Thirty three years ago, Mr and Mrs Maluleke introduced their third-born child to planet earth and named him Rhulani Theophillus.
Growing up surrounded by musician parents – his father, a popular Xitsonga traditional artist, and a guitarist mother with a stunning singing voice – escaping family’s musical calling was always going to be an impossible mission for the young Theophillus.
To his credit, though Rhulani’s artistic God-given talent was spotted at an early age, he tried his best to not follow his parents’ career path and worked as a studio photographer at HM Photographic Studios.
But if Rhulani – a talented lad from Valdezia, near Makhado, in Limpopo province – thought his future lay elsewhere, miles away from a musical space, he was kidding himself. With his impressive rapping style that was often compared to the one of the American hip hop superstar – 50c – it was just a matter of time before someone persuaded him to honour his ancestors calling: music.
Unexpectedly, it took producer ‘Semitonz’, real name Ashley Ngobeni – who was bowled over by Theophillus’ flawless delivery of fifty cent’s songs – to convince him not to let his talent go to waste. Theophillus reluctantly agreed pursue music career and automatically nicknamed ‘Theop’. This was in 2009, when Semitonz and Theop’s musical friendship bond led to the beginning of many collaborations.
A year later, 2010 – after the pair recorded a successful 4 demos that were popular at the SABC Mungana Lonene FM – the singer-songwriter blessed the music loyalists with a debut album titled: Ready To Move; recorded under his own record label, Theop Entertainment.
One of the notable songs on the album was Miss U Mama, which was dedicated to his late mother who passed away in 2000 – a song that landed a spot in the National Top 20 of Limpopo-based SABC radio station, Phalaphala FM.
In 2011, Theop released a single called “Mugaza” from an unreleased album called “Never Back Down”. The song was nominated in the MLFM (Munghana Lonene FM) annual music awards under the category of “Best Xitsonga Hip Hop” and “R&B Song of the Year”.
As his career continued to blossom, the versatile artist wanted to improve his spiritual relationship with the Mighty God, whose presence and guidance inspired his new direction to record a Gospel hip hop album, ‘The New Chapter’, last year (2014).
“The album’s inspiration was to mark a break between the old Theop and the reborn Theop”, he said.
In this album, Theop – a Pastor in the making who is in his third year Bible studies – collaborated with artists such as Ashley Ngobeni, Hope Maswanganyi, Musa Ngobeni, Judith Mudau, Bongani Sithole and Brian Shibambu. The songs that have caught people’s attention include “Jehova – The Mighty One”, “Hi Yena Yehova”, “Thank You Lord”, “I’ll make it”.
With two albums under his brand, the Theop Entertainment founder – who sings in Xitsonga and other languages, depending on the song – is certainly a shining star to watch in future.