Toya Delazy is uncommodified, unapologetic and working with Unicef
Words: Nabeel Allie | Photography: Bevan Davis | Styling: Mira Leibowitz
Long before Toya Delazy became the voice of Bliss, the fourth Powerpuff Girl, she was setting the country ablaze with her debut album, Due Drop. Fast-forward to 2017, five years after she’s etched her name onto the evergreen tree that is South African music, she now boasts her own record label, Delazy Entertainment.
“It’s been great for me to travel because I think that through travelling I’ve embraced my roots more, as a Zulu woman and an African. I’ve entered this melting pot of culture and I’ve taken to it as a way to fuse my roots into a global sound. I’m sharing a piece of me through the music."
Having burst onto the scene with a double SAMA-winning debut album, Due Drop, Delazy exudes an aura of someone who’s been there and done that while continuing to innovate and flourish with her mix of jazz, electro and hip-hop music (JEHP). Her third album, Uncommodified, is set to drop today, 8 December, and she’s made it very clear that this album was made with unapologetic themes of self-expression.
“I’m trying to infuse the expression of creativity among children of colour back into society through my work and music. Our generation is just desperately trying to be ourselves in a society that wants to change us from that and tries to industrialise us. The song 'Greatest' talks about not forgetting what the real things are, as much as you’re grinding – let’s not think it’s only about cash. For some people it’s different and that’s why I chose to shoot the video in a very humble African setting, without bottles or those things. I’m trying to bring back to the essence of what it means to be happy and what it means for things to be great."
With a long history of success and recognition, it was nevertheless groundbreaking that Toya was chosen to voice the fourth Powerpuff Girl, Bliss – one of 2017’s viral global announcements. The introduction of Bliss, who was made with Chemical W (which could low-key be Chemical Woke) rather than Chemical X, adds a storyline of a young girl grappling with her powers rather than being a perfectly-produced superhero like her sisters, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup.
“I know it’s something that really inspired a lot of girls of colour. Diversity and representation is very important so it was a blessing to be part of that and to also have the spotlight shine on Africa because there’ve been too many stories of how Africa is struggling. There’s so much beauty happening here so with that we really got the spotlight to shine on us."
Much like the other three Townsville saviours, Bliss’s outfit is defined by a single colour: purple. Toya, however, doesn’t restrict her fashion to a single lane and, to maintain the analogy, prefers open fields as a way to explore her personal style. For this, she pays homage to her late mother who allowed her to express herself without inhibition.
“My fashion has grown so much. I was lucky because my mother allowed me to dress myself from a young age – she gave me that freedom to ‘fail’ and I really enjoyed that. It’s an expression of the interior on the exterior, you know? How you feel on the inside is how you show it on the outside so it’s a very big part of identity and that’s one thing that I feel nobody should mess with. Whoever you think you are and how you feel is very important for you in achieving your destiny.”
Since pioneering her own genre of music, JEHP, Toya loathes being boxed in by options that the world presents us and expresses similar sentiments with regards to her fashion, especially as a woman. Inasmuch as she loves fashion, she is adamantly against the gender normativity of conventional dress codes and the attachments that come with it.
“I love a good shoe, especially when it hasn’t blown up yet and not everyone has it. I got a pair of Nikes in the UK and I like them because they look weird,” she says, as we both glance down at her kicks. “But heels! Bruh, I can’t. I think that I’m starting to understand dresses a bit more but when I was younger it was forced on me that a girl needed to wear dresses and heels and I just didn’t feel it. Not because I’m a rebellious person but because I just hate to be forced to do something and they seem very uncomfortable.”
With the imminent release of her third album set to light up the South African summer and a massive year spreading her name across the world thanks to the awesome foursome of Townsville, it can admittedly be difficult to wonder what she is most looking forward to in the future. How does one go one better? For Toya Delazy though, it’s not necessarily about going one better. She maintains that her focus has been and will continue to be on the youth of Africa.
“I’m working with Unicef, Generation 2030, and that’s based on the important fact that by the year 2030 Africa will be responsible for half the population of the world. So what we’re trying to do is make sure that by 2030 all of the policies are in place that will ensure that an African child is not restricted by being a victim of circumstance. Because by then, if we’re going to be responsible for half the population of the world, you want it to be a strong nation of believers in themselves."
Toya Delazy's stardom continues to shine thanks to her persistence and adamancy in staying true to herself and producing work that is authentic to her being. And for that she is quickly turning into a South African musical icon of the world.