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DRB give an introduction to alté, the alternative sound of Nigeria

The Lagos-based creative collective are at the vanguard of a fresh, sometimes controversial scene – and with fans like Skepta and Davido onboard, it's now making waves internationally.
Written by Louis Pattison
4 min readPublished on
Being a pioneer sometimes means taking the long road. Just ask DRB LasGidi. The Nigerian collective – Boj, Fresh L and TeeZee – started activities way back in 2007, pioneering a musical sound blending Afrobeats, hip-hop, R&B and funk that felt fresh and stylish, drawing on global currents in music and fashion.
Over time, the sound has caught on amongst a wider community across Nigeria and the diaspora. It’s become known as alté – although, as TeeZee explains, the term has deep roots. "Alté is Nigerian lingo for ‘alternative’ which means freedom of expression essentially through any medium. It’s been going on since the '60s as Africans always experimented with music. It became recognised as a style or genre from about 2012 upwards and it broke into the mainstream in 2016 with the rise of its new stars."
Image of Nigerian collective DRB


© Omofolarin Omolayole

Alté is Nigerian lingo for ‘alternative’ which means freedom of expression
The alté sound has been divisive in Nigeria, with some listeners decrying the sound as elitist, pretentious, or just plain weird. Yet it’s a mark of the music’s originality and broad appeal that it has started making waves internationally. TeeZee is one of the founders of NATIVE magazine and the affliated NATIVELAND Festival, which has brought names including Skepta, J Hus and Dave to Lagos for their first Nigerian performances. "We have always been able to mix and blend with people from anywhere of the world,” says TeeZee. “We keep it very authentically Nigerian at the same time as viewing the world as a global space.”
The next step in this move to becoming a true international concern comes with Pioneers. The collective’s debut album proper, it features appearances from Nigerian stars including Santi, Tems and Lady Donil, and sees DRB joining forces with Metalllic Inc, the global culture platform founded by Grace Ladoja and Alex Sossah that handles management for both Skepta and Octavian and also runs the global festival Homecoming. Says TeeZee: “We are all like-minded and there is synergy with what we want to achieve."
Watch a short documentary about DRB above, then read on as TeeZee walks us through seven stand-out examples of the modern alté sound.

Santi ft Shane Eagle, Tomi Agape & Amaarae – Rapid Fire

"The first record would be Rapid Fire by Santi because it was a real defining moment for the alté movement when he dropped it. This is was the first song that really caught fire and had that global appeal instantly."

Odunsi ft Runtown – Star Signs

"The essence of the song and the video really interpreted the vibes and the values of the culture. Mixing traditional attire with a modern twist. Odunsi pen game crazy!"

Tems – Try Me

"A strong female vocal performance by a very talented artist. Probably the biggest song to come out of the alté scene. Tems is killing it!"

Lady Donli – Cash

"She did something unorthodox with the song and video -- a really refreshing sound. Cash crossed over to mainstream radio and TV. Big Up Donli!"

Boj x Skepta x Teezee – Like 2 Party

"The first huge collaboration from the scene, connecting the alté world of DRB in Lagos to Boy Better Know in London. A big moment, it put alté in the international spotlight."

Prettyboy D-O – Dem Go Hear Weh

"One of the first to hit in the clubs – club culture is so important in Nigeria. Prettyboy was already known for making big tunes like Pull Up and Chop Elbow. But visually and sonically he reached new heights with this record. He’s dope!"

DRB LasGidi – Alté

"Alté by DRB Lasgidi solidifies the coolness and the vibrancy of the movement through the lens of the pioneers. There was a lot of negativity towards the alté scene at the time from mainstream culture. This was a statement track! We are all about freedom of thought and expression. The song helped changed perception."
Listen to DRB LasGidi's Pioneers here
Now watch Naira Marley and the cream of UK Afrobeats in the Moves x Red Bull Studios cypher:

4 min

Watch Naira Marley and the cream of UK Afrobeats in the Moves cypher

An exotic compilation of some of the UK’s biggest names in Afrobeats - watch the rappers Naira Marley, Omo Frenchie, Jaij Hollands, GB, and Mamy Dope perform live at the Red Bull Studios in London