Having first hit the headlines as a fresh-faced teenager back in 2003, Vee Mampeezy has spent half his life in the blinding limelight that inevitably comes with a successful music career.
Indeed, it could be argued (and regularly is) that Vee’s celebrity status is unmatched in Botswana.
Scrutinized by his critics, revered by his fans, mocked by his enemies, life is anything but dull for the 36-year-old Kwaito Kwasa legend.
From fast cars, huge hits, sell-out shows and international collaborations, to marrying one of the sexiest women in the country, Vee’s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is the envy of many.
However, fame has not been without its drawbacks.
Stripped bare in this exclusive interview with The Voice’s SHARON MATHALA, the star born Odirile Sento tentatively traces his steps back to where it all began, his debut single ‘Pompatswiditswdi’.
To raise the P10, 000 required to cover the recording, Vee had to sell his Timberland shoes, a CD player and his cellphone.
His music journey was almost over before it began, after the masters to his first album ‘Interloxion’ were stolen in South Africa……
It’s fair to say you endured quite a rocky start to your music career!
The other thing I think people don’t know is that my friends and I used to call radio stations to request my songs.
My songs were not on the normal rotation on radio and so the only other way to get it out there is when we requested for it to play.
Those were the days!
Have you always enjoyed the spotlight and the fame?
No, NO! I just wanted to sing and perform.
I was not looking for fame.
I wanted to express my talent and just dance; it was never about the fame or the money!
Nevertheless, there is a narrative that yours is a ‘rags to riches’ tale and that you come from a poor background?
(Laughs) I don’t think I come from a poor background; I come from an okay background.
I just spent a lot of my time in Old Naledi.
My best friend comes from Old Naledi and so I spent most of my time with him in Kasi.
I spent a lot of my weekends in Old Naledi because there I could rehearse, dance and perform.
Maybe that is why people would think I came from Kasi.
Some quarters also claim you get most top Government jobs because of your parents’ connections?
That is totally far from the truth!
Actually, the agreement with my parents is that we lead separate lives.
My parents don’t like the fame and the lifestyle and I promised them I would never involve them.
That is why I have never shared pictures of my parents, even on my social media platforms.
But to answer the other part of your question, when it comes to tenders everyone should know that Government has its tendering processes, which are usually very long and exhausting.
It doesn’t matter whether you are BDP or otherwise, the process has to be followed.
The truth is at times I am chosen because of the work I put on.
It is all about performance and what as an artist you have to offer a certain organisation – the return of investment.
Now let’s discuss the allegations of mistreatment leveled against you by most artists you either worked with or signed under your Black Money Makers (BBM) label.
The thing is when I sign these young boys I become like a father to them instead of their boss.
My biggest problem is that I then become emotionally attached.
I will give an example to best describe the situation, to say just like in a family set up, when the parents are always buying their children anything they want and giving them money when they stop the children feel they are no longer loved. But maybe at that time, the parents’ pockets have dried up.
Ask yourself why do they always come back?
When I have money they come back, when I don’t they are not happy.
It is the mistake I made with all of them.
But why is that so many of them are unhappy?
But they always come back!
I always believe if someone is unhappy they should pack and go and they shouldn’t come back.
Tell me one artist I worked with whom I took money from?
None. But they have all taken something from me.
I have helped them with songs and marketing but I never claim anything from them!
Do you put money before friendships and business?
I think I did yeah.
I am working on that though.
In the past, you have received criticism for ‘bragging’ about your wealth, and flaunting your cars and lifestyle. What do you say to such haters?
Well, it depends on how you look at it.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Some people feel I brag but to me I feel I am being an inspiration to others; to people who think the luxuries belong to certain people and it can’t be done.
I bought that expensive baby pram and I deliberately took it to social media to show we can do it.
Even my cars, I make them public because I want to show it can be done, it is possible!
You’ve certainly done that! Moving on, there are reports of simmering tensions between you and Charma Gal. Any truth to this?
The truth is people who work for us are the ones who are bringing the tension you speak of.
There are always issues when we are booked for the same events, I personally don’t have any issues with Charma Gal.
Do you consider her a threat?
Not at all, she is doing it for the ladies.
My music can’t touch everyone and Charma has her own people and market.
And what about the alleged bad-blood/beef between you and Franco?
I don’t think it is that level you speak of.
Yes at times I disagree with Franco but we end up talking about it.
There has never been any real tension.
The only beef I can maybe admit to is me and Charma’s disagreement which went public – but I never really have any serious beef with anyone.
So you admit there is tension between the two of you! Tell me about the incident which went public?
Look Charma and I were booked for the same event at the time.
There was a mix-up with the performance times and so when I arrived at the venue I did not know Charma Gal was on stage.
I just told my people to get on stage because we were booked for another show.
I realised after the incident went chaotic that it was in fact Charma Gal on stage.
Okay, let’s move from music to religion, how did your Jesus Warehouse Movement start?
I have always been passionate about church and the word of God, even from a young age.
And so that is how the movement came about.
I felt there were people like me who genuinely believed in and loved God, but could not express that because they were maybe judged and labeled by the so-called ‘accepted way’ of living for God.
And so I felt this crop of people to deserve a place of worship where they won’t be judged.
I believe you can go out at night and worship the next morning, there should be no problem with that.
Are you a pastor or a prophet?
You could say I am both.
For me those are just titles, what I am passionate about is the message of the Lord.
Titles complicate a lot of things!
What would you say is the hardest thing about being the celebrity that is Vee?
There has never been this level of celeb-dom that I have.
We don’t really have someone to look up to tell us what next to do.
I guess it makes people angry that I am at this level.
I deal with a lot of pressure.
I am hated by people from even the most unimaginable places!
How do you deal with the hate?
The most painful thing is when I get criticism from people close to me.
When it happens I go to a place where there is not a lot of people and just meditate.
Do you believe critics are always looking for an excuse to target you?
It is the success that is the problem.
I feel like I have achieved at a level people did not expect in this country.
But people should support that because if I can [do it] it means other people down the line can achieve too.
What is your one weakness?
I think I have two weaknesses.
The first one is I’m too nice and that I am a Christian.
I say that because when people attack me and I retaliate and stand my ground people then say I shouldn’t react this way because I am a Christian.
People don’t expect me to be firm and they get shocked every time I defend myself.
Despite your strong Christian convictions, it is rumoured you possess magical rings that you use for supernatural gains – is this true?
No, I don’t have rings for that.
I don’t use powers for anything.
Because I am at this level people don’t believe one can achieve the things I have without powers.
The only thing I have is that I am a giver and I believe it is one thing that God sees in me and that is why I am blessed.
So are you a millionaire?
Yes, (laughs) and I’m working on becoming a billionaire.
Turning to matters of the heart, the year started off on a bad note for you and your beautiful wife, Kagiso Sento, following your well-documented fall-out. What actually happened?
The incident doesn’t involve me alone and so I would be at pains to say anything.
But what I can say is what happened did happen and unfortunately for us, it went public.
But just as in any other relationship, my marriage went through that but we are dealing with it.
Would you say you are the biggest artist in Botswana?
I am not going to answer that question (laughs).
Look, if I was doing Hip Hop I would say I am the best thing that ever happened but because I am not in Hip Hop I won’t comment on that.
And finally, TGIF – what will you be up to this Friday?
I will be working.
I have two new projects coming which I am not allowed to mention for now.
So I guess I will be stuck with meetings, working on that since there are no shows for now.