2017 was a major year for African musicians both from mainland and the diaspora and it’s good to see that our people are getting their proper shine in the world. So who’s up next? Who has been grinding all of 2017 to properly blow in 2018?
Here our list of up and coming artists who have the potential to become the next superstars.
1. Nonso Amadi
At the top of our list is Canadian-based, Nigerian-bred Afro-R&B Soul singer, Nonso Amadi. Redefining what Afro-R&B is, the soft-voiced Amadi will definitely get you in the feels and start thinking about texting your ex (don’t do it). His self-produced hit single, “Tonight“, tells a story about a rocky relationship, something many people can relate to. It soon became a fan favorite racking up over 1.59 million plays on SoundCloud. He then released his EP, Alone, in September of 2015 to much acclaim. Amadi, with the Nigerian spirit in him, did not rest on his laurels and released a slew of singles, landed major features, and dropped a collaborative EP with fast-rising Afro-fusion sensation, Odunsi (The Engine) titled War. Nonso’s vocal dexterity and attention to detail is what makes his music even more touching. He has a distinct and unique sound that breaks away from the usual, a sound that people are loving more and more. His amazing collab with Odunsi (the Engine) on “Don’t” really captured that sound. At the rate he’s going, 2018 might just be the year of Nonso Amadi.
2. J Hus
Coming off a highly remarkable 2017 with a UK Gold-certified album and a MOBO award for Common Sense, J Hus is here to stay. He definitely has come a long way since “Dem Boy Paigon”. It’s even safe to say that the East London rapper has already blown in more ways than one. The lead single to Common Sense, “Did You See” peaked at the top 10 UK Singles Chart being his highest charting song. J Hus has been grinding for a some time since his introduction to the music industry in 2015 with his penchant for mixing Afrobeats, dancehall, and hip-hop/grime all whilst combining Pidgin English and UK slang. His features on Burna Boy’s, “Sekkle Down“, Stormzy’s “Bad Boys“, and Dave’s “Samantha” all show his unmatched versatility. Overall, J Hus had a tremendous 2017, lets see what’s to come in 2018. Listen to one of my favorite songs by J Hus, “Spirit”, below. A Dancehall and dubstep-infused motivational track that advocates to the listener that no matter how tough times get, always keep your head up and maintain your spirit.
3. Odunsi (the Engine)
In 2017, we saw a lot of artist/producer combos start to become the norm in Afrobeats. I believe 2018 will be the year another artist/producer combo, Odunsi (the Engine), properly blows. Building off the hype of his acclaimed 2016 debut EP, The Time of Our Lives, Odunsi managed to further cement his name in the Nigerian music industry as one of the leaders of this burgeoning new sound called Afro-fusion. Afro-fusion is a genre consisting primarily of Afrobeats mixed with elements from a host of other genres such as R&B, EDM, Dancehall, the list goes on. Even after dropping such an impressive EP with Nonso Amadi at the beginning of the year, Odunsi continued his streak of hotness with multiple features that were equally impressive . His features on Juls’ “My Wave” & “Coco” and on Show Dem Camp’s “Popping” exemplifies the vocal prowess and creativity Odunsi possesses. His artistry is not like anyone else’s in the Nigerian music industry, he brings a fresh air to the vast Afrobeats genre and I hope to hear even more from him in 2018.
4. Chief Obi
To say Chief Obi had a remarkable year would simply be an understatement. From getting a million dollar endorsement deal to offering commentary all over Jidenna’s The Chief album to finally releasing his own two Afrobeats tracks, Henry Obiefule aka Chief Obi had a great year. The comedian turned Afropop sensation is definitely one to look out for in 2018. His Olamide assisted “Carry Go” is a hit with over 2.8 million views on YouTube. That’s a pretty impressive feat for someone’s first single as an artist. Who knew the guy who did African Dad videos on IG had vocals like this? He then dropped “Type of Woman” to shun the haters and prove to everyone he can make quality music. In 2018, I believe he will further rise above the moniker of “IG Comedian/ Afrobeats artist” to all-round entertainer.
“Nini dey ooo!” is probably one of the first things you remember from the infectious 2017 monster hit “Maradona” released by the self-proclaimed queen of Afro-House, Niniola Apata. If your DJ did not play this tune at your party, then did you really even have a party? “Maradona” was everywhere in 2017 produced by super-producer Sarz who has created magic with Niniola before with tracks like “Ibadi” and the major hit “Soke”. Nini’s soft and beautiful voice combined with Sarz hard-hitting production is always a formula for a good time. Maradona ruled the airwaves for good chunk of the year then she decided to release “Sicker” in September to wet our appetite for her debut studio album, This Is Me, which was released in October. This Is Me is quite the cohesive album with Niniola weaving effortlessly between English and her native Ekiti Yoruba. She also featured on DJ Spinall’s Dreams album and on Yung6ix’s dance tune “Gbe Seyin“. In 2017, we saw Niniola successfully defend her title of the “queen of Afro-House”, let’s see whats in store for 2018.
Up next on our list is Teni, the younger sister of Niniola, who is equally as talented, if not more. The US-based artist started off her career doing viral Instagram comedy videos but it was her freestyle videos that caught many people’s attention which she decided to take seriously. Her first official single “Amen” was released in December 2016 produced by the highly talented hitmaker, Shizzi. Many praised her songwriting skills so she built off the buzz of that single by releasing freestyle videos on Instagram again. This led to many people encouraging her to turn her “Fargin” freestyle of Olisa Odebe’s track into a studio quality song. She then released the Mystro produced “Fargin“, a song about virginity and sexual exploitation, in August 2017 to positive reviews. Some controversy came though, when she announced via Twitter that she was the ghostwriter of Davido’s recent track “Like Dat” and sparked a huge debate about how ghostwriters should receive their credit. Hopefully, in 2018 we see an album or a body of work of some sort from Teni.
7. Small Doctor
“Gben Gben rin Gben rin gben Gben Gben ren Gben ren gben!” If you don’t know what those lyrics are, then you must have not been to a party recently or just live under a rock. Small Doctor’s “Penalty” was actually released in December 2016 but it made such an impact all of 2017 rocking all the dance floors making everybody’s inner razzness come out. Small Doctor has been grinding for some time but has finally crossed over with his major hit. The song was such a success that Small Doctor did not release another single until December 2017 titled “This Year” which hasn’t taken off like “Penalty” but has the potential to do so. In 2018, I wonder what Small Doctor has planned next.
Coming in at the #8 spot is Mannywellz, a US-based Nigerian born artist whose talent knows no bounds. You cannot really put Mannywellz into a box. His 2017 self-produced track, “Wrong Place” offers intelligent commentary on modern relationships and the popular phrase “men are scum”. This song garnered over a million plays on SoundCloud alone. A multi-instrumentalist, Mannywellz incorporated the classic talking drum and gangan to “Wrong Place” showcasing his artistry and deep appreciation of African music. Most West Africans will understand how important and influential these instruments are to more traditional West African music. He followed up with a freestyle called, “American Dream” detailing his faded dream of America. His voice will definitely remind you of R&B/ Soul singers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s like Anthony Hamilton. Simply put his music is captivating. From going on tour with the chief himself, Jidenna, to releasing spectacular music, Mannywellz had a great 2017. If you don’t know who Mannywellz is, please get hip by reading our cover feature with the artist here
9. Kwesi Arthur
Bringing a new aura to Ghana rap is our #9 artist next to blow, Kwesi Arthur. Coming off an impressive debut EP titled Live From Nkrumah Krom EP, Kwesi with trap-infused hustler tracks like “Grind Day” and a song about questionable friendships/relationships with “Back on the Wall“. Arthur had a terrific year showcasing his rap skills on songs and his versatility as an artist with freestyle videos on Twitter. He was also featured on Omar Sterling’s (Paedae from R2Bees) track “Day Break Africa” with Joey B which is huge for such a new artist. The Sarkodie influence on Kwesi is so apparent but he integrates it effectively with his own style. On his Instagram, Kwesi tends to wear shirts that say “Free The Youth” and he is surely one of the leaders of this youthful new school of Ghanaian artists. The future of GH Rap and music is in safe hands.
Wrapping up our list but definitely not the least is Nezi Momodu. Hailing from Nigeria but based in Dallas, Nezi is redefining the meaning of Female MCs’ in Hip-Hop. Nezi first came into the limelight after her verse at the Texas Tech 90s Cypher went viral in Dec. 2016 with 1.17 million views and counting. Using this new-found fame to her advantage, she took to the studio so the world can hear what she has to say. She then released her first studio album in 2017, Seasons, with creative tracks like “Temper Temper” and my personal favorite “Euphoria”. Wearing her heart on a sleeve, Nezi is very transparent in her songs never holding back what she feels. Her album differs a lot from the usual offering interludes between almost every song and her appreciation of 90’s Hip-Hop is clearly evident. The 26-year-old has the immense potential to become one of the greatest female MCs to ever grace the mic. Read our interview with the artist here