Review: ‘Another Style’ by Kaestyle

In many ways, 2024 is proving to be Kaestyle’s moment

It’s pretty much common knowledge that Port Harcourt lies at the heart of Nigerian pop music. Just as the city’s cultural make-up reflects an array of  residents who have come from across the breadth of the country, its musical heritage similarly defies stringent classification, pulling influences from Hip-hop, Soul, and Jazz. This ethos of fluid experimentation and  astute genre-bending is evident in the work of Port Harcourt greats like Duncan Mighty, Burna Boy, and, more recently, Omah Lay.  2024 is shaping up to be the year when another Port Harcourt export takes off thanks to the exploits of rising star, Kaestyle. 

Although he sits in the lineage of Port Harcourt’s musical evolution thanks to his use of the seaside city’s colorful slangs and euphemisms, Kaestyle is very much his own artist thanks to an inimitable style that blends bluesy singing with a delicate, lived-in style of songwriting that channels his emotions and feelings on a range of issues. Since he made his introduction to mainstream audience a with 2022’s “True Love,” a soul-inflected reflection on romance that featured Victony, the KeyQaad-signed singer has been inching towards the moment when his internal turmoil would match the never-ending theater that being young and alive in Nigeria represents. 

In many ways, 2024 is proving to be Kaestyle’s moment. In a year when escapism – or even just the allure of it – has been the defining theme for young Nigerians dealing with the crushing effect of a terrible economy, Kaestyle’s voice has risen to the forefront of many listeners’ consciousness. His breakout song,  “My Dealer,” has surged to popularity as both an ode to the state of the country and a call to action to cop some of the weed that many young Nigerians are turning to in a bid to deal with the relentless anxieties triggered by economic uncertainties. In the world that Keastyle and Omah Lay construct over plucky drums and twinkling piano keys, a dealer is a link to the bliss that being high confers, even if only momentarily. 

The momentum of  “My Dealer” has paved the way for ‘Another Style,’ a new project for Kaestyle as he continues to be the architect of his own narrative. Less structurally dense than ‘Asylum,’ last year’s collaborative tape with fellow Port Harcourt native LeriQ, ‘Another Style’ is steeped in traditional afropop influences that are less a recalibration of Kaestyle’s emotive R&B-influenced style, than they are building blocks for a more expansive take on his sound. Opener, “Gin & Juice,” takes influence for its blistering flow from Hip-hop as the singer bigs up his credentials from Port Harcourt to Ikate, an enclave in Lagos’ widely popular Lekki axis. It’s the sort of uber-confident line that the singer would not have said out loud only a year ago. Keastyle has a particular vision for his songs and it’s easy to notice his appreciation for sounds from the way the instrumental for “Kaestyle” switches between gritty boom-bap stretches to interludes punctuated by twinkling keys. 

Fellow Keyqaad signee, M3LON, joins for a dedication to living in the moment on “Que Sera Sera.” It’s the song that most mirrors the style that Kaestyle patented upon his debut in 2022 with ‘Kae’s Study.’ The aesthetic is low-lit and it has a stripped-down vibe that heavily signals the inevitability of fate that the song is about. “You can’t take my shit from me / You can’t change my destiny,” Kaestyle soulfully sings about his journey. Beaming in with a verse delivered in English, pidgin, and Yoruba,  M3LON stays on theme, recounting the cost of pursuing his dreams of musical stardom and all that comes with it.  

While drill took a foothold in Ghana courtesy of Kumasi’s gritty Asakaa boys, the scuzzy Chicago-pioneered Hip-hop offshoot didn’t really take in the Nigerian mainstream with the exception of a few singles. However, “Egberi,” the most inventive song on ‘Another Style,’ takes a huge slice of inspiration from drill with some highlife influences as well. Typical drill songs are explosive affairs but things are dialed down on “Egberi” for a somewhat muted version that plays up the melodies at the core of Kaestyle’s work that’s so potent, even a cameo from Atlanta singer and songwriter, 6LACK, cannot outshine it. It has all the hallmarks of a star coming into his elements. 

A sense of predestined success is a key part of what makes Afropop tick. Some of the genre’s biggest stars wholly believe in their status as miracles unto themselves and their loved ones. Kaestyle’s years navigating the Nigerian music industry have clearly imbued him with some of that mythos as well. ‘Another Style’ ends on a self-confident note with “God Sent,” a far cry from the pensive uncertainty of last year’s “Ugly Truth.” On “God Sent,” an orchestral-inspired scorcher, the Port Harcourt native is blunt and forthright about his purpose, “Say na me God send to take my people out of poverty,” he solemnly opens the tracks. It’s a powerful moment of self-realization that both ties into the urgency propelling his new work, and is a window into the mind of a singer eager to forge a reputation for himself and add his name to the storied musical legacy of his hometown.

Listen to Kaestyle’s ‘Another Style’