The Voices Redefining Naija Music
No doubt, the Nigerian music industry is thriving like never before. At the turn of the last decade, we witnessed the rise of new artistes such as Wizkid, M.I. Abaga, Davido, Burna Boy, Olamide, Phyno, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Tekno and others. These stellar entertainers steadily created continental chart-topping hits that have now piloted the industry to its current glory. Currently, a new generation of artistes have subtly, but swiftly emerged to become the new faces of positive evolution in the ever-vibrant Nigerian music soundscape.
At age 16, during his undergraduate days, Adedamola Adefolahan, popularly known as Fireboy, made a decision to take music professionally. A few years after, under Olamide’s guidance in the YBNL label, the Abeokuta-native successfully warmed his way into the hearts of Nigerians with his breakthrough single, Jealous.
Fireboy’s debut album, Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps, showcased him as an iconic singer with a euphoric groovy Afro-pop vocals as well as a poetic song-writing prowess. With two stellar albums in his discography, as well as multiple awards, the 25-year-old English graduate continues to bring the heat into the Nigerian music scene, as one of the leaders of the ‘new school’.
His stardom story can be symbolised with his name: Divine. Nestled in the hearts of Benin, Divine Ikubor, popular as Rema, began his music career rapping in a church music group called Rap Nation. After a painful twists of events that involved losing his Dad at age 14, struggling with financial hardship, and relocating to Ghana briefly, fortune smiled again on him as Afro-pop icon, D’Prince of JONZING World records, (Don Jazzy’s brother) discovered him on Instagram and signed him.
Two years later, and without any album, the 20-year-old has soared to become an iconic force in his generation, endearing crowds with his tropical-esque, genre-bending Afro-fusion melodies that have clinched major awards like the BET (2020) and Headies (2019).
When Joseph Akinfenwa started gaining traction in early 2019, Nigerians were hopeful that he would come to stay. Later that year, his debut EP, Love and Light removed all doubts from their hearts.
Known for his catchy, soft-sung Afro-RnB love songs, Joeboy remains among the main poster faces of the new school in the music scene with almost every release becoming a hit-song. Mr. Eazi first discovered the Celebration crooner via his Empawa Africa initiative, in 2017, and since then, the 23-year-old Lagos native has continued to bask in the limelight. He is currently signed to Gorilla Sauce Entertainment/Empawa.
One popular thing about Chike Osebuka’s music is his harmonious blend of Igbo language with his silky RnB vocals. The Enugu State native first garnered attraction on Airtel’s The Voice (2016) where he finished as first runner-up.
Releasing his debut album, Boo of the Booless, in January 2020, Chike solidified his place among the pioneers of the current musical evolution sweeping across the Nigerian music industry. His sophomore album is also expected in 2021 or 2022.
She is the ‘Rapunzel’ of the Nigerian music industry. This genre-radical Queen has consistently brazened forth her musical genius at a time where females struggle to break through in the country’s largely exploitative music industry.
She is unique for her fluid Afro-RnB which this writer thinks should be classified as a genre called ‘Tems’, as well as for her storytelling in music. The 25-year-old Lagos-born bi-racial native (British Father and Nigerian mother), has featured on several continentally acclaimed bodies of work, including Wizkid’s Made in Lagos and Khalid’s Know Your Worth single. Her debut EP, Broken Ears was released in September 2020.
The self-acclaimed Mayor of Lagos, Adewale Emmanuel, rose to fame after his cover of Davido’s The Money went viral on Instagram. He was signed by Davido into the Davido Music Worldwide (DMW) label in 2016, and has boldly refuse to become irrelevant in the Nigerian music scene.
From his debut album, The Mayor of Lagos (2018) to his Geng (EP), the 27-year-old Afro-pop singer has continued to litter the music industry with chart-topping hits, legibly engraving his signature as one of the poster-faces of the new wave in the industry. His signature slang ‘Of Lay, Of Lagos’ is also as globally popular as his music.
Nigeria’s diverse music scene is also flourishing with the likes of Ikuforiji Olaitan, popular known as Oxlade. His baptism into musical stardom begun with his iconic collaboration with Chocolate city rapper, Blaqbonez, titled Mamiwota. His main staple is his soft, fluid RnB vocals, which brands him as the Nigerian version of Chris Brown. He describes his music as a bridge between Afro-fusion and mainstream music. He is currently nominated as Rookie of the Year in the 2020 Headies awards.
After growing up hearing tales of his grandfather’s exploits as a percussionist in Celestine Ukwu’s highlife band and watching his father play drums, Stanley Didia’s inspiration tank rose to the brim and at age 15, he decided to become a musician.
Like his counterparts, Burna Boy, Duncan Mighty, etc., Omah Lay relocated to Lagos to hoist his flag as one of Nigeria’s emerging vibrant musicians. Helped by music management gurus, The Plug media, among others, Omah’s early records such as You, Bad Influence among others, consolidated his rising popularity and attracted a continental fan-base. With two EPs in his pockets, the 23-year-old Afro-fusion singer continues to walk hands free in the legacy halls of the new wave of Nigerian artistes. He is currently nominated in four different categories in the 2020 Headies awards.
This multi-award winning singer, popular for her songs like Uyo Meyo, Case, among others, is a child of hardwork and consistency, having begun her career shortly after completing her university degree in 2017. Teniola Apata, who is also the sister to Afro-house heavyweight, Niniola, is a unique Afro-pop singer whose charismatic and energetic records continue to endear her to the expanding music audience in Nigeria. A bold performer in a male-dominated playground, the 28-year-old amazon continues to remain relevant as one of the ‘Head Girls’ of the new school of Nigerian music.
The self-revered Cash Mummy, a cross-continental superstar, Zainab Donli, is among the new sweethearts of Nigerian music. Born in Ohio and raised in Abuja, Donli amassed her musical influences from several musical greats such as Angelique Kidjo, Brenda Fassie, Erykah Badu, to name a few. She’s popular for her Afro-fusion easy-going, groovy records and her positive socio-political radicalism.
A walking and breathing gospel of the streets, Nigeria’s rising superstar, Abiola Akinbiyi, is a laurel in the new age of Nigerian music. The Naija street/Afro Pop singer has had an impressive run in barely two years since his breakout, releasing a debut EP titled High Tension, and featuring on several globally recognized bodies of work, including Davido’s A Better Time. His style of music is characterised by socio-political commentary, his struggles in the street and motivational perspectives on life.
Last but not the least on this list is Cavemen, the wonder brothers of Nigeria’s modern highlife music scene. This iconic duo have charted an unprecedented course in the country’s musical history, creating a contemporary sound of highlife music that’s a mélange of various Afro-inspired melodies.
These Enugu natives, with the release of their debut album, Roots (2020), have continued to popularise their sound, which is characterised by brief lyrics, live instrumentation, philosophical expressions and love stories. They have also been nominated for the prestigious Headies awards (2020).