It’s not every day that you come across a prominent rapper who also happens to be an acclaimed sailor, but one Mpumalanga-born has achieved this career cross-over.
Mbongiseni Dludlu was born in Mpumalanga but grew up in Diepsloot and, amazingly, he can boast that he has sailed across the Southern Ocean at just twenty four years old. The media wanted a glimpse of him, eNCA did a two minutes long feature on him.
“It was for a good cause. We were raising funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, which is being built in Joburg. We were ambassadors for it,” says the young man. He adds that he is now a beneficiary of the hospital.
Mbongiseni, affectionately known as ‘Hitman CEO’, encourages people to do voluntary work as it opens up opportunities for them.
“In 2012 there was a guy from Belgium who initiated a sailing project for people who were doing community work. I wanted to try something new, so I applied for it. There were more than 500 applications but I made it into the last 10,” he says.
“We did our training in Durban because there’s no beach in Joburg. In 2013 I went to do my training in London where I stayed for full six weeks. It was a big thing in my family because I was the first one to go overseas.”
Mbongiseni was raised by a single mother together with three siblings.
“Unfortunately, we lost our mother in 2011. All thanks go to my granny for taking care of my younger sisters, whenever I’m away”.
Mbongiseni may have not tasted the love of a father but he’s trying to be a better dad to his two children, both aged two years.
“I feel like I didn’t show my mom how much I loved her. She couldn’t see my sailing career take off. I try to spend more time with my kids and tell them I love them. Materialistic things come and go but people stick around,” he says, showing off pictures of them on his cellphone.
Just like the boats he steers, Mbongiseni has faced violent winds in his life that swayed him into the wrong directions.
“I’m a recovering drug addict. I didn’t take my mom’s passing very well cos she played the role of a mom and dad to us. I started smoking and drinking a lot. But, eish, shout out to my siblings, man. I drew my courage from seeing them standing strong.”
Mbongiseni now does motivational speaking at schools and uses his brand, Big Time Husla, to steer children onto the right path.
“I’m trying to use my experience to educate other kids. I want them to learn from my mistakes cos they might not be lucky enough to make it out alive,” maintains Mbongiseni.
Diepsloot may be notorious for mob justice and child murders, but sailing helped Mbongiseni emerge from all that mud.
“There are many people that have climbed the table mountain but only a few have crossed the Southern Ocean. I had to sail from Cape Town to Albany, Australia. We faced sharp weather conditions and got there after twenty eight nights,” he recalls.
Some people were sceptical about him taking up sailing. “People used to say ‘It’s a white man’s sport. Are you sure you want to do this cos you might not come out alive’. They’d think I’m crazy whenever I showed them videos of the previous races,” he says.
The distance between South Africa and Australia is approximately 10400 km.
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. It’s all in the mind. It’s all the mind, your body responds to what the mind tells it. If your mind is positive then your body will react positively. If you really want to do something then you will do it, it’s all in the mind,” he maintains.
As you may have guessed, the race was nothing like a smooth cruise.
“Your body adjusts after the first five days in the sea. We ate only tinned foods and would be on duty four hours and then sleep four hours continuously for twenty eight days. The weather conditions were crazy. We heard that one participant was hit by a sail and he unfortunately passed away.”
Mbongiseni says music helped him swim through such setbacks.
“My late uncle introduced me to music. He used to write me songs and I’d perform them. He saw an entertainer in me cos I’ve never been shy. I was writing music while sailing. We performed at the ports where we stopped. I performed in London where the race had started and also in Albany,” he says.
Sapinda Rainbow Foundation asked him what his next move was after the race and he asked them to find him people that could help him push his music.
“That’s when I met one of the biggest record labels in SA, Ghetto Ruff/ Muthaland Records. I’ll be dropping a project towards the end of the year.”
Ghetto Ruff has produced some of the most prominent names in the music fraternity such as Zola 7, Maggz, Nancy G and recently the household name Nathi Mankayi.
“If you could cross the Southern Ocean then nothing can stop you from achieving other things. I was the first rapper in Diepsloot to get airplay on Yfm and Channel O. That showed plenty of guys in my township that it’s possible,” he recalls.
Sapinda recently put him up on the National Book Week (NBW) bus and he toured South Africa promoting reading. This author, FunDza staff writer Ndibulele Sotondoshe, was present as well.
One could ask, “What does a rapper know about reading?” but Hitman has it all figured out.
“Music is a business and business has numbers and clauses. You won’t understand the paperwork if you don’t read. Reading also expands your vocab so you can use different words, that is, your rhyme-scheme improves.”
Rapping alongside the talented singer and guitarist Nancy G, Hitman’s message was clear and stringed together with rhyming words:
“A reading nation is a powerful foundation.
The more you plant is the more you grow;
the more you read is the more you know.
Drugs will make you a fool
but reading will make you look cool,” they sang to the packed crowd.
As much as you cannot go sailing without detailed directions, one cannot proceed in life without education – you will get lost.
“In this world you can’t go anywhere without education. I can’t rap if I don’t have education.
Who’ll explain the contracts to you? You can always fall back on education if your music career doesn’t work out,” he affirms.
Talking about education, Hitman has completed a Computer Clerk course at Boston College.
“One girl asked me on Facebook, ‘Do you have parents?’ and I was very shattered. I told her I was orphaned and she replied, ‘If they were still around then they’d be proud of you.’”
Mbongiseni will be in Cape Town in October 2015 where he’ll be perfoming alongside the prominent Black Coffee in a bid to raise funds for Ndlovu Care Project. He can be booked for speaking engagements on 011 646 3877/ 072 7048 755.