On the afternoon that I meet them, the Kreative Nativez, John ‘DJ Blocks’ Nshimbi and Jacob ‘Tryybo’ Sinyangwe are still recovering from the excitement of the previous night. Both are soft spoken, but their eyes could barely contain what they felt. “The response was amazing!” they said. The Nativez had opened for South Africa’s DJ Maphorisa at Black Saddle for the Levels party in Lusaka. The crowd’s reaction had been overwhelming to say the least. And this is just the beginning for them.
Having both lived in the same neighbourhood and attending Namwianga Secondary School, DJ Blocks and Tryybo forged a bond that spans over a decade. During our interview they would even sometimes finish each other’s sentences. The two have been playing and constructing house music soundscapes for years but only introduced the world to the Kreative Nativez in May 2017. They’re enjoying their rising popularity, receiving head nods from the famous DJ Cleo and even creating an official remix for Italian trip-hop artist, Suz.
“What we’re doing is something different and something new. We said we’re going to ‘kreate’,” Blocks said about the inspiration behind their moniker. “The Nativez part is more about culture and where we’re from.”
The Nativez have been in the lab for a long time, creating a monster that promises to wreak havoc in speakers and headphones across the continent and beyond. This process hasn’t all occurred in one location. DJ Blocks had gone away to Russia after highschool to study Computer Networking while Tryybo studied business administration in Namibia. But they constantly stayed in touch, regularly exchanging notes and trading beats. Their dynamic never changed, it only evolved.
“If I say this is the instrumental, he’ll say, okay let’s change it here and there. And I’ll be like, okay, okay, let’s change it like that,” Tryybo said gesturing his hands on an imaginary console. “By the time it’s done we’re both happy.”
“[Together] we have our strengths… He’s very strong on the engineering side of music,” Blocks said, “He’s the magic man,” he added smiling.
Currently the two have no artist management and are relishing the lack of restrictions to their craft and process, creating as they please. They are carefully crafting their brand and picking gigs based on their desired direction. “Growing up I’ve had this whole, ‘I have to look out for people’ thing, so I’m always conscious of the things I do,” said DJ Blocks.
Aquiring his name from his uncanny ability to check people on the basketball court, Blocks may not be the tallest guy, but like his career, his vertical trajectory is something to witness. While his coconspirator was away in Botswana, Blocks was busy in the home country getting his name out there. He played clubs from Zenon to 101 and was on the decks for many of R n G’s parties, including one of their biggest calendar events, Oktoberfest. But the Miller Sound Clash is one he’ll never forget.
“The biggest achievement I could say has been playing in Vegas,” he said. And not Klub Vegas either. Blocks was one of two talents from Africa selected to throw down in Nevada with 17 different disk jockeys. “It was fun,” he said almost nonchalantly.
“I remember the first time I fell in love [with house] was when I heard…I know it’s a cliché, but One More Time by Daft Punk was on the radio,” Tryybo said adjusting his specs and talking about his foray into the house genre. “It was playing on Metro FM at night, on one of those AM frequencies,” he said recalling enthusiastically. His brother had been tuned in on that fateful Friday night. A couple of years later he would find his eldest brother tinkering with FruityLoops (now known as FL Studio) and he was fascinated at the prospects of creating his own beats. It was then Tryybo decided he would be a producer, settling on his name because he felt he would infuse Afro elements to his music.
Tryybo would later produce a number of songs and distribute them. “Before we actually became the Kreative Nativez, I had songs on labels. The biggest one being Moblack records,” he said. This South African label was one of six he released some head-nodding songs on. He still kept a few gems knowing he and Blocks would be delving deeper into house, breaking and entering if they had to. Asked about the choice of genre, he said, “I love the culture. It’s unity, it’s love, it’s peace, you know?” He feels there is acceptance in it.
The duo has no albums, mixtapes or compilations, but all their music sits on SoundCloud. “The internet has been our best friend,” they said. However, SoundCloud’s financial structure has been on shaky ground. That means the future of the platform that hosts most of the Nativez’s music is uncertain. Blocks and Tryybo have had to get creative. They plan to release some new YouTube videos and are broadening their reach on Instagram. The Internet has also helped them make some new friends across the world. DJ Cleo posted their remix of the Temptations’ song, Papa was a Rolling Stone on his website, Blocks explained.
“He reached out and said, guys, I love what you’re doing. I’ll put this song on my website and—”
“—we’ll see where it could take you,” Tryybo finished. The song ended up getting spins on South Africa’s Y-FM as well as notable buzz on Nigerian and South African blogs.
The Kreative Nativez draw inspiration from many sources for their music, including soul and jazz. Tryybo recalls influences from Dr. Dre and other hip-hop artists, while Blocks appreciates old Motown records for the way they made him feel. This love for other genres has led to their various remixes, adapting concepts and creating something entirely new with their own feel, but not straying too far off the path of the original material.
Before we wrapped up our conversation, a not-so-shabbily dressed deaf/mute man with a fundraising form approached our table smiling and asking for alms. Blocks reached into his pockets and handed him a few coins. The cynic in me pointed out how there was a possibility it was all a scam and the fact that he was mute didn’t necessarily mean he was unable to work.
“If you can walk, if you can use your hands, then you should be able to take care of yourself,” Blocks said.
“Remember that Zimbabwean proverb?” asked Tryybo, “If you can walk, then you can dance. So meaning you can do something,” he added. And the Nativez are doing something; utilizing their talents to reach the masses from Zambia and beyond. Though the response from people here has been slow at times, they are rapidly gaining recognition and even requests for collaborations.
“We’re just getting started,” they said. “People should expect a lot from us.”