New Music Friday: New Projects From Laycon, Alpha Ojini, xInsomniac & More

A rap-heavy slate of projects for the sonically curious

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. 


Since winning the popular TV show Big Brother Naija, the artist Laycon has carefully constructed his career. He’s appeared sparingly on features while releasing immersive projects which holds up his cred as a skillful rapper. ‘Bioba’ follows up on that motivation, his first album since 2021’s ‘I Am Laycon’. A minimalist work with some hidden features, ‘Bioba’ however incorporates a number of cultural references, through the heartfelt verses of Laycon down to the naming of songs like “Odumodu in a Picanto” and “Peruzzi’s Interlude”. For his teeming fan base, it’s a timely reminder of the dazzling mic skills Laycon has picked up on his long journey to fame. 


Israel Ajayi is a man who wears many hats. A film producer, creative consultant, graphic designer, photographer amongst other disciplines, he’s also a boundary-pushing rap artist. With his debut EP ‘House of X’, he dons the hat of xlnsomniac, a musician and curator of world-bending experiences. He collaborates across the alternative scene to arrive at the psychedelic, mosh pit-evoking atmosphere of the six-track project. The talented collective 44DB feature in the production, while the likes of Konde Oko, Wode and Atlanta-based alt-rock artist T3agray deliver vocal contributions. The result is a mesmerising body of work that would uphold the creative genius of xlnsomniac many years down the line. 


A fine curator who’s organised some of afropop’s most transcendental hit songs like “Rosemary” and “Confident”, Savage has released his debut album. ‘That Uzere Boy’, like its title suggests, is an autobiography-leaning body of work which shines a light on where Savage is coming from. The neighbourhood is in the Isoko South area of Delta state, one of the largest oil-producing blocs in the country. While Savage largely keeps this socio-economical context out of the album, the confidence in repping his homeland is palpable, while features like Victony, J Molley, WurlD, Blxckie, Psycho YP and many others contribute to its lived-in perspectives. 


Undoubtedly one of the most skilled rappers currently operating in Nigeria, the consistency of Alpha Ojini has been inspirational to the entire scene. He’s also a producer and sound engineer, thus contributing to the thematic and sonic cohesion every project has possessed thus far. On ‘The Efemele Pack’ he serves up a quick reminder of his prowess, featuring the duo of PDSTRN and Psycho YP over three tracks. The records are audibly cut from the thumping soundscape of Drill, although the stories within are ostensibly Nigerian, right from its title which references the infamous former Central Bank governor to the verses. Come for the explosiveness, stay for the narrative grit and swag behind each record. 


In recent years, the effortless rhyming qualities of Magnito has come to the fore. He’s scored mainstream moments through his humorous clips which are nonetheless heavy on skill, but the sometimes Hausa-speaking rapper hasn’t translated that prowess into an acclaimed project. He aims for that mark on ‘I Am Dodo’, his latest 12-track album. Going for a collaborative vision, each song features one or more artists, with some notable names including Sarkodie, Phyno, Nyanda and ODUMODUBLVCK. As usual, he uses storytelling to relay his standpoint, but the complementary efforts of the featured artists make most of them work on a song level. 


From TV shows to playlist appearances, “Love Dimension” has been filtering into the Nigerian pop mainstream in the past few months. That growing ubiquity has translated to genuine fan love, as the Lagos-based artist Moonlight Afriqa has steadily built up his rep as one to watch out for. His debut EP ‘Tales By Moonlight’ thus arrives at the perfect time. With five songs and no features, it’s a sensitively captured project which demonstrates Moonlight’s evocative qualities. Paired with mellow production from the likes of Ozedikus and DeeYasso, records like “Ms Jailer” and “Amazing” are tender masterpieces, flexing the artist’s smooth vocals and impeccable songwriting. 


Durban-born Lungelo Manzi is a peculiar artist. Consistently blurring the lines between R&B and Hip-Hop, his music evokes a vivid picture of existence in South Africa. The themes however draws on universal feelings such as love, loss and estrangement, all of which are present on ‘ADULTING ANONYMOUS’. A tightly-curated album which moves with a cinematic precision, its focus on everyday narratives renders it a homeliness it benefits from. Evocative keys and brooding vocalisations are a unifying sonic choice through its thirteen tracks, but there’s also a fine selection of drums and poignant rapping, picking up the pace at crucial moments.