uNder Spotlight: 4IAM Is The T-Pop Voice Of South Africa’s New Generation

"No girl group is doing what we are doing in Africa."

The early 90’s saw the rise of the girl group such as Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, TLC and more. However, these days, all-female groups are far and few between, save for the British R&B trio, FLO who are now dominating conversations for their harmonious vocals and unbreakable chemistry. Cut from the same ilk is South Africa’s 41AM, an all-girl group which was formed back in 2021, and is now set to push serious weight in the music world.

Created by Hitchat Entertainment, a talent discovery outfit at the forefront of music entertainment in South Africa, the beauty of the 4IAM’s sound lies in their ability to flitter between the contemporary and nostalgic. Tying the perfect mix of South African-born sounds, Amapiano, Pop, Kwaito‎, House, and Hip-Hop with influences from K-Pop, 4IAM, which is pronounced For I Am, as chartered her path as an empathic voice of Gen Z.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 4IAM (@4iam__)

Comprising of two rappers Giselle and P.H.X, and three vocalists Grace, Annie, and Doli, 4IAM are already making some of the most honest and forthright music today, creating something that sonically feels like a late-night conversation with your homegirls. Their connection is palpable all through their releases, particularly on debut single, “Legends.”

Their natural bond can easily be mistaken for years of friendship but the girls reveal that they first met during a bootcamp organised by Hitchat last year. “Our company, Hitchat ran a talent competition and posted it on Instagram and Facebook. Each person sent a video singing or rapping and we made the cut. The company then held a Bootcamp in Cape Town and that is where we all met. It went very well, it didn’t feel like a competition.”

Although their careers have only just begun, 4IAM is crafting their music with sharp-clawed precision and a finely-tuned ear while championing their community of T-pop artists who entertain music fans in townships using local and relatable sounds and videos. “We make T-Pop, which means Township pop,” 4IAM told the NATIVE. According to the girls, T-Pop is the cumulation of South African sound and international sounds. Through the beautiful and emotionally layered genre, 4IAM weave stories of hope, ambition, and making it out of the hood.

4IAM is also a well-oiled machine with each member of the pack assuming an indispensable role beneficial to the group’s functioning. Doli is the youngest of the group but also its defacto leader as well as its lead dancer. P.H.X is the 21-year-old rapper and dancer, Grace acts as the groups sub-vocalist, Annie is its 24-year-old vocalist while Giselle is a rapper and sub-vocalist as well. Each member is essential to the group’s entire output and it’s clear that their shared vision has made them unapologetic about repping their townships, and showing up as their most authentic selves.

Recently, 4IAM shared the new single, “Mthebelele,” an earworm record that finds the girls singing about staying humble and acknowledging your own self-worth and power. In a world where women are taught to tone down their voices and message, 4IAM is showing up audaciously and singing about relatable stories for young Black African women. With their debut EP due for release any moment now, the girls sat down with the NATIVE to talk about their background, T-pop, their forthcoming project and their plans for the future.


Their words which follow below have been lightly edited for clarity.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 4IAM (@4iam__)

NATIVE: Can I ask where everyone’s penchant for making music came about?

4IAM: Most of us started in church singing at a young age. From there, we moved on to school so, you could say that we started loving music from a young age.

Where did you all meet each other?

Our company, Hitchat ran a talent competition a few years ago on social media. Each person had to send a video singing or rapping and then selections would be made. Luckily, we made the cut. The company then held a Bootcamp in Cape Town, and that is where we all met. It went very well, it didn’t feel like a competition. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. 

What are some of your earliest memories of making music?

Giselle:  My friend sent me a beat and I was able to write down a chorus immediately. In two minutes, we had a full song. My friends then pressured me to release more music. Remember the old Nokia phones? I would use the table as my stage and a broom as my microphone and sing to the ringtone.

Grace: My earliest memory has to be singing in church. I also used to have a YouTube channel and started doing covers and uploading on YouTube.

How was growing up in South Africa for all of you?

We were exposed to the Internet quite early and we used to listen to international artists which influenced a lot of our sound. We only came into the SA industry in our late teens. That’s when we realised there are rappers like A-Reece who have been in the industry for years. That’s when we discovered South Africa is a minefield for talent and you can stand out internationally when you’re yourself. Some of us grew up listening to Reggae. Some of our influences are mostly Soul and Blues as we grew up listening to people like Lauryn Hill.  

How did 4IAM get started as an official girl group?

At the Bootcamp, we were a total of 16 girls but the company only need five girls. Through competitions, the group was narrowed down and that is how we ended up as five girls. This was last year in February. 

Did you have anyone to look up to in the South African music scene when it came to establishing a girl’s group?

Jamali was our biggest influence because they were the biggest group. It’s been difficult because there isn’t a girl group doing the type of music we have been doing. We find it difficult because we sometimes have to draw our influences from K-Pop. It’s the closest thing to what 4IAM is doing at the moment. No girl group is doing what we are doing in Africa. 

Now, let’s talk about everyone’s individual strengths in the group. What role do you all play in 4IAM?

Grace:  I am the sub-vocalist in 4IAM.

Doli: I am the leader of the group and the lead dancer.

Giselle: I am the sub-vocalist of the group and the main rapper.

P.H.X: I am the lead rapper and the main dancer of the group.

Annie: I am the main vocalist and the lead dancer of the group.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by 4IAM (@4iam__)

Do you face any challenges when working as a group?

Grace: Yes, we do. Sometimes we have different interests. We each listen to different music so we draw our inspiration from different areas. We all have different personalities and are from different backgrounds. I might phrase a statement in one way and a group member might misinterpret it differently but we have to make it work.

Now, let’s get into the music itself. Could you describe the type of music you make?

We do Township pop or T-Pop. It’s a fusion of every genre in South Africa. In one song, you can hear a blend of sounds such as R&B, House, Amapiano and Pop.

Let’s talk a bit about T-pop or township pop as it is widely known. What are the early origins of this genre and how do you girls make it unique to you?

We were introduced to the idea of T-Pop by the founder of Hitchat Entertainment but we are the pioneers of the sound. We understand T-Pop as an exchange of culture. Now, we see genres like Amapiano being listened to worldwide and before that, we once thought  only international music was the standard of exquisite music. So, T-Pop is very new and we are trying to show the world that it’s all about the quality of music rather than your location. If anyone wants to understand what T-Pop is they should listen to our upcoming EP. 

T-pop is also inspired heavily by K-pop. What are some of your favorite things about Korean pop?

The visuals and the fusion of genres. They mix a lot of genres and make them their own. Also, the production of the sound, makes it different and the way they dress as well.

Now, you’ve got a new single out this week and a new EP in the works for release very soon. What stories are you looking to tell on your new EP?

We are entering the festive season so it’s a festive EP and a reminder you should always be yourself and nurture the relationships around you. We are introducing a new era for 4IAM as we are introducing T-Pop to the world

What about the new single, “Mthebelele.” What was the process of recording this track like for you all?

It was exciting, it was the best time because it felt like the first time we were sitting down and writing a song from scratch. We were trying to find a beat inspiration on Youtube which was successful because we started writing and our producer remade the beat from scratch. If you listen to the original beat and the beat in the song it’s completely different. 

How was the creative process during the album?

It was crazy. There were ups and downs. We had a writer’s bloc which made us frustrated. We have been working on this EP since August this year. 

What other songs can we expect to hear on the EP?

It depends on your mood. If you are looking for happy, child-like songs then go to “Mthebelele” or “Chewing Gum“. If you are feeling in love you need to listen to “Summer Nights.” If people are testing you, and you need to remind them of your greatness, then listen to”Deeper“, and if you are feeling like a bad girl we have a song for you. There is a song for everyone.

What do you want listeners to take away from this new EP?

We want them to understand the music we are making, which is T-Pop. The reason we are releasing this album is to introduce our sound officially. It is also about our journey and who we are as well as the dilemmas we face in our relationships and how we treat each other. 

At this pivotal time for music coming out of SA, what role do you see 4IAM playing in the music scene?

Variety and diversity. We are bringing T-Pop. We are bringing a second representative from South Africa. At the moment, we are bringing something the world has never heard of since SA is widely represented by Amapiano. We are also bringing female domination, we want to show the world that women are here to be the leaders and trendsetters and not co-drivers of the culture.

What next for 4IAM as a group and individually?

We have a couple of live performances lined up and we are looking to make a bigger impact on our TikTok. Individually, we are still figuring out our brand as artists. This is the starting line so we are trying to align ourselves with our interests.

Featured image credits/NATIVE

ICYMI: Here’s a list of our Best New Artists in October