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“Area Boyz” Review: NSG Explores Rhythms From the Streets on New Album

“Area Boyz” Review: NSG Explores Rhythms From the Streets on New Album

Area Boyz cover photo - NSG - Afrocritik

Area Boyz is an authentic offering that demonstrates NSG’s ability to blend their various influences and explore diverse sonic territories while keeping their unique sound intact.

By Emmanuel Okoro

The UK music industry is bubbling with some of the finest hitmakers of African descent that the world has come to recognise and love. However, when it comes to embracing their African roots, few do it as authentically and passionately as the Afroswing group, NSG, an acronym for “Never Stop Growing”. The Hackney-based sextet comprises Papii Abz, Mojo, and Mxjib – of Nigerian descent – and Dope, OGD, and Kruddz, of Ghanaian descent. The group, once again, leaves a mark on the music scene with their latest album, Area Boyz.

NSG first burst into the music scene with their debut 2013 single, “Whine and Kotch” – an Afrobeats version of Charly Black and J Capri’s eponymous reggae song. Since then, they’ve carved out a niche by seamlessly blending elements of local UK rap with African influences, crafting hits like the 2017 bop, “Yo Darlin’”, and the 2019 singles, “Options” featuring Tion Wayne, and “OT Bop”.

Area Boyz marks a significant milestone for the group, as it coincides with their tenth anniversary in the music scene. The ambitious project spans 19 tracks and features star-studded collaborations from artistes hailing from the UK, Nigeria, and several other parts of Africa.

The album kicks off with the high-energy, mid-tempo “Area Boyz Prayer”, featuring Nigerian Street-Hop sensation, Seyi Vibez. The track, backed by vibrant lead guitars, resonating log drums, and subtle chords, is a heartfelt plea to a higher power to help navigate the maze of fair-weather companions. Lyrics like “Everyone in this booth are the only ones I trust/ Is it just me that thinks everyone bleeds?” vividly express the close-knit bond that defines the NSG. The inclusion of Seyi Vibez, a homebred talent whose music is the very heartbeat of the streets, enhances the song’s lyrical narrative.

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The 4PLAY-produced “Mansa Musa” feels like a live orchestra-driven Afrobeat rendition. However, one can easily deduce the incorporation of contemporary, digitally-generated sonic elements that give the song a modern twist. The track echoes the golden era of the legendary Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, whose politically inspired verses and social commentary draw out a deep sense of nostalgia, particularly as the album was released on the third anniversary of the Lekki Massacre in 2020.

Area Boyz tracklist - NSG - Afrocritik
Area Boyz tracklist

On “Tonight”, a feel-good number characterised by delightful plucking of lead guitars, gentle percussion, and heavy kicks, NSG’s verses gracefully shift between serenading a lover for her loyalty and indulging in the joys of intimate encounters. Lines like “We dey together like Kenkey and Pepper/ Arsenal and Saka”, reveal the strong bond they share. The track features Cameroonian-American singer and songwriter, Libianca, whose contribution to the chorus adds a melodious charm and beautifully ties the song together. “Lose My Cool” takes a different turn as NSG dedicates an anthem to the streets. This track is particularly marked by the powerful presence of bass solos, snare rolls, and striking synth chords. Their lyrics delve into their resilience and street-smartness in navigating a wide spectrum of vices and challenges.

Area Boyz reverts to the fleeting moments of sexual encounters with a lover on “Azonto”, a mid-tempo groove. Their lyrics tether between sex and their smartness in the streets, with lyrics like “If the money calling, I’ll be pronto/ I was in the T when Fuse made Azonto”. 

On “Stevie Wonder”, featuring British rapper, Aitch, NSG delivers an Afroswing tune that is tailor-made for party playlists. The song’s lyrics playfully intermingle elements of debauchery with the associations that come with fame and fortune. NSG and Aitch appear to remain “blind” to detractors, maintaining focus on their aspirations.

NSG amplifies the themes of sensuality and transactional attachments with “Seihor”, a track bursting with distorted piano chords and electro-bass drums. Lines like, “If we wine and dine, would your waist whine?/ Baby, no time, don’t you waste time”, offers a bold and unapologetic exploration of the transient nature of an encounter with a lover. Another infectious party bop is evident on “1985” featuring French rapper, MHD. The track not only provides a perfect groove for the dancefloor but also pays homage to Kuti with lines like “One gyal can’t satisfy me / Feel like Fela in 1985”. Perhaps, alluding to the peak of Kuti’s career when he performed with his electrifying dancers on global stages. The lead and bass guitar makossa solos at the end make “1985” a standout output on Area Boyz.

NSG - Area Boyz - Afrocritik
NSG

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The album continues its upward sonic trajectory with the lead single, “Nella Rose”, named after a YouTuber and entrepreneur of the same name. However, the underlying lyricism tethers to themes of togetherness, street-smartness, and resilience. The track blends Amapiano with its unique blend of Caribbean and Afrobeats leanings, delivering a song that will make you dance. The album takes a shift on its midpoint, “Zombie”, a track that fuses Dancehall with inflexions of Afrobeats. Recorded last year, this song takes inspiration from NSG’s first-hand experience trying recreational drugs and the fascinating effects that followed. The result is an immersive track that captures the essence of that experience.

On “Pocket-Watching”, featuring Tion Wayne, NSG raps about their lives, highlighting the importance of being vigilant while navigating the complexities of the streets. Lyrics like “Is that your whole army? Is that your line up? / Ring chargie in the day, your team night done” exudes confidence and a no-nonsense approach to tackling challenges. Area Boyz takes a dynamic shift with “Toxic Love”, a track carried by bass guitar grooves and drum rolls. The song candidly explores a relationship that is driven by material attachments. The combination of their perspectives on the subject matter makes the track a thought-provoking addition to the album.

NSG unveils their inner romantic on the Amapiano number, “My Only”. Here, their lyrics convey a promise to a special lady, assuring her that they are willing to go above and beyond to make her feel cherished. The track carries an affectionate vibe, showcasing NSG’s ability to explore and seamlessly navigate different sonic pockets. “Lonely”, a track once tucked away in the archives, comes next. NSG collaborates with Ghanaian rap luminary, Sarkodie, who also serves as a mentor to the Ghanaian members of the group. The track highlights the two-faced nature of people who suddenly want to associate with NSG now that they’ve achieved success despite not being present during their earlier struggles. They send a stern warning with lines like, “Now the money coming in abundance/ Please, don’t act like you know me”.

NSG - Area Boyz - Afrocritik
NSG

NSG’s prowess in creating hit records remains unquestionable, and “Cola” is another testament to that fact. This Amapiano bop, produced by 4PLAY and Rise ‘n’ Shine, injects a dose of vibrancy into the album. While the lyrics explore the physical attributes of an alluring individual, the track is expertly crafted for the dancefloor. On “Corleone”, NSG collaborates with Nigeria’s breakout star, Odumodublvck. The song weaves evocative imagery around the challenges and complexities of life on the streets, including elements of crime and survival. Similar sentiments are evident on “Ride”, another lead single from Area Boyz.

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“Unruly” sees NSG wading the treacherous waters of relationships and how materialistic it all seems. The track is marked by staccato snare rolls and mild hi-hats – an NSG signature sound – creating a distinctive musical backdrop that fades in and out throughout the song. Perhaps, the overarching message of the song is to stay grounded and live within one’s means, but this is easily drowned by its delightful composition. Light strums of lead guitar doused in Caribbean-inflected melodies usher in “Cult”. Here, NSG, once again, delivers an ode to their struggles while growing up in the streets. The lyrics from the chorus, “Girl, I went to the North for a spiritual bath/ ‘Cause all these problems, only way I can solve them”, vividly portrays the lengths to which many youths go to seek fortune.

Area Boyz is an authentic offering that demonstrates NSG’s ability to blend their various influences and explore diverse sonic territories while keeping their unique sound intact. The underlying theme in this project is immediately evident: it is specially curated to highlight their deep connection to the streets. In spite of this, the album pulsates with anthems aided by impressive productions that seamlessly make it work. This project not only marks an enjoyable celebration of NSG’s tenth year in the music industry, but also serves as a clear indicator of exciting and meaningful projects to come in the near future. 

Lyricism – 1.5

Tracklisting – 1.6

Sound Engineering – 1.5

Vocalisation – 1.3

Listening Experience – 1.6

Rating – 7.5/10

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

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