Focalistic rose to prominence after releasing his first single “19 Tobetsa” in 2018. In the space of two years, he’s become an ever-present figure in the music industry equally adept at producing his own hits and providing his unique sauce on features, to catapult records to the top of the charts.
In an ever-changing music landscape, artists are producing genre-bending compositions that defy the sometimes strict structures set by their predecessors. Being defined by a specific genre seems to be a greater crutch than ever, with music largely crossing over as Hip-Hop became the number one genre in the world. There’s no artist in South Africa who exudes these qualities more than Focalistic.
A prolific multi-genre artist with an undeniably unique sound, he has managed to easily walk the line of Hip-Hop/Amapiano artist (you don’t read that often). After the back-to-back release of his two equally different EP’s “Quarantined Tarantino” & “Blecke” we sat down with Focalistic to pick his brain on the former, as well as his thoughts on music in general.
What influences the writing of your music?
What influences the writing of my music is everyday life, but in terms of structure I look up to Spikiri, HHP & Khuli Chana. I’d also name Hugh Masekela as one of my influences because of how musical he was and his creative process. I’d even go as far as saying he’s one of the first rappers.
What type of artist do you describe yourself as?
I’m an eclectic artist. My style is influenced by life, it's eclectic in the sense that I take everything in and splurge it out on the mic. I’m a journalist to a certain degree, with my opinion splattered across my work.
You seem to be efficient when it comes to producing music, do you ever worry about saturating the market?
I don't worry about saturating the market because good music will always last. People know what's hot and what's not so I’m not afraid of that. I just drop for my people because they always want it. Sometimes I might take a long break but that's me just cooking a different sound. I'm never really worried about saturating the market. I know what I'm giving is always different.
What was the sound that you were going for when conceiving the project? What’s your process for creating?
It's just a trip down the street. Sonically, my music sounds like a different scene of a different day, on a different street, but it's all in South Africa. That's what I'm transporting to the world. It’s a different perspective, a different take on Hip-Hop, and a different take on Amapiano. I think I’m one of the first to ever rap on [Amapiano]. The process of creating all of this is introspection, I think a lot of people need to understand that process of creating... that's what makes it different, it's about introspection and telling a unique story.
Which producers did you work with?
I mostly worked with Hercules, Avian Blitz and Gobi Beast. These are producers that I've known for a while. For me, the relationship between artist and producer is important in order to get a tailor-made sound.
Which artists and producers would you like to work with in the future?
Burna Boy and Drake, they are people who’re at the pinnacle. I want to be the greatest African artist and I can't be the greatest African artist if I'm boxed in and expected to rap or jump on an Amapiano song. I need to feature these guys to show you the direction I'm going, and then after that, I’ll switch it up again.
Do you make a deliberate effort to distinguish between your House/Amapiano and Hip Hop projects?
No, my biggest fear is being boxed, you’ll miss the whole gist of me existing as an artist. I'm from Pitori where you can hear R&B in one taxi, and the deepest Bacardi in the next taxi, and that's fine. I can't distinguish between projects; this is about enjoying the music. I'm a music-based person, not a genre person.
What’s your current view of SA’s Hip Hop industry?
It’s growing and listeners are starting to accept artists like me who are different thanks to the likes of Okmalumkoolkat, who paved the way for different styles and I think that's what needs to happen. We need to grow to a certain point where we can even identify our own sound and then have our own style and understand that we’re telling different stories.
What’s your current view of Amapiano and its ascension?
It’s one of the most purely South African things... no one needed to put budget behind it to make it blow up. We need to protect it because we’re all in consensus, the whole country believes this is the sound that we need to continue with. I think people need to embrace it and make sure it never dies.
Pretoria seems to be enjoying a spell of great artists/music, how do you contribute to its “boom”?
I contributed to Pitori’s boom because I'm one of the only ones who took it upon themselves to put Pitori on their shoulders. My whole name is Pitori Maradona which is a moniker. I've embodied Pitori and told one of the most genuine stories, from my perspective. That's how I'm contributing, and I feel like everyone needs to contribute by sharing artists that are blowing up in Pitori, making sure the industry opens up for them. It's about creating a new generation and totally annihilating African charts with a genuine sound from Pitori, that's what it's about for me.
What can fans expect in the future?
Fans can expect more Focalistic features and “ase Trap tse ke pina tsa ko Kasi” growing in terms of what it actually means for Africa. It’s about leaving a legacy. In the end, people need to understand that what I was doing was different and it sparked a whole new generation, that's what it means to me. Fans can definitely expect more music, I’ve been working, but I don’t want to reveal too much.