Who is your (Don) Dada? None other than the people’s indomitable lion!

Fathering the local hip hop game with an authoritative tone as thunderous as the roar of an African Lion, is all personified within the name of South African based rapper Don Dada. Renowned for his deep sounding drawled rap delivery, the Zimbabwean born dreadlocked multi-Platinum certified artist has certainly marked the richly resourceful continent of Africa and his terrain – at least in the Reggae/Hip-Hop sense. With the establishment of the narrative set in a colourful diverse melting pot called the motherland, it would only be appropriate that Don Dada would infuse his variety of sounds as exemplified by his ALKEBULAN and House of Stone albums. 

Our interview subject today has certainly started coming to his own as the “Iron Lion in Zion” (pun intended), years after a divinely guided family encounter with Bob Marley (legendary singer of Iron Lion Zion) would predicate a destined career for Don Dada ( real name Menelik Nesta Gibbons). Through God everything has been possible for Don Dada who has been just as indomitable as a Lion, as his single best describes. Also to note; iron was the original precious metal used in biblical times to denote a full day’s worth of work, as fair and equitable compensation in terms of perceived value. With a multi-platinum status under his notch for the Viva Mandela hit single, it seems the spiritual connotations and blessings upon Don Dada’s career seem to manifest. We had the chance to speak to him about his impressive achievements, his origins, his link to the Legendary Bob Marley among a bevy of other things.To loosely quote the infamous colloquial question , let’s  find out “ who is your dada (daddy)”?

Who is Don Dada and what is the meaning behind the name?

Humanitarian, RuFF CuTT Studio owner and recording multi-platinum selling PAN African Musician. My full names are Menelik Nesta Gibbons aka DON DADA. Don Dada is my stage name, a monika I adopted when I was 13 years old after older cousins likened my Rap style delivery to the character Jamaican Grammy artist Louie Rankin in his role in the movie Belly and he called himself “The Original Don Dada”. Don Dada is a Jamaican Patwa term used to describe “the boss of boss” or a man that is constantly at his peak, there is none better than the DON DADA. I use the name to pay homage by those that inspired me such as the late great legendary Louie Rankin and the equally legendary Super Cat.

How did you discover your passion for music?

The passion was always in me so I know that it is my lifetime passion, in fact it is my LIFE. My parents describe how from birth I could not sleep without the radio playing in the background and from 4 months old, I would hum myself to sleep and as I grew I became more attached to the little nuances that create a great song. By the tender age of 13 I had recorded and released my first song and the rest as they say is history.

How would you classify your style of music?

My style is a blended genre that I call the heart and the mind. It blends Reggae, Reggae-HipHop and African traditional sounds. Reggae is a heart music it captures the soul while Reggae-HipHop speaks the mind and African Traditional is who I am. Remember all 3 sounds are African sounds. To me music has no borders or boundaries and as such I approach my art with an open mind. I try to capture energy, enthusiasm and positivity, and with this boldness and unwavering passion for Africa to RISE, and make a positive impact in the lives of others with a vision of united Africans. This is simply to encourage the youth at home and abroad to step into their destiny without fear and continue shining the light through education and unity. All this contributes to my style of music.

Which artists have influenced your sound?

Locally some of my influences came out of my home as my dad RasMoe Gibbons held weekly ‘Jam Sessions’ with family and friends such as Gustav Smythe, Dr Victor & the Rasta Rebels band, MC Eddie Muffin and the late legendary Andy Brown. As a result of this, I would try and rap against the different sounds that ranged from reggae to jazz depending on the musician.

Other influences range from Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube, Burning Spear, Tupac, B.I.G ,Nas and Black Thought and of course African Legends the  likes of Brenda Fassie ,Fella Kuti, and Miriam Makeba.

I happen to be currently working with Leroy Scarlett of the Reggae Powerhouse Band Jamaica.

We hear you have a family tie with the legendary Bob Marley. Would you consider your musicality a hereditary trait because of this?

In 1980 My mother did have an encounter with The Honourable Robert Nesta Marley on the streets of Zimbabwe. Bob Marley asked her questions about Ethiopia and because the Zimbabwean history curriculum did not extensively cover African History back then, she spoke about the famine that was affecting Ethiopia but did not touch on the rich history of the Ethiopian dynasty of Kings and Queens. Bob Marley asked her to remember the conversation, study Africa and name her first boy child after him. For my mother, the impact of that conversation was immense…. black history became one of her favourite literature. I was born in 1987 – a whole 7 years after that encounter and yes, my mother kept that promise. My names; Menelik Nesta,  came out of that encounter – King Menelik 1 founded the Solomonic dynasty of Ethiopia that ruled Ethiopia with few interruptions for close to three thousand years. Nesta is the middle name of [Bob Marley] Robert Nesta Marley. Both were powerful black men.

I do believe that was my destiny as I am the only child from our beloved continent born in my era to carry dreadlocks that I have had from birth. Bob Marley performed his track Zimbabwe on the stage of Zimbabwe’s first independence in 1980 and I performed at the after party of the second Inauguration in 2017. In 2018 I met legendary producer Leroy Scarlett digitally after I heard him on an interview with Wadadli Vybz Radio NY and that led to my distribution contact with Tuff Gong International [Bob Marley]. A few months later I then performed at Bob Marley’s Tribute Concert at 56 Hope Road Jamaica with is the address of the Bob Marley museum.

I believe that my path is Jah’s plan!

You have a platinum plaque under your belt. How did that all come about for you?

I have a MULTI-PLATINUM award and certification. In July 2017 I was commissioned to do the tribute song to globe icon and South African national treasure Honourable Tata Nelson Mandela. Using traditional sounds native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa which is the birthplace of Tata Nelson Mandela and blending that with modern hip hop/ trap and reggae verse my multi-platinum track Viva Mandela was birthed. The song pays homage to not only the history but also the legacy of Tata Nelson.

The track was released on the 19th of July 2017 and by the 30th of July it went Gold. By the 31st December of 2017 Viva Mandela was Multi-Platinum. To God be the Glory!

In 2018 for Tata Mandela’s 100th Centenary I did the remix of VIVA Mandela and featured our legendary, South African national treasure The Mahotella Queens. This single made its debut on the Mandela Day 100 stage. 

Would you say the industry has embraced you and your sound so far?

My multi-platinum status is that indication. I have worked hard to carve out a space for myself in a notoriously challenging industry and irrespective of the challenges, the love for music has been a powerful and driving force. I have to acknowledge support from some powerful women who support my debut – #IAmBecauseYouAre #UBUNTU

  • Vanessa Perumal of JT Communication helped me gain access into the industry with strong marketing and PR. At the stage that JT Communication took on my portfolio when I was a high school teenager who was strong on the underground platforms but unknown commercially.
  • Antos Stella of Content Connect Africa took my music to the world and it is my home where I became Gold, Platinum, Double Platinum and Multi-Platinum. It was also here that I got to spread my wings and work with Legendary Mahotella Queens. I have grown locally and internationally since
  • Lungile Mkhize in 2016 provided my commercial debut on the Mandela Day Concert Stage – one of my fondest memories.
  • Layla Gibbons my manager – my mother.
What changes would you like to see in the local (or even greater African) music industry?

The African music industry is developing at a rapid pace with African artists playing a more prominent role in the global scene. New sounds are created daily along with ever evolving ways for listeners to consume the music. My hopes for African music are that we develop our youth not only in terms of talent but also in conduct, business, law and ethics in order to have more complete artists 

It is also my belief that our industry is still too closed and that it should have a more prominent role in job and wealth creation to change the narrative of African poverty. 

I would like to see more progression of new artists rising commercially, more digital enablement and more corporate support for the industry. Our industry has the potential to become as big as the American industry.

What has been your most memorable performance to date?

It is very difficult to narrow it down to just one so I’ll therefore state the 2 most memorable ones that felt like spiritual gifts. I give thanks to The Highest for the opportunities ……

Locally: My most memorable performance to date would be the debut of my first album AVANT GARDE on the 2016 Mandela day stage. This is an event that was hosted to Honour Tata Nelson Mandela on his birthday and featured a host of South Africa and African top artists. 

Internationally: Bob Marley Tribute Concert 2019. My very first trip to the Island just felt spiritual. Just felt bigger than any award – a lifetime memory.

How has the COVID19 pandemic affected your professional affairs?

Covid-19 has forced the arts to migrate into the digital realm faster than anticipated. It was after all inevitable that the arts and more specifically music would become more and more digital in terms of consumption, but as to what extent was uncertain. 

Along with COVID-19 has been a slew on innovation some great and others not so great, from virtual performances to social media oversaturation, artists have tried a lot of things in order to make a living 

I did force diversification for survival and I was amongst the more fortunate as I was already working digitally on my radio segments and production with Jamaica. The delivery of my late 2 singles War & Lion and also my album ALKEBULAN is a phenomenal physical interpretation of the power of our industry coming together, to deliver a common purpose as these were coordinated across continents and countries.  I am in South Africa and I partnered with Jamaica, Leroy Scarlett of Reggae Power House Band as producer of Zimbabwean Gerald “Fashalz” Mushaike

Covid-19 effects on my profession have been negative financially but positive on my growth and exposure. I have performed on several prominent stages and have had loads of digital interviews consistently throughout this period.

Used the time to create and launch my website , my VEVO channel , put my voice towards #BlackLivesMatter and collaborating with a producer and artist in Zimbabwe and South Africa and released two music videos – not too shabby for lockdown work.

Have you considered ways around making the Don Dada brand “pandemic proof”?

I believe that no brand can be pandemic proof but rather can be flexible enough in its thinking to adapt to whatever circumstances may arise. I choose to adapt and use whatever is at my disposal to continue my work.

Music is my LIFE.

Which local and international artists would you like to collaborate with the most?

Locally it would be Nasty C, YoungstaCPT , Shikana and Siava.

I love Nasty C as he holds old fashioned values and principles, Nasty C respects people, YoungstaCPT and Sjava upkeep their culture and I love that. Shakana has such a beautiful voice, it caresses the soul.

Internationally Buju Banton, Sizzla Kolonji and the Marley family, as I love their spiritual and social message. Popcaan and Koffie the future, they make every day feel like Friday.

Apart from the music, what else are you into?


I have established myself as a social entrepreneur as a director of AfriKa Connect Holdings and RuFF CuTT Studio. I am a Radio Host on two stations, hosting the reggae show called Inna Di Trenches on every Thursday from5-7pm CAT and on Fridays I do HipHop show called HipHop4Life on 1912online radio from 7-8 pm CAT.  I take an active role in my community participating in various community events and initiatives from the distribution of food to the needy, motivational talks and performances and conversations at schools. My vision is in action to encourage the youth, I must continue to ‘breath life through music’. I believe we all have to take inactive role in creating a better world.

My plea to other social influencers, “The word that reaches the furthest the fastest comes from social influencers, so I encourage artists at home and abroad to use your voice and platforms to encourage others to come together as one to build that better and progressive World #LetAfricaLead”, at home and abroad.

Do you have any other studio offerings or gigs in store for the near future?

I’m currently in Studio working on my next offering entitled THE HEART AND THE MIND as well as preparing for numerous online performances. To keep up to date with the latest happenings around Don Dada follow me on social media ,whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram; the handle is the same go to Dondadamusic and give me a like/follow to keep up to date, Or go to website  for additional and exclusive content a nd  subscribe to my newsletter.

Are there any special mentions you want to shout out?

My FANS I love you! 

All featured artists and musical production teams

Shout out to my Family, the Reggae Power House band and Leroy Scarlett my musical father, my entire RuFF CuTT Studio team, 1912OnlineRadio,, my distributors and all the media [Radio, TV, Print, Digital] support and everyone that took time to enjoy this interview. I THANK YOU

Artiste Contact: Layla Gibbons +27833834016

RuFF CuTT Studio CC – Johannesburg, South Africa


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