uNder (January 2024): Four Artists You Should Be Paying Attention To
Featuring FromJerome, Phiwo, Delasi & Daddyluwa
Featuring FromJerome, Phiwo, Delasi & Daddyluwa
In a few months, NATIVE’s uNder column will hit the 4-year milestone—‘Fresh Meat’ inclusive. That means four years of consistently presenting artists we believe are deserving of the wider world’s attention. It’s remarkable, but this is not the time to pat ourselves on the back; we’re just committed to our mission of spotlighting the future right now. As we recommit ourselves this New Year, it also means re-evaluating and making sure our column is impactful.
For the January edition of uNder, we’ve selected just four artists, each with their unique appeal, from rapping to making soulful R&B. There’s Delasi, the Ghanaian music veteran who’s been underground for over a decade but should really be heard by many more; we bring you London-raised FromJerome, an R&B-fusion upstart who has made the leap from SoundCloud. Nigerian drill rapper Daddyluwa and South African songbird Phiwo complete the list. Read on to find out why you really should be pressing play on these artists’ music! (And listen to our uNder playlist here, too.)
For Fans Of: Juls, Fokn Bois, Karyendasoul
With projects dating back to 2013, Ghanaian multidisciplinary artist Delasi is an OG. He joined Yaw P on ‘Imperfections: The Break up, Vol 1’ for an official long-form introduction, stacked with emotionally resonant love-themed tracks. He broadened the scope of his music even further with generous offerings inform of a 25-track Hip-Hip opus dubbed ‘#ThoughtJourney.’ Here, he effortlessly merged influence from his then base in Nairobi, Kenya, coupled with several neo-traditional influences. Delasi, armed with trap snares and a deep bass, paid homage to his Ghanaian roots with his Ewe mother tongue and folksy drums, paired with an unbridled confidence used to track a journey of self-discovery. The rest of his discography is earmarked by a series of honest and raw moments, packaged with a slew of influences and sounds from various parts that perfectly allude to Delasi’s exploratory spirit.
After almost a decade, Delasi returns as an artist with a renewed vim on the new EP, ‘The Audacity of Free Thought.’ Self-described as a “prophetic insight into the future,” Delasi provides a sonic melting pot of alternative R&B, jazz, and inventive dance elements, shone through the gleaming chords on “Perception” and electronic synths of “Amplifier.” At its core, ‘The Audacity of Free Thought’ provides a soulful approach to deliver a cutting edge message that refreshingly encourages self-assuredness and individualism through thought, while preaching against all notions that encourage herd mentality for our society. Delasi effortlessly presents these perspectives in a light and digestible manner, without distracting too much from its overarching themes or taking away from the track’s melodious nature. For an artist who already has great mastery of craft, new listeners are bound to be enthralled.
For Fans Of: ODUMODUBLVCK, PsychoYP, Backroad Gee
From his small but substantial catalogue of songs so far, it’s easy to get the impression that Daddyluwa has never been scared a day in his life. Obviously, there’s the imposing effect of his baritone voice, a tool that amplifies every larger-than-life bar in his raps. Tracing it back all the way to “Secure the Bag,” off a 2017 compilation tape featuring teen rappers, the Lagos-born artist always sounds like he has both middle fingers perpetually stuck up. On that song, the Migos influence is incredibly clear, his staccato triplet flow bouncing off a beat that sounds like a low-res adaptation of Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz.” Years later, Daddyluwa is a much refined artist, channelling that trademark overconfidence into exuberant drill bangers.
With American and UK rap scenes as obvious touchstones for his style, he cycled through trap on a handful of singles, before settling into his current position as one of the more exciting young drillers in Nigeria. “Man, fuck all that city talk, bring me in Abuja/I’m probably the sickest young rapper they heard,” he declared on last October’s “Girlie Dem Crase,” an irreverent nod to Abuja’s tone-setting drill scene within Nigerian rap. Daddyluwa’s songs are always high-octane capers, packed with boastful, outlandish taunts, like on “Opic,” a standout on Lemon Vinyl’s compilation project, where every line lands with a playful, energetic force. It’s taken him time to figure out the intricacies of his style, up next is the part where he elbows his way into wider attention.
For Fans Of: Elaine, Maya Amolo, Shekhinah
As the social climate evolves, so does the way we interact with others and in turn the way we create and consume music. From the early to late 1900s or the early 2000s and 2010s, the themes we bother on and the ways we deliver them have seen significant levels of change. The shift is particularly clear for R&B, and as many keen consumers have expressed, the men just aren’t dancing in the rain anymore. Whether their approach to love is toxic or refreshing, a consistent quality spanning across decades is the soul stirring vocals of the genre’s proponents. Since her 2021 debut, South African crooner, Phiwo, has stayed true to the cause with chilling performances on emotive tracks.
Following her MILES-assisted debut in 2021, she joined fellow songbird, Adrienne Foo, popular for her verse on Scorpion Kings’ “Nguwe,” for a three track joint offering dubbed ‘NMBRS.’ The pair delivered passion-driven renditions, reaffirming themselves and brazenly expressed their desires while calling out the bs of their love interests. Phiwo’s solo debut on ‘Letters’ tracked the same thematic path with an even more confident approach, loosely tied together by soft guitar strums and soothing rhythms of the bass. Her dedication shines through even clearer on ‘Things We Feel,’ her sophomore EP stacked with pointed addresses and raw reflections that feel straight out of a diary entry. “In the Moment” ruminates on the conflicting feelings shared post-breakup, punctuated by airy whispers and daunting keys while pre-release, “ALL4U” struggles to understand her commitment to unreciprocated love. For all those ruled by love and searching for those with similar perspectives, look no further than Phiwo for all gut-wrenching and buoyant thrills of romance.
For Fans Of: Odeal, Ayo Jay, Wani
No genre wholly embraces the task of mirroring the complexities of our interior romantic lives like R&B. While sonic boundaries have expanded and its thematic breadth has been adjusted due to the current realities and conversations of finding and staying in love, the human core is unmissable. FromJerome is an R&B artist, even with his musical fusion base. The evidence is in the songs he’s released so far, starting from SoundCloud with August 2022’s “Granted,” where he’s baffled and disappointed at the lack of reciprocity from a love interest. “Trying to find love but you wan take me for granted,” he sings over ambient piano and chunky bass.
Raised in London, FromJerome’s Nigerianness shows itself on every song, whether that’s throwing in some pidgin lines or the distinct ‘Afro-R&B’ bounce (via Carribean pop) of his music selection. This adds colour to his songs, even when they’re wrenched with navigating toxicity. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t deal in the more wholesome side of things. Last Valentine’s single, “Kosi,” rides the ecstasy of chipmunk vocals into a love-drunk confession. New single and official debut, “Next Day Delivery,” is commitment personified: “You’ll get it right away,” he sings several times on the smooth hook. After some time in the underground halls of SoundCloud, FromJerome is out in the sun, looking to shine brightly in the near future.
[Featured image credits/The NATIVE]
Words by Dennis Ade Peter & Nwanneamaka Igwe