Pitori Maradona AKA Focalistic is taking the music industry by storm with his versatility – from hip-pop to dance to house, he does it all and is winning in every single category. I know I say this about every artist I interview but guys, if you sleep on this man you will be very sorry because he is going places, I kid you not when I say that he is among one of the many pioneers that will put SA music on the map and do you want to know why? Because it’s so rare to find an artist of his calibre! This man is a musical genius and his legacy is one that will live on until the end of time.
Quarantined in Tarantino? Did you have the title beforehand or was it inspired by this whole pandemic?
Well, it’s like music that I did before, but mostly music I did when we were locked down – luckily I was locked down with my producer Herc, so for that first week, that’s what we were doing, packaging it. Some of the music, like Christian Dior, that song was done two months before, so I guess you can say that the music was there but the whole move to drop was definitely inspired by lockdown. I didn’t plan on dropping it that day, everything was different, we had never been locked down, you know? So everything had to feel different and I’m glad that people received it very well.
You said previously that you were quarantined with your producer, Hercules is that why he produced 8/10 of the songs on your EP?
Yeahh he produced 8, the other two – Bothata keng (track number one) was produced by GobiBeast and then we had Avain Blitz produce Mpintjaka (track number five). I guess that basically explains the relationship I have with Herc, he was just always around and when I was inspired he was giving me the proper canvas, that’s how it happened.
Can you talk us through each song in your EP and what that particular song is about/ what significance it holds in your life?
I mean, I could do that but I think for me, I have always been a distanced character from the music because I want people to derive their own meanings from it. Obviously, when I say what my experience/ meaning of the song is, I think it kind of boxes you to think of it like that. Meanwhile, there’s a song I dropped right now – Ke Star on Blecke, the second ep that I dropped after quarantined in Tarantino and you know, people don’t even know what I was actually saying, but to them, it was the emotion that was in it and I am glad that I never had to explain that song.
I saw you in a cap and gown on your insta, what were you graduating in?
I graduated in political science from the University of Pretoria and that took 3 years.
How did your mom take it when you told her you wanted to do music?
I mean me and my mom had a deal that after I graduate she should give me a whole year and now look at the way my life is going, then she’ll understand what I’m trying to do. I’m glad it happened, after a year she was very supportive but obviously at the beginning, we used to fight a lot but I think after she saw my commitment and consistency in it, shes forced like any other human being to gravitate towards it.
I’m hearing 4 different genres in this album; first, amapiano then we kwaito then there’s hints of Bacardi house and of course hip-hop. Why is that?
I think for me, that’s just a South African story. In SA it’s not like we listen to one genre the entire day, when you’re walking through the streets you’re going to hear Tamia, then the next bus is Dj Tira, you know what I mean? It’s just how we are and I like to think that I fully embody that, and that’s the thing, when you listen to my music it’s like taking a walk through the streets of South Africa, that’s what it sounds like.
Is that why you don’t like being referred top as a rapper?
Yeahh, yeah, yeah. I mean that is exactly why. I can’t be a rapper, I am doing more than what rappers confine themselves to do – you find me on both charts; hip-pop and dance, so I think me being called a rapper is minimising my talent and limiting myself so I’d rather be known as an artist, an African artist.
You categorise your music as “pina tsa ko kasi.” What does this actually mean?
Yeahh! Pina tsa ko kasi means songs from the hood, that’s the direct translation but for me its a movement. I figured this out last year, I’d obviously had the idea for a while, like how to have your own identity and how I’d be doing something different but I don’t think that it’s necessarily something you think about, but something that hits you and that’s why I’m saying it hit me last year. That’s when the revelation came to me – it’s just about people being able to be proud of where they come from and you know, present it to the world. I think that is what pina tsa ko kasi is for me, it’s like a genre that I figured out when I was like “actually I don’t fit into these boxes here” and I think for me I fit so well in an open box that is pina tsa ko kasi cause for me that could be anything; whether I’m on trap or on an amapiano song, it’s pina tsa ko kasi – kasi is wise, there is a big space to allow people to do what they wanna do!
How hard would you say it is to have your own identity as a musician in SA?
I don’t think it’s hard, I think for me, as I said it hits you. It’s about searching, being on a journey and doing things that are just you – not thinking about it too much, allowing the space to influence you but not to define your character. So for me, that’s what it’s about and I don’t think that’s how we were born; as a kid, we already knew right from wrong and how you wanna move so as we grow up fear, quick money and whatever, can take over but in terms of identity you don’t even have to think about money, that’s the easiest part for me. The hardest part in terms of identity is you trying to translate your different story because some people might not understand.
So, you released two Eps in the space of three weeks. Why was that? What did you not compile the two to curate an album? And most importantly when can we expect an album?
I think it just felt right, it wasn’t according to any plan. I dropped quarantined in Tarantino and that was because for me I felt that I hadn’t been rapping in a while and with it being quarantine and blecke was an afterthought. After the song ke star leaked the fans wanted the song, so I thought I can’t hold the song, so I thought let me package it well since its still quarantine, make sure it’s a classic moment. For me, it’s always about doing 10/10 every single time! It wasn’t a plan, it’s just how it happened.
What would you say the difference between the two eps is?
I think one is a full ep, with 10 tracks and you know, it takes you on a journey, whereas blecke is more of a statement, it’s more bold – it just needed three tracks and that’s how it worked. They’re equally effective but just different takes.
You say your collab with Cassper Nyovest was written in the stars, what did you mean by this?
For me, I didn’t think it was meant to be but I saw daily sun say it and it hit me, so in your life, you really don’t know what’s meant for you but you know what feels right at the moment and the first time I saw him I said: “yo, I don’t want a picture, I want a feature.” And he said you’ll get the other one but let’s take a picture first. We took the picture and I always had the picture, whenever a laptop crashed, I kept the picture cause I said when I get the feature, this is the picture I am going to post. Then I took a picture with Emtee like two years later and for me that just felt right at that moment and that happens and then in that same year last year I get both of them on songs and I can share the story. It’s just crazy for me because I didn’t know it could get there and it’s just crazy for me and imagine how much further I’m gonna go doing what feels right.
Also, you have to give credit to God, I’m a real believer in god giving people talent and I think like no, I’m a 5/10 story in people developing it and seeing it where it could take them so I’m grateful for that.
Map out the next 10 years of Focalistic for us and the legacy you want to leave?
In the next 10 years, I’ll be big papa Foca, that’s what they call me in the streets but I’ll be loved and remembered for crazy dreams and actually making them happen. I’ll have the grammy and I’ll be calling black coffee and Drake like its nothing. One thing that’ll make me the happiest is seeing 20 more people that came cause I made it happen or we made it happen if anyone else is helping me push the movement. I’m very open about it cause I want it to be a milestone.
I used to want to be remembered for crazy things like the first man on the star as a kid, then I grew up and I realised all those dreams they’re right for a kid but when you grow up you realise that it’s the simpler things in life that matter. You realise that you want to be remembered for being a good person, treating people with respect. I want to be remembered as a person who shared the light with everyone around him because that’s the best legacy you can leave – you can go on the stars, come home and be a trash person and that’s not me. In terms of music, it definitely has to be in pushing boundaries, I think I was doing an interview and they said that in terms of their history there is no other artist that rapped amapiano on a 16 bar and did numbers like that, I’m the first. For me I never thought of it like that, I’m just excited when I find a new sound and seeing where this has gone for, in 10 years it’s scary to think about the features I would have had, the way I would have developed this genre. So for anyone that is sleeping right now, they’re going to be saying sorry in 10 years Tim. That is what’s exciting to me! We’re going to be taking this international.
Listen to Blecke and Quarantined in Tarantino here;