This is the ninth feature in a series we call “Fresh Cuts.” It’s a selection of newly released tracks and videos from across Africa and the diaspora, featuring established and up-and-coming artists and everything in between. It’s been a bit of a wait since volume eight, so we’re including some tracks that were released several months ago but still retain their freshness. Today we’ve got, among other things, a Ghanaian Christmas/party song, Somali-Swedish hip-hop, Colombian electronica, South African gqom, and some Afrobeat meets ‘60s rock 'n' roll. In case you missed them, also check out our previous “Fresh Cuts.”
Here are the full playlists. Scroll beyond to read about the artists and watch the great music videos. Enjoy!
Big Shaq, “Man’s Not Hot”
“Man’s international now, check the statistacs [sic].” Couldn’t be truer. Big Shaq is big time now, with fans like DJ Khaled and 121 million views to date on YouTube of his one and only hit, “Man’s Not Hot.” I mean, check those brilliant bars like “Two plus two is four/ Minus one that's three, quick maths,” and “The ting goes skrrrahh (ah)/Pap, pap, ka-ka-ka (ka)/Skidiki-pap-pap (pap)/And a pu-pu-pudrrrr-boom (boom)/Skya (ah), du-du-ku-ku-dun-dun (dun)/Poom, poom, you don' know.” Shaq premiered his track in this video on BBC Radio, interrupting his inferior competitor, MC Quakez, in the middle of a set and has since blown up like crazy.
But who’s this Michael Dapaah guy who posted the “Man’s Not Hot” video? In truth, both Big Shaq and MC Quakez are two of the many faces of Michael Dapaah, a British-Ghanaian comedian. Dapaah is a brilliant comic, taking on hilarious characters in mundane situations around London: Dr. Ofori, a blunt Uber driver/relationship coach; Patrick, an annoying policeman; Roger, a brash Jamaican roommate (watch his YouTube series SWIL here). Big Shaq made his debut on that BBC video and people immediately loved it, telling Dapaah that they’d actually listen to that song if he produced it for real. Thus this “Man’s Not Hot” video was born, in all its comedic glory. And even though he’s a faux rapper, the fame is real, bringing Dapaah around the world and even eliciting a diss track from the original Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal). For your listening “pleasure,” here is a music video from Dapaah’s lame MC Quakez:
Nadia Rose, “Big Woman”
We’ve gotten a taste of British rapper Nadia Rose’s spitfire before and she again delivers with “Big Woman.” This track is a heavy dance-floor banger, propelled by those icy hot rhymes Rose delivers like she gives no damns about what you think.
Karol Conka, “Lalá”
Karol Conka, the Brazilian rap powerhouse from Curitiba, came out with this cut back in June, but it’s too fresh to leave out. Conka is inimitable, with her big, in-your-face attitude, bold, heavy beats and piercing, unforgiving lyrical delivery. This track has a fierce feminist message—ask your Brazilian friend for a translation.
Sho Madjozi, “Dumi Hi Phone”
Here’s a fresh track from Sho Madjozi, a big name in South Africa’s burgeoning gqom music scene—that spare, darkly textured and infectious dance sound that evolved out of house music. The 25-year-old rapper does her work in the Xitsonga language, choosing to remain true to her mother tongue. In this hype track and vibrant video, she sings a song of pride and defiance. She says that no one can tell her how to behave, no one can stop her; she’s bringing a whole new style to South Africa, and if you think you can party, bring your friends to her party and prove it. Oh, and if you want to reach her, hit her up on her phone, ‘cause she’s phone famous.
Bomba Estéreo, “Química”
Can you get enough Bomba Estéreo? The bomb Colombian band is up for a Grammy this year for their album Ayo and they well deserve it. This is one of the hottest tracks from that album, a banger with a reggaeton groove.
Riky Rick featuring Cassper Nyovest, Professor, Major League, Ali Keys, “Stay Shining”
I can’t get enough of this one. Riky Rick, a big-time rapper from Johannesburg, South Africa, is at the helm of this hopping, groovy tune, which features a sample from the early ‘90s South African kwaito hit “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” by Crystal Waters. Riky Rick brings that kwaito/disco house vibe into a hip-hop present, laying a swinging, house-inflected beat on top and rapping a message of optimistism, self-confidence and tenacity. Fellow S.A. artists Cassper Nyovest, Professor, Major League and Ali Keys join him on the track.
The Chief is back with this unstoppably fresh jam, “Boomerang.” The Nigerian-American Brooklyn-based artist has hit on some serious gold here: a catchy, well-sung hook over a deliciously textured, deeply danceable beat. I can’t get enough of that stuttering synth flair in the bridge. And you have to watch the video for this song to get the full effect. These two phenomenal local dancers (Omari Mizrahi and Akosua Akoto) have unbelievable chemistry and irresistible moves, performing some of the best music video choreography I’ve seen a long time. (P.S.: you can take dance classes with both of them).
Cherrie featuring Z.E., “163 För Evigt”
Cherrie is a Somali-Swedish rapper who’s been making a splash in the European hip-hop scene. In this bumping track, she gives love to her Stockholm neighborhood (area code 163) and to her motherland of Somalia. In the past year, she’s put out some great tracks, including a collaboration with British rapper Stormzy.
MITÚ – “Melgar”
MITÚ joins the ranks of cutting edge Latin American DJs and producers on the roster of the Argentine record label ZZK. MITÚ (not to be confused with the media organization of the same name), is a duo made up of Colombian artists Julian Salazar and Franklin Tejedor. They describe their trippy, stuttering electro sound as techno de la selva—jungle techno, in English. They also join an outpouring of killer Colombian electronic acts these days (Bomba Estéreo, Systema Solar, Combo Chimbita, Palenke Soultribe, etc.) to announce Colombia loud and clear as a hub of fresh, innovative dance sounds. Their full album is here; other recommended tracks: “Campanas” and “Fiebre.”
Natti Natasha and Ozuna, “Criminal”
This track has possibly already gotten more airtime than all the others on this list combined, but it’s still fresh and worth mentioning. These two Puerto Rican stars joined forces on this hot reggaeton slow jam. This year has been one of extremes for Puerto Rico, with the unprecedented heights Puerto Rican reggaeton has risen to with that wildfire of a song, “Despacito,” and with the unspeakable devastation of Hurricane Maria and the subsequent lack of an adequate federal disaster response that has left much of the island still without power or water. Puerto Rican musical culture is consumed big time on the American mainland while the territory’s reality on the ground is largely being dealt with poorly by the mainland government. Remezcla has an article on how Puerto Ricans are dealing with the aftermath of Maria and a list of organizations to donate to.
The Green, “I Will”
With two of the five Grammy-nominated artists in the 2017 Best Reggae Album category (J Boog and Common Kings) coming from Polynesian/Hawaiian backgrounds, it seems like the vibrant trans-Pacific reggae scene is coming up strong. The Green is another piece of evidence to that fact—the Hawaiian reggae band won three Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards—the Hawaiian Grammys—for their last album and they’re back again this year with a fiery new record, Marching Orders. Their sound has a strong retro dub/roots vibe, combined with Hawaiian flavor and contemporary pop. This track, “I Will,” is a strong, self-assured jam. Get the full album here.
Seun Kuti featuring Carlos Santana, “Black Times”
Seun Kuti, son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, has been carrying his father’s politically fiery and undyingly funky torch into the present day. With his band Egypt 80, he’s got a new album in the works due for release in March 2018 on Strut Records. The new single off that album, both titled “Black Times,” is a collaboration with the famed guitarist Carlos Santana. Seun describes his record as “an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together.” He says, “The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.” He sings this message in the song “Black Times,” accompanied by the subtle but stunning guitar work from Santana: “Understand your history/Rise to be free.” You can get the full album here.
I think Ghana has the most fun in the Afrobeats game. There’s just so much great Ghanaian pop these days! And these guys in particular know how to have a good time. This is Wutah, a self-described “reggae/hiplife” duo made up of singers Afriyie and Kobby, with their track “Bronya.” Just in time for the holidays, too: the chorus translates to “We're already drunk, we don't wait for Christmas.” Also, did you catch the sped-up sample of E. T. Mensah’s “Ghana Freedom” at the beginning of the video?
Stonebwoy, “Pepper Dem”
Stonebwoy, one of Ghana’s top reggae/dancehall/Afrobeats bosses (along with Shatta Wale), is out with a massive new album, Epistles of Mama. The tracks range pretty widely in vibe and quality, but there’s a good dose of quality dance tracks (including one featuring Fay-Ann Lyons—likely the project she mentioned in our September video premiere of another Stonebwoy collaboration). Here’s a sparse, intimate track featuring Edem and Ama Rae.
Here's something different. “Obiagu,” from Naija Afrobeats star Phyno, is, as someone on the Internet called it, a “gyration song.” Little synth-y ornaments adorn this mostly acoustic, drum-driven jam. Phyno is proudly Igbo, rapping mostly in Igbo and, in this song, letting Igbo rhythms take center stage.
Assembled by Sebastian Bouknight, Akornefa Akyea, Ben Richmond and CC Smith