The 14 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Falz, Wizkid x Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Tekno and more.

The global reach of afropop should know no bounds. Davido's performance to a sold out crowd of 10,000 people in Suriname adds to his staggering lists of achievements, as does Wizkid's sold out concert at the 20,000 capacity London O2 Arena.

Newcomers have been just as impressive with surefooted releases from the likes of Ceeza Milli ("Yapa"), Kheengz ("Mamana" & "Almajiri"), Ajura ("Enchanted"), Akuchi & Wavy The Creator ("GTA") and Blaqbonez ("Melanin Melody")—a fair summary of the best new talents to come from the country.

Read on for our selection of the Best New Nigerian Songs of the Month.

Falz "This Is Nigeria"

Excoriating Nigeria for its societal ills is a favourite pastime of its citizens (and naysayers), but Falz's reinterpretation of Childish Gambino's "This Is America" crystallizes the worst impulses and failings of the country, its government and its people with real flair and feeling. OkayAfrica's Damola Durosomo broke down the video and track expertly here.

Olamide x Wizkid "Kana"

Wizkid's genius for song making could never be overstated. All four singles released this month range from the impressive to the truly exceptional. There's the sweet breeze of "Fake Love" with Duncan Mighty, the elegant bounce of "Nobody" with L.A.X and the shaku-fitted "Immediately" with Mystro.

The pick of the litter would have to be "Kana" with Olamide, a marvel of songwriting devoid of the safety hooks of chorus, bridge and verses. Both artists weave melodic line after line, progressing each other's lyrics and cadence in a manner that would seem haphazard if unscrutinised, but is in fact a brilliant construction sung with real feeling. Wizkid smooths and glides over MuTay's unshowy production while Olamide's tonal emphasis is as convincing as he's ever sounded. Full marks all around.

Davido "Assurance"

The new lover boy anthem, Davido is as earnest as ever offering to a lover the double whammy of protection from financial loss and and a guarantee of his affections in a typically grand fashion.

Patoranking "Suh Different"

Few artists other than Patoranking best embody Nigeria's long adaptation of Jamaican dancehall, all of which can be found in the artist's precise annunciation in the single line chorus "Girler Whine suh different oh"—where the first word "Girler" is Jamaican accented while the emphasis on "oh" is positively Nigerian. Just as impressive is Patoranking's nimble use of his strong singing voice all over the staccato percussion of Mix Master Garzy's production.

Tekno "Jogodo"

Pon Pon is so 2017. And so rather than the pair of synths that give it the onomatopoeia, the same mellow production now comes with one synth, or without. "Jogodo" comes fitted with retro cool in the way Tekno has reimagined memorable melodies by Mad Melon and Mountain Black of "Danfo Driver" coupled with Tekno's own inimitable use of uncluttered beats, and playful & simplistic lyrics (since 2016's "Pana") to make big statements about his considerable influence on much of Nigerian pop.

Ycee "Your Love" & "Awon Da"

Nigeria's own boy wonder showcases his brain for song making that is radio-ready and on trend but done with real pizzazz.. "Your Love" is a familiar summer fair with heavy bass synths over which he has created a sweet and memorable line about a lover who is "stuck in my memory." On "Awon Da" with Damilare, he astutely adapts juju and mumble-trap on gqom in a most impressive fashion, setting a high standard for any subsequent iterations of trap-gqom in Nigeria and elsewhere. Fucking brilliant.

Reekado Banks "Pull Up"

Reekado Banks is proving to be a nimbler singer and songwriter. Over a delicious beat by Altims' full of groove pockets that combine drums, guitar and attention seeking cymbals, Banks deploys well judged, top layer afropop lyrics, all of which bring a sexy charm, even more than the chorus suggests.

Teni "Askamaya"

For a catchy chorus, Teni has cleverly reworked a melodic riff—"loke loke"—from Sir Shina Peters, one of Nigeria's greatest showmen and exponent of pop-juju. The key to the bubble and bounce of Spellz' beat is to lock a groove with a sped up refrain, as did Wizkid in "Soco." Teni does it here with skill, flair and some bad-assery. In her own words, "I'm the girl you shouldn't fuck with." Say no more.

Yung L "Anya"

There's a general sense of competence and unshowiness in Yung L's songwriting that could easily go unnoticed. On "Anya", he makes love overtures singing well enough but without showy stank or shades that would immediately invite praise. Even the revisionist dance production is workman-like and serves an afropop singer well in 2018, as it would Whitney Houston in 1993 on "Every Woman" and Chaka Khan 15 years before her.

Kiss Daniel x Don Jazzy x DJ Big N "My Dear"

Freed from contractual restrictions, Kiss Daniel has been collaborating with more and more artists which continues to bring out new shades in his voice—if only as a result of contrast with other voices, if not an active approach to make up for lost time. The raspy charm of his voice combined with nasal accent in Don Jazzy's brings a richness to the revivalist highlife of the latter's production. Daniel's impeccable skill for song making is also on show in "Baba", but comes a close second only because the live recorded instrumentation of Killertunes' beat retraces the arrangement DJ Coublon made for "Good Time" (2016) also by Daniel.

Reminisce x DJ Xclusive "Slay Mama"

The propulsive rhythms in South Africa's gqom beat would tempt many a rapper to rattle and ride over it but not Reminisce who has chosen to tease out, with the right amount of sleekness, the hollow and stark in this Jay Pizzle beat.

Korede Bello "Sote"

"Sote" (pronounced "sotay") in pidgin English loosely means length of time or large amounts, and one which Korede Bello has used to emphasise his feelings for a lover over a pon pon beat as good as any. But then, with a dazzling line of monied patriarchs—Femi Otedola, Michael Adenuga, Aliko Dangote, Tunde Bakare and Don Jazzy—who in their right mind would say no?

Tiwa Savage "Labalaba" & "Tiwa's Vibe"

Somewhere between the pair of releases by Tiwa Savage is the conclusive entry into this month's list. "Tiwa's Vibe" is spoilt by a flat title as if to peg a random voice note and the main refrain of "shayo," a Nigerian colloquialism for alcoholic drinks, is too commonplace to have real bite. "Labalaba" suffers a similar problem, the reference to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" too easy a crutch on which to balance a song. The rattled refrain of "Labalaba" is what gives the song, and any such beat, real zest.

Mr Eazi "London Town" & "Overload"

Don't be fooled by the name, a tough-talking Mr Eazi convinces on "London Town," whose catchy and crowd-pleasing chorus is brilliantly contrasted by growled verses. And who better than Hollowman Giggs to bring the right amount of bounce and menace to a song about male posturing over production whose laden bass synths are heightened with each clash of the cymbals.

Just as impressive is "Overload," whose song title refers to a woman's figure but whose execution is anything but and finds Mr Eazi deploying his lazy growl to great effect—a nod to Tony Tetuila's indelible hit "Omode Meta nSere." Both verses from Mr Real and the interestingly named Skincare are sturdy additions.

Photo by Michael Kovac/Champagne Collet for Getty Images.

Cynthia Erivo Responds to Stephen King's Tweet on Diversity

The British-Nigerian actress begs to differ with the veteran author's tweet on diversity and 'quality' in this year's Oscar nominations.

British-Nigerian actress Cynthia Erivo has responded to veteran author Stephen King's recent tweets on the issue of diversity and this year's Oscar nominations.

King has been subject to considerable backlash since his controversial tweet about how he would "never consider diversity" when it comes to evaluating art of awards citing that, "It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong."

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Photo: Tjeerd Braat. Courtesy of Marieme.

The 11 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Bas, Ycee, Major League, Moonchild Sanelly, Niniola, Indigo Stella, Fireboy DML, Marieme and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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5 Women Doing Amazing Things Behind the Scenes in South African Hip-Hop

Behind every successful South African rapper of the last decade is a woman helping to get ish done. Helen Herimbi spoke to a few of them.

South African hip-hop had a great run in the last decade. As we start a new era, it's important to highlight the women who have played a pivotal role in the growth of the genre.

​Thuli Keupilwe

Thuli Keupilwe is the founder of LAWK Communications, an artist booking and representation agency that now works closely with the likes of DJ Maphorisa and Kabza de Small.

But she's not all about the yanos. Thuli has worked with urban music brands like Dreamteam SA and Homecoming Events, but in 2016, she cast her booking agent net wider and started LAWK Communications where she worked with DJs Capital and Sliqe.

The following year, Thuli received a phone call that would force her to level up. "Boom," she exclaims. "February 2017. PJay from B3nchMarQ called me. I was the one that pushed A-Reece to get onto his first Maftown Heights around 2014 and we're all from Pretoria so I'd known them since forever."

B3nchMarQ and A-Reece were gearing up to leave Ambitiouz Entertainment and when she agreed to be their booking agent, Thuli hadn't anticipated how much it would stretch her. Partly because the artists weren't initially permitted to perform their own songs—problematic for an agent who is meant to book them for gigs.

"I didn't see that coming at all," she says. "I was going up against the big guys, people I looked up to. I realized I needed to get a lawyer." Eventually, the artists were legally permitted to gig. "I had one of my biggest years with Reece after that. I am still with him till today."

A-Reece had managed to amass an enviable fan base size mostly from his online and streaming presence. Thuli works closely with him and counts using A-Reece's "Rich" song in a sync deal with the gambling website as a milestone in their partnership. "It was a good check," she chuckles. "And he was being himself and that's the most important thing to me."

Kay Faith

Authenticity has been the drive behind Kay Faith's work. The Cape Town-based engineer, producer and budding vocalist began her career behind the boards during sessions for the likes of Yasiin Bey, Nasty C and E-Jay.

She put out her own EP, In Good Faith, in 2017, and in 2018, she became the first female producer in the world to be featured on Apple Music's New Artist Spotlight.

She has also given us hip-hop bangers like "Slam Dunk" by Da L.E.S and YoungstaCPT. The latter is a frequent collaborator of hers. So much so that when his album 3T won the Best Album category at this year's South African Hip Hop Awards, she felt it was a win for her too. Especially since projects she'd worked on had been nominated and lost before.

Read: Meet The Woman Engineering Your Favorite South African Hip-Hop Releases

"When we started [the song] 'YVR,' I had this emotional feeling that it would be something big for Cape Town," Kay excitedly says. "From recording to mixing to mastering and featuring as a vocalist on 'The Cape of Good Hope' and 'KAAPSTAD NAAIER,' I was behind all of 3T. I even co-produced the 'Pavement Special' intro and the 'Outro' with Chvna.

"We spent 11 months crafting and him trying to get it to be perfect so it was a surreal feeling when we won Album of the Year. I even sent out a tweet saying: 'Can we just take a moment to realize that the South African Hip Hop Album of the Year was entirely engineered by a woman?'"

Kay's upcoming album, Antithesis is slated for a 2020 release. "It's going to be the first album of its kind, I believe," she says. "And I'm really trying to play with that idea of being the antithesis of hip-hop. I am a woman, an Afrikaans kid, in hip-hop. When I walk in, people don't expect me to be an engineer or a hip-hop producer and when I roll out my accolades, then they're like, 'damn, Kay's got game.' That reaction is what this album is about."

Phindi Matroshe

For Phindi Matroshe, the outside reaction to her work is not the most important thing. Phindi is a publicist and talent manager who owns At Handle, a PR and social marketing solutions firm. She was there before Nadia Nakai became a Reebok or Courvoisier ambassador and before she had sold-out ranges with Sportscene's Redbat.

She was also there when Nadia bagged a Best Female pyramid at the 2019 South African Hip Hop Awards. And she was right beside her when she scooped awards at AFRIMA 2019 for Best Artist, Duo or Group in African Hip Hop as well as Best Female Artiste: Southern Africa.

"Winning awards was never the mission," Phindi confesses. "Honestly, we have never done things to try and get awards. Nadia truly loves what she does and it feels great when that is acknowledged and someone pats us on the back for work we've done. I really love and respect what I do and don't see it as a job."

Having handled publicity for the likes of JR, Tumi Masemola (of Gang of Instrumentals), Shane Eagle, Major League DJs and more, Phindi pivoted to managing Nadia. She says: "Seeing the things we talk about come to life or when we're in the boardrooms signing those deals, those are personal milestones for me."

​Ninel Musson

Ninel Musson has been brokering some of hip-hop's biggest deals for over a decade. She co-owns Vth Season, a boutique full-service entertainment marketing agency with Raphael Benza.

A former party promoter and publisher of the website, Ninel helped start a record label wing of Vth Season where AKA was their first signee. Together, they turned AKA into a mainstream success that the artist could bank on when he started the now defunct BEAM Group independent record label with Prince Nyembe in 2016.

Recently, Ninel and Benza, together with the Sony Music team, presented AKA with diamond and platinum plaques for several songs at a surprise dinner. "The music we went on to create became some of the best-selling records of all time in South Africa," Ninel says matter-of-factly. "When we started with him, the major labels said SA hip-hop would never go this far. We said we believed it would and then we did."

​Sibu Mabena

Cassper Nyovest seems to make it a point to work with women. In addition to Cassper's sisters running his Family Tree store, several Fill Up dates have seen PR maven, Sheila Afari at the helm. And while it's clear that the Fill Up series was always the brainchild of Cassper and his longtime friend and business partner, T-Lee Moiloa, bringing it to fruition has also included the skills and power of women behind the scenes. Women like Sibu Mabena, a multi-hyphenate creative entrepreneur who owns the Duma Collective.

"The day I landed back home from the EMAs, I went straight to The Dome," she remembers. "I said: 'yo, T-Lee, give me a job. I want to work on this thing.' He was like: 'bra, there's nothing for you to do.'" Sibu stuck around at the Dome, watching the production come together when a lightbulb went on in her head.

Read: Sibu Mabena Works Behind The Scenes in South African Hip-Hop, And She's Kicking Ass

"I thought: 'Cassper has 11 outfit changes. Who is helping him with those?' So Gareth Hadden from Formative, who was building the stage, said they needed someone to help with those changes. I forced myself into the Dome, and the next year I pitched to T-Lee to run the stage at Orlando Stadium. The following year was Fill Up FNB Stadium and there, I got a bigger job to run the talent operations. That's how we started doing the Fill Up Intern Search."

In the next decade of Mzansi hip hop, Sibu has her heart set on parties with a purpose. "All the things I have learnt along the way have led me to contribute to AKA's Fees For All Mega Concert," she shares. "I'm not coming on as just a creative or event organiser or marketer. It's demanding all of me. We're all tapping into a more philanthropic and less commercial role than we usually have so the pressure is that much greater."

There are plenty more women who've got game. From Lerato Lefafa, who has been a part of the team that brought us the SAHHAs and Back to the City to Bianca Naidoo who is a big part of Riky Rick's triumphant trajectory to women like Spokenpriestess, Caron Williams, Azizzar The Pristine Queen, Loot Love and way more who have, in the last decade, used their media platforms to lift up Mzansi hip-hop. In the next decade, women will still be a huge part of hip hop. It'll be interesting to see where that contribution takes the movement next.

Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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