Many industries felt the heat navigating the many hurdles of 2020, however, the Nigerian music industry bloomed to be a beacon of hope. Last year was one of the biggest breakout years for music acts in the country.
There was an abundance of music from new acts ready to stake their claim, take over our playlists, and come out on top. This latest crop of stars released hit after hit all year, giving the usual chart-toppers an unusual holiday. It was a refreshment of content on offer for the new decade in a sonically gratifying way.
We begin our editorial year at More Branches with a list of 10 rising music stars in Nigeria who are poised for a phenomenal year. We rank in ascending order, the hitmakers, wonderkids and rising stars ready for the future of Nigerian Music.
Seddy, popularly known by her Nickname SGaWD is a 22-year-old sultry singer and rapper whose prowess is earning her increasing interest. The graduate of Law and Marine Biology started doing music professionally when she returned to Nigeria for National Youth Service.
Her music is tenacious and she is influenced by Hip-Hop/R&B greats like Foxy Brown, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, and Lil Kim. She is a dynamic and versatile artiste who channels the female gaze through some of her singles like ‘No one-minute man’, ‘Cake back for you’, and ‘Are you dumb?’
Azanti is a seventeen-year-old singer, songwriter and producer. He teamed up with the more experienced rapper, Psycho YP to record their joint EP YP & Azanti Vol. 1. Azanti’s vocal prowess and versatility enable him to explore different genres.
He draws inspiration from the likes of Bill Withers, Kurt Cobain and Gospel singer, Tope Alabi. Azanti is signed to Apex Village.
Mojo is a 24-year-old rapper whose breakout singles are “Chop Life Crew” and “Shawarma”. He is now heralding Chop Life Crew, a fully-functioning partnership consisting of 2 producers and 5 artists. His music is rooted in childhood moments and car rides with his mom.
“I grew up listening to artists my mum played like Sunny Ade & Fela. As I grew older, I started branching into the music I was interested in. I would listen to Da Grin and Mojeed and this was around the time I found hip-hop and other genres,” he told Native Mag.
7. The Cavemen
The Cavemen is a Lagos-based band comprising of two brothers, Kingsley and Benjamin Okorie. Their first studio album, Roots, is a body of melodious highlife songs rendered in a distinct contemporary form.
Sung in Igbo and Pidgin English, the album centres on the important things in life such as love, happiness and the uncertainty of tomorrow. Their mission is to reintroduce the genre of highlife to the mainstream.
The Cavemen discovered their music as young boys in the church choir learning to play various instruments. They have collaborated with established acts such as Asa, Bez, Onyeka Onwenu, and the Alté star Lady Donli. They received nominations for Best Alternative Song and Best Alternative Album.
“We make highlife because it’s the music of our ancestors. It connects us with the history and struggles of our people.”
Akanbi Bamidele Brett, popularly known as Cheque was born in Ondo state, he got signed to Penthauze Records in February 2019 after he was discovered by Phyno through one of his Instagram freestyling sessions. In July 2020, the 25-year-old artist released an EP titled ‘Razor’, a body of work featuring 5 tracks, Zoom, Loco, Satisfied, Hollywood and Odun.
Cheque draws inspiration from musicians such as Ycee, Drake, Rick Ross, Eminem and Justin Bieber and has gone on to record a remix of his most popular single, Zoom, featuring the DMW boss, Davido and Wale. He has been nominated under three categories at the City People Music Awards.
Zinoleesky is a Marlian Music-signed artist whose style bears no bounds. He was noticed on Instagram via freestyle videos of himself and his friend, Lil Frosh. In December 2020, he released his six-song EP, Chrome, including the viral ‘Mapariwo’ and ‘Kilofeshe’.
His lyrics are mostly sung in Yoruba, and inspire continuous love from his core fanbase. He has been nominated for The Headies Award for Rookie of the year and the City People Next Rated Artist.
4. Bad Boy Timz
Olorunyomi Oloruntimilehin is a fast-rising singer, songwriter and record producer signed to Anonymous Music. He began his musical career working with his father’s live band, Baba T International, a bubbly Tungba band from Ikorodu. His viral single, MJ, garnered over 10 million streams across streaming platforms after eight weeks of release and he now has two remixes of the song. One with Mayorkun, and the other with Teni.
Bad Boy Timz’s collaboration with Olamide produced ‘Loading’, an addictive ditty included in the latter’s latest album. Bad Boy Timz has been nominated for the Headies Awards Rookie of the Year, and the City People Music Award for Next Rated Artists.
3. Bella Shmurda
Akinbiyi Abiola Ahmed, popularly known as Bella Shmurda, has had a great year. After coming to limelight with Vision2020 in 2019, he has gone on to become one of the hottest newcomers in the industry. His sound is accepted within and beyond the streets and songs like Cashapp, Dagbana Orisha and Sho mo mi are a testament to this. He sings about the lived experiences of today’s young people who find his music relatable.
His single with Olamide, Triumphant serves is motivational bop. Bella Shmurda has been nominated for; The Headies’ Next Rated Artist, The City People Best New Act, and Revelation of the year.
Tems is a Nigerian alt-R&B singer, songwriter and record producer. Her EP, For Broken Ears, has enjoyed wide acclaim since its release in September 2020.
“Each song represents different eras of my life. I’m the type who goes through different things. It’s a journey and all the songs represent different seasons of my life that I’ve experienced and I wanted to share that with my listeners or anyone going through anything”
She has recently been nominated for the Next Rated award by the Headies and her feature song with Wizkid, Essence, is one of Barack Obama’s favourite songs of 2020.
1. Omah Lay
In 2020, Stanley Omah Didia, known as Omah Lay, released two EPs; Get Layd, and What Have We Done. The 23-year-old’s music is distinct and sufficiently satisfying. Perhaps, this is informed by his record producing experience. All year long, his songs ranked highly on charts including Cool FM Tastemakers’ chart and Soundcity Top 20. He is the first African artiste to be highlighted by the Africa Rising Initiative launched by Apple Music.
Some of his biggest songs include Lo Lo, Influence, Godly and so on. When he released his first EP, four out of the five songs stayed on the top four spots on the Apple Music top 100 songs in the country. He has been nominated under four categories at the 2020 Headies Awards including the Next Rated category, alongside Tems, Oxlade and Bella Shmurda. He was nominated for the Future Awards Africa Prize in Music.