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The Pick: Lojay and Ayra Starr deliver a delightful duet on "Runaway"

Our song of the week!

In the last few years, popular music coming out of West Africa ー Nigeria in particular, has experienced a slight but noticeable paradigm shift. At the beginning of the last decade, Afropop was still largely characterized by fast-paced, percussive rhythms, hurried delivery, poppy melodies and love-inspired or hedonistic lyrical themes. Most of the tunes coming out of that era were fast, and sometimes riotous party-ready grooves. But as the decade wound down, and the world was forced inside by the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing an almost involuntary change of pace, so did the music. A good number of the top tracks in rotation around that period were a lot more slow-paced than we were used to: Omah Lay’s “Bad Influence”, Wizkid’s “No Stress”, Adekunle Gold’s “Okay”, Olamide’s “Rock” amongst many others were significantly different from what we were used to.

This shift would continue, and would eventually usher in a new set of incredibly versatile and talented acts who accurately encapsulate the sound of the current pop landscape. While there are a handful, Mavin’s Ayra Starr and Lojay and undoubtedly two of the most notable. Their breakthrough singles ー “Tonongo” and “Away” ー are noticeably unique, at least sonically, embodying the current evolutionary state of Afropop and reflecting where it might be headed in the future. This is why their latest combined effort “Runaway”, the lead single off Native Sound System’s forthcoming project, doesn’t come as a sonic surprise.

From the first few seconds of the record, it’s apparent that it's not your run-of-the-mill single. The way Lojay deftly delivers his opening words: “Sweet love from Alabama / Know the distance is a little underserved” on those eerie synths is frankly cash money. He and Ayra go to deliver an atmospheric and stirring record, replete with vulnerable, heart-tugging verses that are not only melodious but also perfectly complementary. With production helmed by four talented producers: Sholz, New World Ray, Lido and Adey, Lojay and Ayra were definitely in safe hands, as they deliver a delightful duet that centres on the complexities of love and pushes the envelope when it comes to the music coming out of these parts.

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