Watch Lojay & Ayra Starr in the video for “Runaway”, the lead single off the coming NATIVE Sound System album

The SOUND is here...with way more coming soon.

The Native Sound System (NSS) began three years ago among a collective of DJs who wanted to introduce the sprawling sounds of Lagos to the world. As they played around the city, communities were united through a shared love of art. A group under the NATIVE Networks, they’ve played iconic sets at our parties and have been involved in events that transverse fashion, international radio and many intersecting pockets of African youth culture worldwide.

In early 2020, NSS organised recording camps in Lagos and London, inviting established and rising artists to put their unique spin on production inspired by alternative music. The sessions from those camps form the backbone for a NATIVE Sound System album that’s been speculation for the better part of the last year. As confirmed earlier this week, the rumours are true, and the trudge towards that album is now more tangible than ever. Today sees the release of “Runaway,” the lead single which features 2021 breakout stars, Lojay and Ayra Starr.


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These days, Lojay’s “Monalisa” and his work across the Sarz-produced LV N ATTN have impressed his brilliance on Afropop audiences worldwide, but months earlier he was hungry for sounds, shredding beats in that NSS London camp. “I was going to the different rooms to hear what they were cooking and every room I enter I am hearing Lojay and I am like “who is this Lojay guy?”, recounts Seni Saraki, A&R and Executive Producer of the album. 

On his part, Lojay remembers hearing the beat and being so moved by it that he laid his verse down in about fifteen minutes. “Immediately I heard the melody, I just started recording because it felt right” he says. “I usually do not write on paper. I hear a beat and when it hits, I express myself. If I feel like I am having to put in effort I take a pause and come back to it. They sent me a new version months later and told me Ayra Starr had jumped on it.

Ayra Starr was in Lagos when the foundation of “Runaway” was sent to her. While it wasn’t initially clear where the song was going, she introduced her typical brilliance, exciting with her vocals and direction. Together they become a convincing but conflicted pair of lovers, impressing their power vocals on the distinct, shimmering production.

On the song, Ayra Starr plays the distant one, the subject of her collaborator’s persistent croonings. “I’m sending kisses through my FaceTime, cos I’m a little lonely,” Lojay sings early in the song, probing further into the mass of their conflict: “I can’t say if you’re happy, or anxiety is coursing through your veins/ tell me if you looking for some closure.”

In her scintillating verse, Ayra is defiant, singing, “I don’t know what you want from me/ I’ll run away, no stopping, you can’t tell me nothing ’bout the deeper calling.”


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“I think Lojay has this great Nigerian hustle spirit in him and Ayra is kind of the opposite,” says DJ Sholz, the song’s co-producer and one of the album’s executive producers. “She is like this pop princess, so it is this marriage between this up-and-coming hustler, and this anointed princess. Like beauty and the beast. The turning point was getting Ayra on the record; it felt like they were singing to each other. We knew then it had to be a ballad.” 

“Runaway” effectively sets up the self-titled debut album from the NATIVE Sound System, a concept affair that sonically mirrors the emotions associated with the several seasons in Nigeria—this particular single was created with the current rainy season in mind. Expected to be released sometime this year, the album aligns mainstream and alternative music in ways that haven’t been explored previously, uniting the most promising creatives for that purpose. With Monster Boyz as its executive producers, there will surely be no shortage of community-defining, fire work.

The stirring visual of “Runaway” was directed by Dafe Oburo, who wanted to explore “the fear of self and how we often run away from our true identity.” Shot in multiple locations around Lagos, it channels the poignant moods of the song, its characters expressing loneliness in scenes that possess the intensity of a feature film.

“I want NATIVE Sound System to always be a safe creative space where artists can come and try new things and take the risks to express themselves,” says Seni, “and that doesn’t mean being experimental just for the sake of it. We want to tour the album and connect with people everywhere and on a wider level we want to bring in all our products and services together.”

Listen to “Runaway” here.