The Emotional Sounds of The Nigerian Underground

The growth of the alté community has had one of the most monumental impacts on Nigerian music in recent times. When Odunsi was asked about the future of the scene, in a 2019 article by the Guardian, his reply was seeing it ushering an “evolution of expression“. The alté scene has done more than that. From showing artists they can be more diverse and experimental to redefining success by creating a niche and community around the sound and putting more light on underground music. 

One of these blessings is the growing lo-fi music sound, being pushed by artists who exist outside each other but share a common fanbase and theme of laid-back melancholy songs that express their intimate feelings.

There’s a growing underground sound of emotions, calmness, and introspection without the jolting bounce of mainstream music. Lo-fi short for Low Fidelity, a term for how music is recorded; with mistakes or sounds from the environment that would not normally be allowed while recording. Lo-fi refers to a style of recording that incorporates sounds from the environment, makes use of hip hop beats but explores emotions in the way of soul and indie music. An important part of lo-fi music is the hip hop samples and drums which are usually slowed or added to more mellow instrumentals. 

Creating their own hybrid lo-fi sound, artists like Soul Blacksheep, Ictooicy and Solis are some of the most visible names in the growing scene. With each artist telling unique stories around their personal emotions of sadness and heartbreak and emotions hardly found in mainstream music. When Soul Blacksheep sings of lost love and heartbreak, it is in a dark brooding manner, while Solis brings the comfort of a hurt emo girl and Ictooicy.

In a talk with More Branches, Soul Blacksheep mentioned how his first project; On Melancholy Days, was made on his phone during a weekend in Abeokuta. Soul was originally a hip-hop enthusiast before he began to create music that incorporated his heartbreak, loss, and depression through sounds or feel. Finding underground popularity with Ecstasy, Just Chill, a project on forlorn love of Ibadan and his lover, which has become revered among his fanbase.

It’s Just Loneliness, his 2020 project is a mix of Lo-fi instrumentals, synths, and 808s, with lyrics on finding solace, being raised by the internet, and expressing emotional sultry love, Soul creates laid back isolation/midnight music.

Ictooicy’s Soundcloud bio reads “Not A Rapper, Just A Poet With A Flow” and it aptly describes her sound and journey. Starting out as a rapper, Icy creates relatable genderless sad lo-fi songs of her feelings, relationship woes, and mental health. Peaking at No.3 on Apple music’s altérnative charts, her first EP of 2020; Sorry I Don’t Like Phone Calls is a look into her mental health and need for space and becoming detached despite loving those close to you.

Solis first appeared on Hectic, off Odunsi’s 2018 rare album. Her debut single, Watch Me, gives the rawness of a fresh break up, conveyed by the lustfulness of her voice over hip hop drum and sentimental guitar strings. Solis creates music for the heart, her voice soulful and captivating, drawing you into her emotions. Her six-track debut project; Ruled By Venus, Unfortunately, dropped in 2020 exclusively on Soundcloud and Audiomack, tells of emotive love with a hopeless romantic woman controlled by the stars. 

Xinsominac is a member of indie-rock band 6days, his first tape, Cause-Effect is a compilation of songs he worked on, most of which are uncompleted but tell the story of sweet chill melancholy. Xinsominac’s style of music blends lo-fi with hip-hop and rock beats, his vocals are clear and drawn in a talk-like way of singing.

2020 saw the release of a plethora of projects from both mainstream, breakout and underground artists, with every project finding acceptance. It also saw the growth of the lo-fi scene, with more albums being dropped and the artists and their sounds finding acceptance, as people were forced to look inwards and away from the bop and bounce of mainstream music, to more mellow emotional music that reflected their feelings.

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