Bradley Williams spent his early teens becoming the hottest DJ on Jo’burg’s underground scene. At 14 he would spend hours every day practising mixes in his makeshift bedroom studio, and then unleash his tunes on the decks at his legendary Saturday matinées.
Later, “DJ Bionic”, as he was known, opened the city’s first hip-hop venue, Le Club, on Market Street. Williams’ ever-growing reputation drew the best acts in town, and Le Club soon grew into a breeding ground for new talent. Artists like Skwatta Kamp, Tumi and Waddy Jones (now of Die Antwoord) cut their teeth at his downtown joint.
Frustrated by the lack of opportunities, Williams found himself evolving from musician to producer, manager and even lobbyist for the urban music industry. He started his own record label and began promoting local artists. And when the “burnt-out cynics” fought him, he turned to guerrilla tactics, even sneaking songs on to the airwaves.
Eventually corporate marketers saw the value of this burgeoning subculture and Williams’ unique understanding of it. “I became sort of an oracle of the emerging music scene to top brands,” he says. He began advising major corporations such as Vodacom, Heineken and Sprite on how to connect with this hip-hop-savvy generation.
Williams has since developed strategies for MTN on their emerging artists platform, MTN Xploaded; advised Levi’s on its Original Music campaign; and worked with the British Council of Southern Africa to put on South Africa’s first hip-hop dance theatre festival — never relenting on his “rebellious anti-textbook nature”.
Currently applying his strategic thinking for the innovative Matchboxology Creative Incubator, where does the sonic sage predict local music will be in five years? “I have a vision,” says Williams, “that, five years from now, 80% of music we hear on the radio will be made in South Africa.”
— Ian Macleod