Exclusives Interviews 4 September 2023
Author: Vince

Afrobeat Sensation Highlyy discusses her heritage, upcoming EP & More

4 September 2023

In a fast-paced music industry where new talent emerges daily, one artist stands out as a formidable force captivating audiences with her extraordinary sound—introducing Highlyy, the rising Afro-Beat artist who is taking the music world by storm, redefining the genre’s landscape with her visionary approach.

Highlyy’s musical journey began within a richly musical family, her Congolese heritage serving as the bedrock of her passion for music. Influenced by her father’s band and her mother’s choir singing, Highlyy seemed destined for a career in music. As a child, she sang in church and school choirs, quickly gaining recognition for her exceptional vocal talents.

However, it wasn’t until she stepped into a recording studio at just eight years old that she felt the call to create her original music. From that pivotal moment, Highlyy’s curiosity for writing and producing blossomed, propelling her to experiment with her unique blend of traditional African sounds and contemporary influences.

Now, with a burgeoning fan base and critical acclaim, Highlyy is evolving from a rising star to a visionary artist. Her music serves as a powerful medium to address issues relevant to her young audience, empowering them with her aspirational and honest themes, touching upon love, ambition, and the journey to success. She sat to speak exclusively with GRM about her journey so far.

We know that you come from quite a musical background. Tell us about your earliest interactions with music and how that all plays into your life and your interest in music.

“Okay, so obviously, my parents are very into music. My dad was in a band back in Congo. My mum was also a singer in a choir as were my grandparents. My parents bought me a microphone when I was younger. So I would always be making noise and singing in church. They would make me sing, so I joined the choir in church, and the choir in school, and everyone around was just telling my parents your daughter can really sing and you guys should pay attention to that. And, you know, here we are.”

So would you say that the musical ability that you have, has always been really nurtured for you to be able to pursue it? 

“I would say that yeah, it’s always been there, you know, music is just around me. Has always been, and forever will be.”

Where does it turn around that you start writing your own music and where does that part come from? Because lyrically you are very strong, such a wordsmith…tell us more about how you started writing?

“My dad took me to a studio session for the first time when I was probably eight years old. My dad was taking me to the studio all the time, every weekend he would take me there to make songs.”

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

“Yeah. It was actually a gospel song. It was terrible.” 

Did you record it?

“Yeah, I did. I hope no one ever finds it.”

Do you still have it? 

“No. My dad definitely does. One day someone might go on his Facebook and find it – my parents keep everything!”

It’s nice to have that documented progress though right?

“Yeah, it is! My dad used to film EVERYTHING.”

So when you get old enough to think about what you want to do with your life? Is it just a given to you at that point that you would be making music or did you have to make a decision that pulled you away from something else in terms of school etc?

“You know what, I’ve always wanted to do music. I also had to make the choice between athletics and music. But I feel like in lockdown, it just separated. I just knew from there. I couldn’t do any training or anything.” 

Yeah. So then you started recording at home? 

“Sure. In lockdown, I was actually in year 11. So I had a blast really and truly I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, you know, I learned a lot. Like, how to record myself,  also shooting content, I started making a few beats. I feel like, you know, it just really helped me know what I wanted to do and craft my sound. I feel like being locked down really did help.”

And if you were to describe your sound, how would you describe it?

“I would describe it as fresh, cool, Afro-pop, something new, something that you wouldn’t have heard before.”

Would you say your Congolese heritage influences that sound?

“Yeah, for sure. 100% I feel like it’s just something new. You haven’t heard it before. I don’t hear any artists like me. I’m not gonna lie. It’s something new and fresh. I feel like yeah, being Congolese definitely did play a big part in that.”

Is it important for you to showcase that?

“100% And that’s why I speak in different languages when I make my music so people feel connected in a different type of way.”

Have you managed to reach much of a fan base outside of Congo?


Have you been over to do anything yet? Or are there any plans to?

“Yeah, definitely . But you know what, I feel like I have a bigger fan base from Nigeria. But that’s because I do afrobeats and everyone thinks I’m Nigerian. When people realise I’m from Congo that’s when I feel like all of Congo will give me that love.” 

So now that you have crafted and established what’s a nice comfortable lane for you. How are you finding it taking in how people are receiving your work and is it expected? 

“Yeah, when I made “Soldier”, at first, because I recorded it,  at my house at first myself, it was a bit like, oh, I don’t know if people are gonna like this. But then I sent it to my cousins, my friends and they were like, can’t lie this is the best song you’ve ever made. Then I recorded it in the studio. And that’s when I was like, Yeah, this one’s gonna take me there. People are gonna know about me when they hear this. But now when I write my music I know what’s gonna hit people. And I know what’s going to build my fan base.”

How much of the business side of things and the practical elements of putting your music out and making it a success are you tapped into? And how important is it for you to be hands-on in that respect?

“Obviously, I need a fanbase. So of course, I feel like I’m very tapped into making different types of content. So people actually like me, for me, and not just for my music, because that’s just the best way to connect with people. Not just for your music, but for your brand as well as through your personality. I feel like I’m very tapped into that. And continuously working on it as well.”

Do you have much of a team behind you?

“Yes. They’re always getting on to me about content, post this post that. When you’re working so hard all the time in the studio, I tend to forget. Before I was in the studio every day I was actually posting. But now it’s like, I have to engage.”

Now we’re talking about the project. Let’s get into talking about your creative process and beat selection, who you’ve been working with etc. So what’s the title of the project?


 How many tracks?

“Seven. I wanted to be more generous, you know, I want to, you know, feed the people.”

How have you constructed this as your first body of work?

“Do you know what it is, at first, I was gonna go the album route, put an intro and everything interludes,I was gonna go ham. But I have songs then I realised it’s my first EP, I want people to like my music. I don’t want to waste anything when I could just put good music on there in general. So the way I structured my EP is everything is relatable—relatable topics – varying from upbeat to in your feels, just everything.”

One of the standout tracks on this project has got to be “Higher”, what was the inspiration for this song?

“Thank you! For ‘Higher’ I worked with Shae Jacobs for the first time. We just went through all of my music and we were like okay, I’m missing one thing. I don’t have an actual Amapiano pop-ish track.  I was scared to try I’m gonna be honest. like, I didn’t know. But then Shae was like, no we’ve got to do it. So eventually, we did it.

“Before all of the drums and everything got put onto the beat it was just the chords. We were singing melodies on the beat and we were like this is it. Then it took us two sessions to actually finish the song because we wanted to perfect it, we really put our thoughts into it. We Put everything into that song. And that’s how “Higher” came about.”

Talk to us about the rest of the subject matter on the project and your writing process behind the different topics and how they relate. Is it super personal? Is it other people’s situations? Where do you place yourself when you’re getting into the mode to write a song?

“I feel like everything is personal, and everything just depends on how I’m feeling that day. If a situation just happened, I’ll talk about it. I’m like, let me not waste it. Because I feel when I write about my feelings, or what I’m going through, that’s when I make my best music because it’s really coming from the heart.” 

Do you have a favourite track on the project?

“Except for the “Higher” obviously, that’s my favourite. Yeah, I’ve got a track called “Honest”. I feel like that might be my favourite. I haven’t finished it. I know the vision.”

Have you got the lyrics? And what’s it about?

“It’s toxic. I was talking about how I can’t choose between two guys. But I have to choose one. And now I kind of miss that other guy.” 

Are you still finding things that inspire you to write? Or do you have to take a step back from being an artist to live a little to get the experiences to write about?

“I feel like both ways, they play hand in hand. I can go to the studio without stepping back and going into reality.” 

So what would be the main thing that you would want people to take away from the project when they listen to it?

“That’s a very difficult question. I want people to feel inspired, motivated. That’s what I want people to take away from it. To be honest, a lot of the stuff that I do talk about in the songs in my project is about you know, the come up, you know, believing in myself and I want people to believe in themselves as well. Like, I can do it. You guys kind of see we’re all here for the same purpose, you can reach your goals.”

We love a secret… So who are you listening to at the moment? 

“Tems. She doesn’t even have new music, but I put her album on every day, literally, it’s crazy. And Aya Nakamura, she’s a French artist.”

So outside of who you’re listening to, who would you say your musical influences are?

“Tems, Burna Boy,  Aya Nakamura, Yxng Bane.”

Who’s your dream collaboration?

“Tems, Burna Boy, Beyonce, Chris Brown And Drake.”

So in terms of your live show, what can people expect when they come out to see you?

“Expect Michael Jackson and Beyonce. That’s the type of level and hype I’m gonna bring on that stage.” 

Do you dance?

“Yeah! The whole package.”

That’s incredible. The final question, is if you were to urge people and give them one reason why they need to go and take you in and take in this project, what would it be?

“I’m the best artist in the world… Nah I’m joking…You know, It’s a life-changing, experience you know, you’ll be touched period.”