Starting off with the inauguration of an afrobeats-dedicated segment on America’s Billboard charts in the first quarter, we called it on the amazing year that Nigerian music is poised to have. As Mavin celebrates a decade of being one of Nigeria’s foremost records which culminated in the release of a joint project, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Asa also dished out albums to critical acclaim. Adding to the ascent of producers come artists like Pheelz, and Young John; we’re stunned by the arrival and meteoric rise of Asake, whose run would set a standard for any debut in the Nigerian music industry. Amidst the slew of releases, feats, global acclaim, and spotlight on Nigerian music, here are some of our favorite songs to come out this year.
Follow the selection all year long in our One Dance playlist.
Asake feat Burna Boy – “Sungba”
Asake’s sound is less-conventional afrobeats and more like a stir of fuji, street, and some amapiano. “Sungba”, meaning “lie flat” in Yoruba, has an oddly-appealing sexual undertone, with a hint of egotism about his musical know-how and financial stamina. The record took off on social media before snowballing into a national hit that would interest Burna Boy enough to jump on the remix.
Burna Boy – “Last Last”
On ‘Last Last’, Burna Boy references the pop culture parlance – ‘everybody go chop breakfast’ – to serve a refreshing spin on heartbreak, where he takes a more composed, less emotional turn. The song’s climax would be the resort to ‘Igbo and Shayo’ (colloquially meaning alcohol and weed) for escapism. The record which samples Toni Braxton’s 2000 R&B hit “He Wasn’t Man Enough” came ahead of the singer’s sixth album, Love Damini.
Mavins, Crayon, Ayra Starr, LADIPOE, Magixx & Boy Spyce – “Overloading (OVERDOSE)”
Mavin’s tenth anniversary culminated in the release of “Overdose” featuring two of the label’s seasoned acts – Crayon & Ladipoe and its newer talents – Ayra Starr, Magixx, & Boy Spyce. “Overdose”, a record made for lovers in the “breakfast” climate, marks an evolution of the label’s roster, inciting a hint of nostalgia for the “Dorobucci”, and “Adaobi” sweep in 2014. The record has been one of the hottest songs in Nigeria since its release, earning some of the artists their first number one’s on the charts.
Kizz Daniel – “Buga”
“Buga”, meaning “show off” in Yoruba, draws from a well-bred aura in composition and messaging. It has become afrobeats’ poster record on platforms like Tiktok, accompanied by a uniquely candid choreography that drives home Kizz Daniel’s intent for the song. “As long as people work hard to make legitimate money, they should be proud to flaunt their worth,” he said. It became the fastest song to garner one million streams on Boomplay in 24 hours.
Adekunle Gold – “Catch Me If You Can”
In the title track of Adekunle Gold’s recent album, he’s confrontational as he takes a swipe at media critics and cynics. In his chat with PAM, the singer had highlighted “Catch Me If You Can” as his favorite record on the then-forthcoming project. “The song almost tells the entire story of the album. It’s about my journey, how hard I worked to get to where I am,” he continued, “I know that people say you must be given their flowers, but I’m at the point where I’m getting my own flowers. A whole field of lavender.”
Ayra Starr – “Rush”
Ayra Starr is not backing down as she delivers some of her most self-confident lyrics yet. “‘Rush is really a description of where I am at the moment—a place of reflection, zeal, and gratitude,” she explained. “E dey rush well well—all that I’ve dreamt of is happening and I’m in the middle of it all, living my dream and it can only get better!”
Davido feat Sunday Service Choir – “Stand Strong”
Davido is reflective of his decade-long reign on “Stand Strong”, a message of hope and persistence. The track’s emotional undertones and serenity mark Davido’s foray into uncharted territory as he recruits Los Angeles’ Sunday Service Choir to make a purposely crafted symphony that mirrors his state of mind. “I know people love it when I make them dance, but now I want to make them feel,” he says, “I know what I’ve experienced over the past 10 years, and for the first time, I want to bring you into the other part of my world. The part where every day is a battle but I have no option but to ‘Stand Strong’”.
Magixx – “All Over”
Off Magixx’s sophomore project, “All Over” leans into the singer’s crooning techniques and effortless delivery. Magixx, in his lover boy element, douses his love interest with sweet affirmations that he’s ready to wait long enough till they come around. “All Over” is Magixx embracing his strength of pairing syrupy words with deft vocal inflections and heart-melting melodies.
Crayon – “Ijo (Laba Laba)”
Striking while the iron is hot, Crayon teams up with Sarz for “Ijo Lababa” (meaning “butterfly dance” in Yoruba), a dance trend involving some hand coordination that has since gone viral on social media. The amapiano-Afropop earworm is inspired by his dance move in the “Overdose” music video. The tantalizing dance rhythm would mark Crayon’s long-overdue ascent in the Nigerian music scene.
WurlD – “Make It Snow”
Wurld taps into his expansive sonic palette to deliver the provocative number. According to the singer, “Picture this, ‘when we come together, we make it snow’. I wanted to create what happens when you connect with your significant other and when you both climax together, you’re making snow. Everything that you experience in the song is the highest feeling of what climax feels like and I didn’t start creating the song until I felt at the highest level of just feeling.” “Make it Snow” is a breath of fresh air on Wurld’s debut album, My WorlD With U.
Oxlade – “Ku Lo Sa”
“Ku Lo Sa” debuted on Colors and has since incited a viral moment and wave of appearances on global charts. The record is a blend of soft but arresting melodies, making it an instant fan favorite. Oxlade proves that he can reliably remain in rotation among people from different walks of life.
Rema – “Addicted”
The 1980s R&B/Soul-inspired number is one of the most experimental records off Rema’s new album, Rave & Roses. “Addicted” takes a whole ‘nother turn from other songs in the project. Here, the singer paints the picture of a love interest addicted to vices of youthful exuberance. “Everyone is allowed to have fun but there should be a balance,” he said, “being at the career height I am, I know that I can have this life to the fullest but I still have my laidback time to create a balance”. The record’s haunting yet enthralling badge upholds Rema’s range and penchant to tap into exotic sonic palettes beyond conventional waves.
DJ Spinall feat Asake – “Palazzo”
Asake teams with DJ Spinall to match his career-defining hit “Sungba”. “Palazzo” is a testament to how well the YBNL-singer has inched towards this moment, giving his delivery against a backdrop of percussion-instrumental as he shuttles between the pidgin-infused chorus and lyrics written in Yoruba. Asake sings about having mixed feelings towards being lustfully desired by the opposite sex, among other things there are to like about him. Unruffled, “Palazzo” held its own on the charts despite clashing release dates with heavyweights like Burna Boy and Davido.
Dunnie feat Chike – “Already Won”
“Already Won” furthers Dunnie’s expansive sonic palette and penchant for wearing her heart on her sleeve. She enlists Chike for the Deeyasso-produced duet that has couples and hopeless romantics swooning. Here, Dunnie references viral pop culture parlance, “done with the streets”, to make a soulful delivery about her biggest win yet – bagging a significant other. “Chike came to mind immediately when the melody hit me and getting him to do this with me was as easy as it was making the song,” she says about her chemistry with the “Running” singer.
Aṣa – “Good Times”
Asa teams up with Nigerian highlife sensation The Cavemen for an ode to friendship in her recent album. “Good Times” muses over the Black pride of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and the enthused warmth of Eddie Okwedy’s “Happy Survival”, courtesy of The Cavemen. “I was thinking about Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo when writing this one,” she mentions, “there’s just something acoustic that brings me to Southern Africa here”. The record touches on love in the context of friendship. According to her, “it is one of my easiest songs because it’s about remembering a good friend.”
Pheelz feat BNXN – “Finesse”
Pheelz, one of Nigeria’s leading producers tapped BNXN for what would become the hottest song out in Nigeria so far. “Finesse” went viral soon after it was teased on TikTok by the producer. In this record, Pheelz rocks the boards and mic, alongside a legion of men singing about living in the fast lane. “Finesse” was the most Shazamed song in the world within one week of release and has spawned a moment in pop culture with quotables like “if I broke, na my business” which has since gone viral. Seeing Pheelz hold his own even with BUJU on the record is quite a discovery.
Guchi – “Control”
Off her recent project Purple Diary, Guchi offers herself to her significant other in “Control”. Replete with her hit-making abilities and clever songwriting, Guchi works the Chech production that is already elevated by mesmerizing guitar chords, horns and handclaps.
Omah Lay – “I’m a Mess”
Omah Lay threads a number of traumatic experiences such as overthinking, loneliness, social awkwardness, and employing alcohol as a coping mechanism. The emo-leaning production, atypical of Niphkeys, exudes a tender atmosphere for Omah Lay to ace his most tear-jerking performance yet.
Tiwa Savage feat Asake – “Loaded”
Savage rebounds with the Asake-assisted “Loaded” as she interpolates a Black Sherif lyric; addressing her leaked sex tape for the first time. Here, Asake holds his own as a neo-Fuji progenitor while Savage effortlessly matches his energy and delivery.
Wizkid – “Frames”
Wizkid works his Falsetto to churn out one of his most emotive deliveries yet. Housed in his fifth studio album More Love Less Ego, the singer stretches his vocals over laidback drums suffused with a deft turn of phrases and explicit imagery.
Young John – “Dada”
Signing to Chocolate City, the producer come singer exudes the air of a hopeless romantic in “Dada”. The street anthem is backed by a bouncy production and honeyed lyricism as Young John serenades his significant other.
Johnny Drille – “How are you [My Friend]”
Johnny Drille and Don Jazzy hammer on the power of friendship and community, acknowledging their shortcomings and trying to correct them. According to them, this record was created to help people stay in touch with each other. “Learnt a valuable lesson recently about how, as much as we see each other on social media all the time, we’re actually not as connected as we might think”.
Teezee feat Knucks – “Do Me Jeje”
On the brink of staking his claim as a soloist, Teezee enlists West London rapper Knucks for the anthemic number, “Do Me Jeje”. The record sees the alté sensation explore an unfamiliar range typified by the heavy log drums and bouncy instrumentation of Knucks. “Do Me Jeje” is off Teezee’s debut project, Arrested by Love, where he dons his duality as a singer and rapper, having experienced life between Lagos and London.
BNXN – “In My Mind”
“In My Mind” made its debut on Colors before appearing on the singer’s new album, Bad Since ‘97, and took on a life of its own. BNXN worked the Blaisebeatz production with his enigmatic vocals and obsessive lyricism; spotting the Superman and Lois reference as he journeys listeners to his utopia where love is reciprocal.
Ladé – “Adulthood Anthem”
Lade, with a ‘battalion-man chorus’, unpacks the throes and complexities of being an adult in a Tiktok clip that would go viral. It has become a popular record in Nigeria and catapulted Lade to higher realms. “It was intentional and personal because that’s where I’m at right now. The fact that I have to do things myself, cater for and make things happen for myself and I believe a lot of youths are there as well,” she said.