You could be forgiven for not recognizing ‘Ms Isis’, the woman who “wants to be known as that female producer who made beats” – she changes her hairdo almost every week. But the roots that she doesn’t change, are the ones embedded in her sound.
Ms Isis, not to be confused with the terrorist organization, but rather with the Egyptian goddess of fertility and motherhood, grew up in the windy city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa.
She moved to the Gauteng province after school and it was while at university in Tshwane that she found her passion for composing hip-hop beats.
“I bumped into people who knew how to make beats and they taught me, so I’m basically self-taught,” she says.
Trying to etch out a place in the competitive and male-dominated industry is not easy for anybody, let alone a woman.
“It’s harder… there’s a lot of expectations for females,” says Ms Isis on the challenges she faces.
Another is staying relevant and standing out from the crowd. This is perhaps why her hair is transformed almost every other week. The music industry is hard for women and Ms Isis is acutely aware of this.
“I’m a girl but I’m not necessarily the girl that everybody wants to see,” she says, referring to the unrealistic expectations forced on women. She refuses to sexualize her music and is unwavering in her stance against surrendering her musical integrity.
‘Ms Isis’, Terrorist, Organization, Egyptian, Goddess, December 2016
As a woman, Ms Isis has to juggle music, motherhood and marriage. Her husband is Lengolo Moletsane, also known as Madkind, a graphic designer by day, and multi-instrumentalist and producer in her band by night.
“He can tell you more about South African music, I can tell you more about Coolio,” says Ms Isis jokingly.
They are strong-willed and determined to find the right balance between music and parenting.
“It’s very difficult… I see why people are always discouraging, but it can be done. I want to do it and I’m going to do it.”
There is a distinct air of defiance in her voice, as if she’s out to prove the doubters wrong.
With two successful radio singles in 2016, she seems to be getting it right. Her single, Only, a house groove which she collaborated on with Sculptured Music, enjoyed regular airplay and received stellar reviews, most notably from house legend, DJ Christos. She recently wrapped up the video for her second single Mamatime, a jazzy hip-hop inspired melody. Ms Isis has picked up some traction with these singles and hopes that the coming year will bring with it more bookings and the release of her first studio album, which she is currently working on.
“I’ve been an artist that always performs with beats and now I have formed a band, I’m very excited about it,” says Ms Isis, who hopes to one day grace stages like the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, a venue she has great fondness for. Mamatime ends with Ms Isis singing the isiXhosa words Ixesha, Ixesha, lihamba naba hambayo, meaning “time only moves with those who move with it”. It looks like Ms Isis’ time has come, and it’s moving forward with her beats.