The song breaks away from his normal style and rolls back the years. Photo: Supplied
Ntokozo Mdluli, better known by his stage name K.O, has released a new single called Y.O.U.
This unexpected musical offering is a departure from his signature hip-hop-amapiano-house-style music and has a more classic feel. It has drawn comparisons with legends such as Mbongeni Ngema, Mafikizolo, Brenda Fassie, Malaika, and Caiphus Semenya.
He describes Y.O.U as a creative exploration, a deliberate divergence from his established style — a move that challenges artistic boundaries and demonstrates personal growth.
The track pays homage to iconic sounds but K.O injects his unique flavour, blending melodies and lyricism in a playful, yet captivating, manner.
In an exclusive interview with the Mail & Guardian at his Johannesburg clothing store Swave, in Rosebank’s Design District, K.O revealed the journey behind Y.O.U.
“I started this project early last year in between working on other projects, both locally and continentally, and we decided to park it for a while because I was conflicted,” The SETE hitmaker says.
Primarily known as a hip-hop artist renowned for his hard-hitting lyrics, K.O emphasises the importance of artistic evolution.
“For me, it becomes a creative obsession and looking back at your work and saying, ‘I actually did that.’ It is just about creatively ticking boxes and not dwelling on the hills I have conquered. I am always trying to find a new rainbow and a new pot of gold,” he says.
Reflecting on his artistic philosophy, K.O attributes his willingness to experiment to his tenure with Teargas, a group known for pushing musical boundaries.
He highlights the ethos of constant innovation and the refusal to settle for mediocrity — a mindset that continues to drive his solo endeavours.
At the heart of Y.O.U. lies a narrative of unwavering devotion, as depicted through the heartfelt expressions of love.
Lines such as,“Ngisho ne school fees uqobo lwaso ngingasikhokhanga, maku nguwe,” (even if I don’t pay school fees, as long as I have you) exemplify this strong commitment to his lover, under any circumstances, underscoring the song’s emotional depth.
“If we are going to be frank, it’s a reckless kind of love,” he says.
The ability to transcend one’s preferred genre and deliver a remarkable piece of music speaks volumes about K.O’s versatility and artistry.
Drawing parallels with the late Kiernan AKA Forbes, who similarly ventured beyond his comfort zone with songs such as Energy, when he sampled Summer Daze by Nick Holder, when he sampled Caiphus Semenya’s Matswale on another record, K.O uses this technique masterfully on this new track.
He emerges as a trailblazer unafraid to embrace evolution.
Y.O.U serves as a testament to K.O’s continuous evolution as an artist — a reminder not to underestimate his creative prowess.
With each release, he challenges norms, redefines boundaries and reaffirms his status as a force to be reckoned with in the ever-evolving landscape of South African music.
K.O continues to chart new musical territories, Y.O.U stands as a captivating milestone in his illustrious career, leaving audiences eagerly anticipating what comes next from this visionary artist.