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Steven Umoh, known by his stage name Obongjayar, is a Nigerian musical artist based out of London.[1]

Birth nameSteven Umoh
BornCalabar, Nigeria
Associated actsRichard Russell, Wiki, King Krule, Yussef Dayes, Moses Boyd

Early life[edit]

Steven Umoh grew up in Calabar, Nigeria. He was raised by his grandmother; his mother had moved to the UK to escape Umoh's father, who was abusive. Early in his life, he primarily listened to bootleg rap, particularly Eminem, Usher, Nelly, Snoop Dogg and Ciara.[2]

Umoh moved to live with his mother in England at the age of 17, but stayed active in the Nigerian music scene. He grew up a devoutly religious Christian, but became less so after he attended university in Norwich.[2] In college he sang primarily in an American accent, influenced by his childhood spent listening to American hip hop music, but he transitioned to singing in his natural Nigerian-British accent before embarking on his professional career.[3]


Obongjayar started his career publishing his music on SoundCloud. His work caught the notice of XL Recordings executive Richard Russell, who then asked Obongjayar to contribute to his Everything Is Recorded project.[1] In 2016, Obongjayar released his first extended play, Home, described by Noisey as "a unique voice: one that navigates darkness with nocturnal, near-spiritual hymns."[3]

He followed Home with a second EP, Bassey, which was noted for its sparse production and afrobeat rhythms,[2] as well as its themes of spirituality, politics, and his experiences as a Black person.[3] He also contributed to Richard Russell's 2017 EP, Close But Not Quite.[2]

In 2019, Obongjayar featured on Detroit rapper Danny Brown's fifth studio album U Know What I'm Sayin? on the tracks "Belly of the Best" and "uknowhatimsayin¿".


Obongjayar's music has been called "hard to describe", incorporating elements of afrobeat, spoken word, soul, and electronic music. His lyrics incorporate spiritual overtones, although they are not readily identifiable with any specific religious tradition.[2] A unifying feature of all of Obongjayar's music is his very deep voice, which slides between rapping, singing, and spoken word.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Nembhard, Candice (11 July 2018). "Nigerian-Born Obongjayar Represents the Changing Face of London's Sound". High Snobiety. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ravens, Chal (20 January 2018). "Get to Know Obongjayar, Who Makes Otherworldly Spirituals for the Modern Soul". Pitchfork. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Bassil, Ryan (14 September 2017). "Obongjayar Will Make You See Beyond Your Ego". Noisey. Retrieved 1 December 2018.

External links[edit]