Hip-hop’s avant-garde is now in Africa. And, yes, the continent’s content runs deeper than Die Antwoord’s “I Fink U Freeky.” Along with Spoek Mathambo, here are four to keep an eye on.
The “Nigerian Lauryn Hill” offers up brassy dub reggae and melancholy boom-bap on her new Soul Is Heavy, her second American album. Her righteous singing is bittersweet and buttery, with just a hint of grit. You could slather that voice over LMFAO and we’d put our fist in the air.
Blitz the Ambassador
The Ghana MC’s mic style, like I-95, stretches between Philly and NYC, between the Roots and Chuck D. Rapping in English, Akan/Twi and West African pidgin, the Ambassador spits over beats that balance Afrobeat’s polyrhythms and urban bump. His Native Son was released last year.
The dapper Congolese kid finally answers the call for a rapper for Buena Vista Social Club fans. His music is the most indigenous and organic—Afro-Cuban bar grooves with hand percussion and chanting. Kinshasa Succursale, his latest, is most electric when riding the wired thumb-piano funk of Konono No. 1.
The Nigerian star signed to Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label, after meeting Yeezy in Dubai. So clearly the MTV Africa Music Awards winner is willfully first class and blingy. His sex-driven and synthetic bangers are proof of the toxic fallout that floats over the Atlantic from American pop radio. But the guy has a lightning-quick tongue and comedic frankness. “Mr. Endowed” will make Republicans blush.