2022 saw the world start to properly re-open following multiple pandemic lockdowns and the musical floodgates came with it. If 2021 was breathless then 2022 was unrelenting in it’s release of music. From big mainstream acts to smaller and newer upstarts, the avalanche of music never stopped and this 4-part series sought to cover 100 of our favourite songs from African artists within the calendar year. to bring you some of our favourites in this 4 part series that will cover 100 songs released within the last year. Thus far we’ve musically travelled from Cape Town to Timbuktu with our music selections in what has been our most sonically diverse list of songs that we’ve done. I mean from established mainstream acts to underground entrants and indie mainstays, we’ve ventured into Hip-Hop, Rock-n-Roll, Alté, Jazz, Folk, Amapiano, Dance, R&B, Psychedelic, Pop in the lead up to our top 22 of 2022. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 by clicking on each respective hyperlink. So without further ado, welcome to our top 22 of 2022. The songs and artists whose music had us going, stopped time or deeply resonated with us in 2022. We hope you enjoy.
Usual Disclaimers: 1) For the purposes of this series we’ve kept the choices to one selection per artist in a leading role with the exception of work that’s credited in a group/collaborative body of work. We stress that these are personal favorites and not necessarily what we think are the most representative songs of the year. If an artist dropped both solo work and group/collaborative work in the same time span, we’ve counted each effort as separate, ie this consideration would apply to acts like Maglera Doe Boy & Monelle who both dropped solo music as well as collaborative tapes within the calendar year. 2) Only works that were released between December 1 2021 – November 25th 2022 were considered.
Top 22 [Listed alphabetically, not in ranking]
Abo Mvelo – Daliwonga featuring Mellow & Sleazy & M.J [produced by Mellow and Sleazy]
Kicking off the Top 22 of 2022 is our dance anthem of the year, Abo Mvelo. This is the second year in a row where Daliwonga is the central vocalist of my favourite club piano banger. He has this penchant of sliding his slithering persona into these epically vaunting soundscapes, Abo Mvelo is no different in this regard as Mellow & Sleazy provide a monstrous production for Daliwonga to swagger on with delicious bombast. Abo Mvelo is cultural braggadoccio finely tuned about men for whom money is no problem. Lyrically referencing Trompies’ seminal Magasman, Abo Mvelo finds Daliwonga warning men who are playing around with their women that he and his boys can take care of business, via lobola, if they don’t stop playing. M.J further pushes this narrative along by boasting about their ability to settle any bill they are asked to without worrying about the change, demanding respect for his crew when people are within their presence. Sonically Mellow and Sleazy’s production starts off unassumingly alluring with a tribal set-up before transforming into this soul-shifting assault lead by how hard those drums hit. The boastful danger that Daliwonga and M.J speak about is felt in that intense breakdown that leaves you no choice but to surrender to the madness. Daliwonga’s performance is also dynamic as it oscillates between a quiet taunt and this brash declaration of power that M.J also runs with. What this results in is this mood-boosting anthem that can make you feel on top of the world as you rally your crew for an adventure. Abo Mvelo is a titanic banger that knows how to make its presence felt. It’s another star-turn from Daliwonga, who’s proven himself to be one of Amapiano’s premiere vocalists; and a tremendous production from the trailblazing Mellow & Sleazy who have pioneered one of the culture’s dominating sub-genres. All the boys delivered in this braggadoccious display of power that remains on high rotation, like I said it’s my club banger of the year.
Read more Daliwonga related content here, Mellow & Sleazy here.
Above Your Head – aboynamedblu [produced by aboynamedblu]
aboynamedblu is a songwriter whose pen drips with a searing intensity that bites, there’s this youthful snark that permeates within some of my favourite songs of his. Whilst the snark was self-deprecatingly mellow within last year’s pick, where lucy said, his snarky disposition takes center stage within the gloriously disrespectful Above Your Head. Above Your Head is a song that finds aboynamedblu rethinking the initial feelings he’s had about a specific person. The song opens with aboynamedblu coyly delivering the lyrics “Maybe I was wrong about you…”; backed by an incredibly upbeat chorus of voices chanting “about you!” The song’s production and vocal approach is an excited rush of adrenaline so upbeat that one would be expecting a positive revelation which is tonally deceptive to the crushing bluntness of its catchy chorus that reads: “Way above your head! You should never pay with your two cents… It’s not often you catch on the things that I say. I watch it go way above your head.” With a brusque length that comes just under 2 minutes, Above Your Head is an incredibly catchy rock song that sweeps you into its mayhem with reckless abandon. It’s the type of fun song you can aimlessly jump around to as you relinquish your frustrations. It’s not that deep, it’s just deliciously delivered rock music that is fun and utterly disrespectful.
Read more aboynamedblu related content here, Pascal Righini here.
Back To Kids – SuperJazzClub [produced by Øbed]
“There’s a lot of things I hate to feel, I know you know… Hate being kids, tried to be twenty one. Wait a minute, hate being twenty-one…” The kids are not alright, in fact they’re reeling in this ballad that finds them grappling with young adulthood, as they long to return to the childhood they couldn’t wait to escape. SuperJazzClub’s Back To Kids is a nostalgic trip drenched in the confusing melancholy often felt with the reality of growing up. The Ghanaian Collective invoke child-like imagery as they sip and reminisce on the innocence of their juvenescence and the limitations they hated from that period whilst simultaneously being overwhelmed by the agency that being an adult now requires. This is done over an orchestral piece of progressive soul anchored by a really delicate and looming organ. The intimacy of the distorted instrumentation mixed with the repitched vocal processing gives Back To Kids a cinematic quality that feels like it could live within the same sonic universe as Frank Ocean’s classic Self Control and other gems from the generational Blonde. I have them in a playlist called Melancholic Beauty filled with larger-than-life delicate ballads that leave me in a longingly nostalgic mood; it’s great company for the moments where I want to weep whilst being comforted by dreamy music that feels fuzzy. Back To Kids is heart-achingly beautiful. It swells you with melancholy from its vocals to production, strings to choired musings. It’s the type of song that leaves space for you to settle down and sit there with it for hours as you reminisce or just rest in its stillness. SuperJazzClub has been one of my favourite discoveries of 2022; their adventurous approach to music is exciting as well as affecting. Back To Kids affected me from the first listen and I really have yet to recover, this song is going to be with me for a while.
Catch 22 – IkeN featuring Gabbie [produced by IkeN]
“I put mine on a platter, yours on a pedestal, not that mine doesn’t matter, it’s just regrettable that yours is all too scarce, like nothing else compares; and mine can only pale in comparison and fade in my own presence under blue skies.” This may be one of the most heartbreakingly poetic love songs I’ve ever listened to… To say that I was spellbound when I first heard the song would be an understatement as I lost more than an hour of my life lying within the lustre of this haunting lullaby. Backdropped by rain and lead by sparse keys, Catch 22 finds IkeN and Gabbie reeling after losing themselves in partners who mean everything to them. Reconciling with what might happen when this love ends they realize how lost they feel without it, as well as how much of themselves they have already given away to make it work. IkeN and Gabbie’s pure tones are ethereal vessels of vulnerability that inject the production with an avalanche of harmonies that render you still. Catch 22 is poetry unravelling into despair as IkeN chooses to fully lose himself in the madness despite knowing how damaging this decision will be, despite knowing how fickle this terrain is he can’t let go. Catch 22 feels timeless, it’s a void I keep getting lost in because of the inspired writing, captivating performances and wistful arrangement. IkeN and Gabbie are new discoveries I’m absolutely enamoured by. I can’t wait to see what more comes from them as they continue to mature in their music making. Catch 22 captures magic, to me, it’s my favourite duet of this year and a strong contender amongst my favourite ballads of the decade.
Read more Gabbie related content here.
Circus – Adomaa [produced by Tronomie]
You know, Avant-pop was not on the bingo board of sonic moods I thought I’d cover in my exploration this year and yet here we are with this spellbinding showcase from Adomaa… Circus throws us into the novelty of carnival music as Adomaa spirals in heartbreak. Her mental and emotional breakdown being compared to the acrobatic feats of a circus act as she tries to navigate through her feelings of betrayal and abandonment in view of a prying audience. Tronomie’s production is a bluesy affair with an intro that feels like it was pulled directly from a 40’s musical before settling into a groove that harkens to the jazz age; the musical theatre influence is everywhere. Adomaa approaches her performance like a diva trying to restrain the depths of her heartbreak whilst the raw emotions keep seeping through. It’s honestly one of the most transfixing vocal performances I’ve heard all year as Adomaa’s plays us like putty with how she balances the range of her emotions. Circus is performance art that Adomaa commits to with all the drama she can muster. It’s not the most accessible song on this list, especially with its intro that can sometimes grate, but if you’re in the mood for theatrics you’d be hard pressed to find music that delicately delivers it on this level. Adomaa is a creative force of nature, a bold risk taker with skillful artistry to back it up. If this performance grabs you I’d invite you to get lost in her full body of work to witness this vocal siren come into herself.
Don’t Leave Me – Garden Music [produced by Big Dreamz]
There are some songs that just put a big smile on your face whenever you hear them, Don’t Leave Me is one of those songs for me. Reba Red and Big Dreamz are an inspired duo as Garden Music, with their delicate mix of acoustic soul. Their self-titled 4-track EP is a buttery soundscape of fluttery romance, Don’t Leave Me is a chapter that explores the deep yearn of wanting to be with your partner. Reba Red starts the song sitting on anxious energy. She’s frustrated that she’s not getting the attention she craves from her partner as she realizes how much affection she’s carrying for him.Contrastingly Big Dreamz is more content, preparing to spend some quality time and assure her of his feelings. Don’t Leave Me is an ethereal trip bolstered by the song’s instrumentation and vocal production. Reba Red’s layers of vocals sound heavenly floating on-top of Dreamz’ acoustic guitar and lightly peppered chimes. The crickets add to the nightly intimacy whilst Dreamz’ warm baritone creates more depth when contrasted against Reba’s light but trepid performance. Don’t Leave Me is a beautiful love song that thrives on Garden Music’s chemistry and dynamic. It’s unbridled and peaceful; restless and joyous, and a lot of other paradoxes that exist when love and infatuation are at play. I’d highly recommend their entire project because it’s a precious body of work that hasn’t left me since first hearing it.
Egyptian Silk – Redacted Nation featuring Masilo The Healer, Monelle & IORDN [produced by IORDN]
“There’s nothing between us but Egyptian Silk, tell me how you feel…” Our next selection is a braggadoccios hip-hop and R&B hybrid that sets its grandeur towards romance. Music collective, Redacted Nation, take us on a hedonic fantasy exploring the destinations they’d go to enjoy private time with their romantic partners. Masilo The Healer sets the tone by exuding worldly charisma with a jet-setting verse that involves Lake Tanganyika and richly getting immersed in foreign cities using his adept ability to blend in with the locals of an area. Monelle turns up the intimacy as she paints a one night affair that ends with her and her partner having nothing but Egyptian Silk between them as they enjoy their time together. At the heart of Egyptian Silk is IORDN who not only delivers the song’s central hook and final verse but is also the maestro behind the production. IORDN’s vocal performance anchors the song with great earnest as both his chorus and verse are deep declarations of love that express long-term engagement. His verse is centrally focused on building and pouring into the partner that got him to let his guard down. Egyptian Silk‘s production elevates all Redacted’s sentiments to a grand scale with its lush and orchestral instrumentation, whether you’re talking about the warm and boldly played keys or the sweeping strings that flutter at the heartstrings. Egyptian Silk is a bold and enduring love song from a collective with overwhelming charisma. It sweeps you off your feet and makes you want to dangle them with that special someone. It’s my most played love song of 2022 from this overall list and still remains on high rotation. So if you excuse me, I’m about to grab a mojito and get lost in the sauce.
Read more Monelle related content here, IORDN here.
Listen to All That Yazz’s IORDN interview here.
Falling Apart – Luh’ra
“Oh, I’m torn apart; I should have known from the start. I can’t believe… I liked it when you loved me.” Backdropped by rain and instrumentation that’s just as gloomy, our next song is an act of fragility. Luh’ra delivers a heart-aching jazz ballad with the mournful EP-opener that is Falling Apart. Falling Apart finds Luh’ra quietly living up to the song’s name as she comes to terms with just how much she appreciated someone’s presence and how they made her feel. “I’m falling apart, I’m falling for you.” Luh’ra delivers Falling Apart entirely in hushed tones. You can almost see her curled up in a longing ball of quiet contemplation with how delicately she reaches the song’s central realization. Falling Apart lets the music do the talking when words fails with beautiful instrumental passages that swirl you in their mournful longing of moments passed. The ballad is a wilting cry carried by gorgeous instrumentation and a beautifully restrained performance. It’s vulnerable writing delivered with earnest. Falling Apart is a tender song that allows you to fall apart with it, and I have fallen many a time.
Heaven’s Gate – Tyson Sybateli featuring Francis Jay [produced by IllRose]
Tyson Sybateli tapped into a new creative gear with the release of Home. The album saw his style of storytelling become more exploratory in arguably his most thematically-driven body of work thus far. Less autobiographically personal in text, the record carries some of the artist’s most daring, accessible and personality driven records. My personal highlights being the soaring Growth that kept me going through the thick of things and our official pick, Heaven’s Gate, which provides concept storytelling that has enthralled me in any mood. IllRose’s production intros with these ominous synths that flare with curious danger as a confused Francis Jay asks “With everything in my power, what is you talking about?” It’s a rather pertinent question to ask as we find Sybateli in a lover’s escapade that threatens to ultimately take his life. Referencing the infamous religious cult, Heaven’s Gate finds Sybateli reimagining himself as a character whose girl is trying to get both of them to participate in the cult’s eventual mass-suicide. One wouldn’t initially guess that the context of this song is that dark purely by how humorously engaging Sybateli’s approach to the song is. Sybateli positions himself as a man sexually pursuing a woman who he finds out to be a church girl. Infatuated by their sexual relations, Sybateli is ready to do what it takes to keep things going with this girl until he finds himself at the church and is faced with the reality of what’s being asked of him. Even without full context of the lyric, Heaven’s Gate is a boisterous production that sweeps you into its alluring orbit. Francis Jay’s chorus is one of the most engaging hooks of Tyson S.T’s entire discography with the insistent “I’m ready” refrains that sear into your subconscious whilst propelling you to unknown danger. The propulsive energy of the production has kept me going at the gym whilst the song’s overall spectacle and storytelling has kept it on high rotation everywhere else. Heaven’s Gate is thoroughly entertaining and smartly written with how it introduces interesting stakes to test Sybateli’s persona. Tyson Sybateli has had an undisputed run as my favorite rapper of this young decade. He’s a poignant storyteller with an entertaining charisma that keeps trying to push the limits of what it can do. Heaven’s Gate is my favourite hip-hop song from one of the most enduring albums of the year. It’s a sonic ride that I’m ready to ride again and again and again.
Read more Tyson Sybateli related content here and Francis Jay here.
Listen to Tyson’s Yazz Sessions of Home here and Francis Jay’s All That Yazz feature here.
Fun Facts: 1) Tyson Sybateli is one of only 2 artists to gain top honors in all three years we’ve done this list, the other artist is Thato Saul. 2) As it currently stands, Tyson Sybateli has the most songs with top honors in Next Gen Greats history, appearing in 4 songs that have received our top honors in the last 3 years.
I Don’t Sleep Anymore – The Charles Gene Suite featuring Rāms, Laliboi, MANGALISO ASI, SOMESAYFEDI & Muhammad Dawjee
Our next selection ranks high on the list of songs I need to hear live in 2023. The Charles Gene Suite’s I Don’t Sleep Anymore is a whimsical piece of hip-hop and jazz-fusion that captures the magic of a great jam session. The song intros with a pair of guitars strumming along, creating a dreamy and somewhat buoyant atmosphere as the track gradually sets into its warmth. Rāms vocally leads the song as he introduces the central hook focusing on the restless insomnia he’s been feeling lately. He then introduces himself as a vulnerable artist in need of some genuine connection, this need finds him requesting for someone to keep him company through the night as he gets to know them. SOMESAYFEDI’s beautifully harmonizes with Rāms in one of my favourite bridges of recent memory, the instrumentation against the artists’ playful vocal approach is a truly comforting experience. I Don’t Sleep Anymore’s sonic disposition is so blissful that it often masks just how existential the subject matter being expressed is, the main source of lyrical optimism can be found within Laliboi’s prayer of a second verse. MANGALISO ASI describes his verse as the last ramblings of an insomniac chasing an elusive feeling that he can’t quite reach, expressing how depressed he is by his current existence. He then goes on to reveal that the only place that frees or rests his soul is within abstract fifths (read: music). Within this context I Don’t Sleep Anymore feels like a love letter to music from musicians whose main source of comfort comes from making it. You can feel that comfort and love all over the track as it continues to find ways of inject euphoria into its orbit with an orchestra of instruments. This Charles Gene Suite gem is a paradoxical gift that keeps on giving. Armed with a wealth of amazing musicians all injecting their unique soul into the blend, it’s not only my favourite posse cut I’ve heard this year but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve listened to for as long as I’ve been making these lists.
iLL Prelude – Zoocci Coke Dope featuring Tellaman & Stogie T [produced by Zoocci Coke Dope]
“I’ll lose all I got before I lose myself. Talk is cheap so give me that real and keep that path… I pray to God if I fall I land on love and wealth. Oh well, I wish them well.” At this point I think it’s clear that I have a penchant for the theatrical and Zoocci Coke Dope is an artist that knows how to sonically deliver that at scale. Our selection is the closing number that climaxes ANXIETY+ with a gladiator’s spirit, iLL Prelude. iLL Prelude is a combative cry for holding one’s sense of authenticity to a high standard whilst decrying adversaries who have none and seek to strip you of your code. The track is introduced by an excerpt about making timeless music from Nipsey Hustle’s DJ Vlad interview as Zooccii launches into a verse that brings us into what feels like his general psyche working as an accomplished musician, whilst taking aim at a deceitful peer who he believes is inauthentic and deceitful. Tellaman runs away with a chorus that describes all that he’s willing to lose to keep his sense of self and it’s honestly one of my favourite hooks of the year. The production does a fantastic job of making the chorus feel like the grand declaration it is as Tellaman meets the moment with rousing conviction. Stogie T then delivers an incredibly braggadocious verse that shows how settled, content and extravagant his life is in comparison to that of his haters. iLL Prelude is climactic music that feels primed for stadiums. As a lover of hip-hop and theatricality, iLL Prelude is the exact kind of hip-hop excess I’m drawn to. It’s music you use to pump yourself up for life’s battles or when you just want to immerse yourself in grand soundscapes.
Read more Zoocci Coke Dope related content here.
Ivy League – Kelvin Momo featuring Ch’cco, Yumbs, Ta Skipper & Thlolo [produced by Kelvin Momo]
If Kelvin Momo is an Ivy League Graduate of Amapiano then the title track of his project is a thesis on the intersection between South African jazz, house music and Amapiano. Ivy League is a towering display of musicality that makes 17 minutes feel like 8 as Momo immerses you in a blend of South African Musicology. Ivy League intros with a percussive set tribal drums that have become synonymous with Amapiano and House as a rich bass and symphonic synths creep into the mix. These instruments serve as the canvas for a keyboard to vault into a jazz solo as more guitars enter the mix. The deeper the instrumentation gets the more you feel like you could be in a jazz club listening to a hypnotic band as an electric guitar takes the lead from the keys and keeps the vibe going with soulful riffs and scales. When the bass drum becomes more pronounced so does the house influence as the vibes seamlessly keep flowing in and out of jazz, house and amapiano. The jazz solos keep flowing as musical refrains start to fully settle in as motifs within this session of private school piano. Kelvin Momo and his adept collaborators conduct a masterclass on genre-blending in this vibe of a song that sensually keeps you in its groove. Ivy League takes you through multiple passages that range from tribal and soulful to funky before Ch’cco makes a point to slide a hip-hop cadence into the mix. Ivy League is a sensational listening experience that bends multiple South African soundscapes to its whim in a way that can only be done by a student of music. Kelvin Momo delivers a cultural experience with Ivy League that really finds him in a league of his own. In his own lane, doing it his own way and leaving us with no choice but to press play.
Read more Yumbs related content here.
Fun Fact: Yumbs has the most overall artist appearances of any musician on this year’s selections. He is the only person to be credited as an artist on 4 songs on the 2022 list.
Kick It With You – Thato Saul featuring Marcus Harvey [produced by MashBeatz]
Thato Saul has established himself as one of South Africa’s premiere rappers currently releasing music. His ultra-vivid and often chilling portrayals of gangsterism and life in Pheli have captivated thousands, garnered millions of streams and racked him an Album of The Year win at 2022’s South African Hip-Hop Awards. Our selection from Life is Gangsta is a love song that provides a refreshing change of pace to the often steely rapper, Kick It With You. Kick It With You is a grand display of affection that finds Thato Saul trying to show how serious he is about a girl. It is finely-tuned hip-hop soul that doesn’t relent on Saul’s general optics in its pursuit of romance, and that’s really what makes this such a captivating listen for me. This isn’t just a love song, it’s a Thato Saul love song tightly fitted to his image. I mean this is how the second verse starts “Many curves with the hazel eyes, lowkey too and it may surprise… My nigga if you shoot your shot I’ll shoot mine but to your demise. I’ll kill a nigga for this Sosha thing of mine, the only whining you do is dine. Got you trying to intertwine, my niggas told me I’m tripping I’m really blind.” When Saul says Life is Gangsta, he means it in every space! It barely took a full listen for Kick It With You to be added to my list of iconic gangster love songs with the likes of 50 Cent’s 21 Questions. Mashbeatz really knows how to make a grand intro as he sets Saul up with a luxurious stage to sweet talk. Marcus Harvey provides peak crooning with a winning chorus you can’t help but sing along to. Kick it With You just feels good. It’s expensive hip-hop that’s packed with personality and lived-in style. Thato Saul has already proven himself to be an incredible gangster storyteller so it’s exciting to see him more lax and having some fun adding more textual colours to the scope of his persona.
Read more Thato Saul related content here, Marcus Harvey here and MashBeatz here.
Listen to Thato Saul’s All That Yazz Feature here, and his Sound Engineer’s (Feziekk) interview here.
Thato Saul Fun Facts: 1) Thato Saul is tied for the most appearances of any rapper/singer on this year’s Next Gen Greats list. This year he shares this distinction with Blxckie and Maglera Doe Boy who all appear 3 times. 2) Thato Saul is also one of only 2 artists to gain top honors in all three years we’ve done this list, the other artist is Tyson Sybateli.
MashBeatz Fun Facts: 1) Mashbeatz is tied for the producer with the most production credits on our 2022 list. He shares this distinction with Shooterkhumz and DoouShii who all carry 3 production credits. 2) Overall, MashBeatz appears on the list four times when you add his artist appearance on DJ Sliqe, 25K & Maglera Doe Boy’s Goat Talk.
Last Last – Burna Boy [produced by Chopstix, Mds, Ruuben and Off & Out]
There’s something quite ironic about a heartbreak anthem of this magnitude being built on top of one of this century’s sassiest R&B diss tracks… It shouldn’t work as well as it does but Burna Boy is a revelation, Last Last is defiantly captivating. Last Last finds Burna Boy reeling from a devastating break-up that has him experiencing wild mood swings as he comes to terms with the relationship’s end. He consoles himself with the knowledge that heartbreak is something that everyone has to go through, but for him to cope right now he needs the comfort of alcohol and weed to pick himself back up. Last Last is the infectious heartbreak anthem of 2022. Its vocal production is teeming with broken emotion from Burna Boy’s vulnerable lead to the song’s stacked chants that are delivered with such drunken vigour that you feel like you need Igbo and Shayo too. Burna Boy struck gold by turning this Toni Braxton classic on its head, the song feels like a friend you can turn to to keep you going as you breathe the wounds of heartbreak. Last Last is one of the most enduring hits of 2022 because it is cathartically satisfying, an anthem that further etches the African Giant into the annals of music history.
Read more Burna Boy related content here.
Pressure – Wizkid [produced by P.Priime]
Wizkid is in heat because of a derriere that’s bringing him pressure… Wizkid has established himself as one of the premiere global exporters of Casanova music, few of his contemporaries are as consistent or as captivating within that persona. The title of his latest project further cements his swooning intentions as More Love, Less Ego picks up where tracks like his inescapable Essence left off, only now with richer instrumentation and a bolder presence. Wizkid is here for a good time and makes exquisite music for those occasions. Our selection is one of the more primal cuts from his latest offering, the venereal Pressure. Pressure is one of the slinkiest songs to have scintillated my ears in 2022, those drums immediately draw a deeply carnal energy as Big Wiz slyly slithers in. The song’s production is a flirty affair that finds Wizkid providing one of his most dynamic vocal performances on the album. Pressure almost feels like More Love, Less Ego’s mission statement as it encapsulates his headspace with him declaring: “Never really speak on the things I don’t know. Omo na you be my business oh. Ikebe causing commotion, ikebe wey dey bad I must concur. And I no dey look for the things I no want, omo na you be my business oh. I know you wanting all my touch…” This is a man focused on enjoyment, a playboy that knows his limits; a Casanova ready to feel the pressure. Pressure is a vibey banger that really sees the Starboy fully in his element as he sings, raps and flirts his way into a good time. Rich in instrumentation and packed with personality, it serves as a saucy soundtrack for the moments where pressure must be applied.
Read more Wizkid related content here.
Pulchritudinous – Manana [produced by Noble, Manana & Maxonproduction]
“Pulchritude… ‘It’s derived from the latin word pulcher meaning beautiful, isn’t it?’” You know, I would have never guessed that my favourite pop song of 2022 would be titled after a word so obscure in use that the only reason I know the word is because of my obsession with Akeelah and The Bee growing up. Whether intentional or not, it’s a fitting connection because just like Akeelah, Manana is a poetic wordsmith with an encyclopedic range of words at his disposal. Pulchritudinous finds him showcasing this lyrical dexterity in an effort to find the right words to capture this person he’s fallen for but he can’t; because words can’t do them justice. Pulchritudinous is a mesmerizingly larger than life ballad that grows effervescent the more it builds. Manana delivers a subdued and simmering lead vocal that captures the introspective nature of the song whilst the ethereal layers of harmonies sweep you with delicate intensity. Both Manana and the production take their time in building and expressing emotion. The second verse is literally one sentence intensified to euphoric heights as Manana pleads: “Stay here I beg you, hold to infinity with me.” Manana stretches ‘infinity’ with an avalanche of sweeping harmonies as an electric guitar quietly smoulders in the background, the dramatic drums only grow more epic as the verse launches into the bridge. Pulchritudinous is cooked to perfection! Manana, Noble & Maxonproductions were firing on all cylinders; an endearing concept that’s beautifully written, intricately arranged & breathtakingly delivered. I could go on about how Manana is one of the most captivating lyricists of his generation or how Noble continue to be involved in creating supple and cinematic pop but I really just might run out of words. So simply put, Pulchritudinous makes me happy; so so happy.
Read more Manana related content here, Noble here.
Listen to Noble’s Next Gen Greats’ Podcast on Manana’s In the beginning was the end here.
Red Wine – Preye [produced by Ikon Ekwuyasi & Joshua Ahazie]
“By the end of the night we’ll be singing a duet and not the race that make the lovers sweat…” Just like good wine our next pick matures and refines itself with time. Preye delivers a deliciously sensual serenade about lovemaking with the steamy Red Wine. Red Wine is bedroom R&B that finds Preye indulging in an intoxicating night of intimacy as she laments on the power that great sex holds. The production simmers at a pace that is in no rush to end whilst Preye’s vocals sizzle, serving smooth R&B realness. Preye is a true siren with how her vocals allure from the artful vocal runs to the warm coos. Sensual, steamy and soothing; Red Wine is the quiet storm that endures, it unassumingly crept up on me over time with how enjoyable it is. Red Wine is matured and doesn’t try to sell you on its goods because it already knows it has it.
Sete – K.O featuring Young Stunna & Blxckie [produced by Calliemajik Beats, K.O & Glody ‘GloBeatz’ Kasongo]
If there’s one thing K.O knows his way around it’s a hit. The iconic artist is nearing an almost two-decade run of capturing the zeitgeist, if not outrightly shifting it, with his music. This year saw him extending this run by producing one of the biggest hits of his career and of this decade with the sumptuous Sete. K.O recruits Blxckie & Young Stunna for this extravagant Afrobeats banger that finds them fawning over their partners, assuring these ladies that they will be set with them. K.O sets a braggadocious tone with a verse that finds him splurging on Chanel, gold watches, cars and international trips, knowingly making her partner’s ex jealous whilst showering her with his affection. Young Stunna’s charisma shines with a chorus that flows like water. He smoulders with a quiet assurance that carries into his verse of explaining how fuzzy and alive his girl makes him feel. Blxckie adds in his own sweet nothings in a verse that climaxes into a climactic bridge of Blxckie adlibs over Stunna’s affirmations, whilst a saxophone riffs our souls into the stratosphere. Sete is sensually intoxicating. The production simmers with a percussion that delivers an unyielding groove, a sultry saxophone that knows when to turn up the heat and unassuming background vocals that just sway into your subconscious. Pressing play often means pressing repeat because Sete just feels like more. At point of publication Sete held radio’s pole position for 19 consecutive weeks and is still burning smooth within the top 2. It’s an unforgettable banger from three of the savviest players in South African music doing what they do best.
Read more Young Stunna related content here, Blxckie here and GloBeatz here.
Listen to Blxckie’s All That Yazz feature here.
Fun Fact: Blxckie is tied for the most appearances of any rapper/singer on this year’s Next Gen Greats list. This year he shares this distinction with Thato Saul and Maglera Doe Boy who all appear 3 times. Only Yumbs has more artist appearances on this year’s list with 4 total appearances.
Vent – Nanette [produced by Nanette, Lee Global, Zadok & Batundi]
Nanette has become a refreshing voice within South African R&B. 2021 found her providing a litany of attractive features which both matched and sometimes upstaged her contemporaries, this year saw her taking centre stage with her first body of work; Bad Weather. Armed with a piercing voice and a revealing pen, Bad Weather found her establishing a persona of a contemporary balladeer who’s mode of storytelling is often dripping in anxious energy. Our pick for this list is a song that finds her lyrically swirling within that anxiety whilst providing one of her best vocal performances thus far in Vent. Vent’s production is an orchestral canvas that reeks of inner turmoil. The string arrangement in the intro alone bring you into an introspective space as the harp provides a daydreaming quality over the violins swelling with angst. By the time the bass and drums kick in with their melancholically soulful groove you know that you’re in for some mess. Nanette aptly sets the scene with an opening lyric that reads “I’m getting hot in this purple dress, you stood me up and now I’m so upset…”, as we hear her vent spiral into an existential crisis. Nanette expresses her deepest anxieties surrounding her love life and how it’s affecting her mental health as she sits with this disappointment. Vent is stacked with the melodrama that makes great R&B music and Nanette milks every moment of it with her aching performance. Her emotions seep through each tonal phrase as her harmonies call you to wallow with her. Her melismatic choices are evocative and piercing and they gradually build to one of my favourite climaxes of the year. Vent is well-crafted R&B packed with evocative arrangements, captivating writing and emotive singing that really sells the stakes. It’s Nanette’s bold cry for attention and she has had mine from the moment it was released. It’s a cathartic song that has been on replay through countless shower concerts and solo karaoke sessions as the need to vent is everpresent.
Listen to Nanette’s All That Yazz feature here. Read more Zadok related content here.
We Can Go Again – MAUIMØON & La Soulchyld featuring Chxf Barry
When it comes to contemporary R&B, there are few songs that have had me as addicted as the sneaky link escapade that is We Can Go Again. MAUIMØON delivers top-shelf crooning as he appeals to a girl to leave her man and come to him for another night of sexual pleasure. We Can Go Again is disrespectfully smooth from its mesmerizing instrumentation to the way MAUIMØON’s husky tone colours its way through the vocal production. The song opens with an orchestrally lush intro before a scintillating groove settles in, as MAUIMØON declares “Time again you come to me but we said we’re only friends… And he don’t know just where you’ve been, it’s just not the same with that man. Oh baby let’s keep it real…” This man is fiending as he taunts the cycle of their ‘friendly’ arrangement, teasing her with the things he’ll do to her because he wants to go again. MAUIMØON, La Soulchyld and Chxf Barry cooked up a seductive romper that’s as steamy as their East African climate. It’s an aptly titled banger because Again carries a vibe that you want to keep playing. 2022 has been one of my favourite years in experiencing the diversity of R&B within Africa and We Can Go Again is a highlight amongst highlights.
Ziyobalwa – Xhanti Nokwali [produced by Nduduzo Makhatini]
Our next selection is a piece of African folk music that’s crying for a culture it can feel eroding. Nduduzo Makhatini provides a serene and subtly melancholic soundscape for Xhanti Nokwali to lament over in Ziyobalwa. The instrumentation is anchored by African guitar strumming, a piercing piano, a swelling saxophone and what I believe are shakers. It’s a meditative ground for Nokwali to mourn and his vocals wail. You can feel Nokwali’s aching disposition from his opening cry as he speaks on the decline of culture and guidance being passed down from one generation to the next, worried about the values he feels are no longer being remembered. Nokwali is a sensational force of nature in this jazz-infused folk ballad that finds him vocalizing from deep lows to weltering highs, with his vocals even mimicking guitar inflections when words fail him. Ziyobalwa is sorrowful music that sooths in how it wallows. It’s a cry for preservation from a bold voice fighting for his space and culture. I highly recommend listening to his full album, Umthombo, if you’re a fan of African folk storytelling, Ziyobalwa is the passage my soul rested on the most but Umthobo is rich with generational musicality guided by Nokwali’s defiant spirit. Don’t forget to press play.
30minutes to Soweto – Priddy Ugly [produced by Shooterkhumz]
Closing off our list is a conscious rap song that uses Woody Guthrie’s American folk anthem This Land is Your Land as a reference to paint a portrait of his own home grounds. 30minutes to Soweto is a sobering listen that sees Priddy Ugly recounting tales from his family and upbringing. He laments on these abusive experiences whilst showing patterns that emerged from them, exploring the effects these experiences had in shaping him and a generation of similar kin. “Most of our fathers were the type to beat our mothers so our mothers wore their face-beat just to keep it undercover. And deep benеath the covers therе were heaps of secret lovers; love we’d need to rediscover, just to teach it to each other.” Backed by a chillingly pensive production where the only reprieves come from recorded anecdotes, 30minutes to Soweto really zones in on Priddy Ugly’s ability to be an engaging and poetic storyteller. His performance is delivered in earnest and manages to imbue clever wordplay and playful delivery as a means to further immerse us in the depth of the world he wants us to see. 30minutes to Soweto is captivating storytelling from a dynamic rapper whose craft continuously manages to bat at a high level. It’s one of my favourite rap performances of the year. The sample of children singing This Land is Your Land in the background subtly brings attention to the fact that this is the environment that children grow up in whilst feeling like an added commentary that asks; Was this land really made for these people to live a happy or prosperous life?
Read more Priddy Ugly related content here, Shooterkhumz here.
Fun Fact: Shooterkhumz is tied for the producer with the most production credits on our 2022 list. He shares this distinction with MashBeatz and DoouShii who all carry 3 production credits.
22 thoughts on “Next Gen Greats’ Top 22 Songs of 2022.”