Music emerged as a lifeline for Blxckie when the first COVID-19 lockdown took effect in South Africa. Confined away from home in Johannesburg, he began recording and releasing music regularly, introducing himself to South Africa’s underground scene as a boisterous new rapper on the block. This run of singles culminated a year later in his debut album B4Now, which showcased his range across rap and R&B. “your all,” from February’s six-track 4LUV EP, is a low-tempo R&B track that speaks to perseverance in relationships.
Hometown: Kumba, Cameroon
Larinette Tatah Bailly, better known as Blanche Bailly, started off as a cover artist while she was studying in France. Inspired by the growth of Afrobeats, she returned to Cameroon in 2016 just as her single “Mimbayeur” was becoming popular in her homeland. Blanche Bailly’s music ranges from Afrobeats to Zouk and Reggae. Titled after a term of endearment, “Dou Dou” is an optimistic ballad about wholeheartedly going the distance to express love to her partner.
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
It often takes one believer or a group of believers to boost a fresh talent out of obscurity. When Majeeed was officially unveiled by his label Dream Music Empire in August 2021, he immediately alluded to the diversity in his artistic locker: “I don’t have a specific genre of music. I like to explore. I pick up very fast and I don’t limit myself.” His first offering is the relatable Afrobeats song “Yawa No Dey End,” which covers the unending trials that arise in one’s personal and professional life.
Hometown: Moshi, Tanzania
Tanzanian hip-hop bongo flava rapper and singer, Rosa Ree launched her career in 2016 with the bold debut rap single “One Time.” Over the years, her brazen style has reshaped the landscape of music by Tanzanian women, tackling delicate issues like religion and sex and, at times, sparking controversy. Her most recent single is the socially conscious “BLUE PRINT,” which grapples with colonialism and its lasting effects on African society, and reminds Africans of their heritage.
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
The positive reception to “Durag na Slice” prompted Mr. Right and Ajay to form the Burukyln Boyz in 2019, with Younglouie and Luiz later joining to complete the group. On drill beats, they mix English, Kiswahili, and Sheng (a Nairobi slang), to chronicle life in their turbulent neighborhood of Buruburu. “Kwani Ni Kesho” (“Is it Tomorrow?”), the group’s unique tagline now echoed by their fans, asserts that their takeover is primed to happen at any moment. In “Bad Boyz Club,” Burukyln Boyz share accounts of the dark side of activities that occur on the streets of Buruburu.
Hometown: Kumasi, Ghana
Ghanaian drill, better known as Asakaa, had a viral moment in 2020 by virtue of Yaw Tog’s “Sore.” In that song’s final verse, the depth of Jay Bahd’s voice had listeners drawing parallels to the late Pop Smoke. Since then, the volume of Asakaa releases has multiplied, and Jay Bahd continues to play a central role in the genre’s growth. The motivational “Focus” from his 2021 debut album RETURN OF OKOMFO ANOKYEdescribes the dedication needed to see dreams through to reality.
Hometown: Kwara, Nigeria
Lyta’s introduction to music came through a music group at his local mosque in Ajegunle, Lagos. His insertion into mainstream Nigerian music happened in 2018 as a signee to Olamide’s YBNL label. Two singles and just over a year later, Lyta left the label to find his footing in an unfamiliar industry when he linked up with Afrobeats superstar Davido for a remix of his hit song “Monalisa.” On his buzzing recent single “Different Conversations Live 4,” he and Nigerian viral sensation Seyi Vibez have a candid conversation about the things that motivate them to keep going amid all of life’s adversities.
Hometown: Lagos, Nigeria
The story of contemporary alternative music in Nigeria would be incomplete without mentioning BOJ. In the early 2010s, his smooth flow and raspy voice became a signature among young Nigerians through DRB Lasgidi, the group credited for pioneering Alté music in the country. As a solo artist, he cultivated a strong base via earlier standouts like “Cruella” and “Magic” to more recent bops like “Awolowo,” “Emotions,” “Money & Laughter,” and a feature on UK rapper Dave’s “Lazarus.” His single “Culture,” a collaboration with London-born rapper and singer ENNY, is an ode to peculiar contexts of Nigerian culture.
Hometown: Harare, Zimbabwe
For 26-year-old Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Frya, her career got into gear when she posted a cover of Adele’s “One and Only.” Shortly after, a South African TV network asked her to make the title track for their hit show. Her soundtrack brought much attention and she channeled that moment to release her debut EP Dots in 2019. On the solemn “Changes,” from 2021, she sings about grief and eventually attaining peace on the other side of it, speaking from her struggles to cope after her mother passed.
Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya
Especially inspired by Nicki Minaj, SilversTone Barz first hit the booth in 2014, emulating the rap queen and then finding herself and her sound in the process. The 24-year-old Nairobi native got her first big break in 2019 when iconic Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones featured her on his Khali Cartel 3 Cypher. “Africana” set the ball rolling for her in 2021, followed by “If It’s On,” where she paints a picture of an extravagant lifestyle in perpetual motion.