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Rotation combines with fellow member of Sudanese collective nuslang. on banger ‘Affin Affin’. The track adopts a ‘trap-zanig’ style, fusing Sudani instruments with contemporary hip-hop to inject a refreshing dynamic energy. Driven by Rotation’s unique flow and a spine-chilling guitar solo by producer WillyWill, “Affin Affin” is a powerful example of the strength of the East African country’s vibrant rap scene, incorporating Western influences to create new original gems.
MaMan’s triple-threat ability to sing, rap, and produce with equal strength mark him as one of the most notable talents to come out of Sudan in recent years. Entitled after the year of his birth, his latest album “1991” aptly represents the struggle of a young Sudanese creative fighting their way through the country’s economic and socio-political strife, a scenario that many of the marginalised young generation can relate to. Sonically, “1991” boasts genre-fusing electronic beats and diverse hip-hop flows, running the gamut of emotions as the mood shifts from uplifting positivity to brooding introspection, tied together by dark, swirling production.
Sudan-born, Ontario-based A7MD is an artist who deserves to be watched closely. Aside from his archives of releases under the pseudonym Skripter, his new moniker and new sound brings a refreshing, original approach to the contemporary trap sounds that dominate North America’s rap scene. His successful single Zombies, produced by DBLCRSS, boasts a distinctive melodic lilt to his bars, and he is equally comfortable flexing his lyrical skill in the verses as he is delivering a catchy mantra in the chorus; “I only did this for squad, and my only witness is God”.
Two members of the Tribal East collective, Somali-born HasH and Hand Bandz combine their creative talents to create ‘Darkside of the Moon’. Bandz’s haunting melody is difficult to shake once heard, and is offset by his emotionally charged bars, delivered over the chilling production of Evrgreen (now known as AKA Blobby).
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21-year-old Egyptian artist Pharaohgamo creates music with a maturity that even veteran artists struggle to achieve. On his debut mixtape Survivor Series, released in December 2017, the Virginia-based wordsmith pens lyrics with an engaging balance of intellectual social commentary alongside clever punch lines and humour. With imposing, gravelly vocals that have iconic potential, Pharaohgamo’s dark tone and contemporary twists on old-school flows is symbolic of the struggle of artists who must rebel against the restrictions of their culture in order to push the envelope for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
Ethiopian-American artist Kelela’s first entrance came in 2013 with her mixtape ‘Cut 4 Me’; since then, hundreds of thousands of listeners have gravitated towards her masterful ability to fuse pop and RnB with elements of modern cinematic sounds and neo-soul. Take Me Apart, her 2017 debut studio album, received critical acclaim for its original sound and refreshing energy; standout track ‘Frontline’ demonstrates the breadth of Kelela’s range, with choppy raps acting as a powerful contrast amongst airy, effortless vocals. Since her youth, Kelela’s Ethiopian roots and perspective on music and freedom of movement has influenced her nomadic style and unique approach.
With ‘Rival’, Sudanese artist Hiba Elgizouli has proven herself to be one of 2018’s most exciting talents to watch. The track seamlessly transfuses the classic neo-soul sound with distinctly Sudanese intonations and patterns, as Hiba’s ethereal incantations coming from all directions illustrating an internal conflict and conversation. This style is hugely reminiscent of classic Sudanese music, which makes heavy use of responses from a choir to the lead singer. The track’s stunning accompanying visuals boast the art direction and cinematic directing talents of Hiba’s sisters, May and Sally Elgizouli, adding an entirely new dimension to the song and revealing the beauty of Sudanese culture and tradition.
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Sudanese artist AKA Keyz comes roaring into the game with his debut project, ‘The Seed’. At just 21 years old, the eight songs demonstrate a level of skilled lyricism that belies his youth, touching on a range of mature subject matter from mental health and introspection to childhood reminiscence. Lead single ‘No Options Left’ is a track that carefully balances a smooth, timeless hip-hop groove with serious comment on the socio-economic and political state of his country, all tied together around an infectious hook.
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In 2013, Dreamville rapper Bas released Pinball, a song that hinted at his hunger for success; five years on, its sequel is a testament to how far the Queens artist has come. With his last album ‘Too High to Riot’ debuting in Billboard’s Top 50, Bas has steadily climbed up from his humble beginnings – and he isn’t stopping. Pinball II boasts punchy bars delivered with a racing flow and features the heavy vocals of LA artist Correy C.
The burgeoning Sudanese hip-hop scene is producing some of the most exciting talent right now: rappers like TooDope and MaMan’s ability to merge the influences of Western hip-hop with local cultural references is demonstrated on ‘Alright’, as Omar Majid’s bouncing production is blessed with an infectious hook and humorous lyricism.
Chicago artist Saba’s sophomore album CARE FOR ME is dedicated to his cousin John Walt who was fatally stabbed in February 2017. His discography boasts a range of diverse material, exploring a fusion of elements of hip-hop, jazz, and neo-soul; on LIFE, the production morphs from a smooth head-knocking double bass sample to darker, distorted synth sounds as the mood develops, with Saba’s melodic raps brooding over his personal struggles with grief and the hardships of life as a black man in America.