2019 will be etched in Nigerian music history books as a momentous year for the newbies. The success of the year’s steady risers such as Rema, Joeboy, Fireboy and Oxlade (to name a few) serve to highlight the present climate for new acts in the country. With Nigeria’s pace-setting status as the media hub, where budding acts spring to headline shows quicker than anywhere else in the world, it’s rapidly becoming clear that many more are set to follow in the footsteps of Rema and the like.
Here are 10 Nigerian artists to watch in 2020 and beyond.
Following her 2018 debut release of ‘Mr. Rebel’, Tems kicked off 2019 with the release of ‘Looku Looku’, amassing her anenviable fanbase. Further in the year, the Afropop singer dropped the chart breaking single, ‘Try Me’, bolstering her place in the melancholic ranks. Indeed the record opened her music to a wider audience, granting her the opportunity to share stages with local and international household names alike. Now in the new year, still basking in the track’s success, the burning question at the mouths of the masses is ‘What’s next for Tems?’ 2020 is envisioned to be a surreal year for the R&B artist, watch closely as her stock upsurges.
2019 was a rewarding year for Maison2500 and his fans. ‘Fuck it we on route, now you on the news’, the Manhattan based Nigerian trap artist foreshadowed on his early 2019Santi/Odunsi/Izzy collab, ‘Icy’. A year later, one can evidently conclude Maison made no mistake with that line. In July 2019, he shared the long-awaited revolutionary full-length project, Maseworld; a game changer for Nigerian trap music of the present generation. It’s no surprise subsequently after its release; Maison hastily garnered a cult following of devoted fans. The rapper followed up with a double release of two highly anticipated singles, ‘Mood Swings’ & ‘Molly + Fast Cars’, to appease his ever hungry fans. His return to Lagos in December was relentlessly yearned for and his live performances at various concerts further cemented his commanding grip on his fans’ interests. Looking ahead into the year in hand, Maison’s predicted journey is undeniably set to shake up the industry at large. ‘And my clique and my set know I’m prolly up next’, he further confirms on ‘Icy’. Hang on tight for more from the visionary artist.
It’s commonly presumed that a co-sign from a big artist is the quickest route to radio in Nigeria, and, in many cases, even as the landscape shifts, this is still assumed the case. For Afrobeat singer, Buju, this was evidently the spark he needed. Buju had been making music prior to his chart topping collaboration with critically-acclaimed street artist, Zlatan(‘Spiritual’), however it was said collaboration that really skyrocketed his journey into becoming a household name in the Nigerian music scene. Further in the year, he released a follow-up single, ‘L’enu’, which amassed massive airplay as well, cumulatively earning him a nomination for the 2019 Headies Rookie of the Year Award. 2020 is definitely looking up for the artist as a collaboration with Grammy nominated artist, Burna Boy, is said to be in the works. Watch this space!
Singer-songwriter, Dami Oniru, released her first body of work, Cliché, in 2017. The R&B soul artist has since then colored her discography with singles like ‘Fallin’ and ‘Iyawo’; however with the 2019 release of her second body of work, Bri’s Lounge, Oniru showed remarkable growth in her artistry with her incredible vocal strength, melody and soothing lyrics. We look forward to great things from her in 2020.
Veteran label boss, Don Jazzy, has consistently proved to have an eye for discovering new talent. Such was the case for previous mentees Reekado Banks, Korede Bello and more recently Rema. Among more recently discovered talents is Crayon, an Afrobeat singer who made his first appearance on the Mavins all-star single ‘All is in Order’. Subsequently, the Afropop singer released his hit single ‘So Fine’ off his Cray Cray EP, which rapidly gained major airplay and in turn bagged him a nomination for the Headies Rookie of the Year Award. Crayon is visibly hungry for success. “I want to put my community on the map,’’ he says. Great things are projected for the emerging artist this year; it’s certainly only a matter of time.
British-Nigerian singer, Gigi Atlantis, appeared on the Nigerian music scene in 2018 and has since then released a number of standout tracks including the GMK produced ‘Tequila Crush’ and the fan-approved ‘2020’. It was however with the release of the unapologetic Fasina-assisted record, ‘Wahala on the Rocks’, that she proved herself worthy of the accrued attention. Gigi, described by the NATIVE as ‘a singer who infuses sultry bedroom pop with lyrically frank R&B’, creates music with evident influences from American melancholic soul artist, ABRA; an unorthodox style yet to be thoroughly explored in the Nigerian music scene. It is for this reason we’re excited to see what’s next for the singer-songwriter in 2020.
In recent times, Afrobeats as a genre has come under experimentation, with its practitioners modifying its compositions to fit into the current fast-paced preferences of the Nigerian audience. However, spaces farther beyond Africa are targeted; hence, the need for fusion. Spearheading this movement are artists like Rema, and following closely behind is recent Universal Music Nigeria signee and Rema’s former bandmate, Alpha P. The 17 year old singer has been described as an artist bringing ‘genre-blending flavor’ as is evident on his 2019 introduction EP, King of the Wolves. Often dubbed as ‘Rema 2.0’, his understandably obvious similarity to the Afrobeat star may prove to be a thorn in his side as this makes it a particularly daunting task to sell Alpha P as an artist possessing his own individuality. Nonetheless, his irrefutable talent should serve as enough incentive for UMG to deliver more ingenious ways in developing his brand and artistry. Alpha P is destined for greatness and we’re eager to watch as it unfolds.
With his 2018 romantic, AYLØ and Paula B assisted debut single ‘Sweet’, rapper MOJO joined the league of bilingual artists in the Nigerian music scene (including Naira Marley, Zlatan, Olamide and the like), infusing playful Yoruba verses over head-nodding beats. Much like fellow counterpart and collaborator, Prettyboy D-O, MOJO has often been branded as the quintessential bridge between alté and street music, as his musical palette appeals to audiences of both aforementioned sub-genres. The rapper teamed up with Prettyboy D-O to deliver the 2019 anthem, ‘Chop Life Crew’, rewarding him with an expansion of his audience. He followed up shortly with the catchy DaRe Kasali produced bop, ‘Shawarma’. We can’t wait to see what he cooks up next in 2020.
Prevalently called ‘Jinmi of Lagos’, the 22 year old singer-songwriter has carved a niche for himself with songs that carry the city’s energy, fusing tradition Yoruba sounds with storytelling R&B vocals to create evergreen pieces. Although he possesses a reasonably dense discography, as he started releasing music as early as 2013, Jinmi is yet to break the underground ceiling to move into the more mainstream market and receive the recognition he deserves. Nevertheless, observing his 2019 releases such as ‘Abena’ and ‘Greed’ featuring Oxlade, we’re certainly hopeful that 2020 is the year he attains more success than ever.
Since his debut in 2017 with the fan-approved ‘Instaman’, WANI has managed to maintain his relevancy each year; dropping the outstanding debut project that gained him well-deserved traction in 2018, Lagos City Vice, and his 2019 features on Odunsi’s ‘Better Days’ and SDC’s ‘In Case’. And yet, even with the enviable fanbase accrued over time, WANI can still be grouped with the class of artists running the underground circle; yet to break the ceiling and cement their significance in the top flight. Nonetheless, listening to his late 2019 double rollout, ‘Fast Life/No Love’, it’s evident the R&B singer is ravenous and ready. It certainly is a now or never moment and WANI is positively on the path to have a breakout year in 2020.
Afro-fusion artist and producer, Yinka Bernie’s music journey began in 2014, with the release of his first project, FelaObsessions. Since then, he’s shifted his focus from sampling and production to becoming a full-fledged musician, and it’s worked for him. He released his highly anticipated 2017 project, 19 & Over, gaining traction amongst listeners. Following up with subsequent releases in 2017 and 2018, Yinka further defined his own unique path to his artistry. 2019, however, saw the artist take a backseat from releases until he made his comeback late in December; dropping a track, ‘Bounce’, featuring long-time collaborator Joyce Olong. The short-lived hiatus from music enabled the artist further perfect his craft as is evident in the stellar performance delivered on ‘Bounce’, and has us giddy with excitement for what’s to come in 2020.