For Fans Of: Danny Brown, Bakar, Moses Sunmey
There’s always been an air of mystery surrounding every aspect of Obongjayar. Emerging towards the end of 2016, his sound has been called many things, from soul to future afrobeat and nu-jazz. But regardless of how he’s labelled, each release manages to build upon what came before.
Born and raised in Nigeria by his religious grandmother, music became a huge part of Steven Umoh‘s life. Heavily involved in the church, he sang (and rapped) the gospel, while also experiencing more contemporary musicians such as Snoop Dogg, Usher and Nelly in his uncle’s car on the way to school. Although he didn’t live with his parents, his mother also made sure she gave him strong Western influences. Living in London to escape domestic abuse, she would send him Eminem and Ciara CDs as they kept in touch. At 17, he moved in with her before moving to Norwich under the guise of studying Graphic Design at university, although he really just wanted to experience independence and escapism.
And Obongjayar did escape through his debut 2016 EP Home; a gentle three-track collection that captures all of his grievances. His second release Bassey came a year later, and questioned faith through topics of his absent father, racism and chasing the afterlife.
For his upcoming EP Which Way Is Forward?, he’s exchanging belief in a higher power for for belief in one’s self. Due on 7th February, he’s stated “Which Way Is Forward? is a project about love, family, self empowerment and self belief. It’s a mirror that allows you to look inward, to understand trauma, to heal. It’s a project about mustering the strength – the strength to get up and clean house.”
Two days ago (17th January), he’s released his third single from the EP, ‘God’s Own Children’, which he has said is “inspired by protests from around the world and the resilience of my generation. It’s a reminder that we’re all in this together and that this world we inhabit right now is what we’re inheriting from the generation passed. If it all goes down it affects all of us and in-turn affects the ones that come after us. There’s a realisation of that and an active resistance to the suppression and oppression that’s happening to us. This song was also inspired by the dance moves coming out of Nigeria which in itself and of its character feels like a form of protest.”
It’s inspiring how Obongjayar can transform such strong lyrical messages into such mellow beats without the contrast diminishing his energy. It’s a craft spent years in the making, and Which Way Is Forward? is destined to prove it was worth it.introducing / obongjayar