We're back again with some of the hottest tracks by artists from Africa and the diaspora in this series we call "Fresh Cuts." Music is released at such a rapid pace nowadays in an era where the single reigns supreme: In an effort to keep up, we've compiled 10 recent videos and songs by artists from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica, Cameroon, Haiti and the United States. You'll notice a few trends: First, West Africa has embraced Jamaican dancehall like never before. Dancehall culture has been dominating the pop culture scene in countries like Ghana and Nigeria for a few years. This isn't so surprising considering the level of historic cultural exchange between Jamaica and West Africa, particularly Ghana. The Maroons in the hills of Jamaica are a great example of this. Next, musicians are upholding the principle of pan-Africanism by blending musical genres from Africa and the diaspora, and also collaborating with musicians from different cultures. Finally, the video quality is impeccable. They are vibrant, Afro-futuristic, full of symbolism and many transcend the songs. The release of the video is just as important, if not more than the song, since video sharing on cell phones is so easy.
Experiencing new music on YouTube, where most of these songs are available, is unique namely for the ability to scroll down and read the comments. I enjoy scrolling through the comments first before watching the video in its entirety. There's something about being able to immediately join the conversation and see the opinions of the artist's biggest fans and their fiercest haters. Sometimes, commenters share the most astute observations or even provide vital context. As you listen to the new music, check out some highlights from the comments section that we've provided.
South African rapper Kwesta is the cool and quiet classmate who always sat in the back of the room and only spoke when he had something profound to add. His impossibly deep voice makes you stop and try to pick up all the words even though he's rapping in Zulu. He is joined by Nigerian-American rapper, Wale, on "Spirit," a hip-hop track with an unmistakable South African swag to it.
The video will keep you transfixed with many themes present. The comment on this video beautifully picks up on the images juxtaposed in this video which depict everyday life in South Africa among the young the old. It shows working and underclass neighborhoods, at times depicting very disturbing images. Kwesta is an honest lyricist who reflects the voice of the people which is evident in this track and video.
The influence of gqom from South African cannot be denied in the sound of today's African pop. Nigerian musicians, powerhouses in African music, have picked up on the gqom wave. Nigerian reggae/dancehall vocalist Patoranking leisurely chants over a hot gqom beat in "Available." It won't be long before you'll be repeating "I'm available, I'm a- I'm available."
As seen in the comments section, peoples' minds were completely blown by the cross-cultural experience of this track. This must be what pan-Africanism looks like! The setting jumps from an ecologically rich African landscape to a bustling metropolis where the buildings move. Nigerian video producer, Clarence Peters let his mind run wild and created a world which brings together almost every corner of the diaspora.
Jojo Abot is anything but basic: she's here to illuminate "the God within" all of us. She calls her take on the South African genre "psychedelic-gqom" in this self-written and produced track called "Alime," which means "in the waist" in Ewe, a language spoken in her native Ghana. Her connection to music is spiritual, and it has taken her from Ghana to New York, Denmark, Nairobi, and now South Africa, where's she's able to connect with audiences ready for her sound. She's teamed with up-and-coming South African artists Elo and Vuyo to shoot this video in Soweto, Katlehong and Braamfontein for a unique Ghanaian-gqom look and sound.
Continuing with the theme of pan-Africanism, Shenseea from Jamaica and Shatta Wale from Ghana have teamed up in the name of dancehall for "The Way I Move." It's all love with Ghana embracing dancehall and Jamaica embracing Shatta. This is an easy pop song to love and is exciting because of this inevitable collaboration, but the video leaves a lot to be desired.
Nigerian singer Burna Boy has come a long way since his 2015 hit, "Soke." He now sings mostly in English and patois rather than Yoruba and pidgin, which has broadened his global appeal. In this unlikely pairing, English singer-songwriter Lily Allen teamed up with Burna Boy for this quirky song about two lovers who debate their relationship since they come from different social environments.
The video is like the song: It keeps moving and changing settings at a rapid pace so you can't take your eyes off it. Burna Boy is also not hard to look at, and he is phenomenal in this clip. As one of the comments remarked, Lily is the bigger name when it comes to the mainstream Western audience, so her fans will be pleasantly surprised to find they will be hooked on Burna Boy by the end of the song. Burna Boy's willingness to experiment with new sounds, his commanding voice, and Nigerian hipster-boy image sets him apart from other Nigerian Afrobeats stars.
Music video is available exclusively on Tidal for now but you can stream the song on Spotify.
Reggaeton and hip-hop star Amara La Negra has been enchanting and confusing people everywhere with her identity as an Afro-Latina. The Dominican star was thrust into mainstream American media via a recurring role on VH1's reality show Love and Hip-Hop. She is questioned relentlessly by others on the show on how she could possibly be both black and Latina because the only Latina singers they know look like Jennifer Lopez A.K.A. JLO, Shakira, Adrienne Bailon and Selena Gomez. The comment above was in response to Amara's interview on talk show, The Real, where she explained for the millionth time, gracefully, that there are black people throughout the Americas and Caribbean. It makes you wonder just how the education system teaches students about the transatlantic slave trade and how it affected demographics in South America, the Caribbean and North Africa.
Let's get back to the music. It's a shame that so much of Amara's press is taken up by her explaining why she has black skin and speaks Spanish, because her music is awesome! Her latest release, "What A Bam Bam," samples Sister Nancy's iconic "Bam Bam" with a fun reggaeton beat that Amara sings and raps over in both Spanish and English. Stream the song on Spotify and check out the video exclusively on Tidal.
Bon bagay translates to "good stuff" in Haitian creole, and that's what we have here. "Limin Briké" is an upbeat compas song for this year's karnaval celebrations in Port-au-Prince. T-Vice is a Haitian compas band of eight members based in Miami, FL. They perform all over North America, Europe and the Caribbean, bringing their infectious compas rhythms to the world. This video will make you wish you had been at the Carnival celebrations surrounded by fire breathers and colorful clothing. Well, there's always next year!
New Bell Music is a Cameroonian label based in Yaounde, giving young hip-hop and alternative artists in Cameroon a platform to export their music to the world. One of their freshest finds is Reniss, a bold singer with a wide smile, making music the youth can relate to. It's wonderful to see a female singer crossing boundaries with her lyrics in French, English, pidgin and other local dialects in an industry dominated by men, with divided camps on the Francophone and Anglophone sides.
Is an Afropop roundup of new releases complete without Nigerian Afrobeats? It could be but for those of you that need this anchor, check out DJ Spinall and Wizkid's newest video for "Nowo." You can't deny the power of Wizkid, prince of Nigerian pop (sorry, Davido fans) and even if you try to, it will grow on you.
New York-based Ivorian rapper Kinté, who you may remember from our Afropop residency, lights up his single "Soirée Abidjanaise" (Abidjan Night) with this angsty video filled with images of young love. Check it out to hear a fresh new sound and let the young artists know what you think of the song by engaging in the comments section!
Thank you to Sebastian Bouknight for helping to curate this edition of "Fresh Cuts."