Robin Thirdfloor as we know him is familiar with the industry and his talent is evident… He is part of a group of people that add a different flavour to the South African Hip-Hop scene. Since the inception of his career, Robin Thirdfloor has been able to establish a strong reputation, by continuously reinventing himself in an industry that is madly obsessed with receiving the newest radio singles and music that can make them trend. The man has even made it his aim to create excellent music as well as use his platform, Zinakekele, to fight for mental health awareness which I find inspiring.
Now in an exclusive interview, I managed to conduct with Robin Thirdfloor (which we’ve had in the vault for a minute), I got the pleasure to have an interesting chat with him about his 2022 album Izigaba Zothando, where he talks about the inspiration behind the heartfelt album.
Before our conversation began, I sat anxiously in front of my laptop waiting for him to join the call not expecting Robin Thirdfloor to appear on the screen with a big smile… I was shocked at how the album came from a place of expression and healing making the album more intimate and raw than it was.
WORDS BY VHUTHUHAWE
IMAGERY COURTESY OF TINZ ENTERTAINMENT
So what inspired you to start making music?
My first single was a song called ‘Confessions’ but I was making music before that. When I became Robin Thirdfloor was when I started taking my career seriously… What inspired me is that I had just graduated so the project Sounds Empty Pockets Make was just me going through emotions as a young black man in South Africa, who is now facing the world for the first time. You know after graduating, unemployment, figuring out myself and who I want to be in the world I think that was where my mind was at the time.
And how is your creative process like?
It kinda differs… Sometimes I wake up with a melody, and I write. Sometimes I hear the beat first and think it would be dope if I do something like this. Sometimes I’m randomly in the street then I think about it, take out my phone and record then at a later stage unpack whatever it is that had visited me at the time.
Are there any musicians that inspire your music?
Tyler, the Creator is a really big part of the inspiration behind my music, but I feel over the years my inspiration has sort of become even broader. I did still have a global appeal for my inspiration but I had a local type of thing where I was bringing it more home to artists like Okmalumkoolkat, Spoek Mathambo and Stogie T at some point.
Those were the inspiring people that were doing really different stuff. And now I’d say Tyler is still very much at the top, I like how he has brought different vibes over the years and I feel like he has also been consistent. And guys like Pharrell as well, a person who has been in the game and Okmalumkoolkat through a local lens… I feel like he (Okmalumkoolkat) has also done the most in terms of evolving and doing something different. Just a mixture of those who are doing something different, I’m fascinated by people who are big-picture thinkers with music, where it’s not just about the music but also about the fashion and the artwork where they find the links in all of that. Those are the people I aspire to be like.
I wanted to share my emotions and the feelings that I was feeling at the time.– Robin Thirdfloor
What was the inspiration behind your latest album, and why is it so chilled compared to your previous releases?
It’s about love, and love is quite gentle, soothing and soft feeling. Izigaba Zothando is basically that. Izigaba Zothando was initially not planned. The plan was to release Zithande, Zazi, and Zithembe as like the trilogy and then release my album after but I went through a breakup and I had these feelings while recording the album. I was like “I can put some of these feelings into the album” but I felt like it needed its own album so I put the album on pause for a bit then I started working on Izigaba Zothanda. Which, by the way, means phases of love in Isizulu.
The album is coming sometime in 2023 but I don’t want to commit to an actual date.– Robin Thirdfloor
It is about what I was going through, it’s like the phases of when you still want someone and then the talking stage, now you get the person and all the things that happen in between. Including the fights, and the breakup and then you now you are back into the cycle again of starting over. I wanted to speak more, I wanted to share my emotions and the feelings that I was feeling at the time. I don’t think it would have translated if it was full of dance, that is why it was more chilled compared to the other stuff. So that was Izigaba Zothando and the theme around it.
You mentioned that you were going through a breakup when you were recording your album, was it easy for you to fully express your feelings?
I think so, I’m quite an expressive person in nature. I felt like I needed to speak and the way I speak as an artist is via the music so it came as the first song as it flowed and I was like yoh… You’ve been hiding all of this? There’s actually this one song on Izigaba Zothando called ‘Not Sure’ (ft. Xenlaii) which is basically inspired by when you are going through the motions of knowing that you love someone but you are not really sure if the person is good for you anymore… So I recorded a verse and then Xenlaii featured on the song and recorded his verse as well and that last part is like a poem, right? I remember I recorded that in the morning it was 3 am or something, I felt like there was something that was missing with the song because I was listening to the EP back to back seeing what I could do in the final stages.
So I had initially thought that I had finished and said everything that I wanted to say and then at 3 am I was like I wanna write, then after I’ve recorded I was like, you still had so much to say, brother? And it was a realization of this whole healing process… I think it’s a process you can’t necessarily say you are finished with, you know there are still times that I feel like I’m going through it a bit and I would realize some stuff and journal. I’m a very big fan of journaling and I’ll journal some stuff like I would get some stuff out because it was a long-term relationship, and I can’t just heal so easily.
I feel like there are so many musicians that are doing amazing things that aren’t necessarily mainstream.– Robin Thirdfloor
You released new merch for Izigaba Zothanda too, can you tell me more about it?
Merch is always a thing that I release within a project because I feel like as a fan of music myself, first and foremost, I want people to see that I know this project because people can’t see my Apple Music when I’m on the street so it always is a thing of mine where every project will have merchandise and we made something that the supporters can have and be like “this is cool I can wear it”.
What would Robin Thirdfloor like to change about the alternative hip-hop industry?
I think not necessarily change anything but bring more eyes to that space because I feel like there are so many musicians that are doing amazing things that aren’t necessarily mainstream. It just brings more eyes to that and when it comes to me I always try to feature an artist that is doing really dope stuff even like producers as well within that space. I hope at some point it loses the “alternative” title and it’s just hip-hop you know? because it is hip-hop at the end of the day just presented differently
And lastly, what can we expect next from Robin Third Floor?
New music, I’m hoping for visuals though for Izigaba Zothanda before dropping new music we have that in the pipeline, but as I said this project was not planned, the plan was to release my debut album so that is going to be the next thing it sort of took a little detour but we coming back. The album is coming sometime in 2023 but I don’t want to commit to an actual date, but it’s the visuals, doing a couple of shows then new music when the year starts.