When Jack Parow exploded onto the music scene back in 2009 he dominated dinner table discussions in homes all over South Africa with his foul-mouthed lyrics, signature snor and comically oversized cap. Now, three years later, Perdeby caught up with Parow at the launch for his second album, Eksie Ou, to talk about posing nude for charity, his brief stint with Die Antwoord and his own braai sauce.
You’ve been nominated in the Best Video category for this year’s MK Awards. Convince our readers why you should win.
I should win because I [have] a really good moustache and a really long hat and they deserve to win. I can out-drink everyone else [who] is nominated.
It was your birthday on Wednesday (22 February). How did you celebrate turning the big 30?
I’m, like, a super indecisive person so I always think that I’m not going to do anything, that I don’t want to do anything and then right at the end, on Sunday (19 February) night I decided: “F**ck it, I am turning 30 so I have to do something.” And then my sisters, amazing f***ing women, basically organized a party in two days. It was really rad. It was in a friend of ours’ studio and there was a whole bar vibe and they rented a pizza truck that just kept bringing pizzas in and stuff so it turned out [being] really cool. I’m only really hung over now. Yesterday (23 February) I partied all night and then I had to do this kykNET Fiestas award thing and so I only got to bed at two last night. I basically didn’t sleep the whole time so I’m only really hung over now. I’m feeling it hard.
How did being a part of Die Donkermag from the Cape Flats influence the music you are making today?
Definitely a lot. Rapping with them actually changed me. Before that I was rapping in English because you obviously start off rapping what you hear and stuff, like most people do. So you start rapping in English and that’s how you learn. When I started rapping with Die Donkermag, that’s when I turned to Afrikaans. Before we actually started Die Donkermag, we were in another group called the Clenched Fist, same guys, just a few other English guys, and then a few of us broke away and started rapping in Afrikaans and that’s how Die Donkermag came about. Obviously also subject matter and stuff and being involved in that whole underground movement of Afrikaans rap. One of the guys in my crew, Isaac Newton, is allegedly the first person ever to have rapped in Afrikaans. He’s, like, a legend on the Cape Flats and stuff. It was really good to rap with him obviously because he’s such a legend and he taught me a lot. My style grew out of that into what it is today.
You’ve shied away from being classified as a zef rapper. Why is that?
Fads and trends are just iffy. I don’t want to be classified as anything; I just make music. I’ve got songs like “Tussen Stasies” and “Biscuits and Biltong” which [are] miles removed from anything that can be classified as zef. Being part of a trend is so f***ing … today it’s here and tomorrow it’s gone. So I just make music and that’s it. Afrikaans rap. I’ll be classified as an Afrikaans rapper. That’s all I’m classified as.
You’re heavily influenced by gangsta rap. What makes you identify with this specific genre?
Not really that much gangsta rap. When I started listening to rap that was pretty much the rap that was out there, people like Eazy E, Dr Dre, NWA, Snoop and stuff like that. That was the rap that was out there. There [weren’t] really a lot of different genres like there are now. The thing is, I read Dr Seuss and stuff. I’m really into rhyming, since I was small. I’ve always loved how words rhyme. I think that is why the first time I heard Snoop Dogg, when he just brought out Doggystyle, his first album, I was like, “F**k, this is the coolest thing ever,” and from then on out I went to the music stores and asked them about rap and I just bought basically everything. At that time, I couldn’t relate to f*****g gangsters in America. It’s not as much the subject matter. It’s just the feeling of it and the whole movement about it and the way it’s done. That’s also why I think Snoop stayed my favourite because his type of rapping wasn’t that gangster. It was kind of jokey and funny. That’s why he played a big part in why I rap like I do now.
You tried to break into the industry for many years before you really made it big. Was there any point where you felt like throwing in the towel, or was that never really an option?
See the thing is I never actually thought I was going to make it. It just happened by chance. It was never my mission to become an Afrikaans rapper so I just made music for fun; I really enjoyed it so I just kept making it. We were playing shows for like f**k all. We didn’t make any money. We would get maybe like a few drinks and some food. That’s what we rapped for. I worked s**t jobs and that type of c**p. That was pretty much in my mind what my life was going to be [like]. I never thought I was going to be a rapper so it happened by chance. I never wanted to throw in the towel because even if I didn’t make it, I would still be rapping. It’s just, like, my favourite thing to do.
You started Die Antwoord with Ninja and Yo-Landi but then decided to follow your own creative path. Why is that?
Die Antwoord was formed out of a bunch of collective thoughts that [were] happening. I was rapping with them on MaxNormal.TV in Afrikaans and out of that grew Die Antwoord. The first two tracks, I was rapping on them, but then we just kind of like … I just wanted to be on my own. It was never really a decision. They never said, “We’re rather going to do this on our own, you must go,” and I never said, “I don’t want to be part of it.” It just kinda happened like that. I started writing my own stuff and they went on. We’re still really good friends. Personalities tend to clash easily and we had that sometimes – not friendship-wise, but work-wise. You don’t always get along with everyone. But I love them to death, though.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception South Africans have about you?
I don’t know hey, there’s so many hey. I’m pretty much straight forward in who I am and it’s not really a misconception but more a dislike of people saying what they think. Everyone thinks that you have to f***ing be like other Afrikaans s**t artists, singing about “my hartjie, my bokkie” and all this c**p. There’s no substance to any of that s**t, it all just sounds the same. Because I don’t set myself in that kind of vibe and I swear and I make music like you f***ing talk in real life and I don’t try act like something that I’m not, people tend to not like that and people tend to stand up against me, sending me f***ing awful messages and s**t. I don’t give a f**k, bru.
Is Jack Parow your alter ego or are Zander and Jack essentially the same person?
Songs like “Tussen Stasies” and “Welkom Terug” [are] me completely. Some of it comes through darker and, like with “Biscuits and Biltong”, the verse I rap on there, that is me. Then obviously, because I also like joking … it’s me but a bit of an over-embellished version of me. I like partying but I don’t drink twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, which [is what] it sounds like. It’s pretty much me, just made a bit more f***ing buff and s**t.
Why did you decide to start Parowphenalia?
I can’t work for people, I’m really bad with authority and s**t. Even though I had an amazing time being with Supra Familias, I just decided that if I was ever going to start a business for myself, I can keep doing it and if I ever wanted to start something, now is the right time to do it. And also, there [are] a lot of really good rappers who just don’t get any recognition and stuff, so hopefully if everything goes well, and my CD keeps selling well, then I can put money into bringing up some of the cats that I rapped with. And I mean, I did a braai sauce and s**t. I can do all sorts of fun s**t, whatever I like.
You and your girlfriend, Jenna Pietersen, recently posed nude in Marie Claire in aid of the Burn Foundation Southern Africa. Was it daunting stripping bare in a room full of people?
It is quite hectic but it was for a vibe though. It wasn’t actually a room full of people. It was just the photographer and I knew [him]. It was obviously heavier for my girl than it was for me, but it was loads of fun. We didn’t do any raunchy s**t, like some of them did raunchy stuff. We were very conservative in a way. But Photoshop does wonders bru, I promise you. Someone came to me and was like, “You’re skinny, you have such beautiful skin.” I was like, “Ja, f**k bra. Beautiful skin.”
You recently shot an episode for a Belgian TV show in Stellies. Tell us more about that.
I’ve toured Belgium and Holland a lot so I often do TV stuff and interviews with people there. This one was [with] this celebrity guy, I think he’s an actor and a TV show host in Belgium. He has this show where basically, you have these challenges and so the one challenge was about who’s the best boer. Then they had to learn Afrikaans. But then there’s a twist, they had to rap in Afrikaans; they didn’t know they had to rap in Afrikaans. I had to teach them and I sat with them. They had to have dictionary and translate and write lyrics. It was actually f***ing difficult because they were writing in their language and then they had to learn to say it in Afrikaans. At the end of the night, we had a party at Mystics, a club in Stellenbosch, and then they battled each other and the winner would be at the end. It was a lot of fun.
At the State of the Nation Address, Helen Zille said that you are one of her favourite South African artists. What was your reaction to that?
How rad is that, hey? I’m stoked, hey. I love it. I do this TV stuff on Zoopy, these little TV show things and I’m going to interview Helen Zille on 18 March, I think. It will be available after that. That should be rad. I dig her, she’s f***ing cool.
You’ve recently started studying electronic music production. Why did you decide to go back to school?
I obviously just write; I’m just a lyricist but I want to be able to make my own tracks and even if I don’t make the final versions, at least I can put sketch stuff together so when I go into studio, the process is much easier for my producer. Even if I don’t become good enough to make my own tracks completely, at least I can build sketches and ideas whenever I want to. I mean, on my iPad, I’ve got GarageBand, and on the plane on the way here I made a track. You’ve also come out with your own braai sauce. What your secret to the perfect braai?
Good chommies, good brandy and good vibes. You can braai anywhere. We could braai here. As long as there are lekker people, it’s fine.
Photos: Hanro Spangenberg