Songs of the Day Special: 10 standout tracks from the last two weeks
Featuring cuts from Ladipoe, Blaqbonez, Sarkodie, Merry-Lynn, and more
Featuring cuts from Ladipoe, Blaqbonez, Sarkodie, Merry-Lynn, and more
As you can already tell from the title, we’re doing things a little differently this week at the NATIVE. After working tirelessly for the majority of the past quarter, crossing our T’s, dotting our I’s, and putting you unto some of the hottest new artists on the continent, our editorial team was left feeling burnt out and unable to deliver you, our ever-loyal community, the content that you signed up for these past few years. To that end, we took a much-needed editorial downtime to do some necessary housekeeping and realign ourselves with our mission of championing the sounds of tomorrow: today.
We know that it can be hard to keep up with all the new releases out there, even in a year when many of us had time to catch up with all the new music at our fingertips. So, in order to keep our content ever-changing and current, we’re rethinking the ways in which we put you onto new music; whether that’s via our radio show which premieres bi-weekly on No Signal or our regularly updated Apple Music and Spotify playlists or a monthly roundup just like this one, we’re committed to keeping you on the pulse with the hottest sounds. Read on for the standout tracks which the NATIVE editors have enjoyed during our short editorial break. You’re Welcome.
In full flow, Kwesi Arthur raps with the sort of self-possessed invincibility fitting for a superhero. Sure, he’s hedged his artistic narrative on being vocally versatile—case in point, “Baajo” and “Door”, his trade-off collaborations with Joeboy—but there’s a blinding rawness when he’s barring out. With fans impatiently waiting for his next full-length, Kwesi remained visible through loose releases, dropping an excellent 3-pack tape, doling out killer rap features, and recently rapping over the beat for Lil Baby’s “Emotionally Scarred”.
“Walk”, his latest loosie is another pointer that we’re witnessing a rapper at a new prime. In just over two minutes, Kwesi casually barrels his way through a bouncy trap beat, rolling out poignant, self-aggrandising bars, while also putting in a great songwriting shift to make the song an ultra-catchy bop. Straddling the line between an anthemic rap cadence and a vicious melodic flow, Kwesi refers to himself as a “natural resource”, amongst other potent one-liners, effectively communicating his burgeoning greatness and the sort of self-belief that has made him an increasingly magnetising MC.
Sarkodie has spent the last decade-plus being one of the longstanding alphas of rap music in Africa. Revered as a dead-eyed lyricist and a prolific hit-maker, the Ghanaian rapper represents the best of both worlds, and he’s clearly (and deservedly) accruing his fair share of wealth. “No Fugazy”, the new single ahead of his coming album ‘No Pressure’, is an outsize celebration of his well-earned lavish lifestyle, packed with the sort of brags many will be able to visualise, aspire to, and enjoy listening to without fully relating.
Rexxie’s beat, a maximalist slab of groovy percussion and sunny piano melodies, offers a dance-ready backdrop to which Sark adjusts his breakneck flow, letting his raps flow with the casual precision of a top tier marksman at a gun range. In his “Drip 101” lesson, he boasts of pulling up in Vetements, wearing Air Force ones on regular days, and much more rockstar shit. The song’s premise is not at all inventive, but the execution is awe-inspiring.
Last year, after entertaining his fans with a slew of hard-hitting bars and viral freestyle challenges, Ladipoe landed a coveted spot on our Best Rappers of 2020 list and a few months later, he bagged a Headies award for the Best Collab with singer, Simi. This year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon as the self-proclaimed Leader of the Revival releases his first lead single of the year, “Rap Messiah”, a boastful anthem that finds the rapper spitting rapid-fire verses about his rapping abilities and his lyrical chops.
“Dunno why you rewrite verses soon as I jump on it/Maybe coz every time I spit lines I put my life on it”, he quips disrespectfully over the bass-thumping beat, unafraid to flex his self-confidence in his abilities and show the opps exactly whey they should be tuned into his releases. “Rap Messiah” is littered with biblical imagery and experiences as the Mavin signee likens himself to the saviour placed on earth to revive the rap genre in Nigeria. It’s some big shoes to fill but Ladipoe wears them expertly.
Watching his latest video, which combines “Rasta” and “Puna” off his latest album, ‘Yaadman Kingsize’, I came to the realisation that Yung L has been consistently delivering well thought-out, colourful and generally excellent videos since his 2019 EP, ‘Jollification’. The new video strengthens his knack for great visuals, as he and director TG Omori celebrate the more exuberant sides of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the evident inspirations for both minimalist, groovy Afrobeat-indented songs.
Released on 4/20, the first side of the video dedicated to “Rasta”, which features Saxophone billows from Afrobeat scion Seun Kuti, pays homage to Fela as an avid weed smoker with an anti-establishment streak. Yung L sings of the lengths he would go to punish whoever he catches stealing his weed, with shots of him wielding a gun and torturing a suspect. The “Puna” side is decidedly cheekier, referencing Fela’s (significantly troublesome) hedonism and his vibrant stage performances. In this half, Yung L is captured in a dressing room amongst glamorously dressed women in suggestive poses, a clear nod to the Kalakuta Queens, before climbing on stage to mime his lyrics while pulling off energetic dance moves.
We are witnessing Blaqbonez in his second act and it’s most pleasing to witness an artist so young in the game find their winning formula years after their breakout single. After years of delivering a slew of catchy bops, the rapper will be releasing his debut album ‘Sex Over Love’, which will feature Nasty C, Psycho YP, Joeboy, and more. Ahead of the album, he’s shared the project’s latest single, “Bling”, featuring Amaarae and Buju, which was released earlier this month, along with its dazzling video which was just released over the weekend.
The TG-Omori-directed video for “Bling” is a visual feast to behold. It begins with a Freaky Friday-inspired scene where viewers watch Blaqbonez and TG Omori swap their roles on set. The swap is anything but graceful as it becomes clear that a certain swagger and bling is needed to be the star of the video—a role that Blaqbonez wears effortlessly. As he sings about his new stellar lifestyle as a successful rapper, we see clips of the rapper looking effortlessly cool alongside Buju and Ghanaian singer Amaarae, whose appearance in the video is one of its many highlights. If “Bling” is any indication of what’s to come on Blaqbonez debut, then we’d advise that you watch this space closely.
The devil works hard, but DJ Maphorisa works harder. The producer/DJ has been one of the most prolific music makers on the continent for the better part of a decade, and following a somewhat low-key second half of 2020, it was expected that he would come out swinging again this year, and he’s doing just that. It’s just the fourth month of the year, and he’s already on his third joint project of the year, following ‘Petle Petle’ (with King Deetoy and Kabza De Small) and ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, with ‘Banyana’, a collaborative EP helmed with mentee Tyler ICU. The title track is emblematic of what makes the short 3-track set tick, spotting Amapiano rhythms with Afro-Tech flourishes that give it an upbeat, Trance-like allure. “Banyana” features production assist from Kabza, and it is elevated by the choral vocal appearances from Daliwonga and Sir Trill.
One of Port Harcourt’s best-kept secrets is the milieu of young talents that it has raised and developed over the years. R&B/Soul singer Merry-Lynn is one of such artists who is putting her city on the map through her sweet-voiced lyrics and her penchant for representing feelings that would be familiar to many in her generation. Her latest single, “Runaway”, is a groovy anthem that finds the singer dissecting trust and the lack thereof in her life.
Over a deep, reggae-inflected beat produced by fellow PH native, Veen, she sings about how she’s “used to this” treatment from people who would get her to open up, only to change at the last moment and unsure about herself and where she stands in others lives. “I’ve always been a loner”, she quips, choosing this time to open up to her listeners on her own terms and telling them the source of her scars and the magnitude that they have had on her life. Her incisive lyricism paints a picture that many young people will surely be able to relate to.
On their exciting joint EP, ‘MK-Ultra’, emerging South African rappers Sauwcy and Money Badoo bond over their love for throwing out cutthroat bars over-ear busting, off-kilter Trap production. Since the project’s release, the duo has been aggressively promoting the project through the release of riveting visuals, and the latest to receive the video treatment is standout track, “Lil Bih (Remix)”, featuring SA’s latest rap prodigy Blxckie.
Much like the other tracks on the tape, “Lil Bih (Remix)” finds Sauwcy and Money in gloriously catty form, this time around issuing threats to lesser than opps with glee, describing the myriad of ways they will take delight in cutting them down. “Call up your mam, lil bitch/run down your home, lil bitch/shoot up your dome, lil bitch”, Sauwcy growls overblown out 808 bass and skittering hi-hats. Blxckie puts in a typically stunning shit, following the same cruel tone laid down by his hosts. The video for “Lil Bih (Remix)” combines sexiness with a pervading sense of danger, as they rap while hanging out of a moving vintage car with guns, in the midst of ladies wearing lingerie at something that looks like a gang cookout, and at a dingy location dimly lit by a red light. Honestly, it’s all very thrilling to watch and listen to.
It’s okay not to be okay, or at least that is what Nigerian singer donttouchrylie wants listeners to know when they come across her new single. The Nigerian singer and songwriter who is fairly new on the scene just released her debut project, ‘Asteria’ , last year and has now shared with her growing listeners her first official single for the year, a pensive and reflective number titled “Stuck In A Loop”.
Over the infectious beat produced by Winzy, the singer addresses the voices and doubts in her head dissecting the ways in which she has become enslaved to her anxious thoughts. “SOS please someone help me/They can’t help me”, she sings deftly, talking about mental health issues by using herself and her experiences as a backdrop to show listeners that they too can make it out of the depressive moments. Each line is jam-packed with critical observations about the mind as donttouchrylie, in simple terms, paints a picture of what it feels like to live each day as a neurodivergent individual. With mental health awareness month just around the corner, we welcome more African artists speaking out about mental health.
NFTs are all the rave and it’s only a matter of time before more artists on the continent begin to make use of the latest cryptocurrency trend. Barbadian singer Shontelle has linked up with Nigerian singer, producer, and Fresh Meat alum, Dunnie for a new single, “House Party”, which she is using NFTs to directly connect with her fans and followers. While the song is getting all the rave because one lucky fan (a.k.a the highest bidder) will win a cameo in the video for “House Party” and have their name included in the lyrics of a special version of the song, it’s also a really catchy tune that deserves to be on your radar.
Over the groovy infectious production by Dunnie, Shontelle sings “Boy, come to my house party/You don’t always have to be in the club” as she invites a love interest to come over to her place for a party she’s hosting with her girls. The song’s message is simple but Shontelle and Dunnie expertly make the mundane sound alluring through a frenzy of percussive sounds that complements the artist’s amorous lyrics.
Featured image credits/NATIVE
Words by Tami Makinde and Dennis Ade-Peter