Nanette, Lojay, Pawzz…10 African acts to look out for in 2023

By Shingai Darangwa

Posted on Saturday, 18 March 2023 09:00
Artist Lojay

African music continued on its upward trajectory throughout 2022 as more and more artists found international success. 2023 looks set to be even bigger.

Fireboy DML’s ‘Peru’ went global off the back of a remix featuring Ed Sheeran, Oxlade’s ‘Ku Lo Sa’ became a viral international hit after it was featured on the hugely popular music platform COLORS, and Rema rocked the world with ‘Calm Down’.

Already a huge hit across the US and Europe, ‘Calm Down’ took off after Selena Gomez jumped on the remix and helped propel it into one of the top streaming African songs of all-time.

Already, Nigerian afropop and R&B sensation Tems made history when she became the first Nigerian woman to win a Grammy when she took home the Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

South African dance music and afro tech icon Zakes Bantwini along with ‘Jerusalema’ vocalist Nomcebo Zikode and four time Grammy nominee Wouter Kellerman also took home the Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for their gorgeous and spiritual collaboration, ‘Bayethe’.

It’s safe to say the bar has been set very, very high.

Here, we look at some of the talented African artists that are primed to carry the mantle and take the world by storm in 2023.

1. Nanette

As far as female amapiano vocalists go, Nanette might just be the most talented. That says a lot when you consider that she’s competing against the likes of Ami Faku, Boohle, Msaki and Sha Sha. After her R&B-leaning debut project ‘Bad Weather’ fell on deaf ears early last year, Nanette took amapiano by storm when she featured on ‘Fool Me’ and ‘Imfula’, two of the standout hits from Kelvin Momo’s excellent album, Amukelani.

Shortly after the album dropped, Drake DM’d Momo to tell him how much he loved his music. Nanette deserves a huge chunk of the credit for the project’s success.

2. Larruso

Larruso has been bubbling under for a while now. Now, a year and a half on from the release of his debut EP, New Gen, the Ghanaian reggae/dancehall star looks like he’s finally coming to the fore. In January, Larruso released a video for one of the EP’s standout singles, ‘High Meditation’, which sees him living his best life with his friends in some exotic foreign destination. 2023 looks set to be a landmark year for Larusso as he looks to lead the next gen of Ghana’s music stars.

3. Skyface SDW

Ghanaian rapper Skyface SDW has been on the verge of finding true continental reach for over a year now. His first taste of mainstream success came when he worked with frequent collaborators OKenneth and Reggie for the drill hit single, ‘M.O.B’. He followed that up by collaborating with Jay Bahd on another drill-inspired heater, ‘Stand Firm’.

Then, late last year, Skyface closed the year off with arguably his most impressive single to date, ‘Obaa Hemaa’, alongside OKenneth, Reggie, Beeztrap Kotm, Kwaku DMC and Jay Bahd. If he can continue on from this momentum, 2023 will be yet another big year for him.


4. Tyla

After Tyla first burst onto the scene with her mesmeric vocal and dance performance on the anthemic 2019 hit single, ‘Getting Late’, her star seemed to dim right in front of our eyes. The coronavirus pandemic put a dampener on her trajectory and resigned her to doing TikTok challenges, which kept her somewhat relevant over the past two years. However, having signed a record deal with US label Epic Records, she’s back in full flow with some new singles to boot and a slot opening for Chris Brown during the European leg of his current world tour.

5. ElGrandeToto

While afro-arab musician ElGrandeToto has been around for a while now, many Africans outside of the Arab world are only now starting to really pay attention to him.

The incredibly versatile and lyrically dexterous Moroccan rapper is primed for a global takeover in 2023 and it feels like just a matter of time before we count him among the continent’s top global exports.

6. Mauimoon

The title of Apple Music’s Up Next artist is one that’s much vaunted among new artists. In February, Ugandan alté singer, Mauimøon, became the latest African act to join the programme and the very first artist to be featured on its new East Africa programme. “It makes me feel good that my music is being recognised,” he said, “especially as an alté and R&B artist in an Afrobeats-dominated industry.” He’ll be hoping that the programme helps boost his impressive debut album From Uganda With Love.

7. Lojay

Despite a huge continental hit single in the form of ‘Monalisa’ and its Chris Brown-featured remix, Nigerian afrobeats singer Lojay is still a relatively unknown artist.

Given just how early into his career the song was released, Lojay has the unenviable distinction of having a song that is, in many ways, bigger than he is. Earlier this month, he took a major step towards building a name for himself with the release of his debut album, ‘Gangster Romantic’.

8. Hanna

There aren’t many rappers, male or female, who can stand toe-to-toe with 24-year-old Zimbabwean rapper Hanna. Over the past few years, as Hanna has been trying to balance her studies at the University of Cape Town with her budding rap career, things haven’t always gone smoothly. Her debut album, 2020’s The Girl In The Durag, flew under the radar and her singles haven’t received the attention they deserve. Even so, if her sparkling feature on Jimmy Nevis’ ‘Levels’ is anything to go by, Hanna is primed for her best year yet.

9. Pawzz

Nigerian afrobeats star Pawzz is also one of the African acts recently enlisted to Apple Music’s Up Next programme, which is a global artist development programme geared towards identifying, showcasing and elevating rising talent. His newly-released debut EP, Prezz Play, is a unique blend of various genres, including afrobeats, R&B and amapiano. It’s a strong debut effort that showcases his incredible versatility and immense potential.

10. TOSS

The past year has been a rollercoaster ride for TOSS. First he came out of nowhere with the dance challenge of 2022 for his debut single, ‘uMlando’, alongside 9umba and Mdoovar. Then, while many spoke loudly about how the husky-voiced rapper and vocalist had just lucked into a hit, he quickly disproved this when he followed it up with stellar showings alongside Felo Le Tee on ‘Manca’ and ‘Ncebeleka’. Now, he’s picked up right where he left off from with his latest release Tetema featuring Young Stunna and Tyler ICU. If his trajectory is anything to go by, TOSS will be THE GUY in 2023.

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