Dj Lag; The King of Gqom

15th June 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

Without a doubt, history will remember DJ LAG as one of the greatest pioneers in SA music, especially in terms of gqom. This is the man that has allowed the genre to go beyond Durban and let us overseas to really love and appreciate the sound. His skills have managed to enable gqom to participate in the global music scene- this man has produced a track with BEYONCE, attended the Grammys and he is still yet to hit the peak of his career!

It’s not every day that someone refers to you as a king, let alone the king of an entire genre! Do you know the level of talent you have to possess to hold such a title? When you listen to every track produced by DJ LAG, you will understand why he deserves this title! Every day he us proving to is that gqom is still well and truly alive and that as long as he is alive, gqom will forever dominate the SA music scene!

How did you go from dancer to producer?

So before I started making music, I was dancing a lot, but it wasn’t something that I was too serious with, I love music more than dancing. So when I started making music in 2009, that’s when I realised that I had to take it seriously and make a living out of it.

How would you say your family contributed to your career today?

My parents? They didn’t like the idea of me making music, for sure they didn’t, for a LONG TIME. I started deejaying in grade 10, then I remember when I was doing grade 11, I actually failed and then that’s when they decided that I had to stop making music. Then a year passed and I was done with my metric so I asked them “is it okay if I do me now? Is it okay for me to pursue my music and focus on that?” Now they’re so proud of what I’m doing!

What sort of life did you envision for yourself back in 2011 when you started deejaying?

When started I never thought that it would turn into something like this, I just thought I’d be touring around SA mostly and then 2016, my whole life changed. Never in a million years, did I think that I’d be working with Beyonce, attending the Grammys, being titled the king of gqom.

How did you go from producing hip-pop to gqom, what made you transition?

I started doing it for my cousin, he was a rapper and he’s the one who got me the software – apple studio. I was just making beats for him and then from there, I realised that I liked dance music more than Hip- Hop and that’s how I got into gqom.

What sets gqom apart from the other music genres, why is it so special?

Well, I can say because it’s easier to dance to because I remember when I played my first show outside of Durban, in Cape Town and it was my first time playing gqom to a white crowd and everyone just went crazy. From that moment I just knew that overseas they’ll go crazy for me and for gqom!

What would you say to those that believe gqom is dead and that amapiano is now taking over?

I wouldn’t say gqom is dead. I would just say amapiano is just doing really good and we need to come up with a new style of gqom to maybe be matched with amapiano because right now everyone can admit that amapiano are killing it. Maybe when I drop my album we’ll see a difference, even distruction boyz are working on something new so maybe when we start releasing more music, we’ll start to see a shift.

How did the collab with Beyonce on the lion king come about and how did it feel to attend the Grammys.

Do you remember when Beyonce came for the global citizen in 2018, she performed with my track – trip to new york. Then the next day, one of the guy’s phoned. I don’t even know how he got my number but he told me that he’s coming down to Durban and that he wants to work with me because Beyonce is releasing a new album and she wants some beats, so I gave them the beats. They kept quiet for like 4 months, I didn’t know what was going on or whether I’d even hear back from them.

It wasn’t until I was on tour in June to America that I heard back from them, they called me to come over to LA for a week and then when I was at the studio. That’s when I say this track needs Moonchild, Busiswa and Tierra, so I added everyone’s voices on the track but in the end, I didn’t actually get to meet Beyonce and THAT same week I met with Diplo and he said he’d love for me to release some music under his label. A lot happened with that whole situation and during that time!

The person working for the Grammys said that they wanted to change the world music category to feature new artists, specifically small ones because before it was mostly choirs and whatever. So they wanted to change everything this year and they told me to try and apply. That’s how that happened. I still haven’t sunk in yet, I can’t believe that all of this has happened to me. I am the first DJ from here in SA to go there. It’s an amazing feeling.

Can you give us any hints on what to expect for your first album, how long have you been working on it and why now?

I just feel like I’ve been releasing EPs for too long now, so I feel like this is the perfect time for me to release my album. It will be out around October, just in time for summer, I have been working on it for the last year and I am really excited. There will be two American features which I can’t quite talk about just yet but there is Sho Madjozi, Heavy K, I’m still working on a track with Okmalumkoolkat but yeah so far that’s what I can say about the album.

What was the inspiration behind your latest EP Uhuru, can you tell us a little more about uthayela?

With gqom, you know what? Last year, I could slightly see that it was slowly dying down so I decided to try bring back the old style of gqom that we were doing and do Uhuru.

But, Uthayela is not a new style of gqom but an old-style, that’s like the first gqoms that we were making before distruction boyz came with their style but that’s the style we were doing back in the day – uthayela. Before gqom was gqom it was uthayela.

What are your plans after COVID19?

I am planning to do something for Clermont, an annual event that I do here in Clermont, it was meant to be now in may but obviously because of COVID 19 it was cancelled.

Over recent years I’ve seen a lot of west Africans claim SA beats and our dances, would you yourself refer to this as cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation?

I don’t know, serious, I don’t even know what to say. I’m not involved *as he laughs*. All I’m going to say is that everyone always wants to claim that they started something great.

Where do you see yourself and gqom in the next 10 years?

I see myself as one of the biggest DJ’s in SA, in the next 5 years for sure!

Listen to his latest EP Uhuru;