Staying true to our mission reshape the face of African popular culture, The NATIVE team curates a monthly list to spotlight the best and most exciting new artists on the continent. Some of these artists have dropped songs to some regional acclaim, while others are brand new on the block, working towards their first big break. Tune in to what’s next. Click here for September’s Fresh Meat.
Last month, due to the civil unrest throughout Nigeria, we were unable to present our picks of the best new artist of October. After a full month filled with sober reflection of the injustices we face as African citizens. Whilst in Nigeria we were calling out for the end of police brutality, the women of Namibia were standing up against gender-based violence, our brothers and sisters in The Congo were fighting against the poor government and exploitation of young citizens.
This month, however, even though nothing has changed, we’re getting back into the groove of things and music is starting to sound better again. Of course, new artists from all over the globe have been holding it down as usual, and the artists all over Africa haven’t disappointed.
This month, before the nightmare of 2020 comes to an end, we’ve scoured all corners of the Internet for all the music we may have missed throughout the year. With a mix of artists who have been in the game for a few years, to people who have made their debut only a few weeks ago, here’s our pick of the best new artists this month.
In late October 2019, South African singer Marcus Harvey made his official debut with “Mosadi”, a booming, electro-r&b song where his raw voice was the main draw, amidst the delightfully icy layers of sound crafted by KaeB. Having cut his teeth with open mic showcases, Marcus’ impressive debut outing indicated an artist already several steps deep into the developmental stage of his craft. The same conviction in his nascent abilities carries into his sophomore collaboration with KaeB, “Sweet Seduction”, singing in a spectral, sensuous vocal tone over a jazzy hip-hop instrumental.
Capitalising on the growing interest generated by these confident showings, Marcus released his debut album, ‘I Am Marcus Harvey: You Don’t Know Me Yet’, in April, led off by the lilting lead single, “Find Your Love”. Marcus’ debut LP is a function of an omnivorous sonic palette and his unflinching dedication to expressing himself openly, unifying into a resounding statement from an artist still finding himself, much in the same the album subtitle motions towards the audience. The opener, “Areyeng” leans into languid tribal folk, as he sings of the zeal required to press on, while paying homage to the women who raised him. On the closer, “Let It Burn”, Marcus rolls his anxieties into hydroponic buds and puffs them out over a sparse reggae groove.
The major portion of the 11-track album is defined by romantic concerns, with Marcus mostly singing enthusiastically about the highs of mutual parties falling into one another. “I believe that what we have is so special/girl, you so precious/what’s your desires?” he sings atop the slightly off-kilter hip-hop drums of “Walk N Talk”, symbolic of the plaintive writing embedded in the project. Sometimes, it can veer towards cheesy, but Marcus’ voice—which can trail into a slinky falsetto and swing into bouncy, rap-adjacent cadence—helps to bolster his developing lyricism. Although unified by a recognisable ambience, ‘I Am Marcus Harvey’ pulls in a variety of influences from neo-soul, outré folk, electro-soul and the ‘90s flavour of r&b pioneered by Timbaland, culminating in a bricolage of sounds that adds colour, several textures, and teases out the expanse of Marcus’ voice.
Since the release of his debut and the support it has accumulated from an increasing pack of supporters, Marcus has scored several major co-signs, appearing as Apple Music’s spotlight rising artist in June, and he was part of a recent Adidas campaign. Fat Joe, The Game and Monte Booker are amongst high profile names the singer’s music has captivated; collaborations with these artists even seems very likely. It’s difficult to term Marcus’ breakout as meteoric, especially considering that we’re in a time when the Internet makes superstars within moments, however, the strides he’s achieved in just over a year since his debut are impressive. The best part is, he’s figuring it out right in front of a growing audience, a sign that he’s interested in strapping for the long ride.
Two weeks ago, Amaarae released her much-anticipated but album, The Angel You Don’t Know. The takeaways from the album were innumerable, but arguably the most invaluable finding was our discovering of the rising Ghanaian singer, Moliy, who seamlessly assisted Amaarae and starred on standout tracks, “FEEL A WAY” and “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY” respectively.
This alliance was almost indistinguishable; Moliy expertly moulded herself into a twin flame for Amaarae’s uniquely enticing vocal technique, but that did not, by any means mean Moliy’s own sonic identity was lost. Matching Amaarae’s high pitched vocals, Moliy’s performances on TAYDK complement her host’s American accents with Ghanaian intonations that invite the local soundscape onto the celestial tracks with more attentive singing practices. Envious singing abilities and an afro-pop tongue are what you’ll find on Moliy’s debut EP, Wondergirl. You’ll also find all the songs she’s ever put out on that project, ironically (though not unprecedentedly) ending with her first discoverable single, “Jonny”.
A typical laid-back, slow-paced afropop number, “Jonny” was a strong start from the 22-year old Molly Ama Montgomery, who made the debut last December. A reasonable introduction to Moliy, in this respect, “Jonny” doesn’t quite compare to its preceding track, “Ghana Bop”, which sees Moliy singing and rapping over a dynamic beat, whilst putting her home on the map. Repping Ghana worldwide which is one of Moliy’s professional goals, the second is to empower and support women working within the male-dominated music industry, as she knows all too well of its androcentric difficulties. After a bar of Latin-inspired strings, “Ghana Bop” begins with Moliy proclaiming, “everything I do, I’m killing it,” in a spoken rap cadence that she later swaps out for more melodic bars, expected considering her singing talents. Full of pop music quips such as, “now you mad over me Runtown, I dey do bad girl Rih man down”, Moliy’s lyricism, her dexterity and her vocal skills are all on show on this laid-back yet dance-inducing number.
As a true Gen-Zer, Moliy is not confined by four walls belonging to one style or genre. Though she does have a pop-leaning forte, as “Ghana Bop” and her featured appearances (on TAYDK and “Medellin” by Fresh Meat alum, Hermez) reveal, Moliy will eat up anything that is put in front of her. Her versatility is palpable not only in her small but mighty discography so far, but also in her lyricism and subject matter. A keen fan of romance novels and poetry – which has helped refine her writing skills – of course, Moliy knows how to deliver a love-inclined tune; but she also has much more to offer her ever-growing number of listeners. On Wondergirl alone, Moliy is longing for love, stirring up the party and fondly recalling her high. Aptly titled “Loud”, this fitting intro informs listeners of the state of mind they should be in to enjoy Moliy music. Whether it’s the blunt, “four, five shots in a row,” or another substance of your choice, Moliy promises to take you even higher.
Deshinor is not your typical Fresh Meat, given that he’s been in the music scene for quite some time, marking over five impressive years in the game so far. His career has been more of a slow burner with a handful of loose singles under his belt landing the artist the 2017 Nigerian Entertainment award for Most Promising Act to Watch. But Deshinor’s career began to truly blossom when he went through some personal growth, and came into a more well-rounded view of his sound. It’s his debut project ‘Desh the EP’, released earlier this month that cements the Nigerian-born artist as a formidable vocalist and songwriter.
On the 7-track project, Deshinor paints the picture of a colourful, infectious, and musically varied body of work that showcases his stellar penmanship and his mastery at sounding off honeyed-toned words of affection for the object of his desire. The album opener “Adura” is a soft-sounding ballad that incorporates acoustic strings and vivid percussive patterns creating a rich, soulful atmosphere. Deshinor sings praises to God and his woman, thanking both of them for standing by his side through all the tribulations for all these years. After graciously welcoming us into his world, things begin to pick up steam on the Runtinz-produced single “Pemi” where Deshinor dips into his romantic bag. Listening to the record, you can tell this is where Deshinor feels his most confident, chanting off romantic lyrics with the intention to score the attention of the woman of his dreams. And there are fewer lines as romantic as a love interest serenading their lover with lines such as “if you need somebody to fight for you, I go slap soldier” and Deshinor clearly knows that.
“Gawu”, on the other hand, is afropop at its core, infectiously catchy and likely to have you busting your best zanku on the dancefloor. Couched between percussion and deletable drum patterns, Deshinor turns his affection back to what’s familiar–women. He’s is clearly unafraid of letting his desires and affections known, and he uses many of the songs on this project to show off this romantic side of him. “Fade” is perhaps the album’s centrepiece, where we see the artist singing over pop-tinged production about a love interest. Deshinor is on his best form, digging into the frustrating romantic moments of his life to produce a number that is equal parts pensive and sanguine. The song’s production provides the backdrop for his message: he promises to give all of himself towards this love and only asks that the feelings be reciprocated from Fade.
On the album’s final track “Ire”, Deshinor rounds things off with a final glance at the past life he is leaving behind, as he steps into a new phase of his life. He sings “make my sounds dey blow/make the money pile high high” succinctly surmising his intentions for wanting to make it big in the music industry. It’s clear that the artist is not merely wishful thinking but making a concerted effort to do the work and actualise his visions. His contribution to Laycon’s latest single, “Hip Hop”, has been felt in waves, given that the song consistently maintains a spot in the Top 50 songs on the official Turntable charts, placing the singer in the limelight. We will no doubt get more jams to enjoy from Deshinor. Watch this space.
Sipho the Gift
Sipho the Gift has been dreaming of his life as a rapper since he was seven years old. A diligent student of the works of Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent, and South African legends like Skwatta Kamp, Khuli Chana, and more, Sipho the Gift constantly fine-tuned his craft until he was ready to invite listeners into his world. But now his world has grown into a carefully mapped out sonic universe where he audaciously explores his feelings, thoughts, and fears without any drawback.
Now well-armed with three EP’s and two full-length albums, it’s clear that Sipho the Great is as hardworking and conscientious as they come. The rapper/producer has been operating within the South African music scene since 2015 when he released his debut self-produced mixtape ‘Coming of Age’ at the age of twenty-one, the decisive genesis for his brand of introspective rap infused with alternative and melodic elements. Two years later, he followed this up with the 6-track sophomore EP ‘Kintsgui’, an introspective project which put his darker thoughts on full display and unearthed his penchant for vivid storytelling. Each new body of work is akin to discovering a newer, well-refined side of the artist who clearly has command and understanding of his psyche and translates this graciously in song.
Regardless of the beat, Sipho the Gift effortlessly glides across it, taking no prisoners as he decimates his contemporaries and shows off his lyrical chops. His sophomore album, 2019’s ‘iNDiGO’ is home to some of his most introspective work to date. He has conversations with himself on the beat, switching from existential questions on “YOuNG AND LAZY” featuring Lucille Slade to comparing himself to late political figure “MANSA MUSA”, contemplating father-son relationships on “A FATHERS LOVE” and skittishly glides over a drill beat on “BOY” as he hurls out relentless raw raps. Throughout the project, he never fails to remind listeners of his roots, the album is bookended with snippets of his native tongue and pidgin at other moments, grounding the work in his South African heritage.
This year, Sipho the Gift continues to expand his arsenal releasing a string of singles and contributing guest features to artists of his ilk. It’s no surprise that this year, the rapper/producer linked up with our Issue 004 Trybe album, Psycho YP for a bouncy new single titled “ON MY JOB” which sees both artists feeding into each other’s flashy, trash-talking bars. Their synergy is impeccable, as they list off profane boasts with ease over a frenzy of bass and hi-hats. “They fucking with me like it’s Diddy in his prime” Sipho boasts, his bars audibly cocky, though with his impeccable pen, it’s hard to imagine him not getting brash. Earlier this year, Sipho the Gift also released his third EP ‘Bloom’ earlier in the summer, as a way of soundtracking his growth so far. In a recent interview, the artist shared “I’m at a stage where I can masterfully dictate my sound and express my thoughts and I love it. It’s a celebration of my growth artistically, gratitude for everything that’s brought me here, and a statement of my future intentions: keep growing and refining.” From the masterful grasp of his cadence and structure on the project to the rapid-fire verses, it’s clear that Sipho the Gift is here for a long time. Give him his flowers now.
In the 90s, heartfelt confessional songs were the hallmark of r&b music. These days, that vulnerability seems to have been replaced by disrespectful and flashy lyrics in our current hip-hop and dancehall dominated music space. However, artists like Tems and Odunsi who are radically rewriting the sound of Nigerian mainstream music with their charting r&b songs confirming that expressing sensitive emotions isn’t completely out of fashion.
Though Victor Dagogo (AKA Yellw) is from Nigeria, a country that seems like it raises its GDP via dancefloor-filling music, he doesn’t shy from making hyper-emotional songs about his yearning for love. In 2018, he shared some snippets of himself singing on his Instagram, yet, kept his face hidden because he wasn’t quite comfortable with showcasing his singing face yet. The snippets which are still accessible via his Instagram account, indicate that like the serene yellow sunflowers that inspired his stage name, Yellw’s voice evokes passionate sentiments from listeners with meaningful and distinct lyrics as he sings over acoustic instrumentals that let his voice take centre stage. The post was met with positive feedback about his meticulous attention to acoustic sounds and his lush voice that transformed heartbreak into wistful bliss as while narrating his relatable tale of romance.
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Yellw eventually released “Tell Me”, his official debut single the following year, 2019 and proved that the heartfelt sentiments of the 90s era of r&b still remains today as he turned the lens on himself and excoriate the deepest recess of his mind, offering listeners catharsis in the process. Singing “You gotta tell me/ is this real or fantasy”, the song questioned why anyone would love him knowing how unattractive he can be and it established him as a bonafide voice for this generation, tortured by our search for something real in the superficiality that characterises our lives.
He has now shared his debut tape, ‘Wishful Thinking’, offering four wholesome R&B tracks that narrate his relationship woes. The opening track, “Hello” is an instant classic of telecommunications-themed romance, and in the vein of every love song previously featuring a telephone, the chilling dial-tone of his lover’s answering machine provides context for the melancholic mood he sustains through most of the tape. On the next track, “Stay”, we hear him pleading with his lover to stay with him forever before he then goes the risqué route on the 3rd track, “Can We ?”, where he channels his romantic passion to perform a lustful tribute to his muse.
Yellw’s newly released EP introduces him as a singer returning to the dark halls of r&b and finding himself in the process. With each track, he delivers hushed bedroom confessions that take each component of r&b to its most-felt heights— he explored the genre’s sly seduction on “Can We ?”, was unapologetic blunt on “Stay” and grieved for lost love on “Want This”. He told us at NATIVE that for him, recording these songs was a way for him to escape from his struggle with his identity, relationships and toxic traits, hence the title, Wishful Thinking. And with his earnestly expressive songwriting, acoustic production and dreamy vocals, it’s a conversation shifting tape that earmarks the singer as one to watch.
Although Vader dropped his debut project, ‘King of the Night’ on SoundCloud in 2017 (a generation ago in internet time), he still remains on the cusp of breaking out to the mainstream. This hasn’t kept him from releasing new music for fans who have continued to show cult-like support for Vader’s music.
Vader mostly performs as a rapper, but he has shown that he’s also an accomplished singer who can hold a note on tracks like “Missing You”. He recently shared a new EP, ‘Stars Die, Knights Don’t’, extending his volatile instincts through the angsty 7-track tape that blurs the lines between trap and afropop to create a cohesive sound that genuinely radical, but also polarising. Though the beats were inevitably influenced by hip-hop, the songs weren’t bound to it. On the afropop-influenced track, “Farawe” for instance, he laced the celebratory vibe of the dancehall melodies with trap productions that will turn any spot into a party.
“This for the pretty young thang that’s trying to figure out what to do”, he sang on the tape’s standout track, “Bye Nebula”, before advising listeners not to give up on their dreams. In a statement shared along with the tape’s announcement, Vader explained that the project was inspired after the events of this year made him realise he was naive for wishing he was a star. He now believes that surviving alone isn’t enough as we must fight to keep our dreams alive. This combative attitude gives the tape a brooding ambience that’s heard from the opening track, “If I Die” and still retained on the boastful tracks, “Vices” and “The Man”, where he delivers a Travis Scott-esque melodic rap performance.
The tape marks him as the latest in a linage of artists like Kida Kudz and Prettyboy DO who’ve been moving in this direction lately as they nudge the sound of afropop and hip-hop towards a middle ground. It feels natural that after a fleet of talented artists spent the 2010s reviving indigenous melodies by fusing in elements from r&b and EDM, another wave of acts would come along to transmute that decade’s aesthetic into the hip-hop sound dominating radio all over the world. His latest EP shines with immersive production that earns the tape critical acclaim. For the first time since he debuted in 2017, he seems to be reaching more people than ever before during his stint in the game.
Featured image credits/NATIVE
Words by: Adewojumi Aderemi, Dennis Ade-Peter, Debola Abimbolu & Tami Makinde