‘I speak about what I go through as a youngin’ and I just put it on songs and make it sound good,’ KLY, a 22-year-old triple threat singer-songwriter-producer, chuckles. He isn’t short on confidence.
I’m sitting inside Trumps Grillhouse, an ostentatious restaurant in Sandton, Johannesburg, with KLY and I have to stop him humming to start the interview.
After growing up in KwaZulu-Natal, Siyabonga Mkhize–that’s his real name–moved to Midrand, Johannesburg, in 2005. His days in the entertainment industry began as a street hip-hop dancer until fate intervened.
It’s the ladies who really influence his sound.
‘A friend of mine took me to studio one day; they were rappers. I liked the whole idea of the recording process so I started recording as a singer as opposed to all of them… After I heard the first song that I recorded, I decided to just go with it.’
The R’n’B and urban soul sound he went with has meant he’s been compared to his own musical idol, Drake. The lyrics and the production value allow his music to appeal to men as much as it does to women. But, in truth, it’s the ladies who really influence his sound, even down to his stage name.
‘In high school I dated a lot trying to find love and stuff,’ he confesses. ‘So when I got into music my friend told me that I need a cool name. So I went with Klyde because I liked how it sounded coming from a girl.
I was the only one that cared about love
‘This was around the same time that Partynextdoor (PND) was blowing up so I found that cool and decided to ditch the D-E and keep it as K-L-Y.’
KLY stands for Keep Love Young, which his boys made stick because of his thirst for true love as a youngster. ‘Man all of them were savages,’ he laughs. ‘I was the only one that cared about love, believing that you gotta keep it young and keep it alive.’
Love is probably easier for him to find now. The first track on his EP deals with his new adventures travelling across the cities with his crew, living their best lives and leaving many females in their wake. But he’s still sensitive: ‘Girls infiltrate and play with your mind, bruh. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without one.’
The impressive multi-themed EP, Klymaxx Ep, ‘did good’, he says, with over 60,000 downloads. But he wasn’t quite satisfied with the numbers. Rapper Riky Rick was feeling KLY’s sound so much that he persuaded him to appear on the smash hit, Too Much.
Riky Rick then suggested that he repackage the old EP, adding a few songs such as Scrr Pull Up and Too Much, to name a few.
Wizkid, Major League, YCee, Frank Casino and Priddy Ugly all feature on the EP.
Super producer, Wichi 1080, deserves massive credit as his flawless, uncluttered production complements KLY’s exceptional vocal range.
Since bursting onto the music scene by producing some of Priddy Ugly’s smash hits, including Bula Boot and Swag Demonstration, as a member of FRSH.CITIZEN (KLY’s crew) Wichi 1080 has formed quite the formidable partnership with KLY.
Wizkid, Major League, YCee, Frank Casino and Priddy Ugly all feature on the EP. ‘Either I reached out to them or they reached out to me cause I like their music or they like my music so it’s a mutual kinda thing,’ he explains. ‘I’ve never had to pay for a feature.’
A lot of what he envisioned growing up is coming to fruition now. But he wants more. ‘There are always bigger levels… Some people are afraid to dream big because they feel like it’s too far-fetched,’ he says. ‘I remember in 12th Grade when I started this music thing I told myself that I would make a song with Wizkid. And now I got a song with Wizkid!’
Consistency, innovation, patience, and being proactive, are part of his recipe for success. And a good song.
‘Money can’t buy juice. You can have a wack song and plug it with money but it’s still a wack song, just one that everybody knows.’
And it doesn’t hurt that his songs sound like Drake or Partynextdoor. He doesn’t hide the fact that his sound is derived from them. ‘I feel like South African people always wanted that sound.’
KLY is just part of the new generation of artists who can take the sound and make it theirs: ‘R’n’B felt very old school and people didn’t really relate to it. I feel like the R’n’B songs that were made in SA were very cheesy and didn’t have content that was relevant to us in SA right now.’
‘Not a lot of people have my sound. As a matter of fact, no one has my sound. My sound may stem from certain sounds that people may be familiar with “you know, oh Drake this, Partynextdoor that, uhm afrobeatz that” but when it all comes together, wooh! It is its own sound.’
The formula seems to be working.
He’s followed Do better, the new single with Major League, by signing to game-changing record label, Ambitiouz Entertainment. Some of the artists on the label’s roster recently walked out after dispute over pay, but KLY’ll still be joining the likes of multi-award-winning trapster, Emtee and songstress Amanda Black.
Seems like he’s on to yet bigger levels.
This is part of a guest editorship series by Shingai Darangwa, Alex Kamutondole and Thebe Kadiege who are bringing you the best new culture and news from Johannesburg.