He has appeared on our TV screens for about 13 years in the popular soapies Generations and Isidingo. We have also heard him on radio for years – and yet this DJ, radio personality, TV presenter and entrepreneur is still the talk of the town.
DJ Sbu’s progression from running a spaza shop in a township to becoming an influential presenter and businessman has made him into a household name.
But the past few months have been challenging to say the least.
Sibusiso Leope – also known as DJ Sbu – lost his job at Metro FM, there was a drama about the fake Forbes Africa cover depicting him and his new energy drink MoFaya and, of course, there are the drinking and driving scandals.
For his interview with Saturday Citizen, DJ Sbu wears a maroon trench coat that screams class.
He has had a busy day so far, he says.
Then he takes a seat with his branded energy drink in front of him.
To him, the energy drink is proof black entrepreneurs are hungry for success.
DJ Sbu opens up about his childhood, his upbringing, his work and the recent controversies he’s been involved in.
He hails from Tembisa, in Ekurhuleni, and talks about how he takes pride in the way he grew up.
“I had an interesting upbringing because when we were growing up it was during the days towards the end of apartheid.
“So I have experienced tear gas, rubber bullets and have seen people getting shot; people dead on the streets.”
DJ Sbu recalls the day “people were running around the streets, saying uMandela uphumile (Nelson Mandela is out of prison). We did not have a TV, fridge, or electricity. We were just an ordinary township family,” he says.
Leope started his hustle at the age of 14 when he had to sell sweets on trains to make a living. He says he has always been hungry to flourish.
“When I moved to Joburg I stayed everywhere. I lived in Hillbrow, I lived in Yeoville, Lyndhurst … everywhere.”
He started working as a volunteer at Tembisa community radio station and from there moved to a radio station at Wits Technikon called Channel T. Only when he entered a talent competition with YFM was he noticed.
He was put on air with Nutty Nys in a late slot – and then we started seeing him in reality game shows on the SABC such as Friends Like These.
“The problem is a lot of people do not know how much hard work goes into breaking into the industry. You have to work hard,” he says.
Leope started his music career – a choice he said was inspired by his late musician uncle Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabide. “He had a band called Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens.”
DJ Sbu then co-founded TS records that has spawned artists such as Zahara, the late Brown Dash, Ntando and others.
He was only 22 when businessman and music industry mogul Thembinkosi Nciza, known as TK, approached him to start a recording company. He said he was lucky to find someone who wanted to take his dreams to a whole new level of success. “In two to three years we were doing so well.”
But like most youngsters with
money, DJ Sbu said he too made mistakes and spent it on sports cars and expensive clothes.
He says he always ensures everything he does benefits the country, such as his non-profit organisation the Sbusiso Leope Education Foundation, which helps disadvantaged schools.
“I call myself a social entrepreneur. I realised that is how we can solve poverty in the country.
“I believe following your passion
allows you to never have to work a day in your life. Your passion eventually leads you to your purpose.”