Malawian-born gospel rap artist Rashid Mhlongo is a musician and a storyteller. He works in the emergency room at Alberlito Hospital and recently released his second album.
From the moment you meet him, you know that Rashid is the kind of person you want to sit down and talk to. He has stories to tell, dreams to inspire others and a warm, welcoming presence.
Originally from Malawi, the 36-year-old Stanger-based gospel rap artist and emergency room stock controller is passionate about his music and excited to introduce his new album, The Origin Story, to the world. His first solo album, Saved, was released in March 2020.
Rashid (or Renegade as he’s known) moved to South Africa with his family when he was three years old. He grew up and went to school in Stanger and describes himself as being ‘quiet, awkward and a little anti-social’ as a child.
Rashid discovered rap music when he was 10 years old. “My mom’s brother, our cool uncle Joseph, came to visit us from Malawi and played us some music by Wil Smith. Until that point, I had only ever heard the reggae music that my dad listened to. I was instantly hooked and started writing down the lyrics to see if I could keep pace with the artists.”
After school, Rashid started working for his dad’s trucking company before landing a job at Netcare’s Umhlanga hospital. “I was going around handing out my CV. I saw the hospital and thought, ‘wow, it would be cool to work in a building like that’. I think God was looking out for me that day, because the HR person decided that he was going to help coach me for the interview … and I got the job!”
Rashid was employed as a stock controller and, a few years later, was transferred to Alberlito Hospital to be closer to home. He now heads up the ER stock control and is personal assistant to the unit manager. “I love my job. I feel like I’m playing my part in a system that is here to heal people and that I am a part of something good.”
His rap music journey started while he was still in high school (trying to ‘out-rap’ his friends at break time) and Rashid decided to record a few songs himself in 2006. He managed to find a little recording studio in Durban and went there on his own in a taxi. “I had no idea what I was doing and the music was a lot of random nonsense,” he laughs. “I just really wanted to sound like the artists I listened to. I was so excited, I played my songs to anyone who would listen. I kept going back and eventually put my own ‘mix tape’ of about 18 songs together.”
After years of trying but never really gaining any traction with his music, Rashid gave up hope for a while and only started making music again in 2017 when a friend asked him to help out with a film he was making. “He asked me to act as the lead character and I did the soundtrack. It was a really low-budget film, but we had a lot of fun doing it.”
The following year, Rashid says, he had a life-changing experience. “My sister had been living in the US and she came home and was looking for a church. I wasn’t a church-going man at that stage, but somehow she managed to convince me to go with her to Linc in Salt Rock. It was one of the best experiences of my life … the music, the message from the pastor (who wasn’t just some old, boring dude) … it was incredible. I joined the worship team and it woke something up inside me.”
When Kanye West released a gospel rap album called Jesus is King in 2019, Rashid realised this was what he wanted to do.
“I approached a producer named Polite Sithole, who I had met in Johannesburg, and he agreed to make an album with me. I wrote the entire album in two weeks. He came to stay at my house for a weekend and we managed to record 11 songs in less than 24 hours.” That was Rashid’s first solo album, Saved, which he released in March last year. He released his second album, The Origin Story, just a few weeks ago.
“My first album, Saved, is about hope and happiness. To me, it feels like a Sunday morning. You know when you go to church and afterwards you’re uplifted and feel like you can do anything? That is what Saved is. This album is different though. I wanted to reflect on the person I was before found the church and the person I still am sometimes when I’m having a hard day or week. The Origin Story is about life’s ups and downs and that, no matter how positive you are, you can still hit those lows. And it’s okay … to make mistakes and have moments of low self esteem and doubt … and then to realise that there is always hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.” Feeling quite nostalgic and reflecting on his past, Rashid says a number of his childhood friends feature on this album as well. “I am so blessed and proud of the team that worked with me on this album. Everyone contributed in their own unique way.”
The album cover looks like a movie poster. “We all love the movies and wanted it to look like a poster – and be as dramatic as possible! It’s a man surrounded by chaos and darkness, but still being protected by and guided towards the light.”
Asked who his all-time favourite rap artist is, Rashid says, “Ah, it has to be Eminem. I was bullied at school and his music really resonates with me. That’s what I hope my music does for others … and if I can encourage them to go to church too, well then that’s a bonus!”
Details: www.thisizrenegade.com (Renegade’s music is available on all platforms, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify, Youtube and Google Play).