The year 2021 would be reckoned as one of the most remarkable years in the history of Nigerian music, as it takes center stage on globally recognized platforms across America, Europe like the Billboard 100, or Official UK Charts. Records like “Bloody Samaritan” by Ayra Starr, “Love Nwantiti” by CKay, listed in our previous ‘Artists to Watch’, have soundtracked moments across the internet via platforms like Tiktok, that have helped herald the gospel of Nigerian music to a global audience. More of these artists including Ruger and Zinoleesky have gone ahead to stake their claim at local and international levels. In that vein, we’re using the early hours of 2022 to bring you up to speed on some Nigerian artists on the verge of global domination. More than ever, the Nigerian music scene is simmering with incredible talent and these artists have, in the past year, made statements assertive enough for us to bet on.
Here are some Nigerian artists to keep close eye on during the course of 2022.
Without a doubt, Lojay is one of Nigeria’s breakout talents in 2021. He nets two hits off his collaborative project with Sarz. “Monalisa”, off the same project, has remained unmoved on the charts months after its release. Lojay also teamed with Zlatan on “Only Fans” off DJ Neptune’s recent album. The singer is known for his pleasingly sensual innuendos steeped in his Yoruba roots. It’s not typical for Afrobeats royalties such as Wizkid or Sarz to place simultaneous bets on an entirely obscure artist. In just a few months, Lekan Osifeso Jnr, also known as Lojay has become a household name, making him one to keep a close eye on in the coming months.
With zestful aura, Victony finessed a seemingly tumultuous year into becoming his best thus far. He is signed to Mainland Block Party and had released an EP dubbed Saturn, housing standout tracks like “Space & Time” and “Maria” featuring Falz etc. Following a life-threatening encounter that paralyzed the singer, he recounts his experience with Dark Times, a riveting two-track EP that hinges on self-reflection and re-evaluation. In the last quarter of 2021, the singer/songwriter struck gold with his infectious hook on Mayorkun’s “Holy Father” and Savage’s “Rosemary”. These records have hurled Victony to critical acclaim in the Nigerian music industry, leading listeners to discover his previous releases. The combination of his dulcet vocals and emotive storytelling puts him on a pedestal and we’re here for wherever it takes the singer.
Last year marked the ascent of more female singers than ever, upending the long-standing plague of ‘one leading woman per time’. Gods Favour Chidozie, also known as Fave SZN garnered public attention on Twitter, during the 2020 lockdown when she uploaded videos of herself making music in her room. One of the songs, “NBU” would make Fave a viral sensation on social media at the time. In June 2021, she featured in two songs off Olamide’s album, UY Scuti, before her solo release, “Beautifully”. Her signing to Mr Eazi’s Empawa culminated in the release of “Baby Riddim”, an Afropop number laced with Caribbean influences. The record has since launched Fave as a certified hitmaker in the Nigerian music scene as it reigns on charts across the continent. Her newly-released EP, Riddim 5 houses fan-favorite, “Mr Man”, which Fave had teased in a previous clip on Twitter. Fave is in formation for what is poised to be her biggest year yet as an artist.
After a long wait, Zamorra released Storms & Rainbows, an eight-track affair that soundtracks his trajectory from Ondo to Lagos and in-between; including what shapes the best of any of such journeys ranging from family, love, pain and eventual triumph. With his husky range,fervent lyricism, indigenous inflections, Zamorra made strides with the couples-favorite, “Now That You’re Mine”. Born Oluwashina Akinwunmi, Zamorra has been inching close to this moment, from his days as a student celebrity at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, where he was popularly known as Virus. His then-contemporaries include Fireboy, Blaqbonez, Cheque etc. He thrilled audiences at an array of events last December and while he’d probably double down on visuals to complement Storms & Rainbows, we’re excited to see what 2022 holds for the singer.
Glory Ene, popularly known as Ria Sean was introduced to mainstream consciousness following her signing to one of Nigeria’s premier entertainment outfits, Aristokrat Records, in affiliation with Universal Music France and Def Jam. The singer started off as a dancer and later a backup singer before her fortuitous encounter with Leriq, Burna Boy’s longtime collaborator. Ria does well with integrating these past experiences into her present; her music videos are proof. She launched with “Lemonade” and “Money Bag” before the release of her six-track EP, FLUID, a hypnotic compilation of divinely confessional numbers. The project includes “Underwater”, “Satisfy My Soul”, whose visuals sees Ria Sean celebrate femininity in its divinity and glory. With her brazen expression of sexuality and non-conforming aura, Ria is a breath of fresh air in contemporary Nigerian music.
In late September, Nigeria’s leading record label, Mavin announced Magixx as its latest signee, about a year after developing behind the scenes. Hours later, the announcement was followed by an eponymous six-track EP, which pieces the singer’s experiences on love, life, humanity and more. The project includes records like “Love Don’t Cost a Dime”, “Parti”, and “Motivate Yourself”. According to the singer, “I want to make music that speaks for itself and a sound that will always remind the coming generation of his legacy”. Magixx had garnered considerable fame in the University of Lagos where he schooled, beforehis 2019 release“Problem”, which got the attention of music industry stakeholders like MI, Don Jazzy, Mayorkun etc. The singer, born Adelabu Alexander, embodies the markings of a Gen Z ambassador with his harmonic vocals and endearing sense of style.
Things switched up for the singer, whose identity remains top secret, when his 2020-released single “Cocaine” started to go viral on Tiktok. According to him, the record came from a place of lost love, hurt, desire and lust. In the thick of it, he’d score another hit with Zugo’s “Colorado”, another 2020-release which he features on. The singer thrilled audiences at quite a number of December shows with a signature ski-mask. The 23-year-old singer is sure to have a good year as he’s become a priority interest of Empire, who has in the past year, etched their presence in the Nigerian music industry.
1da Banton joins an interesting slate of musical exports from Port Harcourt like Burna Boy, Omah Lay, Ajebo Hustlers among others. In June, the singer released his sophomore album Original Vibe Machine which features Seyi Shay, Zlatan, and Duncan Mighty. “No Wahala”, off the project, has since gone viral across social media, from Tiktok. The record was included in the 2021 “On the Road” playlist of Anthony Blinken, America’s Secretary of State. The record first took off in France, unbeknownst to the singer, and has since charted in over ten countries including the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland. 1da Banton is one who dons his South Southern roots as a badge of honour and is reminiscent in “No Wahala” which connotes “No Stress/Problem” in Nigerian pidgin English. The success of “No Wahala” has earned the singer considerable recognition and, fingers crossed he’ll become a household name with a new deal and subsequent releases in view.
2021 saw a number of records take off from social media platforms like Tiktok and AV, and “Big Thug Boys”, is one of the standout successes of this phenomenon. “Big Thug Boys” is an Afropop number that cautions men about their covetous counterparts who he regards as ‘big thug boys’. In his words, “The song was a tribute to my friends. They’re actually big thugs. Everything I said in the song, they can actually do”. The success of the record reached offline to become an all-round hit, while it stayed unmoved on the charts. AV has since followed up with “Confession”, in anticipation of his debut EP later in the year.
With her bold bars, sultry serenades, and an unbridled charisma to match, SGawD is in good form. The singer racks up influences from her formative years across Akwa Ibom, Abuja, England, Miami to deliver stellar rap numbers. “The way I talk, my diction in my music, my lyricism is really just my experience being in these different places. When I moved to Miami, I learnt Spanish, so I drop Spanish in my songs randomly,” she mentions. 2021 was quite an interesting year for the rapper as she stakes her claim with “Pop Shit” featuring Somadina. Prior to that, she teamed up with Cool FM’s Aux Africa to deliver Phobia, a three-track project that embodies an eclectic mix of her Nigerian roots, Hip-Hop and R&B sensibilities. She wrapped up the year with the release of a six-track project, Savage Bitch Juice. She was later announced as Apple Music’s Up Next, joining the likes of Tems, Ajebo Hustlers and Rema. SGawD represents a growing number of Nigerian rappers inching to champion the renaissance of rap music in Nigeria. She is influenced by Nicki Minaj, Lauryn Hill, and Brandy.
Keep up with the global rise in Afrobeats and Afropop with our selection of Nigeria’s best songs of 2021.