Tyla’s music pushes boundaries. Infused with her vibrant personality, her songs offer an innovative take on pop and R&B, shimmering with the euphoria of South African amapiano, and an otherworldly approach to production that makes every track feel like something totally new. The Johannesburg native introduced herself internationally with her debut “Getting Late” featuring Kooldrink, a bouncy, lust-filled track. Her promise in the chorus—“I won’t waste your time”—took on a double meaning. Suddenly, the passionate artist whose cold DMs to music industry power players had gone unanswered was a global lightning rod for bold self-expression. “Been Thinking” and “To Last,” her new singles via Epic Records, push her artistry forward and solidify her versatility as she bounds toward her ultimate goal.
“I once thought pop music was just straight-up radio music, that catchy music—which it is—but I feel like it’s just music that everyone can relate to, dance to, sing to,” the surging singer/songwriter says. “I’d love to be that pop star, especially that type of role model for other African artists because we have amazing, huge artists, but we need more people born in Africa to take that spot. When I was younger, I obviously had the dream to be the biggest pop star, but it’s not something that happens every day for an African artist.”
Still, despite her big dreams, Tyla is doing her best to remain carefree, an approach she demonstrated on “Getting Late,” hoping for the best but not expecting anything. She never anticipated that the song would permeate beyond South Africa, much less reach the U.S., but realized something was happening when people all over the world were making TikToks to the song, eventually resulting in more than 5 million worldwide streams and 5.4 million YouTube views. “I would show my parents every single new TikTok,” she says.
Tyla’s parents fostered a musically rich childhood home, playing the likes of Aaliyah, Boyz II Men, Michael Jackson, Mi Casa, and Rihanna while she did chores. She often danced with her sisters—“I was that child that wanted to be seen by everyone”—and as soon as her mother told her she could sing, she never stopped. As a child, she made up songs for Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. She was 12 when she penned songs more seriously in her diary, which led to writing and singing originals to post to Instagram as a high schooler. She messaged any and everyone who worked in music, to mostly no avail.
Before catching the attention of a manager, Tyla was “on the verge” of studying mining engineering, because of the inherent uncertainty attached to artistic pursuits. “A lot of people in my family wanted to become musicians, and it didn’t work out, so that’s all my parents knew. They didn’t want that for me, and it was obviously out of love,” she says, noting she now has her parents’ undying support. “I had to make the decision: ‘Mom and Dad, I’m so sorry, but I’m gonna go for this.’”
Rihanna, an icon who had put Barbados on the map, served as a north star for Tyla as she scrapped to find her way. Tyla knew she had that potential in her, too—to “open a window to people in Africa.”
Still, Tyla’s internal conviction bumped up against externally fueled imposter syndrome. She compared herself to others and second-guessed whether she was good enough. Her family, friends, and newfound collaborators propped up her confidence and encouraged her. Most importantly, to unlock what had always been inside of her, she kept showing up for herself. “Getting Late” was the breakthrough, and her late 2021 song “Overdue” featuring DJ Lag and Kooldrink soundtracked the second-season trailer of Netflix’s South African teen drama Blood & Water, but “Been Thinking” and “To Last” find Tyla in full control of her own story, especially the emotional “To Last.”
“Making that song made me realize that I was born for this because I wrote the hook lyrics years ago in the shower,” she says. “I was just singing random words, and all of a sudden, I started singing, ‘You never gave us a chance / It’s like you never wanted to last.’ I grabbed my phone and recorded it.”
The piano-laced, pop-leaning track was inspired by her friend’s one-sided relationship, leaving her to wonder about feeling disposable. Tyla knows her worth now.
During 2023, she vaulted to the forefront of popular culture on her own terms. Her single “Water” bubbled up as a phenomenon. It sparked the “Water Challenge” on TikTok, inspiring 5 million global “creates” on social media with over 9.6 billion views and counting. The song gathered hundreds of millions of streams as it cracked the Top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100, climbed to #1 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs Chart, and buzzed at Urban and Rhythm Radio. She delivered a powerhouse performance of the song on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, while she earned critical acclaim from Billboard, Cosmopolitan, i-D Magazine, Insider, Office, Rolling Stone, UPROXX, and more.
By continuing to follow her intuition, Tyla is primed to build out her fan base and maximize her reach. She’s focused on the year ahead, performing and crafting her debut studio album, with the same intention from when she began. “I can’t wait for the day I perform in front of thousands of people outside of Africa,” she says. “And I just can’t wait for people to know that I’m the girl from South Africa that has songs playing on their radios.”