Matriarchs of Music | Ayra Starr


Ashe Burr, Writer/Volunteer

One slow and uneventful day at my old workplace, I was scrolling through Spotify, looking for some new music to listen to while tending to the shelves of a stereotypical Midwestern suburban pet store. Suddenly, a new playlist I had never seen before appeared before me: EQUAL Africa. As I scrolled through it, a song title caught my eye. “Bloody Samaritan.” I pressed play, and from the first few notes, I knew that I had stumbled across a Starr. 

Born on June 14, 2002 in Cotonou, Benin, and raised between there and Abuja, Nigeria, Oyinkansola Aderibigbe has become a growing star in the Nigerian music scene under her stage name of Ayra Starr. Due to the nature of her father’s work as a travelling businessman, she moved often, and was always seen as the new kid. This combined with her beginning university at the age of 14, she was the target of bullying. In an interview with Ify Obi, she mentioned that listening to Nicki Minaj helped her gain the power to feel unstoppable and aided in her songwriting abilities. 

After university, she began her career as a model. Soon enough, she began posting song covers on her Instagram page. This culminated in her posting an original song, “Damaged.” Within three hours of the song being uploaded, hit-maker and business mogul Don Jazzy offered her a contract at his label, Mavin Records. “Damaged” was eventually remastered as the song “Toxic” from her debut album, 19 & Dangerous. She became the third woman to ever be signed to Mavin, after Tiwa Savage and Di’Ja. After about a year working with Mavin, she would formally debut with her eponymous EP on Jan. 22nd, 2021, anchored by the single “Away.” 


Despite “Away” being her first single, her music struck a chord with the Nigerian population, as it managed to pass three of the nation’s — and the continent’s — biggest stars on the domestic charts: Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy. “Away” managed to peak at No. 4 on the TurnTable Top 50. Not a bad debut for any artist, much less an 18-year-old. 

She didn’t decide to rest on her laurels following that EP. Just barely over six months later, on July 30, 2021, she unveiled the lead single for her debut album, 19 & Dangerous, “Bloody Samaritan.” This track launched her to the forefront of the alté subculture (a youth-led creative movement that advocates for a move away from tradition that features music, fashion and art), as well as cementing her as a force of nature. The song became the first solo song by a female artist to top the TurnTable charts. This helped Starr to be nominated as Spotify’s EQUAL Africa Artist of the Month in November 2021. The performance video of “Bloody Samaritan” has racked up over 32 million views at the time of this article’s writing. The music video for the song, which was released two weeks after the performance video, was directed by herself.


2022 has proven to be a very busy year so far for Starr. She has featured on tracks with artists ranging from Mavin labelmate Magixx, to a member of the royal family of reggae Skip Marley, and British-Caribbean musicians Tiana Major9 and Stalk Ashley. She also toured with Grammy winner and fellow young music pioneer Koffee, performing a remixed version of “Bloody Samaritan” at Coachella with her. In addition to all of this, she managed to find time to have her first COLORS STUDIO show, where she unveiled the song “ASE” (pronounced ah-SHAY, an exclamation used similarly to amen).

Recently, Starr announced that a deluxe version of 19 & Dangerous would be released on Oct. 14. The album would feature the tracks that appeared on the standard version of the album, as well as a handful of new tracks. Starr unveiled one of these tracks, “Rush,” on Sep. 16. The day prior, Spotify once again honoured her, this time as a RADAR Global Artist. A dream collaboration for Ayra came to fruition on Sep. 28, as Kelly Rowland contributed an original verse to a remix of “Bloody Samaritan.”

Even with her being in the music industry for less than two years, she has taken the world by storm. It’s not often to see someone so young with no preexisting ties in the world of music do what she has. At only 20 years old, her entire career is still right in front of her. Regardless of what she’ll do, Ayra Starr has proven that she is one of the world’s next superstars.