COVER STORY | FLEX D’PAPER – The Hustler
By Byaruhanga Felix (@TheNinjaFelix)
July is kicking off to be a good month for us with various projects running thus the UG Hip-Hop Awards 2018 Kicking off officially (you can submit your fire mixtape/album/song/video here) and the July issue of our recently launched magazine. As we announced, every month we will be telling Ugandan Hip-Hop stories in a more detailed way than before and this month we’re pleased to have Flex D’Paper grace our second issue. Flex D’Paper has been part of the rap industry for a minute and he has managed to diversify and build his Rapaholix brand over the years. To enable us tell his story accurately we decided to do a two part series of his interview with the first one dubbed “The Hustler” which focuses on his entrepreneurial skills in Ugandan Hip-Hop and fashion. The second part “The Leader” focuses on the music journey of the self-proclaimed Ugandan Hip-Hop New Skool leader. In this first part of the interview we discuss with Flex about his evolution from the rap into the fashion industry, challenges in a Ugandan industry and the next phase for Rapaholix as a clothing line. Apart from Rapaholix, in this issue we cover stories such as Uganda Calling: Who Got The Bars?, Twambale Apparel’s partnership with MTN Uganda & the UG Hip-Hop Awards 2018. Enjoy!
At what point did you decide to take Rapaholix from doing only music to clothing?
First of all I think the clothing came up by itself because of the music. The music is the one that created the clothing originally. The main reason why I started the clothing is that originally the clothing line was made for me personally, I made one cap one time and then I decided to make a t-shirt. I did this for a video shoot but then everyone liked them. Then everyone wanted to buy. S/O to people like Enygma, McKenzie, Mister Deejay , Dj Slick Stuart they are one of the first guys who purchased rapaholix items.
When you were crossing over from the music industry to the fashion industry with the Rapaholix brand, which challenges did you face and how did you address them?
The challenges obviously are there but remember they differ according to the country you’re in. So for us our challenges as Ugandans is the Pricing, for example I was talking to Sylvester of “Ziva Muntuyo” and the challenge he faces too is the pricing. People want quality and so to get quality you’ve to spend. If I want to get a plain hoodie, it’s going to cost me to get a quality one cause I’m not going to give you a hoodie which I’m producing at UGX 60,000 then we sell it to you at UGX 70,000. You’ll think that’s a fair price but you won’t like the product at the end of the day. It won’t be good when you start using it. A person will say they want to support you but the prices are high but then how do I give you poor quality items to create sales but in the long run lose future customers, so we got to keep our standards.
Second challenge is awareness, when it comes to fashion here in Uganda, so many people are confused; they don’t know what’s coming from Uganda & what’s not.They will barely support some Ugandan made products because the market is flooded with imported items and yet so many talented Ugandans are producing good products such as bags to shirts and more items that get exported to the rest of the world.
The third challenge is production. You can’t manufacture from here, you’ve to make items from china and they need 2000+ items per order for one item. In the long run it’s a cheaper option but not for a fashion house starting up.
How has the evolution of Rapaholix the clothing line been since December 2012 because that’s when the Rapaholix merchandise hit the market?
I think it’s the steadiest clothing line in Uganda. Let me repeat that, it’s the steadiest clothing line in Uganda. And this is not just because it’s a clothing line by an artist No, but from the reception we have got over the years. This has been seen in the distribution we have from Uganda, East Africa as well as USA and Europe. At the same time though, I salute other fashion houses pushing the culture like Alekool, Anita Berly doing clothing for the ladies, people like Sylvester, Aethan Music, Twambale among others .
Like you said the clothing line came from the music, do you find the clothing line challenged by the popularity of your music since you’re its face? By popularity I mean the reach of your music and your presence as an artist/rapper.
No. What I do is I Iet the clothing line shine on its own. I let the brand get its reach organically. The music department at Rapaholix has a whole different management from the brand. All I do is the background work. An artist can be successful musically and his clothing line grow as well. This is like Kanye West, Rihanna, Drake,Tyga etc and In Africa we have seen it with Casper, AKA, among others.
What marketing tips can you share that made the brand appeal more?
Yeah. I’ve engaged more with the buyers I ask myself what would ‘Flex put on”. What kind of shoe or jeans would I want to put on? The corporate world as well as the kids, the campus students especially MUBS and MUK because they support us a lot, they ask for new designs and that’s feedback we have acted on. So it’s very important to engage with the consumers. Redesigning and bringing new product is also another way to keep up with brand appeal.
What’s the future for rapaholix?
I’m working with a team of hard working creative, we admire the likes of Virgila Bloh of off white, among other big brands that are doing it different. Japan is like the new fashion capital and God wiling we shall be getting Rapaholix outfits to those levels of branding.