SA rapper Tyson Sybateli is redefining what it means to be an independent artist, with a roll-out so legendary that he puts even South Africa’s most popular hip-hop acts to shame.
His journey began much like any other young artist with a dream. Born in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal, he was raised in Pretoria where he flourished. The cultural contrasts of Umlazi and Pretoria are what inspired him to explore his artistry.
He moved to Gauteng with his parents and two sisters.
With parents who were always on the pulse with pop culture trends and music, his upbringing was filled with art.
“One thing about my dad is that he loved jamming in his car,” Sybateli said. His father would play music for hours while they waited for his mother to finish work.
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One day, in a music store that he fondly remembers frequenting throughout his childhood, he bumped into an old friend who could remember him only by his favourite songs.
“The light bulb went on. It was like a twisted divine intervention. I instantly knew what I was put on earth to do,” he recalled.
Sybateli has four EPs, a mixtape and three albums under his belt, each one more eminent than the last. Listening to his early discography makes his trajectory clear.
“I had literally no experience or knowledge of how to release music, but I knew I was destined for more than just uploading and hoping for the best. I knew pretty early on that everything I did mattered, even though I didn’t matter in the industry at that point.”
This formula seemed to work for Sybateli, who created a strong musical backing in Pretoria, with other young aspirants such as Thato Saul at his side. They began releasing music on Thursdays as opposed to Fridays, like most industry professionals.
This set the foundation for his roll-out strategy for his latest release, Home, which debuted on May 27.
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With 12 tracks of sonic gold, the album details his journey in finding himself, understanding the different places that can feel like home, and the people who make it feel that way.
Unlike the goal of his past albums, this time Sybateli went further, and created a deep personal experience about where he is now and how he sees the world.
One of the greatest standouts was the warmth he received from South Africa, through his promotion efforts alone.
In a world where visuals and faces have become the most important consideration for support, contrasting celebrity culture became his greatest asset. Beyond the audio, there was a man with a story and a voice that needed to be heard.
With the classic line “if found, bring home”, Sybateli set the record straight on what a good South African campaign could look like. A simple Twitter search of those words would tell you all you needed to know, as the statement has garnered massive support from audiences.
Good art seems to truly market itself. Within a month, Sybateli’s core fanbase went from 800 followers, to more than 4 000. He even got music channel MTV involved, with his first face reveal in an exclusive recording of his single If Found, Bring Home.
Through this album, Sybateli has achieved what is impossible for most, by finally signing a recording deal for not only himself, but his entire label, which he will divulge more about soon.
He advises young artists to be passionate about their music and their narrative, and to control what they want to be seen and heard, because it matters.
What will Sybateli do next? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.