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The Permanent SCAR

Sharon Mathala

When you switch to FM dial 106. 6 on a weekday morning, his honeyed tones help soothe you into a new day.

He is the charismatic host of Yarona FM’s popular ‘Buffet and Breakfast’ programme.

However, Thato Matlhabaphiri, better known as Scar, did come to prominence through his radio show.
Indeed, Scar burst onto the entertainment scene as a raw 17-year-old back in 2002, his debut album ‘Illegal Act’ raising local hip-hop to an exciting new level. Four years later, he became the first Motswana to win a Channel O award for his hit single ‘Metholo’ from the ‘Happy Hour’ album.

The LP won critical acclaim, escalating Scar to new heights as critics ranked him one of the best MCs in Africa.

Although he continued to record hits and remain relevant, Scar could never quite recapture the genius of his early days.

Fast forward to today and, as the Covid-19 pandemic has everyone on lockdown, The Voice’s SHARON MATHALA visited the energetic rapper for a tete a tete. After exchanging pleasantries the interview starts….

By the way how did you get that scar on your face?
(Laughing) Oh you have not heard this story? I fell off a fence! We lived in Gaborone Phase 2 and had these Indian neighbours who liked locking their gate. We were playing ball and my sister accidentally threw the ball in their yard so I had to jump the fence to go get it. I was about eight years old at the time so I have had this scar for a very, very long time! Actually the nicknames started right there and then because people started calling me scar face. Actually, I remember my parents did not have it stitched up because they said I was naughty, that is how it got so big. They did not even take me to the hospital!

Interesting story! So for someone who has never heard of you, how would you describe Scar and Thato Matlhabaphiri to them?
Well Scar is an artist. He is an entertainer, from creating music to broadcast content. Thato Matlhabaphiri, on the other hand, is a father, a brother and an uncle. It’s really hard to differentiate the two but it boils down to whoever of the two wants to speak at any given time or situation.

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Back in 2002, you were one of the breakthrough artists in local rap. 18 years on, how would you say the game has changed?
The game has changed completely, positively. I mean guys now are more hands-on the business side of things when it comes to the music game. They now have their own studios and equipment so they don’t have to deal with that when it comes to making music. Again now there are more players in the game as compared to when we first started so it is more competitive. So yes, the game has changed over the years when we compare it to our days.

Going back to your ‘Happy Hour’ album, what would you say is your most memorable moment from that time?
It would have to be winning the Channel O music award in 2006 because I was competing against a lot of people and Botswana at the time had a lot of nominations. Believe it or not but there was a time when Botswana music competed really well on a Continental level so it was really nice to cement that with an accolade for the ‘Happy Hour’ project.
It was hard making other albums after that without people having to compare with that one. It was a really fulfilling moment.

What advice would you give the young Scar desperate to make a name for himself in the music industry?
Be a bit more patient with yourself and talent. I think we react a lot of the time because with a talent usually creatives don’t have a set path. We don’t have anyone telling us what to do with that talent and where to go and then more often than not we panic because we need money and the money is not always there for the taking.

Do you think beef/feuds are necessary in the rap game?
If it is like a competitive scene where probably someone is getting the cheque they are not worth and you think you are worth more, you are allowed to. Hip-hop is a competitive sport. I have always felt that way; that you should be able to rap why you think you are the best! With hip-hop everybody believes they are the best rapper until they are not. I feel beef, as long as you don’t beat anyone or get into trouble, is healthy for hip-hop. There are no rules, it is all lyrical. So yes, I think it is very, very necessary.

Locally, which MC would you want to avoid in a rap battle and why?
I don’t think I want to battle anyone at this point in my life. I am near 40 so I have no time for battling. That is young man’s sport – I have done it when I was younger. You tell me one guy who has not tried to get into a battle with me over the years!


You are famously vocal when it comes to artists’ welfare. What do you think needs to be changed at COSBOTS?
I really don’t care much for COSBOTS. It has never really given me money. Some of us existed before they existed; they have actually made things more difficult for us to even operate. I am really trying to focus on making myself a better artists, COSBOTS does not really help much. I hope I answered you.

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But last week you received your COSBOTS royalties for 2019. What did you do with the money?
I got like 300 Pula. I bought petrol. I was paid by e-wallet. It was an embarrassment for them to do that. It was really uncalled for!

Take us to a dark time in your career.
There are a lot of dark places in my music career. Maybe when I had to drop out of school and really disappointed my parents. I was about to get into my fourth year and I had to choose between that and my music career. I don’t have a lot of regrets about the decision but it was a very dark place because there was a lot of uncertainty.

And in your personal life?
I would not want to get into that one. Just know that I am doing fine now and trying to get myself through this lockdown and pandemic era. I will tell you this though, I am a fighter!

Have you ever been in trouble with the law?
I am a boy man. I have had my rubbing with the law but now I am trying my best not to. I work for an institution which is part of the fourth estate now so I am trying my best not to get myself in trouble. Wait, what are you trying to find out? I am doing good okay.

Tell us about the concept of Buffet and Breakfast.
It was basically about trying to keep listeners both entertained and informed whilst on their way to work. It was meant to be driven by me and Zizi [Panther] and we have had a really good 14 months. Our intention was to bridge the gap between the young and the old so we really had our demographic worked out pretty well.

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Did you doubt yourself at any point, especially as you took over a show considered ‘controversial’ at the time?
I did not really care about the show before me. I never really listened to Stupid 1 and Stupid 2, I honestly never did. I did not know what or who I was going to be compared to. That is why when I got in I just did me. I have done three breakfast radio shows before so it was not going to be anything easy but I came prepared.

Why did your partner in crime, Zizi leave?
Zizi resigned because she wanted to pursue her Masters. She recently went through a traumatic experience – I will say traumatic experience and not say anything else! She has more talent than just radio so she wants to pursue that. Radio is not everything.

How would you advise artists to take advantage of the Covid-19 lockdown?
Artists need to get into the studio and work. They need to use this time to work. Artist these days are lazy in my view, they just copy what other artists are doing. Use this time to work on yourself and your brand.

Have you ever said the wrong thing on live radio?
Not yet. And I hope I never do. Good lord! I always try to be prepared for the show because listeners are really up to date with information and I think a lot of the time we take that for granted.

Delving a bit deeper into your personal life, is Scar taken?
I got dumped man! I was seeing someone not too long ago but it did not work out. Hopefully we will see after Corona.

So no wedding bells on the horizon then?
No. There are no wedding bells; there is no bell ringing anywhere!

How many children would you like to have?
I already have one son and my nephew is like my other guy, so, so far so good. I mean if I find a girl who really wants to have babies then cool but at the moment I don’t know if that is happening anytime soon. I don’t think so.

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Speaking of children, did you ever reconcile with your baby mother?
No she got married. She is happily married.

And finally, Thank God It’s Friday. How will you be spending your day?
I am going to be home and getting some rest because I have been working.

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