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Matata – “Pombe Na Kizungi Mingi” (ft. Bensoul & Nvirii the Storyteller)

From Kenya: The Kenyan group Matata is not only the country’s premier gengetone act but also one of its most fascinating entities in entertainment, as they also possess a unique comedic edge, partly due to their hilariously contrasting personalities. For “Pombe Na Kizungi” they enlist Bensoul and Nvirii for a new spin on the posse cut format, where they eschew the usual “cipher” dynamic of tunes like “Chini Chini” (which we love), and opt for a more traditional song structure, the melodies matching the group’s uncanny ability for making people move to their flow alone.

Betty G – “Adīsi semayi”

From Ethiopia: I’m always amazed by the enormous emotional power of Amharic music, especially the incredible emphasis they make on soaring, uplifting melodies. But Betty G’s “Adisi semayi” (“new sky”) seems to be aiming at something even higher, as her message of hope for a peaceful nation, aided by the super sophisticate arrangements that often marrying traditional forms and jazz-influenced sensibilities, displays both spiritual hymn proportions and heroic anthem ambitions. And it touches Ethiopians in a profound way — just look at the video comments.

Moms Loup x Yacoub B OG – “Wallaye”

From Mali: Malian urban club music has unique commercial possibilities, as it can attract the two most numerous communities of African music fans in the West; on the one hand, you can see the afrobeats-adjacent crowd going nuts over “Wallaye” just like they do with their Nigerian and Ghanaian counterparts, and on the other hand, you can see the “Desert Blues” hipsters loving this as well You can hear it on the percussive accents, the balafons, and that haunting ngoni riff in the back.

Wave Rhyder – “Pula”

From South Africa: Do you know what Amapiano often lacks, but desperately needs? More male vocalists focusing on actual melodies instead of flow or lyricism. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to hear skillful Zulu wordsmiths and charismatic hypemen, but if we listen to the recent trend of amazing women bringing their best melodic chops to the genre, you can see why there’s space for a guy. Wave Rhyder’s “Pula” is the perfect candidate for taking that spot, as his heavily reverberated, multi-layered melodies dominate the beat, the entire song acting as a gigantic hook.

Muthoni Drummer Queen x Sauti Sol – “Love Potion”

From Kenya: If we’re talking awesome melodies taking over beats, there’s no one in East Africa as good at that as stellar group Sauti Sol, which is why they’re recruited by Muthoni Drummer Queen (a very talented performer on her own right) for “Love Potion”, a sex jam that sounds way steamier than it has any right to be. Just listen to that synth-bass tumbao, hell, even the heavy guitar sounds sexy.

Willy Paul – “Ogopa Wasanii”

From Kenya: Oh yes, it’s that irresistible 4:3 counter-rhythm again, but it’s also the killer guitar licks, the very expressive bass lines, and of course, Willy Paul’s rich tone, this time way more r&b tinged and vulnerable than in previous tunes. Paul has a lot of stylistic range, but this is my favorite style from him, going full Afropop, but still distinctly Kenyan.

Fellow – “Bonbon”

From Democratic Republic of Congo: This tune totally captured me for the way it subtly subverts the tropes of Afropop; first, it’s not very common to hear an i-ii chord progression, but also the way the bass starts on the upbeats is quite intriguing, moving opposite the clicked percussions, and then the saxophone splashes make it all the more unique.

Nomfundo Moh x Sha Sha x Ami Faku – “Phakade Lami”

From South Africa: My god, this is haunting. Three of the prominent ladies of amapiano joining forces for a downtempo, future r&b adjacent tune that displays some of the greatest vocal interactions of the year — no exaggeration, just listen to the harmonies. The beat is quite powerful, with those big bass drum hits, and glitchy hyperpop-lite sounds, and it makes a great contrast with the atmospheric vocal interplay at hand, especially when Sha Sha takes center stage.

Bonus Tracks

Abdikarim Ali Shaah – Mac Isasiino (Somalia)

Whizbi – Halista (Somalia)

Haimanot Awoke – Bilegn (Ethiopia)

Cintia – Tou Na Boa (Guinea-Bissau)

Prince Heritier x Diamounou Condé – BankhiKangni (Guinea)

Sethlo – Love (Togo)

Tiwa Savage x Brandy – Somebody’s Son (Nigeria)

Wizzy Kana – Cité de dieu (Senegal)

B Classic 006 x Marioo – Wallahi (Tanzania)

Enzo Ishall – Zuva Risingasvike (Zimbabwe)

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