Nigerian-British singer, Ifeoluwa Gabriel Akinyemi. or Gabzy, is no new name in Nigerian music. Frequently seen alongside long-time collaborator Melvitto, the artist has spent the last six years as a purveyor of impassioned emotions delivered with an honest vulnerability.
His stock is music intended to loosen heart strings, and he possesses a vocal set that allows him to express a diverse range of emotions—like love, pain and everything in between—with every ounce of feeling. With two solo EPs, 2020’s Malone and 2022’s At The End Of The Night, as well as a few others co-helmed with producers, he has not only carved his niche but excelled at it, so that he pulls even the most skeptical fans into his world effortlessly.
Born in multicultural Peckham of South East London, a formative period spent in one of the more Nigerian areas of the UK—the so-called “Little Lagos”—would help him forge a connection to home even through a barrier of distance. For his earliest years, however, his immediate influences would prevail, and he found himself chasing, as many young English boys do, a dream to become a football star. While he eventually achieved Semi Pro level playing for a local side, his singing and rap talents would come to the fore while freestyling with friends, who helped steer his path back towards music.
He departed for America to further his education and kickstart his music career, and got signed by record label, One Nation after he wrote emails sending his first song, “Take Time” to them. A big step for his career, as he quickly forged connections with fellow creatives Ayo Jay and Melvitto, united not just by a shared label but a common Nigerian origin. With a host of songs released since then, Gabzy has stamped his name on the RnB scene while soaking in all the influences of his Nigerian, British and American origins.
Through it all, he has been a curator of the most commonly felt, yet least understood emotions, bringing a viewpoint of honesty and relatability to human relationships. Summers EP saw him contend with the end of an unfulfilled romance while trying to negotiate his way back into it, while Malone, released two years later, showed his darker side still reeling from the toxic effects of a crushing heartbreak.
With “Jambazz”, his latest single, Gabzy wants to set aside emotions and take a moment to truly enjoy life. Life is short, especially in a fast-moving city like Lagos, and Gabzy’s latest effort communicates the importance of taking a break to properly soak it all in. “Enjoyment no dey kill person”, he says, rationalising his intention to “Jambazz ’til sun up”. It is also his most brazen home-directed effort so far, and the soulful singer is able to slide effortlessly into a beat pulled from Afropop’s mellow soundscape as it intersects with South Africa’s Amapiano.
With so much going on, especially in Nigeria, Gabzy’s latest single could not arrive at a better time. With it, he wants us to enjoy the beauty of the now, but the future is an even more exciting prospect for the singer. “Jambazz” signals an intention to explore deeper into the percussion-tinged medleys of Afrobeats, and we can be sure Gabzy will emerge, as always, with truly beautiful music.