Songs Of The Day: New Music From Phyno, Rowlene, Johnny Drille & More
another Friday, another torrent of exciting new music
another Friday, another torrent of exciting new music
2022 is winding down, and it’s been an eventful year for Afropop. There’s been a torrent of great new music, spawning a massive stack of inventive smash-hit songs. From Highlife-infused Ghanaian pop, to the unrelenting force that is Nigerian street-pop to South Africa’s indomitable Dance scene, to tantalising Drill explorations in East and Central Africa, and much, much more, we’re living through abundant and musically expansive times.
Every week, many songs from African artists make their way to digital streaming platforms, and wading through them can be intense. That’s where The NATIVE’s Songs of the Day column comes in to help. We go through as many new releases as possible, spotlighting them here, two to three times every week. Today, enjoy new music from Wizkid, Yemi Alade, The Kazez, Lil kesh and more. Lock in!
Collaborations offers fitting in-roads to explore fresh sounds and Psycho YP knows this all too well. The revered Abuja-based rapper has embodied that ethos all through his career, and his latest single toes a similar path. “Stronger” is a colourful bop with energetic performer Zlatan, and alongside his visceral delivery and humorous adlibs, YP’s cool flow provides a fitting antithesis which embeds an array of vibes on the record.
For those who’ve noticed, Nigerian singer Yemi Alade has been extending her relevant genres all year long. Where she’s typically delivered dance-ready bops on heavily percussive backdrops, she’s now leaning into Caribbean sonics. Earlier this year, her collaboration with Dancehall legend Spice gave an indication of that new direction and she sticks to it on her latest record. “Baddie” demonstrates Yemi’s endearing hang on the genre, exciting with Patois-dented flows layered over the zesty, synth-heavy beat. Quite peaked to hear the project that results from this fine run of electric records.
As part of Spotify’s Singles Cover, the enigmatic Cruel Santino unveils a new record. His first since the immersive, intergalactic ‘Subaru Boys,’ the attendant psychedelia follows through on “Omoge Wa Jo”. Electric movements are employed by Santi as he flits between subjects with a deliberately distracted air, using one liners and softly-sung refrains to fill in the spaces created by the bouncy alt-rock drums and Disco-esque keys. Lola’s svelte vocals colour the song’s latter parts, while the visuals perfectly translates its playful and upbeat direction.
Tender folk-inspired music formed the first phase of Johnny Drille’s music, but the Edo-bred musician and producer has entered broader plains in recent times. Last year’s debut album ‘Before We Fall Asleep’ was indicative of his growth, combining an array of genres which set an amorphous path for him going forward. On his new EP ‘Home,’ the honey-toned artist captured pop sensibilities in a way he’s seldom done before, placing collaborations with The Cavemen, Phyno, Don Jazzy and Adekunle Gold side-by-side with his alternative roots. “Jumoke” is the most pop-leaning record on the tape, bursting with colourful drums and some of JD’s most catchy affirmations yet.
For years now, Cina Soul has been one of the more ingenious artists operating in the Ghanaian music scene. Blending folk and R&B, she’s emerged with a sound as old as it is new, building its own rhythms and capturing lovers of a certain vibe. Camidoh shares the same qualities, even if he’s more pop-attuned than Soul. On “Waiting” however, both artists combine for a refreshing duet. The tension of being disillusioned in a relationship provides the emotion to their vocals, which the luminous production gracefully carries.
uNder alums The Kazez have just shared a new release titled ‘2nd Pair.’ Of the two songs, the Oladapo-assisted “Stallion” has more hit potential, carrying on the vibrant movements of Amapiano-tinged production and the musicians’ accomplished singing. With a cache of bad boy lyrics folded into the sultry nuances of the Yoruba language, the record has the sort of energy you’d want to come across going into a new weekend. Plus there’s an assortment of spiritual-esque chants forming the backdrop, imbibing several layers on the record.
2022 has seen Dance music enter more purposefully into global music conversations, and another groundbreaking moment has been put in front of us. On this stacked record, revered UK Dance producer Riton and Amapiano stalwarts Major League Djz provide the magnetic production for King Promise and Clementine Douglas to shine over. “Chale” captures the communal energy that makes Dance so enjoyable across cultures, bouncing with summery groove amplified by the chants on the chorus.
While Phyno is more revered for his rap skills, the Enugu-bred musician has also delivered some of the most striking anthems Afropop has ever heard. From “Alobam” to “Kush Music” and “Highway,” he’s mastered the art of pulling an entire demography into his sonic world. His latest release plays to the sped-up Amapiano direction of the Kaywise collaboration, but this time Phyno goes the solo route. “BBO” sees him in stellar, razor-sharp form, unfurling innuendos with the cheeky Igbo expressions he’s known for. A well-crafted hook with a fine supply of crowd vocals also hints at this record becoming a very big hit song, especially in Nigeria’s southeast and internationally.
In the past few years, we have seen more musicians from this side embrace the auteur role in their music. They produce, sing/rap, and control their visual interpretation. Abuja-bred Bloody Civilian is cut from this ilk, and it’s audible in her music. “How To Kill A Man” is her debut single, and goes the eccentric path with full drums and edgy lyricism, quite emo in her direction. It’s however refreshing how lived-in her songwriting is, subverting the title and complementing the bold flourishes of the sound.
Talented South African singer Rowlene embodies the bubbling influence of R&B in its music scene. Having delivered on several hit records and deep cuts over the years, her name is pretty much synonymous with luscious, evocative soul-stringing music. “Only” reinforces those abilities, but this time she’s joined by a similarly soulful musician in the person of WurlD. Together they wrap warm melodies around the slow burn of its production as they promise unending faithfulness to a lover.
Queer manifestations and discourses of sexuality has provided the music of Nakhane with eclectic pomp. With varying psychedelia influences, their songs have the ability to suck you into an immersive, sweaty world. “Do You Well” combines those qualities with the famed art pop style of Perfume Genius, emerging with a brilliant, effervescent record that wields the life-spinning force of an epic. “Stay in the light, so I can see your face,” they repeatedly sing over disco-tinged bursts, following a dramatic sequence that is beautifully reflected by the poignant visuals.
Otherwise known as the Prince of Anambra, the music of Royal Ezenwa combines vibrant nearby influences and those from around the world, emerging with a distinct take on his Afro Fusion sound. His latest project is titled after himself and features exciting Afropop talents BNXN, Oxlade and Boy Turn3r. On this mid-tempo standout, Ezenwa however goes the solo route. “Balanci” toes the contemporary path, combining colourful percussions with the lamba-streaked lyrics of Ezenwa. If you’re a fan of that tropical ‘Made in Lagos’ vibe, you’ll want to check this out.
Produced by the accomplished duo of Spax and TUC, “No Religion” brings to life the urgent, introspective thoughts of ShineTTW. The set mood is ambient but with splashes of groove that doesn’t fully come alive, but rather brings another layer to the record. On his part, the musician evokes vivid images of a gritty reality, connecting the personal travails in his trajectory with the larger motions of a community. “I’m in the land of no religion,” he sings admittedly in the hook, hoping that his sins are forgiven.