uNder: Best New Artists (June 2024)

here’s our roundup of the best new talent from across the continent

If the first half of 2024 is anything to go by, there’s so much to look forward to in African music through the rest of the year. Now more than ever, the world is plugged into the sounds from this side and a fresh batch of talent emerges ever so often, ready to stake a claim for their space in the industry. From bangers like “Tshawala Bam” earning spots on global music charts for months on end, to our self-proclaimed African Giant selling out his second 80,000 capacity tour in London Stadium, Afropop acts are well accustomed to remarkable cultural moments by now. 

Between a content-driven landscape and the never-ending pool of content on streaming platforms, the list of artists eager to earn our ears is only getting longer. For this month’s uNder, we’re bringing four acts that deserve a spot at the top of your radar. From Nigerian R&B prodigy, Amaeya, who is confidently soundtracking the youth perspective of love; to Konyikeh, whose rich vocal tapestry transports listeners to a world laced with a myriad of feelings, here’s our roundup of the best new talent from across the continent. 

Read on below for more info on this month’s distinct gems, listen to our uNder playlist and find your favourite new artist(s).


For fans of: Omah Lay and Victony

While party-starting music and celebratory motifs are undoubtedly coded into the DNA of Afropop, the genre has undergone a textural evolution over the last few years, thanks to a class of rising singers and performers whose emotive recounting of tough times and mental struggles is helping broaden the genre’s emotional range. Kogi-born singer, Llona (real name Micheal Ajuma Attah), is at the forefront of this movement, turning mental health and past trauma into high art via a soul-inflected variant of Afropop that’s so deceptively tender it almost masks the depth of his message. 

Before the singer evolved into his current form as a brooding, pensive archiver, he was formerly known as Tooclasiq; releasing a series of syrupy songs about his life as a young person navigating the nuances of life in Lagos while seeking upward mobility. An E.P., ‘4 Am,’ houses his most distinctive work as Tooclasiq, infusing pidgin-heavy lyrics with Hip-hop’s grittiness on tracks like  “Somebody,” “Wave,” and “4 AM.” Even then, there was ample proof of who the achingly emotive vocalist singer would become on “Eko,” a song that finds the singer both confused and in awe of Lagos’ famed organised chaos. 

A brief stint away from music led the singer down the path of embracing the brooding instrumentation, hauntingly piercing lyrics, and mellow soundscape that he’s become known for. Rebranding from Tooclassiq to Llona, he did away with the Pop-leaning lyrics and production style of ‘4 Am’ on 2022’s “Nobody,” settling on a mid-tempo instrumental, his muted rage at life, and a tightly-wounded narrative of being an outsider as his new direction. If “Nobody” hinted at the bravery of his new approach, “Comforter” showed his ease at bringing audiences into his world as he referenced God, weed, his mother, and a weed dealer as the only things that bring him peace in a world of strife. 

In many ways, 2023 was the year when his bruising sound converged with the Nigerian mainstream sound. “HBP,”  an August 2023 release, was an instant highlight due to its commentary on anxiety, betrayal, the revisiting of past trauma, and forging a path through the things that hurt. A remix of the song with street-pop star Bella Shmurda, two months later, further extended the song’s reach and set him up for more success in 2024. The scope of the singer’s music has only grown more focused in 2024: “How I Live” is effectively music as therapy as he narrates his shame at the state of his relationship with his family and the cost of maintaining his hold on reality over illusion; while a recent collab with Fave, “Cold War,” serves up more of the insular thoughts that’s fast making him a next gen icon.  – W.O 


For fans of: Asa & Nneka

Anais Cardot’s ability to sing in multiple languages positions her as a boundless global artist.  Her music, filled with pure soul and evoking  a range of emotions, instantly pulls even the most casual of listeners into Cardot’s all-inclusive rollercoaster of emotions. As she coasts through themes of self-discovery and passion encrusted in unadulterated vulnerability, Cardot’s tender-toned enchanting melodies give audiences an appetising invite into her colourful world of romance, lust, and fantasies. 

Recently, her 2023 debut EP, ‘Pink Magnolia’, received a deluxe treatment. This new version contains three additions that illuminate Cardot’s artistry in never-seen-before light, with the Canadian-based French-Gabonese artist capturing fractured emotions succinctly and stepping into her light as a modern-day mouthpiece of yearning and tenderness.

Initially debuting her music on Soundcloud, Anais Cardot set her professional music career afoot with the 2023 release of Can’t Explain,” and since then the multi-lingual soul singer has slowly warmed her way through into global households with localised renditions of love across various languages. – J.F


For fans of: Asa, Tems, and Ruby Gyang

There are layers to Konyikeh’s work. Her background is perceptibly classical but the topics she tackles – love, femininity, and romantic angst – have weighty modern resonance. The singer’s earliest introduction to music came by way of  her mum and what she played at home, with songs by Jenifer Hudson and Destiny’s Child on regular rotation throughout her childhood. Keen to broaden her understanding of music and sharpen her skills, Konyikeh became a music scholar at a prestigious school in West London while also attending Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she learned musical theory alongside piano and violin. 

It all set the stage for her debut single, 2023’s “Sorrow,” where she artfully explores the dynamics of a relationship where expectations don’t match. Where other songs about romantic tussles usually favour a supersized remonstration or withering rebuke to push the plot along, the genius of “Sorrow” is how precise Konyikeh is with her approach, employing a third person narrative style to add more flourishes to the song. Another song, “Teenage Dream,” peeks delicately into her experiences with teenage drama and a romance that didn’t quite work out due to differing desires. It’s a simple story that Konyikeh can expand on thanks to her knack for storytelling and how she finds contexts to frame her feelings. 

The release of “Sorrow” and “Teenage Dream” set the stage for her debut project, ‘LITANY,’ released in July 2023. True to form, the five-track features more amorphous singing over gorgeous piano-led instrumentation with tension from past relationships as its central theme. Still, the songs are approached from interesting perspectives that positions Konyikeh as someone who thinks deeply  about the state of the human condition: “I Cry” is about letting go of a hurtful relationship that no longer serves purpose despite the pain that accompanies walking away while “Joy and Pride” is deeply relatable  in how she frames pining after an ended relationship. For all the complexities explored on ‘LITANY,’ the project ends on a positive note with “Girls Like Us” where she makes a case for the risks that come with loving. – W.O 


For fans of: Qing Madi & Tems 

Within the current landscape of  Nigerian music, it is hard to find R&B talent that truly connects with the modern day interpretation of love like Amaeya does. Born Peace Amaefula, Amaeya got her start as a background vocalist for artists such as Tems, Bnxn, and ShowDemCamp. Armed with a keen knowledge of musical artistry and the industry’s nuances, Amaeya kicked her solo musical career in full gear with her viral song, “On My Own,” released in September 2023. 

Slowly but surely finding her footing within an oversaturated music industry, Amaeya’s releases have been more frequent since the turn of the new year yet the intersection between her various songs is her storytelling.  The Delta-bred soul singer aptly echoes the elastic emotions that characterise modern-day dating. 

With four singles to her name,  Amaeya is slowly welling up an irrepressible avalanche on the music industry – both locally and globally – etching her clear-cut mark with candid lyricism and storytelling that’s sure to position her as a frontline Gen-Z R&B prodigy. – J.F  

Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE

Words by Wale Oloworekende and Jim Falola