Trilla, who has been in the music industry for five years, says the one thing that has remained constant throughout the time is his relationship with his art that has been a deep, very personal and often complicated journey. He spent most of June dominating Yarona FM Top 40 with his eponymous hit song “Sasa Klaas” that he says is an ode to the late hip-hop artist whom he considers one of the best to come out of Botswana. Excerpts from an interview with the Motswana artist of Zimbabwean rootstock reveal a cosmopolitan outlook in which the wolf is venerated. He speaks with Staff Writer HARRIET NKONJERA
Q: Before we get into it, what is W.O.T.S and why does it seem to mean a lot to you?
A: W.O.T.S is an acronym for Wolf of Trip Street. It is inspired by one of my favourite movies, Wolf of Wall Street. My favourite animal is the wolf. I am intrigued by the whole alpha male and pack mentality aspects of the animal and it is how I see myself as a leader in my field but never detached from my support structure. My pack in this regard is my family, friends, supporters and my team, Gully Bois. The Trip part of it comes from me just believing that my music is just that, a trip.
Q: You recently released two songs, is that an indication that the project release is near?
A: The two songs were actually a thank you to my supporters, especially for voting for Sasa Klaas which went from new entry to a chart topper in what I consider a very short time. I am very grateful for the support. Sasa the artist got to hear the track and she liked it. We had even discussed working on a remix together. This track was also a marketing strategy of sorts to get her attention because I wanted to work with her but I wanted my work to speak for itself and it worked. We never got to do the song, but I am glad she had liked it enough to consider being on the remix.
And yes, the W.O.T.S II project is done. We are just ironing out some last-minute details. As an artist, there is traction and steam you need to build up before you release a project. So I already have two songs out. Between now and the end of August, I will release three more songs and a short docu series which will act as teasers. But I guess people differ in this regard. I always just prefer to be consistent in terms of putting out tracks ahead of a big drop.
Q: W.O.T.S II is your second released project. What would you say is going to be different in comparison to your first offering?
A: This body of work is different because other than expected growth since my first project drop, I have also invested more time in learning in depth what other areas in my art I could tap into in order to make me a more rounded artist and also fully benefit from my art. With W.O.T.S the project was released and it did well, but I have since realised that there is more that I could have done with that.
There is a system of processes in place that I need to go through, and that’s why this new project has taken longer than it should have because I wanted to make sure that what I drop is a true reflection of my growth, both as a hip-hop artist and as someone who is investing time and resources in becoming the best version of myself. I believe in this upcoming project that much and so I wanted it to be properly reflected. W.O.T.S II is also more expressive because it takes a look into my life, my experiences and just a lot more personal touch-points. I experimented a lot more with the different sounds that reflect my personal taste in music. There is a little rock, reggae, pop and many other genres that have been softly introduced. Everything is very well put together.
Q: You are no stranger to the music charts. Tell us about that?
A: This was actually my second time on the local Top 40. I had a track “Skipping Classes’ ‘ that also did very well. W.O.T.S charted on Apple Music in Botswana after I dropped it but I only found out when I checked three weeks after the release date when it was sitting somewhere in the 80s of that Top 100. This brings me back to the point of learning and growth. With what I know now about my art, I realise that the project should have done better than it did, and that is where I am now. Another single of mine that charted is the track “Since 1996,” which was on the Mexican Spotify list for one month, and that is how I caught the eye of American producer Antthembeatz with whom I have since worked on a track called “Hyperventilate” that I put out in November 2019.
When you start out as a new artist, your focus is on your vocal or lyrical abilities, putting out tracks and a video here and there, all very exciting in the moment. But then with time you learn about things like how streaming works and what it means to you as an artist in terms of monetary returns, you experience that process of putting together an album, including the marketing that is required to push your work. You factor in working with other artists, and it is quite an enjoyable journey for the most part. Ultimately, I am in the business of selling a product and it is in my best interest to find the best way to package and present my product.
Q: Tell us your views of the local music industry.
A: I cannot talk about the music industry, or the arts as a whole, without highlighting the challenges that we currently experience because of COVID-19. It is a very difficult time for us and we appreciate all the support we get through the streaming of our music, as well as the use of their social media platforms to further push our craft. In terms of local music, the entertainment industry is growing gradually but it still has quite a way to go. I mean this in comparison to other hip-hop industries, not in terms of size but in terms of something as simple as platforms available to artists to showcase their abilities. For example, Flavor Dome is the one main platform for all artists. Yes, we have radio and our social media also available, but I would like to see more television shows with musical content as well as more support for the music bloggers so they can grow and in turn become our voice. So, in general, just more support for the industry as a whole.
Q: You are of Zimbabwean roots born in Botswana. How has that affected your career?
A: I actually count myself lucky to be able to have the experience from both worlds in terms of my influences because I have some lines in Shona in some of my tracks. Locally I have collaborated with quite a number of artists but am yet to work with an artist from Zimbabwe. The producers I worked with on W.O.T.S II come from all over, including Nigeria, the USA, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Working with Zim artists is something I have been looking into more and more as I try to widen my global reach. Speaking of global reach, one of my two newly released songs, “Your Way,” is actually a collaboration with USA producer, The Martianz.