Riky Rick talks shifting the culture of the youth in SA ahead of the build-up to Cotton Fest 2020

“I’ve done hundreds of shows over the last few years, but this one’s for us,” Riky Rick explains, keen to make it crystal clear as to why he created Cotton Fest.

The event, which had its sold-out debut last year is something the artist regards as deeply personal. And how could he not? Riky has struck the perfect balance between stardom and maintaining close proximity to his biggest supporters. The rapper has had a hell of a year, and although it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything he’s doing, he manages to get on a call with me during a 24-hour visit to Paris. He breaks down what he aims to do with this event, and how everything he does is rooted in the desire to uplift his people.

The second instalment of Cotton Fest takes place on February the 1st at The Station in Johannesburg and is a culmination of all the things he loves in one place: “My love for music, fashion, and raw talent are inseparable. The fact that I get to create a space where they all interact with each other is a slam dunk for me.”

Despite only being on the music scene for a little over 5 years following the success of singles like  “Nafukwa” and “Boss Zonke”, Riky Rick has steadily risen in the ranks as one of the most popular hip hop artists in South Africa to date. This is not something that is lost on him, as he emphasizes the need to use his platform to shine a light on upcoming artists through collaborations and the creation of platforms like Cotton Fest.

Riky has been instrumental in the rise and success of artists like Frank Casino, and when questioned about how he navigates the fact that the artists he mentors could potentially become his competition, he doesn’t seem too phased. On the contrary, he feeds off of it. I love creating competition for myself. Everyone needs to eat,” he says candidly. “This dynamic pushes me to be better, to challenge myself, to elevate and diversify my sound by collaborating with newer artists. This is a win-win situation for me.”

Riky attributes his success in the industry to working in good faith and the karmic equation is evident in the support shown by his peers, many who grace the star-studded line-up for the upcoming event.

On the success of Cotton Fest, he highlights the fact that being as close to the people on the ground as possible is one of the biggest contributors to the kind of support that led to the first sold-out event.

The rapper outlines that at the heart of Cotton Fest is the aim to provide a platform for newer artists in order for them to gain some traction in the music industry. His artists to watch include Costa Titch who notes as one of the hardest working people he knows, Dee Koala for her authenticity and The Big Hash, who he says is as good as it gets when it comes to pure talent.

I ask him if he feels that his time abroad has given him an edge when it comes to everything he does at home, and he couldn’t agree more: “Travelling has allowed me to not only adopt an international mindset but has taught me the importance of leaving your comfort zone in order to create opportunities for yourself. Traveling has put me in the same room as some of my idols and I wouldn’t trade the inspiration and motivation I gathered from those interactions for the world.” He is proud of the fact that his persona is a mix of everywhere he’s been, everything he has done but most importantly, he is always anchored in the knowledge of where he comes from.

Having performed at just about every event you can think of, Riky came to the conclusion that there was something missing. Through Cotton Fest, he aims to create an event that encapsulates world-class performances and a unique overall experience that is accessible to the people who actually drive the culture forward: “Cotton Fest is for us. It’s for all the Braam kids who are at the forefront of trends and the backbone of the hip hop industry in South Africa. It’s about shifting perspectives to recognize that we are the biggest drivers of culture in this country and that we need to create events that cater to this market.”

While initially, Cotton Fest was centred around hip hop, the event has significantly grown this year to make room for other genres that include house and amapiano. Acts to look forward to include Sho Madjozi, AKA, Youngsta, DBN GOGO, and Kwesta.

Cotton Fest takes place on February 1st at The Station in Newtown, Johannesburg and tickets can be purchased here.

All photos courtesy of Mini Photography.