“I've always wanted to be a pop star, but beyond that, I wanted to be an African pop star,” Tyla tells Apple Music. “The roots of my sound are in amapiano music, in South African and African music.” Though the megaviral 2023 single “Water” may have put the South African singer-songwriter on the proverbial map—first as a social media sensation, then as the highest-charting African female soloist ever on Billboard’s Hot 100, earning her the inaugural Grammy Award for Best African Music Performance—she’s been carefully plotting her path to the top for years. “Since I started experimenting with amapiano, I just feel like it's really helped me get to this point where I created something that is fresh and new, but still familiar and comes from home,” she says. “It's a sound of Africa, and it's something that I couldn't be more proud about.” She weaves through a blend of pop, R&B, amapiano, and Afrobeats (“pop-piano sounds cute,” she admits) across TYLA, a coming-of-age chronicle through love, heartbreak, and self-discovery. “I’m speaking about the things that I've gone through while creating the album—basically three years in the making,” she explains. “I was becoming a woman. So it was a lot of growing that happened, and me realizing my worth, and realizing how I want to be treated—and how basically, I'm that girl, and people need to know I'm that girl.” While the project was brought to life with the help of global producers including Sammy Soso, Mocha, Believve, Rayo, and Sir Nolan, Tyla made sure they all had a taste of her homeland. “[It was important] to bring some to South Africa,” she explains, “so when we get in the studio, they have context. Some people that try amapiano sound so watered down, it's cringey. So even though I am mixing it with pop and R&B, I didn't want it to sound watered down. Music is our everything in Africa. The way we speak, the way we dance, literally, our dance moves—they come so naturally. It's just in us. It’s our essence.” Below, Tyla talks us through her debut album. “Intro” (Tyla & Kelvin Momo) “I wanted to start off my album with something that was truly South African, something that showed people the root of where I started, before ‘Water,’ before all of these mixtures. I secretly recorded a voice note when I was in a session with Kelvin Momo. I loved hearing the people in the session, speaking, hearing the language, the accents. It was so raw and real. Kelvin Momo is my favorite amapiano producer—his music and his sound is my heart.” “Safer” “The message of the song is something that I feel like a lot of people could relate to. And the energy of the song I feel like is a strong intro to open an album.” “Water” “‘Water’ surpassed all expectations. I could've never expected all of these accolades—a Grammy, the Billboard Hot 100, people all over the world dancing and pouring water down their back. From the time I finished recording the song, it was all that I was listening to. It was also like a step away from what I was used to, because I [had been] very PG. And with this one, I was more grown up and I was experimenting more. And even though I don't enjoy vulgar music, I feel like we were able to make the song speak about what it speaks about, but in a way that's friendly.” “Truth or Dare” “This was the song where I was playing more house-y with it. It’s me calling out people, being like, ‘Hey, now you care.’ I'm not that type of person, but these are feelings that I felt around the time where I'm like, ‘Where did this person come from? Out of nowhere, you want to now talk to me?’ and I literally hate it. I'm sure a lot of people have felt that.” “No.1” (feat. Tems) “Tems and I had been wanting to make a song for long now. We ended up making it work, and Tems' voice alone is so amazing, so unique. The song is for everyone, but when I had it in mind, it was really for the girls—me and Tems, girl power, African girls—and we were just really pushing that message of ‘I'm leaving. I don't need anybody. If this is not serving me anymore, I’m gone, and I'm going to be okay.’ Always put yourself before anything.” “Breathe Me” “It's a song that's so emotional and so real. It's just about love, of how strong love is, and how you don't even need anything else. I don't need anything else. You don't need anything else—just me, and you; just breathe me and we'll be fine.” “Butterflies” “With ‘Butterflies,’ I was in a session with [producer and songwriter Ari PenSmith] and he was playing me some stuff that he's worked on, and I was like, 'Cool, cool, cool.' And then he played this, and I fell in love with it. It sat so perfectly with my voice. I connected with the song instantly, and it was too specific to what I was going through to not do anything with it.” “On and On” “This was [an initial] version of my sound, before ‘Water’ and everything. I made this with Corey Marlon Lindsay-Keay in South Africa. We were supposed to go out, and we didn't end up going out, so I was dressed up in a whole outfit in the studio session, and he was producing. I love the song so much because it's so nostalgic but new. I love that it feels like old-school R&B. I love that it has hints of Aaliyah's influence, but it's new, and fresh, and African—all things that are Tyla. The messaging is not so serious—it’s literally about not wanting a party to end.” “Jump” (Tyla, Gunna & Skillibeng) “‘Jump’ is a very different vibe. I really just wanted to tell people who I am, and I had to show my confidence through the song. And the opening line, with Skilli being like, 'Original girl, you want a replica? No.' There's no replica. That intro was already perfect, and it segues to that line of me saying, 'They've never had a pretty girl from Joburg/They see me now and that's what they prefer.' That line is just—it’s too iconic for me, and I'm just so excited to hear all the girls sing it, all the Joburg girls sing it, all the girls from home. And having Gunna on it, I really feel like it took me into that world further, making it even more raw and cool.” “ART” “When I'm with someone that treats me so good, treats me well, treats me like art, treats me like a princess, I will be there for them. I will be their art piece. We also played with that wording where it can be ‘art piece,’ but also your peace and your comfort. As a woman, that's how I want to be treated, and that's how I would treat you if you treat me that way. It’s about being treasured.” “On My Body” (Tyla & Becky G) “This was such a fun one because it’s in my world, but also I played a bit with the Latin vibes. The feature came so organically—I was in studio, and she was in a session next door. She loved it, and she recorded a verse, and I absolutely died. I died. I just love her touch, and how it just broadened the audience, because now it's just bringing everybody into this experience. It's a melting pot with all these genres, and I love that I was able to expand it even further.” “Priorities” “This song was probably the most difficult to share, because it's really letting people into my heart and mind, and how I feel I've been with myself. I feel like people would resonate with it, and it speaks about what a lot of people feel and may not express. [The idea of having spread yourself too thin] is something that's so raw and real, that not even just women, men, everybody feels.” “To Last” “I love this song with all my heart. I was in the Vaal with LuuDadeejay, and I literally finished this song in five minutes. It was based off an experience that my friend was going through at the time. About a year prior, I wrote the lines ‘You never gave us a chance, it's like you never wanted to last.’ And that note just came to mind, and the song just flowed out of me. I ended up going through something that made me feel that way. It was like I told the future, which is not good—but I fell in love with the song again. It’s so South African: It’s amapiano, it's house-y, it's our sound.” “Water (Remix)” (Tyla & Travis Scott) “Travis reached out—he loved ‘Water,’ and around the time, I was like, 'I don't want a remix, I'm cool.' But Travis Scott was so unexpected that I wanted to do it so bad, and he absolutely killed it. He added some South African shout-outs in his verse, and I just knew that people from home were going to love it—he acknowledged us, and he mentioned [the South African telephone country code] +27 and all those things. And I also love that he brought a different energy to the song. Everyone knows ‘Water’ to be that summer banger, and now Travis made it still the summer banger, but also more gritty. Putting him on an African-sounding song was just the perfect collab.”

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