Welcome to Arriver. A platform for those who are hidden in plain sight.
An in-depth look at established artist careers that relate to social, political, and/or spiritual issues.
This showcase features underrated, talented performers whose names have yet to be discovered.
Find Arriver merchandise here.
An explanation of what Arriver is about and our vision for the future of music as it relates to  mission and values.
Contact Arriver for features and information.

39: Cruel Santino

Photo By Digimillennials

"They Don't Move Like Me....SRTs In The Chat..."

History has witnessed the birth of many musical genres throughout the centuries. So much so, that one couldn’t be blamed for thinking that there could be no sound left to be invented. However, mainstream music has often limited itself to the output of the western hemisphere, with the innovations of rock, jazz, punk, hip-hop and, lately, evolving electronic genres defining the 20th century.

In our modern, global world, an artist’s reach can stretch areas that are typically less focused on. Nigeria is a country climbing in relevance, churning out massive talents in the arts, with the widespread popularity of many grassroots sounds, leaning towards a worldwide diaspora of second-generation Africans. One of these dynamic movements arising from the continent is the Nigerian Alté scene, forming in the early 2000s and making its debut on free streaming services. Key in the elements of Alté, is freedom of expression and authenticity of character, contending against a largely conservative country. Influences branch from the media available in Nigeria pre-2010: television, radio, bootlegged VCDs, and cable TV.

Spearheading this new pattern of artistry is Osayaba Andrew Ize-Iyamu, currently known as Cruel Santino. Born in Lagos on 3 June 1992, Cruel Santino isn’t shy of combining his many influences. Originality. An Avant garden world builder. He can be found fusing old VHS style videography, anime, and 2000s video game culture, with a slow sound: sometimes drawing on dancehall, indie, and R&B.

Like many Alté scene members, Santi’s career began on Soundcloud, emerging in 2011 with Diaries of a Loner. His earlier works, under the name Ozzy B, were largely experimental, mixing popular hip-hop sounds influenced by household names, such as Kanye West and Drake. The homemade music was heavily sampled, mixing rock and hard club styles of music that permeated throughout hip-hop at the time. Tracks such as ‘anime and video games’ were the first nod toward two major influences to later appear in his art. Santi’s meta-persona as Ozzy B was hugely popular amongst the Nigerian youth and put the young musician on the map, seen by many of the earlier users of the Nigerian inter-webs as the savvier of Rap.

He released Birth of Santi in 2013, and Ozzy B fully transitioned to Santi. It was a symbolic shift, signifying growth, and evolution; Santi emerged as Ozzy B's persona faded away, and Santi took the spotlight. When Santi came out of his hibernation in 2015, much of the Nigerian musical landscape had changed. With rising stars such as Wizz Kid and Muna & Phenom, a pan-African emergence of talent with global connections, particularly in the UK, saw the spectacular rise of artists leading a new sound from the region, but on a truly global scale. His first EP under Santi was "Suzie's Funeral," in 2016, which kickstarted his career and evolution into the Alté scene. Suzie’s Funeral follows the journey between Santi and a fictional character named Suzie, creating her persona as a muse to bounce from in the process of discovering himself.

Immersed in a hedonistic lifestyle fraught with vices, Santi confronted inner demons, monsters, and formidable obstacles on his path to realisation. Suzie, a sacrificial character, symbolised the individuals he had to relinquish to embody his true self. This transformative album marked a departure from his hip-hop roots, venturing into dancehall, indie, and afrobeat genres, unveiling a new musical territory curated by Santi himself. Among its standout tracks was the breakout hit "Gangsta Fear," epitomising Santi's artistic evolution and life in Lagos, alongside the soulful "Steal a Dime" produced by Odunsi The Engine. Santi begins to show the immersive world he has created from his imagination.

“The key to all of this, is days and days of experimenting. This didn’t just happen…”

Santi's ascent gained momentum as he shared the stage with Skepta in Nigeria in 2017 and earned recognition from OVO Sound for tracks like "Jungle Fever" and "Gangsta Fear," featured on Episode 40. He further solidified his presence with performances at renowned events like Nativeland and The Palmwine Music Festival.

In 2018, he made waves with the release of "Rapid Fire," capturing international attention through interviews with Julie Adenuga and Ebro Darden. Additionally, he inked a partnership deal with Immaculate Taste and reintroduced "Suzie's Funeral" to the scene. Santi's debut studio album, "Mandy & The Jungle," arrived on 17 May 2019, boasting collaborations with DRAM, GoldLink, and others. He then joined Love Renaissance and highlighted his directorial skills with GoldLink's "U Say" music video. Here, Santi transcended his Nigerian roots to immerse himself in a vivid new world of his own creation. Despite event cancellations due to COVID-19, he continued to captivate audiences at festivals like Day n Vegas and Camp Flog Gnaw. His inaugural London show, "No Tears In The Jungle," marked a milestone, as did his plans for a Nigerian youth culture TV show. Amidst a name change to Cruel Santino, he announced a joint venture with Interscope Records and dropped "End of The Wicked" with Octavian. On 4 March 2022, he then unveiled his highly anticipated album "Subaru Boys : FINAL HEAVEN" under Interscope Records, featuring collaborations with the likes of Skepta and Koffee. "Subaru Boys : FINAL HEAVEN" marks a significant shift in Santino's artistry, delving into a meticulously crafted world filled with multidimensional characters and intricate narratives. Through a visual immersive experience at the VNA - in collaboration with NTS - he offered a glimpse into this enthralling journey, underscoring his prowess as both a musician and an artist.

Cruel Santino's groundbreaking work has paved the way for emerging artists like Lady Donli, Odunsi, and DJ Femo, who are forging their own paths in the Nigerian music scene, challenging conventions, and sparking conversations with their innovative sounds. Amid widespread acclaim, including recognition from Rolling Stone as one of The 100 Best Albums of 2022, Santino continues to push boundaries with releases like "Showmetheway!!" featuring Poco Lee, affirming his ongoing evolution as an artist.

The intention behind the Alté scene is that it doesn’t fit into any specific genre of music which grants a free-flowing creative bubble for young people to cultivate their music style. Alté grants musicians permission to unshackle themselves from many dominant forms of Black music towards a quirky, nerdy, experimental genre, painfully cool in its nonchalance.

Written by: @hannahmaybaldwin

Edited by:  @Arriv3r