform at Nasty C’s Ivyson tour thanks to a vote by the people. While the performance was a success, he had to return to Kleinmond in the Eastern Cape where he had a full-time job selling chickens. 

Soon after returning, he heard that Nasty C would be in Cape Town and wanted to meet all the performers from his tour. He quit his job on the spot and hitchhiked back to Khayelitsha, but could not reach anyone. 

While disappointing, Bravo didn’t let this get him down. “One thing that kept me going is that I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I had already burnt bridges. So I thought I might as well make it work!”

The second was the release of his EP “Priddy Yung Ting.” Bravo didn’t view it as something cohesive and just wanted to release the music as a way of closing that chapter of his life, but the response it got helped change his mind. “For me, it was a farewell. Something small. That’s what pretty young thing means. But the reception was crazy. The response of the streets made me realize people really [dig] what I’m doing.”

Since then he has released a slew of singles, a mixtape in collaboration with DJ Switch, collabs with the likes of YoungstaCPT, Yanga Chief, & Maglera Doe Boy, and two albums, the most recent being 2021’s “International Gubevu.”

He describes his rap as “premium, township, Xhosa, dyan,” explaining that premium means that he doesn’t “want to romanticize struggle or poverty. I do rap about it and my story is about coming up, so that’s where the premium is.”

Township life is what inspires him, witnessing the art of survival and experiencing moving from a shack to a home.

Finally, he channels “dyan-life” or that aspect of himself he developed during initiation. “You have to go through initiation to be a dyan but it doesn’t make you less of a man if you didn’t. It’s to be militant and overcome because you get taken to the mountain and you’re alone in a hut house and you have to survive for a  month. Everything you learn there you apply in this life.”

While building his career hasn’t been without its challenges, Bravo credits GoodHope FM DJ Kyeezi with giving him the right perspective. “ He saw how much noise I was making in the city. I said to him I feel like I’ve done everything I needed to do. He said you sound tired, don’t be tired, just have fun with it.” 

This helped Bravo adjust his focus to the positive rather than harping on the negatives. “ I don’t focus on the L’s that come with it. [Things are] always going to work out.”

As an independent artist doing things and sounding differently, Bravo’s relationship with the music industry is built on his grassroots support. “The streets will take me to the industry. I’m just going to make moves in the streets, and that’s what I’ve been doing. In some projects I don’t even have to ask for a verse, the people are going to say, hey feature him!”

And while Bravo has had opportunities to be signed by a label, he doesn’t see the benefits. “My team and I work so hard that whoever comes to us, we ask them what they can do for us that we can’t do for ourselves? Most of the time we do things better than most entities, we just don’t have the funding they do.”

The pride associated with moving to his new home ties into overcoming the stereotypes associated with Khayelitsha and the opportunities that were denied because of living there. “In Cape Town, to this day, if I say I’m from Khayelitsha they look at me differently.”

Bravo wants this achievement to inspire others from Khayelitsha to do the same, saying that he doesn’t sell music, but hope. As part of this are the school tours that see him take his shows to kids that otherwise couldn’t attend them. “When these kids see me it’s crazy, they cry. I don’t know what I’ve done, but their reaction to my presence is crazy. Sometimes that’s what keeps me going. This is why I am here and I am who I am.”

Bravo also finds that Ikeja has been a game-changer for these kids that want to interact with his music. “I get laaities that stand by the stores with Ikeja to stream my music, or vote, or watch music videos.” On the flip side, he has seen how it also helped them deal with the difficulties of lockdown. “Lockdown hits, school tells you to do the courses online, what do you do, you’re in a shack?”

Sitting on a ton of music, Bravo is currently deciding his next move but doesn’t want to give away too much. “I’m dropping two singles soon. One with Youngsta with visuals and one with Black Les.”

He’s also keen to branch out more and try other creative pursuits. “[I’m] looking at dropping more clothes, acting, and modeling gigs. But I’m stretching it out. People hear my raps, they don’t know about my melody side. Kanye only recently dropped the drawings that he did 30 years ago. Don’t give too much of yourself at the same time. Always surprise them!”

Having made a name for himself in the industry, Bravo hopes that if there is one thing take from his music, it’s authenticity. “Authenticity comes from overcoming and not being peer pressured. That doesn’t mean to be township, it means who you are in your soul. If you listen to your soul and what your soul wants you’ll live a better life.”