One of the most exciting things about music is the way it’s always evolving. While there are always looming giants of the genre, everything continues to shift beneath them. These shifting elements are mostly thanks to the rising stars—the ones carving out new lanes, inventing and reinventing styles, and pushing the norms to their limits.
We’re not claiming that all of these artists are going to dominate the charts and the radio, but they’re all making waves, and they’re all on the brink of something much bigger. Look out for them now, and get to know the newcomers before they blow up next year.
1. Kella Kay
Kella has the kind of voice that captures your attention immediately. Sultry and smoldering, it pairs perfectly with the hauntingly powerful music she creates. Her tracks are full of atmosphere, building from quiet moments to powerful emotional climaxes. She’s got a knack for making seriously emotional tracks, and she’s been hoarding an arsenal of tunes that’ll only stoke the fire of this rapidly growing microcosm. This singer, songwriter and vocalist has talent for days, and it’s safe to say that she’ll have a major breakthrough in the coming year.
2. Yungish IRIS
This Port Harcourt based rapper/singer took the industry by storm with the release of his hit single “Diallo Diallo” and his controversial performance in the Port Harcourt Mall gained him even more attention. Following up previous songs, he kept the momentum going with the release of the sing “Body” featuring Dremo which is just as amazing. If we were you we’d be on the lookout for his latest project next year, something tells me there is an album or even a mixtape in the works.
3. King K.O
King K.O started 2016 as something of an enigma. Standout features of Timi Kay and Lyrikal “The Victory“. That single had his name on the lips of hip-hop heads, but with an aversion to press and no proper solo release there was an air of mystery around the OAP-turned-rapper. in 2017, “War Strategy” changed all that, putting on full display the ear for production, bar to bar felt tone and effortless lyrical mastery that make his one of the genre’s brightest stars. His brand of hip-hop is full of bounce and positivity, and with a charming personality and unique style, King K.O looks primed for stardom, beginning from next year.
Sylverline has the kind of voice that captures your attention immediately. Sultry and smoldering, it pairs perfectly with the hauntingly powerful music she creates. Her tracks are full of atmosphere, building from quiet moments to powerful emotional climaxes.
Despite the usual Mic management interest (she is in Port Harcourt, after all) Sylverline is still staunchly independent, and while you might hear from and see her face more frequently right now, we have a feeling she’s gonna play things her own way in 2018. With a solid E.P, the world is hers.
5. Cynthia Yakie
Look at the name Cynthia Yakie, who recently released an Yanga via G-Yakie Empire‘s label, and you’d probably expect to hear a heavy-hitting wall of sound. Hopefully you learned not to judge a book by its cover. The singer/songwriter Cynthia Yakie whose voice captivated our entire city and is on a clear pathway to the top, embodies Port Harcourt City, but not because she draws on the sounds of its sound’s heritage. She’s fully Port Harcourt because her music is confident, creative and puts her unique identity and culture on full display through her gospel content. Get ready for her next year.
6. Sammy Hart
Sammy Hart can rap! For real. The Mirus Empire rapper has only three songs officially released to his name but each one gets progressively better and much of it was due to his dexterity and malleability. When Sammy Hart raps, he adapts. Which is to say: It doesn’t matter whether it’s a piano-driven melodrama or situation-influenced slappers; Sammy finds a way to make every beat his own. “Why” was nothing if not eclectic. The song’s ultra-slick and lovingly crafted lyrics that gave a vivid depiction of what Nigeria is, and remains consistent enough in our thoughts to sound cohesive. It is indeed proof enough that Sammy has no problem blending into. Beyond his impressive technical skills, Sammy Hart is a masterful gospel artist. We hope a debut album is on the way, and we’re excited to see what’s next from this increasingly talented songwriter next year.
7. Timi Kei
Timi Kei, formerly known as Timi Kay, is a young rapper and singer who recently took his secular hip hop sound to the gospel scenery. Now furthering his career, He’s due to release not only an EP, but also a full-length album next year, hopefully.
On this swift, in-and-out release of “James & Galatians“, Timi Kei created a symbiotic beast of a record, a reflection of a creative process that felt open-ended and lively without launching into space. It was a quick listen — 1 minute, 20 seconds — but the impression it made lasted much longer. So clear, eclectic and hypnotic like the best of Timi Kei‘s releases yet still incredibly listenable, He went deep in the paint.
Timi Kei is potential in motion; technically gifted, but not so much so that he obscures his message with verbal acrobatics; emotional and energetic, but capable of balancing his fire with moments of restraint so he doesn’t lose his urgency or presence; a gift for melody adds depth to his rapping and hints at a path to greater accessibility without losing himself. Whenever he’s on stage, he satisfies fans and grabs the attention of anyone who previously didn’t know him, while his songs are powered along by awesome electronic production.
Within the first quarter of next year, we expect him to release his debut project as a gospel artist, Soul Soup, which from all indications, shall be an encapsulation of many of his experiences, dreams, and frustrations from his journey thus far. Though still very much in the discovery phase of his career, Timi Kei has all the tools to build something much bigger on the back of Soul Soup, subsequently.
8. August Chukwuma
August Chukwuma‘s haunting music will get under your skin, in the greatest way possible. With hypnotizing melodies and poetic lyrics, his songs are worth listening to on repeat.
What happens when you pair tender acoustic guitar with the kind of apocalyptic horns on a song? August, has an answer for you on “Let Me,” the track he dropped earlier.
August Chukwuma‘s voice draws you in from the jump, and what feels like a tender ballad makes sudden gains in grit when the chorus hits. “Let Me” does a fantastic job of incorporating some seriously disparate influences into a cohesive whole, though don’t be surprised if you hear it splintered in the near future—the hook is ripe for sampling and sounds ready for bars to be added to the mix.
If the grandiose single “Let Me” is a sign, this one’s gonna be huge. Don’t sleep on August Chukwuma next year.
A lot of new artists show promise and potential, but there are usually some missing pieces. Not with Loxxy. He is not like most of the artists we cover on here. Actually, he’s not like any artist we’ve heard lately. Actually, we can’t think of another artist quite like Loxxy. He’s an interesting combination of things—a singer/composer, awesome live performer, a fan of modern music, and still an artist based in Port Harcourt.
Loxxy‘s music is a unique blend of traditional and modern pop and afro beat elements, and when they all come together on his album titled “Better Story,” it’s the perfect storm. He shines through in his skillful lyrics and the soulful messages he delivers in them. He’s a truly superb, unique and intriguing new presence, and for him, it comes naturally.
Nigerian rapper Eljodi can create an entire song using only his vocals, and it’s hard to avoid pointing out how cool this is, but it also reduces him to one trick, and he’s much more than that. As a rapper, Eljodi is raw but sharp and supremely engaging. When he sings, he balances soulful talent with a playful charisma. The magic of Eljodi, though, is how he brings all these things together for fun, colorful, and infectious music. How an artist can sound so fresh by relying so heavily on the oldest instrument known to humans—the vocal texture—is amazing. Rather than focusing on complex wordplay interrupted by heavy trap cadences, Eljodi’s flow — which focuses on anecdotal storytelling — is smooth, melodic, and punctuated by the occasional falsetto verse. If you’re a Black Magic fan, this guy is about to be your next obsession. And this guy is just getting started.
Icon might be young, but he has the vision and scope of a seasoned veteran. His latest release, the surprisingly expansive “Good Life“, finds the “bohemian artist” at his most mature and reflective. It’s a free digital release, but it sounds like a dispatch from the majors.
Besides, Icon‘s eponymous single sideswiped the afro pop world this year with its woozy disposition, laying the foundation for a delirious, loose and hypnotic delivery that’s already generating subtle imitators.
Icon has a soulful sensibility rooted in funk, R&B, and pop, but the massive production makes songs like “Good Life” fit well into the current soundscape of modern electronic arrangements, so it’s only a matter of time before this Port Harcourt boy captures the hearts of fans across the pond.
Luckily, Rowli is here to wake us up and remind us exactly what good music sounds like when it’s chillingly hard. On his latest, “Number 1 Fan,” the Okabia born, Port Harcourt rapper delivers cool verse after verse over ominous, menacing beats. Straying from Port Harcourt’s hard-hitting tradition, he makes feel-good music. If you’re looking for something to jam with friends on a beautiful day, “Number 1 Fan” is about as good as it gets. It’s fresh, it’s gritty, and it’s exactly the jarring outlier today’s rap scene needs. Rowli looks poised for a big 2018.
Idahams is already well on his way to major success with concise, accessible songs and a modern sensibility. “Toast” just passed a hundred thousand streams on MTN Music Plus alone, and his songwriting chops and production choices are already on par with some of the best in popular music. With Oyinye featuring label mate Mr.2kay, as his latest release, he’s got nothing to hold him back from shining in 2018, as his hit-making potential is already obvious. If that isn’t the best way to live in 2018, then we don’t know what is. We can’t wait to hear what his offerings would be in the coming year.
14. Prinx Emmanuel
Prinx Emmanuel A.K.A’ Correkt Sound‘s constantly hot productions are gorgeous indications of a bright future, leaving us wanting just a little more from their brief runtimes. He writes, produces, arranges, mixes, and masters all of his own music, and has a sound that’s atypical to the music currently coming out of the city he lives in. His type of music has transmogrified into one of the hardest genres on earth to define. Prinx Emmanuel draws hip-hop, blues, anti-folk and grunge into his tracks, sounding simultaneously futuristic and vintage. Lo-fi, world music elements and self-deprecation all meet in his slow drawl. Beat-heavy and stereo-friendly, Prinx Emmanuel has circulated the gospel scenes of Port Harcourt like a new drug, passed on cautiously but with much enthusiasm. Prinx Emmanuel took the intense individuality of the Port Harcourt spirit and transmuted it into eclectic sounds that capture the attention of listeners from every region. He’s one of the most creative artists from the new batch of Port Harcourt talents, but he understands exactly what he’s doing unlike many. With Prinx Emmanuel, you can’t predict what you’re gonna get next year, but you can bet it’s going to be good.
Dandizzy is always a unique presence. Switching between goofy but precise rapping and spectral crooning, Dandizzy is all about that versatility. He’s been making music for years, maturing his sound into what it is now, and always injects his distinct character into what he makes. No one sounds like Dandizzy when it comes to his ability to freestyle off the head, and in today’s saturated market, that’s a huge advantage. He’s got that charming Port Harcourt weirdness and a sense of humor, but it’s his knack for good beats, confident rapping, and kilter visuals that give him an edge over most artists. The rap landscape becoming ever more open to new sounds, and Dandizzy‘s EP on the way, hopefully 2018 will see his stock rising in other parts of Nigeria too.
17. Don Darrow
Port Harcourt’s Don Darrow has pop appeal, plain and simple. But unlike certain other Nigerian acts with pop appeal, his music feels honest and genuine—full of the youthful energy and joie de vivre of any youth living out his dreams. What Don Darrow has proven so far is that he’s versatile, with his You Sabi The Tin.
For an artist still experimenting and finding his sound, Don Darrow has already made some impressive moves—With more songs in 2018, and he could be a star in no time.
18. Sewuese Don-Loho
Sewuese Don-Loho‘s “Forever” went viral with dangerous speed. It’s dangerous because all too often, when an artist suddenly pops up on everyone’s radar due to one hit, they disappear just as quickly. It takes most artists years to build a fan base, and in the process they grow, learn, and gain loyalty. Sewuese Don-Loho skipped a lot of that growing process, but she proved that “Forever” wasn’t just a lucky strike. We’ll definitely be keeping a close watch on Sewuese Don-Loh‘s next moves in the coming year.
19. Redwine Eccentric
Redwine Eccentric first caught our attention back in September 2016 with his catchy single “Lemonade,” and has been releasing captivating songs ever since. The singer has an alluring approach to reggae, pop and R&B that is sure to draw the ears of any Faze‘s fans, but he’s creating a space of his own.
Keeping things totally independent, he already has the sleeper hit “Your Love” to his name, unconventionally proves with each new song that he can deliver honest, real messages through his music. He’s got energy, charisma, and style, and he has one advantage—he’s young. His vocals are filled to the brim with raw emotion that translates without question into his music. Redwine Eccentric knows how to balance eccentricity with appeal, and he’s inevitably on the right path to stardom. He’s a couple more big songs away from blowing up, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him really shine in 2018.
Part of me hopes you’ll search for her on google through a different tab before you go ahead to read this. A contestant of The Voice Nigeria 2017, Kessydrizs’ voice should speak for itself. It should be allowed to surprise you. It’s so rich, so extraordinarily soulful, that piling up a bunch of hyperbolic adjectives seems like a disservice. KessyDriz is demonstrating a gift for phrasing and dynamics that seems to come naturally. Dresses like nobody else, sounds like nobody else, performs like nobody else and you might have a crack at making it through the noise in 2017. KessyDriz, won’t have any trouble making an impact next year. With a critically acclaimed “Johnbull” in the bag from this year, expect this singer to make creative strides in 2018.
Timeyin‘s songs are ultra-slick and lovingly crafted, consistent enough to sound cohesive. We categorize her sound—a description that‘s strikingly on point after listening to her. Beyond her impressive technical skills, this SheBoss (As she likes to call herself) is a masterful lyricist whose true talent is how deep she’s willing to go to pass her messages. The hyper-introspection and intense musings can be exhausting but the rewards are plentiful.
She is about more than just her music, which we already can’t wait to hear more of. She’s a trailblazer in the fact that she’s using her voice to actively inspire and encourage young people, rendering her a robustly involved and aspirational creative.
Timeyin put herself in a vulnerable, risk-taking zone while retaining those jaw-dropping lyrics and effortless flows on “Gbemisoke“. It’s about all we could ask for. Her energy this year, wasn’t imposing, it was inviting, and it was gone before it wore out its welcome. But we want more in 2018 anyway.
The versatile Rave showed his true potential when he and his family emerged winners on the 8th edition of Maltina Dance all competition, and has since then been making waves and hot songs under the wings of Cadilly Entertainment. Not only capable of writing a brilliant pop song, he proved himself a strong songwriter with a keen ear for melody and body-moving song structures on his recently released single “I Bad Like That“. His sound is bright and energetic, and strong enough to override the knee-jerk temptation of dismissing this music simply as synth-pop. These songs would translate in any style, and that’s the thing about Rave that makes him so much more compelling. He’s got an ear for picking out production, and he’s still young—it’s going to be very interesting to see his next steps.
23. Onome Akeni
If you haven’t listened to Port Harcourt’s gospel songstress Onome Akeni, drop everything and do so immediately. Not only does she serve up some of the smoothest, richest vocals we’ve heard in awhile, but she also touches on everything many would neglect. Pretty, lingering and melancholic, Onome Akeni’s voice stays with you after listening to her within her unapologetically honest lyrics about her believe in God.
Even if her mic were muted, this soulful singer Onome Akeni, would still put on one heck of an entertaining show. When she performs, she exudes an unparalleled, infectious amount of energy that is honest, inspiring, and straight-up rad to watch. Those in attendance at her “Truth Concert“, which doubled as an album launch, would attest to our inevitable observations about her stage presence. She definitely oozes cool and can belt some serious notes — she’s not to be missed in 2018.
One of the most popular question that has been asked in Port Harcourt his year has been “Who is Zaaki?“. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to give a nearly perfect response to that question.
Eccentric, theatric, and utterly uncategorizable, Benjizzy is one of the more curious acts to have emerged fully in 2017. Over the past few years Port Harcourt-based artist Benjizzy has been making waves as an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, carefully crafting his image as an underground gospel/pop savant. Known for his relatable lyrics that can hit you right in the heart; Benjizzy serves as a celebration of individuality and pursuing your dreams. He is without doubt, a future icon who is surely going to pioneer new musical genres, periods, and techniques, as signaled by the work he is already doing. This is Zaaki.. Keep your ears and eyes on this dude from now on.
Miebaka Asabuja Also known as MI2, has always made waves at all he does. This year wasn’t any different for him with the release of his self-produced single, “Letter To 2Baba”. Recorded in boasting vocals that stand out against a dazed, minimalistic soundscape, the song is an open letter to the Legendary 2baba, on how his music and lifestyle influenced his (MI2) music.
Not leaving anything to luck, MI2 had full creative control and proper distribution of his audio letter — a move that is truly unprecedented for any artist, and especially a Port Harcourt one. The good thing is, the song got alot of attention from a vast range and earned itself alot of celebrity listens till it eventually got to 2baba himself, who who was excited to a point that he reached out to MI2.
He is breaking stereotypes of what it means to be an underdog by giving us music that explores faith and progress. The attention he’s received from the industry is to be expected, but in 2018, a serious jump in fan support is soon to follow. MI2 radiates star power on and off-screen, his music is unmistakably rich and with the Asabuja Entertainment team he has in place around him, it’s going to be difficult for him to miss.