If there’s anything the last few years have taught us, it’s that the music world moves much faster today. Things are much different now; from the rate of consumption of music, to the expeditious growth and success of young artists around the world. Success stories of last year’s steady risers such as Rema and Fireboy, are testaments to the fact that it doesn’t take so much for a come up these days; all you really need is undeniable talent and an audience receptive enough of your sound.
Needless to say, the underground scene is certainly bubbling with a plethora of hidden gems. This new generation of innovative artists refuse to conform to the norms, opting instead for unorthodox methods in forging their own paths, on their own terms; inherently creating art that will set the tone for years to come. And if Santi and Odunsi The Engine’s trajectories from their Soundcloud days to global stardom are anything to go by, then these young artists are certainly on the right path.
In this light, and in a bid to push the culture here at More Branches, we’ve curated a list of underground artists and producers who we feel are next up. Varying in genres and at different stages of their careers, here are 7 Nigerian artists and producers whose steady inclines have placed them on our radar and should be on yours too.
21-year-old producer, Derek Okorie, is no stranger to the music scene. Inspired by his cousins who taught him how to use FL studio back in 2013, KD merged his love for music and his newly gained FL studio skills to launch his production career.
‘I didn’t start from ground zero when it came to making music’, KD admits. The 44dbcollective member had taught himself to play the piano at an early age, inherently gaining music theory knowledge from the onset. Perhaps this knowledge is a reason for his obvious range in production; from Jiggy Boy FC’s captain, Kida Kudz’ ‘Tasty Time’ to melancholic soul queen, Somadina’s ‘Don’t Need’ to bedroom pop princess, SOLIS’s ‘Can’t Breathe’, KD has proved himself to be anything but one-dimensional.
His latest offering, ‘Realer’, a collab with R&B singer Loti, received a lot of positive feedback. A match made by the music gods, KD’s charismatic bounce perfectly highlights Loti’s melodic vocals, giving the sultry number the extra oomph needed. The pair have announced a joint EP in the works and are currently teasing a release of another single off the project. Watch out for this young man.
In recent times, there’s been a rise in the prominence of DIY artists on the underground scene. Just a few years ago, an artist like ICTOOICY wouldn’t have been able to attain such a reach with her music as she did with her chart topping EP, Sorry I Don’t Like Phone Calls. Digital advancements have enabled artists to release their music independently and inherently allowed Nigerians develop more diverse music tastes. Among this crop of young talent on the rise, is 19 year old Lo-Fi rapper, Kiyo.
Born Kenechukwu Umeaku, Kiyo was heavily influenced by his older brother’s taste in music growing up, but it wasn’t until he discovered artists like BROCKHAMPTON, Tyler, the Creator and Vince Staples that he got the final push he needed to record his own music. Inspired by real-life events, Kiyo’s authenticity is portrayed throughout his music, opting for a more stream-of-consciousness style. His pen is as witty as it is honest, reminiscent of a young Earl Sweatshirt.
‘Hey :), You Good ?’, a standout track from his Soundcloud discography, finds the young artist spitting woeful rhymes about his then disappointing love life, ‘She said she just wanna be friends/I’m like cool I’ll just pretend/But I’m still gon’ call your phone/Hit you up from time to time/Like hey, girl, is you good ?’. His talent is raw and untapped, leaving his sonical path open to a vast array of possibilities. ‘More music and possibly a project are in the works for later this year’, he tells me. In the meantime, plug into his calming sounds below.
UK based Nigerian soul singer, LunaLovesYou has sparked quite a level of interest since her debut in 2019. The hypnotic dream pop melodies on her first effort, ‘Glitters’ are a testament to her years of piano and violin lessons. ‘I usually come up with my melodies on the piano before I add in the beats’, the 18 year old admits.
Drawing from raw emotions to feed into her music, Luna creates honest, tear-jerking music certain to comfort anyone who attempts to get lost in her soothing sounds. Her buttery smooth vocals are perfectly highlighted on ‘Dear V, I’m Sorry’, a remorseful track depicting the whirlwind of downtrodden emotions experienced while mourning the end of a sour relationship. ‘Dear V, I’m sorry/For all the pain that I caused you/I know how hard it is to lie to/A girl you know is down for you’, she ruefully sings to a former flame.
While a Grade 8 pianist and a Grade 5 vocalist, Luna is still clearly finding her feet in the music space. ‘I’m currently focusing on fine tuning the quality of my music and creating a brand for myself but I hope to release some collaborations in the future, maybe even a project, who knows?’, she reveals to me. This is a young woman very self-aware and ready to grab life by it’s reins. We’re excited to watch her rise to the top and you should be too.
25-year-old singer, Alao Adedolapo, broke into the music scene with the release of his debut album, Ecstasy. Releasing music under the moniker, SoulBlackSheep, he swirls emotive Yoruba and English lyrics over minimalistic Lo-Fi beats, creating a homemade, rare sound he coined as ‘Ibadan Lo-Fi’ – a nod to his hometown.
‘Music is like an outlet for me. When the music speaks to my soul, that’s how I know it’s complete’, he admits. Oozing with melancholy, his music often tackles themes of loneliness, vulnerability and self-reflection; his layered vocals depicting a person finding solace in sorrow. His latest offering, It’s Just Loneliness, finds the reclusive artist relishing in his solitude. Over delicately rambling piano melodies, swinging guitar lines and crisp drum samples, Soul delivers honest recounts stemming from his real-life experiences, moods and feelings.
Over the years it has become more and more obvious that as an artist, authenticity will take you places farther than your talent can. For an artist like SoulBlackSheep who’s soundscape is unparalleled, the sky is truly just a stepping stone, and we’re giddy with excitement for what’s to come next.
Lagos based producer, Tochi Bedford, has come a long way from his early 2016 days on the scene. Venturing into production after obtaining FL Studio skills, the 20 year old has since then gone on to be the man behind a number of bops spread across different genres. From bass heavy cuts like Zamir’s ‘Anti’ to more ambient Lo-Fi numbers like ‘Saturday’, Tochi has certainly proven his range over time.
While flexing his production prowess, Tochi doesn’t shy away from the mic as he also doubles as a vocalist on several of his songs. ‘I get ideas after interacting with people and locking in to listen to music’, he tells me. Perhaps the need to have such like minds around him he can connect with is what sparked the idea to form 44dbcollective, a producer collective boasting of prominent names in the game like Dëra and Trill Xoe.
‘I disappear a lot’, he further reveals, confirming our initial hunch that he prefers to lay behind the scenes, calmly waiting for his time to spring. ‘[Currently] in the finishing stages of an EP and I believe the project could definitely take me to the next level’, he admits. He’s at the cusp of a huge break in his career, he’s well aware, and we are too.
Although producer and vocalist member of alternative band, Forevatired, Brum3h, first appeared on the scene in 2017, he had actually been making music before then. Born Brumeh Oghenekaro, the soul singer-songwriter was in a two man band with producer, Golddrummachine, called To Name A Few. A heaven-sent pairing,To Name A Few combined Golddrummachine’s spontaneity and Brum3h’s meticulousness to create ethereal and evergreen music.
As a solo artist, Brum3h is an immersive storyteller, consumed with passing on his message as simply as possible. A blend of R&B, Soul, and Afro-fusion, his latest offering, The Big Blue, perfectly portrays the inner workings of an artist in touch with his emotions. Drawing inspiration from Alternative R&B greats like Tay Iwar, Frank Ocean, Santi, Childish Gambino and Daniel Caesar, the 25 year old creates emotion-evoking music certain to resonate with any listener. Comfortably dipping in and out of his falsetto register, his melodic vocals are certain to give John Legend a run for his money.
‘I’m branching out a bit these days’, he reveals as he talks about his recent work as a producer. 2020 may be looking bleak for the world but for Brum3h, there’s still a lot to offer up. ‘The next major thing is the Forevatired album’, he tells me, ‘Then after that it’s a lot of singles till the end of the year. And a video in the works too’. It’s clear he’s not here to play in 2020, don’t sleep on him.
Afro-Soul singer-songwriter and producer, Joyce Olong, has kept us interested since her 2017 introductory to the music scene. Collaborating with Afro-fusion household names like Yinka Bernie, Tim Lyre, and Odunsi [The Engine], Joyce’s honeyed vocals served as the perfect highlight to said duets.
Kickstarting her solo career back in 2017 with the intimate and sensitive Merci Beauté, Joyce welcomed us into her innermost thoughts as she serenaded us with a thank you letter to the women present in a dark phase of her life. What’s most intriguing about the 24 year old is her ability to take certain aspects from different sonic influences – over a vast array of genres – and mould it into music authentic to her own distinct sound. Artists like Aster Aweke and Asa have inspired her current sound, Ne-Yo and Tay Iwar influenced her backup vocal style, production-wise, she looks to James Blake and Frank Ocean for their unorthodox elements, and songwriters like Andre 3000, Isaiah Rashad and Tomi Thomas have heavily influenced her pen game.
Even with these influences being vivid, Joyce’s personality still shines through. ‘I started creating due to the need to express things I could not say’, she reveals. 2020 is in full swing, and it’s certain Joyce still has a lot to say. As she refines her skillset and treads new sonic territory in the future, Joyce will only continue to grow into more acclaim. Watch this space.