South London’s music scene may have taken the spotlight over the past couple of years, but north London’s ascent is imminent. No one’s more sure of this than Dolapo. “You know, to start with we’ve got Skepta and the whole of BBK, and technically Adele is from north,” explains the Tottenham-raised newcomer. “I think the focus is starting to come back to us now. I admire Stormzy so much, and the musicians coming out of there. But I think it’ll be all about north London next.”
Dolapo’s position as a born and raised Londoner and the daughter of Nigerian parents couldn’t be more emblematic of what makes the city’s music scene so fresh right now – from north to south, east to west. “I’ve pretty much lived around Tottenham my whole life and I’ve always lived in an African household. Very traditional. Church on Sundays. My dad introduced me to a lot of Nigerian music growing up, so that’s pretty much what I woke up to on a Sunday – Fela Kuti, Lágbájá, all of those. So that has a big influence. I’ve got two older sisters, so they introduced me to like a lot of R&B, hip hop, 2000s and stuff – Ashanti, JaRule, J Lo, Beyoncé, Destiny’s Child, TLC. The whole lot. Aaliyah was a key one. Those were my musical influences as I got older and I think that’s what a lot of people will hear now in my music as well.”
Dolapo is exactly the kind of artist who could propel the music scene north of the river to new realms. Working behind the scenes with some of its most incendiary new artists – MoStack, Tion Wayne and Hardy Caprio – and releasing two much-hyped singles, across a small output she’s generated a lot of noise. Young, talented and focused, last summer Noctis magazine described her as having “a seamless amalgam of pure vocal talent and style,” while Hunger magazine described her as set for “a meteoric rise”. The support on social media too, has been emphatic. “I get DMs all the time… With my first single ‘Blink of an Eye’, I had a lot of people telling me ‘This reminds me of me and my last relationship’. Then with my second single ‘Down’, I had a lot of people from Nigeria actually reach out to me like, ‘Oh my god, this song, it’s amazing’.”
‘Blink of an Eye’ is a melodic rumination on the trials and tribulations of new relationships and how quickly one can fall in love. “Lyrically, it’s a love song. But I always say it’s a fantasy song, because I haven’t always been the luckiest when it comes to love.” It’s best described as alternative R&B, and feels a little reminiscent of SZA. (Dolapo’s cover of SZA’s ‘Love Galore’ as part of a mash-up of different tracks on Radio 1Xtra will convince you further of the two artists’ similarities).
If you were to ascribe a mood and atmosphere to second single ‘Down’, it’s music to get ready to, to dance at a party to, to listen on the bus home to. Featuring WSTRN’s Louis Rei, the word you’ll find repeated most in the YouTube comments section is “vibes”. Well that, and a lot of Nigerian flag emojis – the track being an intoxicating blend of Afrobeat influences and R&B.
“It’s just a fun story, ‘Down’. People doing what they shouldn’t be doing, or like, being in a relationship or a situation where, you should not be in it, but you just can’t help yourself. I think that’s something that we’ve all been through, or we all go through at some point in time. It is a very African-influenced production style. Even though the writing on top of it is still very R&B, production-wise they’ve definitely kept it very West African.”
Dolapo left university with a 2:1 in International Political Economy. “So, very unrelated to music. I think I just found that course randomly through clearance. That’s how I fell into that.” Neither her siblings nor her parents work in music, but now that she’s got her degree, her mum and dad are all about her music career. “As long as I finished uni, they love it. My dad is probably my number one fan. Sometimes I don’t even tell them about releases because I get a bit nervous, but my dad will be like, ‘Oh, I saw your new song is released. What’s it, ‘Down’?’ Or like my mum will have her friends around and will force me to put my videos on for them.”
Since graduating a year and a half ago, her focus has been solely on creating music, spending day after day in the studio, meeting different producers, doing different sessions – RnB, pop, hip hop. But singing has always been a part of her life. “I started music at a young age. I started studio at about aged 14. At first it was just going to youth clubs after school. There was one that had a studio where you could make your own beats and stuff and there were also singing classes.” Doing gospel at church also shaped her sound. “Sometimes when I’m doing harmonies, a lot of them come from the youth choir leader at my church. How to do harmonies, how to find this chord, that chord, that note.”
Working across the songwriting and production of her tracks as well, a huge part of what Dolapo wants to do as an artist is give young women the confidence to feel like they can do everything in the studio, just like she does. “Empowering women, especially black women, is so important to me. That they can do exactly what they need to do and want to do. When I’m in studio I’m helping with the production, or I’m writing my own songs, or when it comes to the video ideas. I have a lot of input. I want more girls, especially in this industry where we hardly see females taking over. To not be afraid to show that you can step onto Logic and control the whole session. Not always having to dim your shine, to make other people feel comfortable.”
Looking to release an EP later this year, hone her sound and continue working with some of the industry’s hottest producers, Dolapo is one to keep an eye on. Given her name in Yoruba means ‘royalty and wealth flowing together in a person’ – more than just someone to ‘keep an eye on’, she’s someone to get into, get ‘Down’ with, get up with and stay with.