It’s often said that diamonds are made under pressure and for 19-year-old singer Ryki that statement couldn’t be more accurate.

Following the release of her self-titled debut EP, the standout cut from the project is Bad Intentions, a song she recorded on deadline. It’s a song that sees her featuring rapper, Manu WorldStar.

She explains the story behind Bad Intentions: “There was a song we wanted to put on the EP, but we couldn’t because there were some complications, so we felt it needed something. We put in a filler. It was already registered on iTunes but we didn’t have a song to put there. Then I got one of my producers to come in for a day from Cape Town to Joburg and we only had one studio day, we had one chance to make a good song. Whether it was good or bad it was going to make it on the EP.”

At the 11th hour, they called Manu WorldStar, who her producer knew through his days working in a band with WorldStar’s elder brother. “It was organic as well,” she says. “It’s acoustic with a hip hop influence and that’s so close to what I want to do.” Being her most recently recorded song, it’s also closer to her sound than anything else. It’s perfectly balanced and sees WorldStar add some dynamism to the mellow yet groovy beat.

He tells of how he got involved: “I got the song around 5pm and I was in studio with the producers around 9pm. Pressure is usually not an issue for me, especially if I feel the song. The moment I heard the first chord into Ryki’s first note I knew it was a hit.” Manu seems to have a lot going on and hinted that he’d be appearing in a major hip hop competition soon. “I wish I could spill it out and let everyone know, but in the real world contracts exist. I have to wait for announcements and stuff. My single Yewen is finally picking up steam. You can expect a lot more music from me.”

Ryki is keen on making Bad Intentions her next single, but she isn’t sure because Insomnia, which is similar to her first single, Please Try, has been a favourite among fans. She worked with a variety of producers on the EP including Sketchy Bongo on Wait With Her and Please Try, and Bubele Booi and David Balshaw on Throw You Down, What Could We and Bad Intentions. It’s a fluid and suitable production range that allows Ryki to show off her smooth vocals.

Her relationship with Aewon Wolf and Sketchy Bongo has probably been her most fruitful. When she went to Durban to meet Sketchy in 2015 they worked on seven songs in two days, she says. When she returned from Durban, Aewon, who’s a close collaborator of Sketchy’s, contacted her and they soon worked together on Please Try. “Sketchy’s amazing, he’s a really fun guy. He laughed at me and I laughed at him and we had some really fun times. He introduced me to some people and I met Aewon only when we shot the music video.”

Before Ryki signed to Universal Music in 2015, her goal had been to take a gap year to study production so that she could produce her own music. The plan was derailed when she saw a post on Facebook where someone was asking for a vocalist to contribute to his songs. She jumped at the opportunity and wrote and recorded four songs for him. That producer had a contract at Universal so he sent the songs there but Universal showed no interest in the production, instead it inquired about the talented young vocalist.

Ryki was initially suspicious when she received an email from the label, but soon afterwards she was interviewed and signed up on her 18th birthday. “It’s pushed me to a limit where I can say: ‘I have to grow now there’s no time to sit and feel sorry for yourself.’ It feels good to know that I’m for it. It’s been a challenge, but it’s been good for my soul.”