Interview: SA rap superstar Jack Parow on “causing kak for a living”
South Africa’s most successful zef Afrikaans romantic superstar rapper, Jack Parow, has an impressive CV, stretching out further than his ridiculously long iconic cap’s reach.
The dude hasn’t even klapped 40, yet it seems that he has done and seen it all. The Cooler As Ekke cat’s debut album reached gold status within two weeks of its release. He has collaborated with the best of the best over the years and was even hand-picked as the headlining act at the official opening party of the PUMA Social Club in Gorky Park, Moscow, Russia.
Beyond his countless albums and hilarious music videos he managed to put his own braaisous and brandy on shelves in major outlets across South Africa, published a best-selling memoir and starred in his own travel series, Dis Hoe Ons Rol.
And just when you think he would slow down, he does the unthinkable and hosts his own sold-out festival in Utrecht in the Netherlands, called Parow Fest, a four-hour extravaganza with some of the biggest Dutch hip hop and rap artists performing alongside him.
This adventure has since been turned into a documentary, Parow To Parowfest: The Jack Parow Story (now available on Showmax).
We had a chat with Parow about his seemingly overnight rise to stardom, the hard work and the subsequent toll it takes on him as well as his festival’s unusual success in the Netherlands.
“I always feel like I have to pinch myself a lot. I’m like: “F**k, am I really just causing kak for a living?””
Before we get to gesels a little bit about Parow to Parow To Parowfest: The Jack Parow Story, you first need to tell me why Bloubek is your favourite song?
Well, Bloubek is obviously my favourite track because it’s your favourite track and if it’s your favourite track, it’s my favourite track! I also punch a guy that looks a lot like Steve Hofmeyr in that video, which is always fun. It is a lekker video, it’s got a good vibe, it’s high energy and people love it. Still one of my favourites to do live, definitely!
Do you sometimes sit in your pozzie, chilled out and think: “Jirre, how the f*k did I get here?” I mean, it is now just over a decade of Jack Parow on stages across the world and it feels like Cooler As Ekke rocketed you to stardom like just last week. Can you even put that feeling into words or is it still a mind f**k?
Ja f*k, it is mal! Being a lightie growing up Durbanville and being bullied just for listening to rap music because everyone’s listening to all the pop kak and then kind of always just f**king being like “Ek maak f*kken rap musiek!” and sticking with it.
I started writing and rapping when I was 15 or 16. I’m 38 now so it’s been 22 years. It’s insane! Just over 10 years of actually doing it for a living. I grew up hustling and playing and no one wanted to listen to me. I moved to Cape Town and started hooking up with Garlic Brown from Brasse Vannie Kaap, Isaac Mutant, Scally and then all these rappers from Mitchell’s Plain started rapping and I could see that these people were actually into it.
All of a sudden it is an overnight thing in a way – you write so much music for so long and then all of a sudden just one song gets people’s attention and then all the other stuff you’ve written also comes off that. It is that one song that just blows everything up! Like, one Friday I was in Durban, Saturday I was in Amsterdam on Sunday I was in Russia!
And now I’m still making music, still making moeilikheid and still loving it. People are still selling out shows – I got my own festival in Holland. The Dutch festivals all sold out, so that’s really rad. Next year, we’re actually going to do two venues – one in Utrecht and one in Groningen and then hopefully move it down South Africa as well and, ja, f*k, it is a spin, man! I always feel like I have to pinch myself a lot. I’m like: “F**k, am I really just causing kak for a living?”
In 2017 you hosted your first very own festival in the Netherlands, as you said – Parow Fest. You also had some of the biggest Dutch hip hop and rap artists performing with you in Utrecht. How hectic is it planning and successfully executing something as huge as this? And not even in your own home country?
Ja, it’s pretty mal! Firstly, it’s a different country but luckily I’ve got a really amazing team in Holland – Mojo, which is basically the biggest label. They are a subsidiary of Live Nation, which is the biggest booking agency in the world. To have that behind you and and a booker that really believes in you just makes life super-easy.
And then obviously over the years I’ve just met a lot of people and made music with a lot of people. I only book people that I’ve made music with and had a good time with. As for the preparation, I get my tjommies here to do the poster and we kind of set up the whole thing here, but you know the thing with the Netherlands is, stuff runs so nicely there. They’re world class when it comes to this stuff.
The venue has massive performers every night – the night before will be like f**king Jay Z or Kings of Leon. They’re so set up and then I just go. Even my label sends me a list of stuff. I choose the blow ups, I choose the decor like the banners and they print it there at the venue.
Everything is ready when I get there. It’s all there waiting for me and I just I just double check and style it the way I need it. They make my life so easy.
With local festivals kakking off even long before Covid-19, aren’t you a bit scared to take on such a mammoth task? Will you be able to replicate, to a degree, your success from overseas?
Ag, ja, f**k, I hope so but it’s just also about creating a lekker jol. I think the main thing with festivals, especially if you do something in South Africa – the chance of making big money off the first one is always difficult. And what people then try to do is keep it small, missing the bigger picture – getting investments and creating an experience that will make people tell their friends: “Hoekom de f*k was jy nie daar gewees nie? Dit was f*kken next level!”
It’s just about giving people an experience that they’ll never forget and hopefully in that way build it to go bigger and bigger. If I just break even with the first one, I’m happy. In Holland, obviously we’ve been lucky. We’ve always made good money and hopefully we do the same here. But otherwise, we just have a lekker f*kken jol!
Future plans? “Something along the lines of a traveling circus slash Jack Parow f*kken malhuis slash pop-up bar vibe that will travel the country and just make jols even more next level! Neon en f*kken mal kak called Parowdise Pop-Up.”
Listen to Jack Parow describing the difference between the Netherlands and South Africa:
Sign me up for that jol! Gaan groot of gaan kerk toe! This corona thing came and f**ked up a lot of things for a lot of people. What has this worldwide pandemic taught you about your own music, your career and your business? Is there something positive we can take away from all this?
Click play on the audio clip to hear Jack Parow’s answer, which is transcribed below.
Ja, definitely, I realised that I don’t have to constantly do playing shows. I got stuck in such a hamster wheel. I became so tired that tired was my new normal. I was averaging three shows a week, getting to the hotel in the middle of the night and then catching an early flight again.
I slept so little and when I got home and then it took me three days to recover and then I had to go back on tour again. I realised that just being able to rest and not having to stress about missioning and having to get to places rebooted me in many ways and I think it really rebooted my creativity.
I know it was a hectic time and people lost a lot and money was tight. I had to spend all my rainy day funds en ek moes alles doen wat ek kon, but at the end of the day I learned a lot more than I lost, so I’m really happy in a way that it kind of forced me. I would have never stopped playing, you know? I was in that hamster wheel and it forced me out of it and made me just look at life differently.
Also, the lockdown woke up my creative side again, so there’s a lot of really cool stuff that’s launching soon that I’m really excited about. I can actually tell you now, because yesterday we signed the papers – something along the lines of a traveling circus slash Jack Parow f*kken malhuis slash pop-up bar vibe that will travel the country and just make jols even more next level! Neon en f*kken mal kak called Parowdise Pop-Up.
This doccie covers everything from you growing up in the northern suburbs of Cape Town to the moment where you step onto the stage to thousands of screaming fans. It is a huge responsibility because it is your life story. Who directed it?
Charlene Brouwer directed it with her husband, Niel Van Deventer. I actually played at their wedding a long time ago as a surprise for her and they just wanted to make this doccie and they did such a great job! I must say I’m really impressed. I love them very much. They’re really cool people.
Do you see yourself producing original content for streaming platforms? I mean, Parowdise Pop-Up sounds like exactly the kind of kak that needs to be made into a TV show!
Ja, I definitely think so! It’s always been something I’ve dabbled in or have tried out.If you look at my social media, I’m very much into that game. I love creating content! I love creating funny skits and funny things and I think it’s definitely something that I’d like to to kind of explore more in the future. But for right now, there’s already so much f**kin’ shit on our plates. I’m just gonna get through this f*kken crazy year and survive it. But next year? You never know…