26 Apr 2024 ///

adidas Originals presents Sonic Sessions with South Africa’s Princess of Rap, Dee Koala

Sonic Sessions is a collision of sound and style, brought to you by adidas Originals and presented by Connect Everything Collective. Together, we’re uncovering the cultural forces that define the sonic prowess of South Africa, as leaders on the world stage. Whether it’s the poetics of hip hop stories, or the outpouring of love-laden lyrics into melodic recipes or the development of entirely new genres; South Africa is on one. Sonic Sessions brings you straight into the heart of these artists, their current playlists and how being an original can never be just an act – it’s a way of being. 

Dee Koala is South Africa’s Princess of Rap. With bars that remain unbeatable, Dee’s lyricism is punctuated by her distinctive voice and unmatched energy. Straight out of Khayelitsha, Cape Town – Dee is a pioneer of feminine forces entering the game, and the pride in rapping in vernac that has gone on to inspire the newest generation of hip hop artists. With a storied history together with adidas, this is an artist who pushes her originality to the very borders – inspiring a generation and sparking a movement. Dee and adidas embody the possibilities for building family bonds across brands and personas, all in pursuit of evolving South Africa’s formidable creative landscape.  

“One of my favourite things to do is perform. I love seeing people happy and seeing them relate, and I loved hearing that people felt my performance was memorable. I love interacting with the crowd and I’m always looking at the crowd, straight in the eyes! I make them feel like we’re all one.” says Dee. Known for her iconic, energetic performances, we ask Dee how she prepares for a live show? To which she explains, “for preparation, the most important thing is to protect my voice. During the day, leading up to a show, I will continually drink warm water with lemon, honey and ginger. I already have a husky voice and it has a short life span! So I have to be quiet during the day and I try to get to a show an hour or so before my set, because if I get there way too early – I’ll overuse my voice, I’ll be chatting away and greeting everyone!”

The physical endurance required to perform at Dee’s level, cannot be underestimated. For Dee, it requires a conscious approach of self-care, saying that “during the week, I’m at the gym. When you’re rapping, jumping up and down on the stage and expressing so much energy, you’re tryna hit the lyrics and the beats – that is a lot of breathing involved. So, becoming a runner has helped so much with my chest and how I’m able to project my voice on stage.”

Dee Koala photographed by Tshepo Marcus Mgadule

Dee’s choice to rap isiXhosa is rooted in her commitment to being the most authentic expression of herself. We ask Dee what this decision has meant for her and her career, with Dee sharing that “when I started, I thought everyone had to rap in english – I thought it was quicker, that it was the only way to be successful. Of course, I had inspiration from other rappers that I looked up to, but I still had this misconception that there were limitations to rapping in your mother tongue. I tried to rap in English and even though I can articulate really well, I just didn’t connect to it. The stories that I’m telling don’t land the same way in English – if I’m speaking about my life in Khayelitsha, there’s no one who speaks English that still understands the meaning.” Dissolving the perceived constraints around the limitations to her success, Dee credits rapping in vernac as the root of her growth in the industry, saying that “I realised that I have a voice to do whatever I want to do, once I had a foot in the industry. I wanted to rap the way I talk to my friends, the way I greet my neighbours – the way I chill in the hood. That way, I’m connecting to every Black child or person who grew up in the hood. It has been more meaningful for me to be able to share our stories, because there’s so little music available that reflects where I come from and where everyone I grew up with, comes from.”

On the matter of personal style – Dee explains that it’s been a matter of discovery and experimentation, “I’ve always had a boyish look. I took longer to discover my girly side – the only time I would wear dresses was at church. Now, I’m so into the dresses, and the heels and long hair – and especially with nails, I realised I could be so creative with them.” and that “I’ve experimented a lot with my personal style. With adidas as a supporter of my style and career, I’ve really gained the ability to make sure whatever I wear is always a combination of their pieces, with my own take on it. Now that I’m getting into training gear, I can have adidas involved in every part of my day.”

As for Dee’s favourite adidas iteration? She remains a connoisseur of classics, “My favourite adidas shoe right now is the Gazelle – it’s between the Gazelle and the Spezial, for me. I’m very into adidas Originals and their classics, that’s my number one.”  

Dee Koala pulses at the nexus of creativity and culture, sound and style – an icon already made and in the making. Dee’s originality? Take notes. 

Head here for Dee Koala’s exclusive playlist, ‘KHALTSHA FLOWS’

Written by: Holly Beaton
For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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