“It’s unbelievable that all these beautiful people here came for me,” says Lloyiso during a private listening session at Universal Music South Africa’s Johannesburg offices. He looks around the room, then grins. “… or maybe they came for food,” he says. Plates in hand, the room filled with media and label personnel burst out laughing. The 24-year-old South African singer’s boyish charm is in full view as he shares insightful, and sometimes amusing, anecdotes about his journey from placing 5th on the popular singing competition Idols as a 16-year-old back in 2015, to becoming one of the most prominent R&B singer-songwriters on the continent ahead of the release of his debut EP, Seasons.
First South African
The eagerly-anticipated project was notably released through a historic global deal with Republic Records, the Universal Music-affiliated American record label which is home to the likes of Drake, Nicki Minaj, The Weeknd, Post Malone and Taylor Swift. He’s the first and only South African signed to the label.
Lloyiso tells The Africa Report how back in 2021, following a rough patch in which his career seemed to stagnate, forcing him to move from Johannesburg, the epicentre of South Africa’s entertainment industry, back home to Port Elizabeth, he started to receive many emails and calls from various international record labels around the world interested in signing him.
His viral social media covers had piqued their interest and, given how social media platforms like TikTok have been consistently breaking artists for years now, it only made sense that someone with Lloyiso’s consistent global virality drew such interest.
Unfortunately, at the time, he had already been signed with Ambitiouz Entertainment, one of the most prominent independent labels in South Africa, which effectively meant he was off the market.
Then, a short while later, Ambitiouz head Kgosi Mahumapelo called and told him about Republic’s interest.
They quickly worked out a deal and, in the two years since, his career has taken off and his singles have accumulated tens of millions of streams in a short space of time. He’s also been co-signed by global celebs like Zane Lowe and Justin Bieber, and performed at some high profile private events, most notably Brooklyn Beckham and Nicola Peltz’s wedding.
The dream is real
Earlier in the year, Lloyiso boldly said on Twitter: “SA I NEED YOU GUYS TO BACK ME BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO BE THE BIGGEST ARTIST IN THE WORLD. Also I need everyone to be [o]n this journey because it’s gonna change lives. I’m releasing an EP in March.”
SA I NEED YOU GUYS TO BACK ME BECAUSE IM ABOUT TO BE THE BIGGEST ARTIST IN THE WORLD 🇿🇦.— Lloyiso (@Lloyiso_rsa) January 6, 2023
That EP is Seasons, which he released on 31 March, a few weeks after the listening session. When I catch up with Lloyiso again over a call a few days after the EP’s release, he notes how long he has been waiting for this moment, but well worth it.
“I think I’ve been waiting for such a long-time for this to happen and it took so long to get to this point, but I wanted a quality project that was gonna showcase who I am as an artist, so I think I just needed to take that time of finding myself and rebranding and restructuring. It needed to be worth it, it needed to make sense and it needed to sound a certain way.”
On Seasons, Lloyiso mainly sings about hopeless romance and heartbreak with such raw emotion. He also tenderly examines the cyclical nature of both love and life. Aspects of his emotive R&B are familiar — he nods to the soul of the likes of Khalid and he’s earnest like Langa Mavuso — but he’s notably merging different inspirations in his own unique way.
Seasons is not only the name of the EP, it’s also the name of the biggest single on the project, which has become a hit around the globe.
“I think ‘Seasons’ just was a very vulnerable song. It talks about the deepest parts of how you feel when you’re looking in the mirror and you’re going through what you’re going through; and it gives people hope – a sense of there’s a voice listening, there’s someone that actually understands what you’re going through.
“It’s simply [a] vulnerability. Then I called the album Seasons because it really talks about all the seasons of life and the sadness, the joy, it talks about all the things that you really think about, but you never really voice out, it talks about the love that you can give and the overwhelming feeling of being loved or loving someone.”
The power of his voice
While sharing how he’s always been keenly aware of his gift, Lloyiso speaks of a time when he was younger and his mom, who was in an adjacent room, heard him singing.
“I came out and then she said to me, ‘Lloyiso you know how your voice makes me feel? Whenever you sing I feel it in my womb where I carried you’.” This was a powerful moment that reaffirmed his belief that he was born to sing.
However, while Lloyiso carries himself with a sturdy confidence now, he admits that he wasn’t always so sure of himself.
“I used to be very insecure about the fact that I could sing sad songs and I could write sad songs. I used to go to a boys school. Your boys are like, ‘Ah this guy. Wack, wack, you’re a girl, why [are] you singing sad songs’. Then I got over the fact that I don’t need to be a ‘bottles guy’,” he says while mimicking a rapper bragging about popping bottles in the club.
“No, I’m gonna sing about the fact that I was sitting in my bedroom at 12am crying over something that happened that day. People don’t talk about that, it’s like we all live with this facade. We all have this thing where there’s a wall and when you walk around you gotta be cool.”
He references being at a club recently and observing how some guys were sitting in their VIP sections “acting cool” because they had bottles and girls. “I’m like, ‘Dude this song is rocking, shake that booty. What are you living for?’ If you’re living, why not sink in because we only have this moment… so I’m that guy, if you go out with me you’re gonna find me on the dance floor breaking it down.”
As far as his future is concerned, Lloyiso has lofty ambitions. “I think I’m good enough to be one of the biggest in the world because I think what I do is a very personal thing and I’m passionate about it; so I think the passion is gonna drive me more than anything to make sure that everyone hears this voice because I think I would be really selfish to try and keep it to a limited amount of people.
“And people seem to enjoy it so I wanna spread it because it seems to heal, it seems to bring people joy, and it seems to do something; so I really wanna push so that people hear it. And definitely I wanna be number one on Billboard, I wanna get that number one.”
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