I was an intern at The Southern Eye in 2013 when a short, bubbly man stormed into the newsroom unannounced. “I am Church-Boy, I just came back from Mzansi and I’m looking for an entertainment reporter to write about a gospel show that I’m organising on behalf of the church,” he said.
By Sindiso Dube
His confidence and eloquence left me with no choice, but to write the story without even sampling his music.
Just a day before the show, he came back again. Unannounced, this time not as bubbly as the first time.
“Gazi [Blood], this pastor is unfair, he says we can’t go on yet we had everything in order — performers, fans and the venue was ready. I am tired of this church business I tried it back in South Africa and thought in Zimbabwe, it would be a different story, but it’s the same,” he said.
“I am leaving church. I am tired of not being appreciated and being paid in scriptures and being the Lord shall bless me. I’m done, church is nothing, but a parable.”
I watched him throw more tantrums. I sensed an imminent beef with the church and its leaders.
“Are you going to listen to me and feel sorry for me or are you going to write about this?” he asked.
Honestly, I didn’t find anything newsworthy about that, all I saw was a clout- chasing young man, who was still high on his first article appearing in a national newspaper.
We exchanged numbers and after two weeks, I received a call.
“Yo Gazi, it’s Calvin on the beat, you should come through to the dojo [studio],” he said.
And Cal_Vin was born.
All I saw in our first encounter was controversy, arrogance and an outspoken young man, who wanted to be the best in what he did.
Later described by the media and sundry as “controversial”, hullabaloo followed him everywhere- in his songs and private life. He lived a controversial life and died in a controversial manner. For me Cal_Vin surpassed the tag “controversial”, he was “mad”.
A “mad” genius he was. He knew what he wanted and could do anything to get it.
Born Mgcini Calvin Nhliziyo in 1985, his music history stretches to 1996 when he used to call himself C-Dawg, rapping alongside his cousin Thulani.
In 2003 he got his first recording deal at Mic-A-Blaze, which also housed rappers such as Orthodox Six.
He went through many transitions — when he started music he called himself C-Dawg, then Church-Boy after finding Christ and ditched gospel rap and became Cal_Vin.
These transitions reflected a battle with himself, a spiritual battle and a battle to find himself. All these stages and transitions were inspired by his spiritual life at that moment.
When he was in church, he did it religiously. When he dumped the church and started secular music, he also did it passionately. He was a man moved by passion.
He passed on in the wee hours of last Sunday morning from a suspected hit-and-run incident.
When details of how he died were unveiled to me, my musical ear took me back to Cal_Vin’s album titled Nhliziyo where in one song his mother advises him against staying out late at night.
The song, Mama, starts off with his mother’s voice advising him against moving around at night “Mgcini, don’t move around at night because people are being attacked at Five Turn-off, if you are always out at night it worries me.”
Sadly Cal_Vin was hit by a car, just a few metres away from his house at the exact scene that his mother had said it was a dangerous spot at night.
On the same album, Cal_Vin also sings for his father Owen. Another interesting track, which mirrored his life is regret. He talks about how himself and his friends usually go out recklessly drinking and wake up dealing with regret and mostly locked up in police cells. All these unruly accounts were part of his life script.
A multi-layered artiste, charismatic, a poster boy, a lover of violence, visionary and a reckless celebrity — all this made sure that the name Cal_Vin lived on newspaper pages, for both the wrong and good reasons.
He was so real with no falsification of persona. One minute he could tell you to put God first and go on to talk of beautiful women with big rears and reckless imbibing.
Cal_Vin couldn’t be put in a box, so outspoken that he choked everyone’s opinion. He lived and died by what he said.
His career scripted his undying love for Luveve, he loved his neighbourhood, he lived and died in Luveve.
He called out big brands and radio stations for not according him respect, he went from beefing artistes to radio stations. What did you expect? This is a man whose mainstream career started off by beefing a whole church and a pastor.
Of all the controversies that came with being Cal_Vin, it’s the religious shift that’s more interesting and his biggest stunt was in 2017 when he insulted God and dared Him to take away his life if ever He was real.
“I regret giving Jesus props when all he did was give me pain, this time I’m done acting stupid, do something, prove to people you’re alive by taking my life f*** boi,” he ranted.
He went from beefing a church to beefing the Creator Himself, could the death be God showing up to Cal_Vin’s calls he made three years back?
Despite his moments of “madness” that many critics described as bipolar moments, Cal_Vin stood firm for what he believed in and one gospel he religiously preached was the supposed marginalisation of artistes from the country’s southern region.
Songs like If maybe I was Shona and Lamulela speaks of what he claimed was unfair treatment of artistes from his region.
He went on to dedicate a song titled Thabani his home city. In the song he equates himself to Lovemore Majaivana, who also during his time bemoaned lack of support, which saw him quit music.
One thing that we can’t take away is that Cal_Vin was one of the most talented artistes of his generation. His music speak volumes, it speaks to the ordinary urban youths from Bulawayo and Zimbabwe in general.
His death united all artistes and residents in the country. I don’t know if the love being expressed by social media users will warm your heart or it will turn you off from wherever your spirit is. You said this in your songs, people will love you when you are no longer breathing, they will realise what a treasure you were after you have departed and I guess it didn’t take us long to miss you.
You equated yourself to Majaivana, who quit music because of lack of support, look at us now. We beg Majaivana to give us one last song. Look at you, Cal_Vin, you now have new fans and they call you great. What greatness when they called you a broke celebrity?
You spoke out and they called you bitter and a crybaby.
In your last interview with me you spoke out about being let down by the same people you represented.
“We think it was easy for Lovemore Majaivana to just quit [music], but he was forced out of music and it was sad,” Cal_Vin said.
“I also thought about quitting music a lot of times and felt let down by the same people I stand for and also how the system is not built for people like us, the Ndebele people.
“We work hard every day and we do shows, the biggest stages in the country, but still walk home and catch taxis.
“We even have prestigious awards like Bulawayo Arts Awards and Skyz Metro FM Awards, dress up, win and do a massive speech and then go catch a kombi carrying an award in the middle of the night.”
Still he was labelled bitter and a crybaby.
I remember watching Cal_Vin hosting four flopped annual concerts — the Made In Bulawayo Concerts — forking out money from his own pocket with no corporate support. As big as he might have looked, none of the concerts attracted more than 100 people. The worst was in his own neighbourhood Luveve, which he turned into a rehearsal because it was now evident no one was coming for the show.
Now that he is dead we have a whole city tour for Cal_Vin, we could have done this while he could afford to give us more music.
So many people showing love and expressing what Cal_Vin meant to them, one asks where were these people when Cal_Vin needed real support when he was struggling with his career?
All these social media posts, all these pledges for his funeral, all the numbers driving into Bulawayo and walking to his house when he is dead — what if all this love was converted into ticket sales and music sales before Cal_Vin breathed his last?
The same radio stations he fought and called him a crybaby are now playing his music the whole day. These are the same people, who called him dirty. I pray that this becomes a lesson to everyone, let’s support our own while we can.
You left a legacy, you introduced us to many young artistes we should celebrate now before they leave the earth — Mawiza, GTi, DeeVox and others need our support — Kontrol Tribe should live on.
You changed the way hip-hop is lived and consumed in Zimbabwe, you made Bulawayo the hip-hop city. You are hip-hop.
December 15 you could have turned 35 and, as the norm, you could have blessed us with a new album or EP to celebrate your life, alas God had other ideas for your life.
You were destined for greatness, you were greatness. You called yourself by many names — That Luveve Boy, Loxion Obama, Loxion Martin Luther, King Kong, The Vin, Ntwana kaManax, but what you always wanted to be and what you became is King.
The city is proud of you, today we lay you to rest. Long Live King Cal_Vin, Mgcini Nhliziyo, saKhloe (Khloe’s father).
Rest in Power, Gazi.