New Music Friday: New Projects from Bongeziwe Mabandla, Dwin, The Stoic, A-Q & More

A packed day for must-hear projects across Africa

In a singles-dominated market, putting out projects feels like an act of faith. Faith in the attention span of the contemporary human mind, but also in the expansive vision of projects, the linkage of different parts to create an immersive experience. As such, projects are highly celebrated by the NATIVE Mag and that’s what New Music Friday embodies. Being the prime date for new music releases across the Afropop soundscape, it’s only right we launch you into a befitting weekend, carried on the distinct, complex thrills of the albums and EPs that’s been put out. On this week’s New Music Friday, we have collated projects from around the continent, each boasting sounds that are bound to keep you sonically alert. 


As you can tell by now, NATIVE Mag loves the music of Bongeziwe Mabandla. For months, we’ve counted down to the South African musician’s fourth album, the grand ‘amaXesha’ which translates as ‘The Times’.  A soulful encapsulation of the breathless emotions Bongeziwe has evoked since his decade-plus presence in the scene, it’s a masterful reconstruction of Xhosa folk. The contemporary radiance of electro flourishes meets his spirited vocals with epic intent, progressively taking the listener through every song, so the tape plays out like a collection of evocative movie scenes reaching the crescendo of its final moment. With the COLORS-released “sisahleleleni (i)” starting out the album, potential listeners already have an inkling as to its atmospheric quality. 


Better late than never is a saying familiar to many, but few careers embody that like A-Q’s. Having began releasing music officially in the mid 2000s, the rapper hit the peak of his artistry just before the 2020s, going on an unprecedented run that was largely fuelled by the production genius of the late Beats By Jayy. The joint-album ‘Crown’ with Loose Kaynon among that run, Q’s position at the zenith of Nigerian rap lyricism was solidified by ‘God’s Engineering’, which became arguably his best album. With introspective, cutting raps stitched over elegiac beats, he unfurled personal demons while taking stock of the world around him. ‘God’s Engineering 2’ continues on that path, adding the glitter of pop flourishes around the hardcore pyrotechnics of A-Q. The result is an essential rap album.


The Lagos music scene is one abuzz with talents, but over time, we’ve seen that the ones more likely to break through are those with a unique grasp on social conditions. Over the years, the musician known as YKB has worked towards perfecting that quality in his art, merging the details of his personal life onto the grander palette of a city that seems at odds with itself. ‘YUSFUL MUSIC’ is the latest iteration of that experiment; in five soulful, related tracks, he charts the seas of the internal and external with heartfelt brilliance, inching closer to that mainstream ubiquity that has been looming around for a while now. Read YKB’s track-by-track breakdown of the EP. 


Consistency and experimentation is the watchword for Nigerian act Oyedele. On his latest EP ‘Irawo,’ the rapper merges traditional Nigerian music with modern sounds to create unique experiences. “Irawo is actually my most personal project,” he says. “In crevices of sound and cadence, there are personal imprints all over the project— it marks a particular period in my life.” Oyedele’s aim for the project is to “push boundaries with music,” and that aim manifests ‘Irawo,’ “from featured artists, to producer, mix mastering engineer, to designer, to set designer, photographer and all.”


Last year when NATIVE Mag profiled Dwin, The Stoic, the artist was excited to reveal his expanding grasp on popular sounds. His ‘Love Lane’ EP, he said, would challenge expectations of his oft-categorised ‘alternative music’, and after following up with some singles, the referenced project is finally here. As promised, ‘Love Lane’ is a kaleidoscope of sounds, presenting Dwin’s signature melancholic direction in new light, and his writing pushing unbounded into new thematic terrains. For lovers of sensitivity and the constant search for a fuller existence, this is a must-listen. 


Over the years, Tena Tenpo has established a name as one of the most avant-garde artists out of Nigeria. Orbiting sonic lanes around R&B, rap, and afropop, he’s flexible in his direction, perhaps the quality that influences the title of his latest project. ‘Color Blind’ presents a wide spectrum of sounds and perspectives, parsing each element through the plain honesty of Tenpo and Benmaelen, his co-star. With its intimate sonic touches influencing an autobiographical edge onto the project, it rewards the listener both on a technical and emotional scale.