At the beginning of 2021, the Nigerian music scene continued to revel in projects like “Highway and KPK” which dropped at the end of last year. Peruzzi’s “Southy Love“and Fireboy’s “Champion” from his 2020 opus Apollo were also revitalized with stunning visuals to keep fans busy. Nonetheless, 2021 has already brought an impressive slew of compilation worthy music onto the Nigerian scene. Normally a slow season for Nigerian music, serving as a gap between hits from the year’s end and the beginning of summer, 2021 has proved anything but. After a year under the mask of a pandemic and a series of historic protests that delayed many releases, artists are jumping on the blank slate of 2021 for a fresh start. It started with Ayra Starr’s eponymous EP and Joeboy’s much anticipated debut album, Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic. Then came Johnny Drille and Ric Hassani to trumpet the gospel of Nigerian music which transcends afrobeats/afropop. Ajebo Hustlers have also joined in with “Pronto”, maintaining a long uncharted venture of becoming a frontline duo in the Nigerian music industry. Finally, legendary afrobeats producer Don Jazzy makes a laudable rebound with “Bounce”, and Niniola unearthed her roots with “6th Heaven”, an R&B masterpiece. 2021 is poised to be a great year for Nigerian music, hitting the gates at full throttle. Enjoy our favorite Nigerian songs for 2021 so far.
Johnny Drille – Bad Dancer
Johnny Drille helms a suite of singers whose art furthers the gospel that Nigeria music is indeed more than afrobeats. With his debut album in view, the Mavin Records signee serves “Bad Dancer”, where he sings about treating his love interest to a slow dance even at the risk of being an oddball. Following “Mystery Girl”, Drille once again proves his affinity for declarative lyricism and fervent melodies. The singer’s long anticipated album has been slated for release in the coming quarter. Drille touts this record as the most beautiful love song you’ll hear this year and we couldn’t agree more.
Joeboy – Focus
Off the singer’s debut album, Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic comes “Focus” where the singer addresses unrequited love; urging his love interest to be more candid about her true feelings. It’s dark, moody visuals which trumpets the dangers of drinking and driving is reminiscent of the record’s hook “tori moti moti moti moti moti shayo,” which translates from Yoruba to English as “I’m so drunk that I’m intoxicated”. According to Joeboy, the record was inspired by an experience of one of his producers.
Rema – Bounce
Following a riveting run in the previous year, the singer struts into 2021, hand in hand with legendary afrobeats producer Don Jazzy, armed with an amapiano & afro-fusion bop dubbed “Bounce”. Here, the singer jacks up his storied gratification which leans towards women’s physical essence. This suffices as the first collaborative offering of Don Jazzy and his protege, Rema. It immediately became one of the hottest records in Nigeria upon release in February and it comes ahead of the singer’s highly anticipated debut album.
Ayra – Away
The last days of January saw the unveiling of Ayra Starr by Mavin Records, with an eponymous five-track EP. It’s lead single, “Away” toppled huge records like the Phyno-assisted “Highway” and pop culture-heavy “KPK” just days after it’s release. According to the 18-year old singer, the Louddaa-produced number is inspired by an intent to encourage people to shun anyone or anything that burdens them. Amidst maintaining its place atop charts and airwaves, UGCs across short-form video platforms haven’t stopped gushing out even months later.
Chike – Running (To You) (feat. Simi)
This is an alternate version of “Running” off Chike’s debut album, Boo of the Booless which has since spent a full year in the Top 10 of Apple Music Charts Nigeria. In commemoration of the opus’ one-year anniversary, Chike taps Simi to cater to lovebirds with a serenade that muses about treading the deep end for a significant other. The Voice Nigeria alumni is reaching new heights with this rendition as it dominates charts and airwaves across the continent.
Zlatan – Lagos Anthem Remix
Here, Zlatan enlists his cronies for a remix of the P.Priime-produced record themed after Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos. The record could pass for a socio-political experiment about the state of affairs. It examines the municipal at both ends of the spectrum ranging from woes of the regular Lagosian to the grandiose of their well-to-do counterparts. The remix bears some amapiano elements and has since been met with critical acclaim.
Ajebo Hustlers – Pronto (feat. Omah Lay)
The Port-Harcourt bred singers are speeding their way to becoming the foremost duo in contemporary Nigerian music following the Omah Lay-assisted “Pronto”, a brilliant sequel to the conscious “Barawo” and “Symbiosis”. The record is themed around sexual gratification which Omah Lay croons subtly in the hook. This record is one of the singles off the duo’s forthcoming debut album to be released in coming months.
Blaqbonez BBC remix (feat. Tiwa Savage)
In pursuit of a female perspective to the sexually-charged number, Blaqbonez taps Tiwa Savage whose contribution has taken the record to new grounds. Here, Blaqbonez is cocksure and seductive, tossing melodies with Savage. This is presumably a caveat ahead of his forthcoming debut album dubbed Sex Over Love.
Ric Hassani – Thunder Fire You
Off his sophomore album comes this record that chronicles the singer’s flux from a hopeless romantic to a distressed flame. Having garnered considerable buzz, the record has been banned by the National Broadcasting Commission from airwaves for infringing on the laws against strong language. According to the singer, “Thunder Fire You” was inspired by an experience too grave and incomparable to how stern it is being perceived. This is absolutely one of the best songs released in 2021 so far as it delivers a message and emotion that virtually anyone should relate to.
Kizz Daniel – Flex
Kizz Daniel furthers his artistic genius following the amapiano-laced “Currently” with assists from Falz, Olamide. “Flex” wields enough afrobeats and Highlife inflections to establish its own identity as Kizz Daniel croons about hedonism in an instrumental that’s seemingly dipped from the fount of legendary afrobeats artist, Fela Kuti. Not everyone will effortlessly do justice to such a record like Kizz Daniel does.
Niniola – Promise
Hot on the heels of her sophomore album, Niniola fulfills her longtime promise of an R&B project with “6th Heaven”. According to the singer, the project is reminiscent of her sonic roots – before afro-house. In “Promise”, Niniola, while trying to embrace the reality of her breakup, is certain she’s about the last best thing her ex-flame will ever find. The singer conveys an emotion that is reminiscent of Toni Braxton as she belts “I promise you this, you will never find someone as loving, peaceful like me”.
Vector – Early Momo (feat. Good Girl LA)
Vector taps Good Girl LA for a tuneful exchange of words in “Early Momo”. Released just in time for Valentine’s Day, the record for Vector connotes that “love wins amongst all odds”. “Early Momo” sees the rapper and singer experiment with a cozy twist on romance while trading melodies in between confessing flaring emotions. The duet fast became the favourite of many including the writer. “Early Momo” is off the rapper’s forthcoming album TESLIM, his first since joining Def Jam Africa.