Music

Is Sugarboy Nigeria's Next Reggae-Dancehall King?

24-year-old Sugarboy, who describes himself as Africa’s “dancehall king,” has the daunting task of matching the continuing rise of Kiss Daniel.

Kiss Daniel's debut New Era, released back in May, has been a huge success peaking at number 8 on the Billboard World Album charts, propelled by monster singles “Woju," “Good Times,” and “Laye."


Only one artist was featured on the entire album. His name is Sugarboy, the 24-year-old Akwa Ibom native who has the daunting task of matching, and possibly eclipsing, the continuing rise of Kiss Daniel.

Comparisons between Sugarboy and Kiss Daniel are unavoidable given that they're label-mates at the start of their careers with everything to prove. Kiss Daniel’s New Era has done exceedingly well and its title isn't an overstatement. Along with Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and Tekno, Daniel and Sugarboy occupy the next stratum of afrobeats stars right after the Wizkid and Davido column.

“Napo” and “Ghetto Boys” are two of the songs on New Era that Sugarboy is on, but before these were “Molue” and “Raba,” both orphaned singles that showcase what Sugarboy says is the “musical synergy” he shares with Kiss Daniel.

We spoke over the phone and right before a studio session in Lagos where he was putting the finishing touches to a new single, “Legalize,” having just returned from the German leg of Kiss Daniel’s tour.

Subarboy’s enthusiasm for the music he's making and the reception it's receiving is palpable. His output, however, is not substantial.

His solo singles—“Hola Hola,” “Double,” and most recently “Legalize”—aren't enough to give a rounded sense of who he is as an artist. “Double” is about one’s hustle and the hope that it'll one day pay off, “Hola Hola” is a triumphalist tune about living the good life because, "this life, I cannot kill myself" and “Legalize” is a breezy dancehall track infused with a particular Nigerian ghetto parlance—“ekute no be race horse,” “ishu no be cocoyam.”

Sugarboy. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Is “Legalisze” a good song? Yes. Is he reinventing the dancehall-galala wheel? No. But he's changed a few nuts and bolts and has fitted it to his own musical vehicle, which is in an upward trajectory.

Sugarboy describes himself as Africa’s “dancehall king,” but what he's probably referring to is "galala" which is an interpretation of dancehall that has become a confident cousin, rather than a feeble nephew made popular by the likes of Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, African China and Danfo Drivers.

“Napo” and “Raba” are two very good songs but it's the former that points to a lineage I refrain from mentioning, not sure if he'd be pleased with it. Danfo Drivers were one of the biggest Nigerian pop acts in 2003 on the strength of their single “Danfo Drivers,” a made-up equivalent would be a go-getter anthem like Cassidy’s "I'm A Hustla" reaching the popularity level of Pharrell's "Happy".

Sugarboy jokingly refers to him and Daniel as “the new Danfo Drivers,” but Sugarboy’s aesthetic is clean and his reputation unsullied so far, while Danfo Drivers were far more convincing as hood stars who were even alleged to have once been armed robbers before turning to music.

But Sugarboy is of a different ilk and what's more, he's got everything going for him. The hope is that the comparison to Daniel and expectations to match or supersede him does not distract him from pursuing his own path.

In choosing to work with some of the same producers Daniel worked with on New Era—Beatburx and DJ Coublon in particular—the hope is that rather than retrace Daniel’s rise, what he's doing is building on the impressive work that G Worldwide Entertainment, as a new and independent label, has done so far.

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Tay Iwar: Nigeria's Most Reclusive Musician Opens Up

In his most open interview ever, the Nigerian artist demystifies himself, opening up about his reclusive personality and why emotions are the biggest drivers of his art.

Tay Iwar won't touch anything that lacks a strong emotional pull. It's a driver for all the music that he makes.

He has been a satiated lover ("Satisfied"), a vulnerable sage ("Weather Song"), an existentialist thinker ("Utero"), and a straight-up loser ("Sugardaddy") across his debut album's songs. "I fell in love with you and I almost died," he sings on "Monica," the lead single off that album, Gemini.

When I ask Tay about Gemini on a hot, sweaty afternoon at his Bantu Studio in Abuja, Nigeria, he seems proud of it. Staring into the distance, he says he considers the RnB fusion record his first album which doesn't have him selling emotions to people. He is simply expressing himself now, rather than the more "packaged" offerings on his previous projects Passport (2014) and Renascentia (2016). It's huge artistic growth for a 21-year-old, one in which he is basking.

Tay, born Austin Iornongu Iwar, hated it when his father forced him to take classic piano lessons at an early age. But by the time he was 13, and midway through high school, that sentiment had become the opposite; he had fallen deeply in love with the art, making music on his computer, and teaming up with his brothers—Sute and Terna Iwar—to co-found the Bantu Collective. His first love was the guitar, but something about making music on the colourful "video game" early version of the FL Studio software got him hooked. Mastering instruments, and becoming a sound engineer gave him a high-level of understanding of music creation. At 16, he released his debut project, Passport, which became an instant niche favorite, offering him a modicum of fame and demand that surprised the artist.

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Culture
Danielle Ekwueme.

This 21-Year-Old Entrepreneur Is Bringing Nigerian Palm Wine Into the Future One Bottle At a Time

With her bottled palm wine company "Pamii" Daniella Ekwueme is improving on tradition and filling a void in the Nigerian spirits market.

In 2016, Daniella Ekwueme, the founder of the Nigerian palm wine company Pamii, had a casual thought when looking out at her mother's land in Abuja. "She just had this farmland and she wasn't doing anything with it," she recalls. "So I was like 'Oh, have you ever thought of planting palm trees and getting palm oil or palm wine and boxing it up?"

While her mother's answer was no, the thought took hold in her young, entrepreneurial mind. She'd had palm wine—an alcoholic drink made from the sap of various species of palm trees and endeared to many Nigerians—at weddings and gatherings in the past, but it never quite "hit the spot" so to speak. "I realized that every time I've had palm wine in Lagos or Abuja, it's always off or sour. Because palm wine ferments, so the longer you leave it, it gets bitter and [undrinkable]. So anytime I've had it at weddings it just doesn't taste right to me."

This presented an opportunity for the young student who was just 18-years-old at the time and moving between Lagos, London and Abuja: she could improve upon an age-old product, still very much in demand, by revamping the production process and packaging it. After extensive research and visits to local palm wine farms in Abuja, Ekwueme decided she was ready to experiment. Along with a small team, she bottled her first batches of palm wine in December 2017, calling the product Pamii—a naturally-brewed, premium palm wine. Ekwueme's product is different—it fills a void in the Nigerian spirits market because it's actually Nigerian-made. She reminds me that while her company isn't the first to try bottling the beverage, others fell short due to "poor execution, poor branding," and failure to "cultivate a brand and lifestyle around it."

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Music

Rouge, Moozlie, A-Reece, J Molley & The Big Hash Will Be Part of Sway’s South African Cypher

Sway will certify more South African hyenas next month.

Sway is coming to South Africa for the #CastleLightUnlocks event. The renowned media personality has proven fond of South Africa's hip-hop scene (who wouldn't be?). Sway has hosted the likes of Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Nasty C, Stogie T and Kwesta on Sway In The Morning in the last three years.

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