The birth of little red riding Rouge is a tale of twists and turns. With a thousand no’s before her one big yes , yes and then a YAAAS! This Congolese rap phenomenon has used every rock thrown at her as a stepping stone to reach levels many would envy. She tookover (this is the take-over – see what I did there?) the #COSMOHustle2017 stage with as much presence as you would expect from a raven haired rebel.
What many don’t realise is that despite her life-long love from music, rapping only came late in life. “I studied drama and film in Pretoria and it was only at 19, up until then I thought I was going to be a Lion King Broadway sensation.” Red is a colour that is full throttle, passionate and totally embracing, and that is how Rouge describes her love affair with rap. “There is a boldness and a power to rap that no other genre carries.” Indeed rap lyrics are at once egotistical, yet simultaneously highly vulnerable – it is this mix of wisdom and weakness that makes it a life changing musical medium.
IN THE MEANTIME
Often the most challenging times for artists are just before their big breaks. With attempts of cracking the industry often making me wonder what coffee shop I need to sit at to be discovered, Rouge proves the importance of building your skill during these waiting times. “I would write songs every day as if tomorrow was going to be the day that my big break was going to happen.”
It’s a lesson we have been warned about many time before but in the moment it is a mistake that many an artist as made. “When I eventually signed with a label I didn’t read the contract I just thought ‘this is how Beyonce does it.” This restricted much of her creativity, but despite the lack of resources, Rouge kept on creating. Her acclaimed song “Mbongo Zaka,” was crafted while sitting in her kitchen and creating the rhythm by beating on her chest because she didn’t have the funds for studio time. “To this day I come up with the beat for all my songs by beating on my chest, it reminds me of that moment and how far I have come.”
The importance of branding herself was only fully realised after many mistakes in her career. “What is branding?” she would joke, “I am talented and talent is all I need.” Over time she realised that branding is crucial not just for the “launch” of a career but to ensure “longevity.” “Branding goes to your core, it is highly personal and emotional. My hair is probably the most recognisable feature about me but I have been wearing it like this since I was a teenager, it has always been a part of me and by extension is became a part of my brand.
MOMENTS WORTH MILLIONS
Every artist touches on one deciding moment, Rouge’s came when performing at a high profile event among the top players in the industry. “Getting on that stage was hard as I knew that most of the people had no clue who I was and the others were all drunk” she admits. “I had to make she decision to go on stage and perform as if every single person was there for just me.” Her presence became the energy she sent in the room and the next morning she woke up to hundreds of notifications. “I was so confused, at the time I had like 30 followers, turns out AKA was in that audience and tweeted about my performance.” Six months later and Rouge joined the likes of Moozlie and other female powerhouses for AKA’s Baddest Remix.
Her songs have for years been my treadmill theme songs with the beat to get me dancing and the lyrics to get me inspired. Like a good red wine, Rouge gets better and better over time. Let’s sit back and watch her change the industry, one paintbrush of red at a time.
bye for now