The rise of new young musicians bringing earnest hard work and positive vibes make 2019, a year half-gone, one with some of the finest revelations in recent history.
It feels like the noughties again, when Nigerian boy bands began to see their members step into solo careers.
First to experience a fissure was the seminal The Remedies which split to give us Tony Tetuila and Eedris.
That was when 2Face stepped into the studio with OJB Jezreel of blessed memory and what became of that synergism was his debut album, Face to Face, one of the most important albums in the last two decades of contemporary Nigerian music.
Within months and years, D’Banj also disentangled from the London-based 419 Squad, tagged along with Don Jazzy to Nigeria where they distilled another alchemy yet to be rivaled.
Circa mid to late 2000s, there was the influential producer K-Solo who singlehandedly curated the Niger-Delta sonic template for Timaya and Duncan Mighty.
Impressario, Banky W, brought Wizkid to his fold, EME Records around 2011 and this was about the time Davido, sponsored with his father’s mullah, began to launch incursions into the music scene.
My point is that a Naija pop musician, like a Nigerian politician, has a 4-year span, sometimes renewable with a second tenure. This is what Wizkid, Olamide and Davido have been enjoying in the past 8 years but it looks like there are new kids on the block about to dethrone or at least share the throne with them.
Fireboy DML has already proven his mettle as the weightiest bet on the new YBNL rooster. An English graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (Great Ife!), his singles featured on the YBNL Mafia Album released last year have continued to gain popularity, thanks to the release of the video to his breakout song, Jealous.
Whilst other artists on the rooster are battle cats who contend with bending their styles into the act of making songs, Fireboy already pulled out of his master’s shadow, forging a style he must have honed to brisk competence at the Afrika Amphitheatre.
It should not come as a surprise that Chocolate City Record revelation, Blaqbonez, is also a product of Ife, and a fine rapper whose debut album, Bad Boy Blaq, was impressive. Add to this his seat at the table on Martell cognac-sponsored cipher where he proved himself to be a competent wordsmith.
T-Classic is another young kid in the block that must be watched. Already garnering popularity with a clutch of singles, his biggest hit, Fall in Love, featuring Davido Music Worldwide lieutenant, Mayorkun, already assures that there is a lot more from where that came from.
By far the most promising, based solely on musical output this year is Rema. This boy from Benin City came to fame by winning Da Prince’s Gucci Challenge. Fast forward a few months and he already has a self-titled EP to his credit. Comprising just four songs, Rema takes us through his chops within 12 minutes and gives a good account of himself.
Beyond his monster hit, Dumebi, a song thriving on insouciance and improvisation, are songs like Why, where he brings to the fore his ability to relocate trap music to something local and earthy. Iron Man’s conceit is a lazy wordplay that goes across languages and culture—he is drawing from Bollywood music, Luo musical tradition and Igbo language all at once.
His instant appeal is his teenage boy charm as well as his good looks and luck.
Who will triumph and who will bend the knee? Time will tell.