How Lloyiso Aims to Take South African R&B Global
Photo: Lihle Menziwa

How Lloyiso Aims to Take South African R&B Global

We talk to the singer about his upbringing, signing to Universal Music Group SA & Republic Records and more.

Back when he was a teen watching Idols, Lloyiso used to tell his family he could sing better than most of the contestants. Years later, when he made it onto the show but was eliminated after getting to the Top 8, he got a bit of a wake up call. It was one that would set him up for bigger goals.

"I wanted things and I wanted them to happen now," he tells OkayAfrica. "It was a humbling experience. I still needed to learn myself and know who I am. Patience was the biggest lesson I learnt from that show." It's a patience that's paid off with the news of Lloyiso's signing to Universal Music Group South Africa.

Born in 1999, as Loyiso Giyana, in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, the singer is taking his soulful R&B stylings to the world, where he'll play among the likes of Arianna Grande and James Blake. Universal South Africa will release his music in his home country, while Republic Records will nurture his global presence.

Lloyiso doesn't have a date yet for his debut album, but he's working on it — and still working on himself, too.

He spoke to OkayAfrica about his hopes for the record deal and his music.

Lloyiso - Seasons (Visualizer)

When did your love for music start — was it something fostered by your family?

Growing up, my family loved playing music and singing along. My sister was my inspiration in getting into music. She was always listening to the top tier musicians, like Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson. She used to watch Dream Girls, back in the day. I remember the first CD she ever got was was Jordin Sparks. The first song, "One Step at a Time," starts with footsteps. I would hear the footsteps and I knew! I would run from wherever I was in the house and start singing that song with her. That's what I remember my love of music started from: my sister and my family really loving music, always encouraging me to sing. I used to sing at birthday parties, I used to sing at school events so music has always been a big part of my life.

You gravitated from an early age to R&B and used to sing along to songs by Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson — where there any local singers you looked up to?

I really loved Shekhinah and I used to watch her when she was on Idols. I still love her now.

How did you go from filming yourself singing covers to landing an international record deal?

I've always had a big social media presence. Whenever I used to post something, it would go viral and have mad numbers. Not from the start, but a lot of people were getting used to it. I was still growing my fan base after Idols, I put out a lot of stuff. I was still in school and I wanted to establish myself, so I started putting out covers and doing them more and more. I was consistent.

And then Kgosi Mahumapelo from Ambitiouz Entertainment got in touch…?

Yeah, I was actually studying at that time. I had finished high school and went to go study at Varsity College. I was studying education. Basically, I had this conversation with my mom and I was like, 'Mom, I want to take a gap year and figure out what I want to do with my life,' and she said, 'A gap year's going to make you lazy. Go to school and maybe you'll meet new people there and figure it out.' I went to varsity for three weeks. My first week I was like, 'This is not my thing.' Then one day, boom, I'm in class, I've got my very colorful headphones on, I'm busy producing music on my laptop and I get this call: 'Is this Lloyiso? This is Ambitiouz, we want to meet you.' And I was like, that's it, I'm leaving. So during class, I left. I told my mom, got on the bus and went to Joburg and pursued music.

You're joining an incredible roster of artists at Republic, do you feel any kind of pride or pressure about being the first South African they've signed?

I never thought about it that way, like I'm carrying a whole nation, my back must be sore, hey (laughs). But I am very excited. One thing I'm excited about is that I'm inspiring a lot of people. A lot of creatives, a lot of musicians and singers are going to come out and be the best they can be and understand that this is not the only place you can create, and this is not the only achievement you can achieve. There's a lot of people, a lot of kids at home, and a small towns, like the one I lived in, that will know there's so much more to life, so much more to achieve. The sky's not the limit. I'm glad that I'm going to be able to inspire people to achieve great things.