Meet the Artists Driving Nigeria’s Trap Music Scene
In Nigeria, a slew of young and emerging rappers are exploring the gritty Southern American trap sound in enterprising ways, collapsing conventions and fusing local sensibilities to create Afro-trap or Naija trap. Of course, this hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Rap music in local languages like Yoruba and Igbo was pivotal to how trap currently operates today, exploding from the realm of SoundCloud with youth and vitality. Although still burgeoning, these are the artistes championing the wave of Nigerian trap.
Arguably one of trap’s most visible torchbearers today, PsychoYP is a young rapper from Nigeria’s capital Abuja who embodies the genre in its truest form. Emerging from the grapevines of SoundCloud, his 2016 debut EP Lost in the Sauce laid the ground work for his music trajectory, coasting on the personality tics and lyricism of hip-hop. But it was his debut album YPSZN (2018) and follow up YPSZN2 (2019) that showed a better trap progression, embracing the echoing snares, stuttering kick drums, hi-hats and 808s. Read our 2019 interview with PsychoYP.
Straffitti‘s inclination towards hip-hop is only one side of his creative complexities. As a producer, he founded the indie label Thirsty Worldwide under which his first project Vanilla Sky was released in 2017. That body of work scored a feature from rap heavyweight M.I on the song “Cozy Wave,” with its rap-swag punctuated by digitally warped interludes and trap-centric chants. His 2018 debut album Molotov was an illuminating turn for the singer-rapper, solidifying his trap credentials. Featuring PsychoYP and Blaqbonez on the album’s headline single “100Benz,” the track takes the rudiments of trap to produce stark atmospheres, chaotic hisses folding in a smog as Straffitti sings about largess with his gravel voice. Other tracks on the album are just as noteworthy: the sneering, seedy noir of El Fuego, the trap-emo-pop of Kar Keys, the narcotized plunge of O.D and the trap ballad of Demons Inside of You.
Another Abuja native, Zilla Oaks is a member of the hip-hop collective Apex Village just like PsychoYP, Kuddi Is Dead, and Marv OTM. His latest album No Zzzz 2 is a dangerous upgrade from his 2018’s sophomore offering No Zzzz. Tracks like “Still Up” are almost Frankenstein in nature, a furious blend of trap, drill and grime sensibilities. Elsewhere, “Vibez on Vibez” would land on club dance floors in Lagos or London and as far as Afro-trap is concerned, “Ogini” featuring Dremo and Prettyboy DO traffics in lyrical Igbo for good measure. Zilla’s ability to shift between states of matter leaves a palpable effect on the album. With lyrics on sex, hedonism, mortality and territorial masculinity, Zilla’s storytelling demonstrates the authenticity of his talent.
Marv OTM‘s remarkable command of tone and wordplay have cleared a space for him on the burgeoning landscape of Nigerian trap, whether in collaboration with other trap acts or independently. His 2017 single “Omo Bendel” featuring Bobson is a sprightly, clubby production, with pockets of trap patterns and a heavy dose of Pidgin English and local lingo. His debut EP, Way Up North released in 2020 is shaped by a denser, kinetic production, crossing into the trap threshold with digitally filtered vocals and blown-out instrumentation. Same thing also with his more recent offering Holy Grail, a PsychoYP-assisted, two-track exercise swinging with faster kicks. His follow up project Northpole is coming soon.
Tochi Bedford‘s first foray into music was in 2015 making beats. He now leads a producer collective in Nigeria called 44db which was inspired by the way producers were often not given enough recognition. What separates Tochi Bedford from other trappers is how his voice remains largely free from auto-tune technology, unalloyed. His first EP Eternal Mob released in 2020 finds Bedford not sticking to typical trap conventions. The opener “Bros” was an interesting primer blown over tinkling synths and echoes. It had been recorded at night with hushed tones but Tochi had found himself later loving the way it sounded. Tracks like “Killer” adjust to familiar trap beats, running with a palpable brooding. The young rapper-producer is currently working on his next project After Eternity, which is in its final stages.
Trill Xoe is a multi-genre producer who belongs to the 44Db collective and started out making out trap beats. Perhaps it’s why his debut EP Blood, Sweat and Tears is lush with versatility, but its trap gem “Dripping Like Snow” takes on the genre’s sinister programming, haunting bass lines and frenetic ad-libs. His two-track EP Damage Control released this year exhumes emotions around heartbreak, reckoning with isolation and pain. Sonically, it is skewed towards emo-rap, confined to dejected guitars that invokes the feeling of drowning. With lyrics like, ‘‘Girl I need your help, not trynna make you sad / These tears ain’t gonna help,” Trill Xoe has never been more vulnerable.
Rapper-producer Kiienka creates deep, fluttering moods with his trap identity. His journey started on SoundCloud, possessing a hero complex with his first mixtape, Spaceman, broken down as a narrative of trying to save Nigeria from invasive forces. The cocksure grandeur of “No Smoke” and the fleeting, lounge-y element of “Expensive” provide a wide, dynamic texture across the project. On Spaceman 2.0, he retraces his steps and makes it fun and crazy — the whispery bombastic opening of “In the Ends” and the xanned-out malevolence of “Mob” show Kiienka in different emotional states. With these projects and a handful of singles and collaborations, Kiienka has proven that he’s still has more to give to Nigeria’s trap music.