THREEE is a coming-of-age project encapsulating KLY’s creative journey, exploring his raw, unchecked, and unbridled emotions.
By Emmanuel Okoro
THREEE is the fourth full-length album from South African sensation, KLY. Digitally released in August 2023, the LP features 12 songs with a runtime of 41 minutes. The album is a testament to KLY’s unique approach to conceptualising and recording music.
“I speak about what I go through as a youngin’, and I just put it on songs and make it sound good,” KLY noted in a 2017 interview with True Africa. However, the singer, songwriter, and producer, was not all about the music from the onset.
Hailing from KwaZulu-Natal and raised in Midrand, Johannesburg, KLY (real name Siyabonga Mkhize) initially embarked on his creative path as a dancer. He became a vibrant presence within 300, – a Hip-Hop crew – showcasing his energetic moves and immersing himself in diverse musical influences. This direct exposure to a range of sounds ignited his desire to further explore music creation, ultimately leading him down the path of songwriting and recording.
A pivotal moment came when he co-wrote “Kucheza” for Mafikizolo in 2016, a track that would captivate South Africa and significantly impact his musical path. KLY’s musical identity is a captivating fusion of R&B, Hip-Hop, and Urban Soul. It draws distinct parallels to renowned international artistes such as Bryson Tiller, PartyNextDoor, Trey Songz, and his musical idol, Drake.
This unique musical blend is evident throughout his discography, especially in songs like “Scrrr Pull Up (Remix)” featuring Wizkid, “Too Much,” and “Snapdatsh!t (Remix)” featuring Emtee and Patoranking, all released in 2017.
KLY has had impressive album runs since he started singing. Beginning with the 2016 KLYMAX and KLYMAX (re-up), and followed by the 2018 Keep Love Young, which is a poignant abbreviation of his stage name – KLY, he has consistently pushed his own boundaries and refined his sound to resonate with the sensibilities of modern listeners.
THREEE is the culmination of that creative journey, a full-length project that is a testament to his growth as an individual and as an artiste. More so, the album explores KLY’s raw, unchecked, and unbridled emotions.
THREEE’s opener, “Deep,” is backed by soulful, numbing chords and droning bass synths that send tingles, laying a befitting atmosphere for KLY’s intoxicating lyrics to take charge. The topic is foreplay, and KLY approaches it with unapologetic confidence. He asserts his intentions to take his love interest through a passionate yet physical journey. Lyrics like “I know that keys open doors/So, let my key open yours” exhibit a playfully flirtatious tone, one that KLY has maintained consistently throughout his career. Noticeably, “Deep” is criminally short – which parallels the fleeting nature of actual foreplay these days.
However, THREEE picks up with “Money Chop,” a mid-tempo offering that seamlessly weaves Afrobeats influences with KLY’s distinctive style. Electric strings, slow beats, and bouncy toms set the atmosphere as KLY invites a lover into his opulent lifestyle and ‘chop’ his money. ‘Chop’ here is slang for reckless spending. “Money Chop,” beyond the message, is a unique piece of music that should be added to your playlist. Award-winning Nigerian producer, Kel-P collaborates with Wichi1080 and King Louie to polish the song to perfection.
“Hair” is a heartfelt ode to African women with their unique hairstyles, rendered over an intricate backdrop of electro-xylophones and pulsating drums. KLY’s lyrics capture a sense of inclusivity and admiration for the wide spectrum of hair choices that these women display. But he also deviates from the song’s title to serenade a specific lady, emphasising how her beauty and charm have a hold on him. The dual message of “Hair” – celebrating women’s diverse hairstyles, as well as expressing admiration for a specific individual – brings to mind an African quote: using a stone to kill two birds.
KLY takes an introspective turn, revealing his vulnerable side on the self-produced “Serious,” featuring YoungstaCPT. Here, KLY points an accusing finger at a love interest who lacks the seriousness and depth he seeks. He conveys a sense of frustration and exhaustion with lines such as “You said you’ve felt like this before / So, why am I hearing that there could be more?” These lyrics capture the uncertainty and the emotional toll of being involved with someone who does not match the same level of commitment. YoungstaCPT’s lyrical delivery contributes to the song’s emotional weight and enhances its theme.
On “Delivery,” KLY masterfully brings listeners into a sexually-charged atmosphere pulsating with desire. The song is laden with intoxicating drums and crisp chords, setting the tone for a provocative exploration of intimacy.
KLY doesn’t hold back as he reveals his carnal intentions. The lines “She don’t want no scrubs/Wants a guy who can give exactly what she needs/Daytime, late night as long as you got me” speaks volumes about his commitment to fulfilling his partner’s desires in every way possible. He makes it clear that she only needs to reach out, he’ll be there with his ‘delivery.’
Herc Cut The Lights produced “Seasons (Interlude)” comes next. It is a contemplative number which delves into the complexities of love and longing. The song serves as a musical plea from KLY to a former love interest, imploring her to come back to him. He conveys a sense of yearning and vulnerability, expressing a desire for reconciliation, despite the pain he may have endured. The sonic texture, marked by the distorted chords and subdued bass, creates a hauntingly emotive ambience.
A beautiful tale is woven in “Running Back” featuring Refi Sings. KLY deftly continues his exploration of romantic themes. This time, however, he makes commentary on the complexities of a relationship characterised by fleeting physical encounters and burdened by a lack of commitment. KLY focuses on a lady who prefers transient, short-lived trysts over the entanglements of traditional love. However, the absence of melancholy in KLY’s lyrics indicates a sense of nonchalance within this unconventional relationship.
Surprisingly, Refi Sings goes against the grain, as she introduces a unique insight into the woman’s feelings. When Refi Sings tells her side of the story, there is a yearning to fully commit to the relationship. However, she expresses uncertainty about the way KLY perceives her intentions. The duality in “Running Back” makes it one of my best picks on THREEE.
KLY offhandedly glides through “Playback,” an urban bop showcasing his abundance and ability to splurge on a lady. Transitioning to “Jealousy,” KLY’s emotional depth shines through as he wrestles with the complex emotions of vying for a woman’s attention amidst competition from other men in her life. The lyrics reveal inner turmoil as he grapples with unease and possessiveness.
KLY embraces his lyricist side on “Camps Bay,” a slow-tempo tune that again showcases his range and versatility. Here, he offers a glimpse into his personal life, relationships, and the profound influence that music holds for him. While he acknowledges that people say he sounds like his idol, Drake, he asserts his belief that music transcends mere resemblance, exploring the unique nature of his artistic expression.
On THREEE’s penultimate track, “Hello,” KLY blends multiple ethnic languages to deliver a romantic rendition. He taps the assistance of Murumba Pitch and Mafikizolo, and they elevate the listening experience with their respective verses.
The album ends with “Dreamz,” featuring Riky Rick, a melodic blend of R&B and Hip-Hop elements. KLY delves into his dreams and ambitions, painting a vivid picture of his aspirations for success and prosperity. Riky Rick steps in to share his own story. The lines “Big checks for the small checks that we never got / Big cross on a small neck just to let them know that we gon never die, multiply,” encapsulate the narrative of overcoming obstacles and leaving a mark of resilience and success.
THREEE undeniably stands as a sonically consistent body of work, as KLY bares his heart out. Arguably, it is his best work yet. Spanning 12 songs and 41 minutes, the album delves into a rich tapestry of emotions, including love, lust, the allure of a lavish lifestyle, and the pursuit of inner tranquillity.
The album’s thematic cohesion is, of course, bolstered by its meticulously crafted production, with a thoughtful tracklisting to boot. KLY’s expert penmanship shines throughout the album, as he skillfully navigates multiple themes with fervent artistry. The selected features understood KLY’s game and contributed their part with seamless skill and grace.
While THREEE appears to be a standalone project, its alignment with KLY’s previous works underscores his consistent ethos and encapsulates his emotion, introspection, and musical excellence.
Lyricism – 1.5
Tracklisting – 1.6
Sound Engineering – 1.5
Vocalisation – 1.4
Listening Experience – 1.4
Rating – 7.4/10
Emmanuel Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde