Music held us down through the toughest moments in the past year. Whether it was protest anthems such as Davido’s “FEM” that held us through October’s #EndSARS movement, or the long-awaited arrival of Wizkid’s magnum opus ‘Made in Lagos’, music offered us solace and extended a friendly warm hand when life around us turned bleak.
But the truth is that there’s so much music being released at the same time that it’s perfectly normal for a number of releases to slip through the crack and completely miss your radar. To this end, we have compiled a list of under-the-radar releases that the NATIVE believes deserves more love and attention from our community. From party-ready anthems like Zinoleesky’s amapiano inspired number “Kilofeshe” to the rap girls anthem “Kno Me” that Somadina and SGaWD served up, here are 15 tracks that deserve to be on your radar. You’re welcome and Enjoy!
Somadina & SGaWD – “Kno Me”
Last year, we were calling for the release of the ultimate girl’s anthem which would cement the new vanguard of female artists staking their claim and making a name for themselves in the androcentric afropop industry. It seems that this year more collaborations between the girls will be happening because singer Somadina is dipping her toes into the deep end and serving up a collaboration that rivals everything that’s been released up to this point. Is she a singer? Is she a rapper? Even Somadina herself doesn’t know but she’s able to hold her own in the rap game, carefully assisted by SGaWD, a rapper and singer that’s been dominating conversations for the past year.
Zinoleesky – “Kilofeshe”
Zinoleesky is the man of the moment. Towards the tail end of the year, the Marlian music signee released his debut project ‘Chrome’ which offered a rounder view of his sonic world by introducing the singer as the hottest number to emerge from the streets to mainstream. “Kilofeshe” was an obvious standout from the project, offering the singer’s take on the South African amapiano sound that is coursing through the African music industry. Although we have our reservations about that (you can read about it here), there’s not that many verses harder than proclaiming “extraordinary things I’m doing, ordinary things no fit move me again”.
Masterkraft – “Hallelu” (feat. Bella Shmurda & Zlatan)
Another amapiano number on the list? You bet. Masterkraft delivered one of the most memorable party anthems of the last quarter when he recruited Bella Shmurda and Zlatan for a boisterous upbeat number titled “Hallelu”. Over the clubby drumbeat, both artists praise God for all the blessings that they have accrued over the year, with Bella Shmurda showing off his dazzling rap skills and his stellar penmanship. It’s a bonafide hit and you definitely don’t want to sleep on it any further. Now all we need is for the clubs to open up.
AYLØ – “Closure”
AYLØ has been on our radar for several years and he’s only getting better with each new release. In December, he followed up 2019’s stellar ‘Dnt’Dlt’ with ‘Clairsentience’, a 6-track r&b offering that traces romantic relationships and all their complexities. Although the wheels of the world have halted to a standstill, AYLØ is still making memorable moments with those he loves, and feigning to be in close quarters with them as he negotiates “Closure”. The standout song is brimming with truth and power and instantly relatable to anyone who’s mourning their quarantine crush.
Lolu – “TT (Tongue Twister)” (feat. adé & Mafeni)
20-year old DJ/producer, Lolu enjoys using music to tell stories and create timeless sonic experiences. His latest drop,“TT” featuring adé and Mafeni, is a mid-tempo number that perfectly embodies the popular phrase, “Problem no dey finish so we just dey vibe”. Capturing the nihilism and hedonism of the ‘detty’ December holidays, “TT” comforts listeners and tells them to let go of their worries and let the good vibes take over for the moment. If you’re looking for a bit of escape this January, this is the song for you.
Mukhy & Glitch – “Julie”
Afropop is replete with love songs certain to mirror similar romantic trysts in your life and Mukhy’s latest single “Julie” is no exception to this. Though he’s a new kid on the block, having left his day job in the UK to pursue a music career in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mukhy is set to showcase his musical abilities now more than ever before. For his latest offering “Julie”, Mukhy collaborates with afropop singer, Glitch to produce a number that embodies a fun-filled feel-good melody built on heavy references and features loads of feel-good energy.
Nu Baby – “Two For You”
After making his mark on the scene last year with his stunning rendition of “Cover You”, a wonderful single that featured fast-rising singer, Buju, afropop singer, Nu Baby is out to make this year his most memorable yet. His latest offering “Two For You”, a two-pack release that delivers groovy productions with atmospheric vocals, and infectious melodic elements is built for playlists that take listeners from the house to the club and back. “Two For You” will capture anyone’s attention and will leave people wanting more. Let his message-heavy lyricism and wordplay will take listeners on a musical journey.
Olayinka Ehi – “This is a love song”
Last year, Olayinka Ehi finally started to get more recognition for her enchanting voice and enviable expressive range as she put out impressive singles and got enlisted for notable collaborations with artists like Adekunle Gold and Whoisakin. Her growing buzz saw her experimented with dance-pop on “Shake”, however, she closed the year with “This Is A Love Song”, a return to the intimate sound of soulful R&B. Her lyrics, seesawing between breezy nonchalance and bluesy hurt, expresses dissatisfaction with a romantic partner over melancholic organ harmonies. Though the sombre melodies and narration of her relationship woes are strikingly low-spirited for a song titled, “This is A Love Song”, her depiction of love as something that needs to be worked on is sure to strike a nerve with people seeking catharsis for their romantic struggles.
Samthing Soweto – “The Danko! Medley” Feat. Mzansi Choir
Samthing Soweto’s 2019 debut album, ‘Isphithiphithi’, completed his renaissance from outlier to pop superstar, snagging a platinum certification and winning multiple awards at last year’s South African Music Awards. To close 2020, the South African singer-songwriter shared a surprise EP, ‘Danko!’, almost exclusively continuing to showcase his amapiano prowess over the course of six songs. For closing track “The Danko! Medley”, however, he linked up with the Mzansi Choir to create an a capella mash-up of songs of the EP, as well as a reworks his smash single, “Akulaleki” featuring Shasha, DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small. The song plays out as a nostalgic throwback for Samthing Soweto fans who have been following his progress from back when he started as a member of the with a capella band, The Soil.
Rindss and Beezyx – “Gymnast”
Nigerian based producer, Beezyx teamed up with Rindss for a joint tape, ‘Descente’ last December. Though the 5-track tape offered a delightful mix of sultry R&B and afropop that can soundtrack the ride back home from the night at the club, it never got the attention it really deserved. Fortunately, one of the standout tracks, “Gymnast” has legs to sustain it well into the new year as Beezyx crafts a laidback groove for Rindss’ sensual singing addressed at a love interest. “I’m going to dance cause you’re my only fan, baby”, she sings seductively, while her voice intertwines with Beezyx’s gentle percussions. The two were first partnered up on the impressive single, “Wicked Kitty” which also featured contributions from Yinka Oshodi, Mimz and SGaWD. However, their performance on “Gynnast” shows they can be just as compelling as a duo.
Jola Bello – “789”
Jola Bello has continued to share new music since she first debuted with “For You” in 2019. Last year, she contributed an impressive performance on “Connection”, one of the standout tracks from the WeTalkSound collective’s ‘LOFN 3’ series before closing the year with her latest single, “789”. The charming new song is another romantic addition to her growing catalogue of heartfelt bops as she expressed her romantic feelings for her muse and encouraged him to make his move on her; “Boy you know you’ve got my attention/ Baby save me, you’re my redemption”. “789” was produced by Wizad who sets the song to a lightweight highlife groove which Jola Bello rides expertly as she delivers catchy melodies and adorable lyrics detailing her hearty feelings.
Picazo – “Pain”
Picazo broke out into the Nigerian mainstream music scene as an indigenous rapper with the enviable cosign from Olamide. Although he hasn’t had the most successful run like fans anticipated, it’s not for lack of effort or talent. His latest single, “Pain” released at the end of 2020, showcases his impressive ability to adapt his sound to fit the latest trend of Afro-house that is currently dominating dance floors around the continent. The synth-heavy production for “Pain” was made by Zaki Magic and it avoids the generic amapiano sound, opting instead for trance-inducing harmonies. Picaso’s finely tuned singing vocals and the dazzling production give the song narrating the turmoils of relationships an immersive quality we aren’t used to getting from dance-driven bops.
Saint Bond – “Free” Feat Cuppy
Saint Bond is the producer responsible for creatively directing DJ Cuppy’s debut tape, ‘Original Cuppy’. Although he’s still a relatively new name in the music scene, he has kept pushing the boundaries for Nigerian music with his latest single, “Free”, emerging as one of the songs picked to feature on SoundCloud and Pharrell’s i am OTHER collective’s collaborative tape, ‘SoundCloud Presents: iamOTHER, Vol. 2’. The tape which serves as a platform to spotlight and support upcoming artists was focused on empowerment, unity and speaking up about racial injustice and Bond’s “Free” was selected among the 10 tracks on the tape. He produced a euphoric beat for “Free”, hybridizing highlife guitar riffs and EDM synth harmonies to make the catchy baseline while he sang “Police go stop us/ they wan control us/ The tryna’ hold us down/ together we’re stronger” over the groovy instrumentals with tender elation. It’s the kind of motivational song we don’t hear enough of these days as he encouraged listeners to unite in the fight against oppressive police systems.
Darassa – “Proud of You” Feat. Alikiba
Tanzanian rapper, Darassa shared “Proud of You”, featuring Alikiba last year as one of the tracks from his motivational album, ‘Slave Becomes A King’. The song has now gotten a befitting video that shows the East African pair as they perform the song celebrating their love interests and enjoy a good time, partying by the pool.
Mohbad – “Sorry”
Although Mohbad is yet to become a household name in the Nigerian music scene, he is already heading to be counted amongst Nigeria’s hitmakers. He contributed the vocals heard on Rexxie’s “KPK”, one of the biggest songs in Nigeria at the moment. He also put out an impressive 8-track tape, ‘Light’, showcasing his storytelling ability and melodic Yoruba-inclined vocals. On the tape’s opening track, “Sorry”, Mohbad narrated a familiar tale of struggle we often hear from street-raised artists who grew up in poverty and learned to hustle and scam for their survival. Singing “My brothers are hungry/ Daddy gather money make I go poly/ I go poly but I no go class/ Daddy, I am sorry”, the song finds him acknowledging his own faults in the way his life turned out but we with his Yoruba-tinged delivery, we can still hear the cocky swagger of a street mogul in his voice.
Runtown – “If E Happen For Lagos”
Lagos is the entertainment capital of Nigeria so it’s not surprising that we often get songs dedicated to the city. However, Runtown’s new single is less flattering than most as he highlights the hardship Nigerians face in the city; “If you no know biggie man, you never know person”. Singing over the breezy Afrobeat production done by Mystro, “If E No Happen For Lagos” is laidback and primed for dance floors, never mind the thought-provoking lyrics about Nigerians leaving the country to avoid the hardship brought on by bad governance. However, that’s the beauty of the song as the deceptively catchy melodies lull listeners to dance despite the gloomy lyrics.
Words by Tami Makinde & Debola Abimbolu