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Zlatan "Zanku (Leg Work)" music video.

5 Nigerian Artists to Watch in 2019

Featuring Zlatan, Dami Oniru, Bella Alubo and more.

Stopping just short of predicting the future, our list of Nigerian acts to watch in 2019 is based on the promise these artists have shown and the work they've done in the past year, all chosen from a wider pool of talents eager to establish themselves in the public's consciousness.

Read ahead for our selection of the Nigerian Artists to Watch in 2019.


Dami Oniru

Dami Oniru's first EP, Cliche, came out in 2017. Since then the singer-songwriter has released a handful of singles like "Iyawo" and "Fallin" that have brought her more recognition among Nigeria's new wave of young artists who favour melancholy and introspection.

This January, Oniru's released Bri's Lounge which shows remarkable growth in her vocal strength and choice of satisfying, if not terribly adventurous, soundscapes. She succeeds in displaying singing chops over songs that draw from a capella and harmonising, blends of woozy trap synths and sunshakes to traditional afropop. Explored, on the 7-track EP are themes of sadness, loss, mortality, turmoils of one's inner life, perseverance in one's art and spiritual growth. But also playful songwriting as on "See" which features Remy Baggins, a longtime collaborator and singer in his own right. So far confirmed for 2019 are plans to release videos from Bri's Lounge along side pop-up events and a set at Gidifest 2019.

Zlatan

"Kapaichumarimarichopaco" goes the tag by 'Zanku' originator Zlatan, the man behind the new dance craze of the year. Zlatan has also cleverly fashioned a song ("Zanku (Leg Work)") to go with the move, which is boosting his popularity. The rapper's features on "Able God" and "Jogor" has led to higher-profile collaborations with Davido ("Bum Bum") and Burna Boy (Killin Dem"), which is introducing the charismatic talent to a wider audience. Zlatan is currently on a club tour across cities that include London, Cyprus, Kenya, Dubai and Istanbul, in an effort to capitalise on his new found fame.

Maddtonic

This January, Maddtonic finally released Dutty Love, a joint EP with producer LeriQ that builds on his long-earned reputation as a sure-footed dancehall artist. The five expertly crafted songs almost make-up for the periods of low activity caused, in part, by insufficient label support. His 2018 single "Control It" had a modest impact despite its songwriting showcasing an impressive and seamless combination of dancehall and afropop musical vocabularies. Dutty Love should catapult his status and bring his music to a wider, appreciative audience

Bella Alubo

Recently freed from her contract with Tinny Entertainment, the label that launched her and rapper Ycee, into the public consciousness, singer Bella Alubo marched into 2019 off the back of her re-Bella EP, released in December. The first single, "Aiya," is boosted by a tasteful video with the support of Empawa Africa, the initiative started by Mr Eazi. Other songs on the project draw from the moody and seductive spectrum too frequently associated with Nigeria's 'Alte' scene, as well as from South Africa's gqom.

Del B

Del B might be better known as the producer responsible for certified hits like "Pull Over" (Kcee & Wizkid), "Like" (Tiwa Savage & Reekado Banks) and "Gbese" (Wizkid & Trey Songz). The former sound engineer is establishing himself as a solo artist this year with the upcoming release of his 11-track EP in March. Titled, Afrodisiac, the EP will boast features from top-layer afropop artists like Mr Eazi and Davido, promising newcomers like Dice Ailes, as well as Bam Bam from Big Brother Nigeria and radio on-air personality Moet Abebe. As if to make up for years of fitful starts as a singer, a joint album with Runtown is scheduled to follow, details of which are yet to be announced.














Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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