Nigeria, the pulsating heart of African music, continues to set the global stage ablaze with its electrifying sounds and lively culture. As the year unfolds, the nation’s vibrant music scene continues to captivate audiences worldwide with its rich cultural diversity, innovative melodies, and infectious beats. From Afrobeats to Afropop, and everything in between, Nigerian artists have left an indelible mark on the international music landscape.
After sifting through the multitude of releases so far this year, here’s our best 10 in no particular order.
Declan Rice – Odumodu Blvck
“Declan Rice,” is not only an anthemic tribute to West Ham’s captain but also a homage to his community. This track features nods to influential figures in his circle, including Chubbz and Teezee of NATIVE Records, visionary artist Slawn, and other crew members. Characterized by its joyful bounce, the song showcases Odumodublvck’s lyrical prowess enhanced with subtle vocal nuances, a fusion he dubs as “Okporoko Rhythm.” Odumodublvck’s journey to international recognition took a leap with the release of “Declan Rice” in 2022, coinciding with the English footballer’s milestone goal. Since then, he has steadily risen in prominence, solidifying his place in the industry. All the while, he remains true to the cultural influences that have shaped his identity, a testament to his enduring commitment to his craft.
Omah Lay – Reason
Omah Lay’s Reason is a spiritual successor to last year’s “Soso”, and the Port-Harcourt born star has fueled his new single with the familiar elements—tightly woven writing, a snappy beat and dampened mixing that proves the muffled feel of Boy Alone was more a creative direction than poor engineering choices. He isn’t quite as morose as on his debut album, so while he appreciates that there are clouds hanging over him, he will keep working and creating in spite of them—”I’m unsafe, but I’m still out here”. Once more, Omah Lay proves that from the darkest places can emerge truly beautiful music.
Rema – Charm
Here Rema throws on a cloak of toughness as a concealer to his vulnerability—”Come here wetin dey worry you/ Bring body make I rock am yeah yeah”. The artist is currently on tour in America, leveraging on the stateside blow-up of “Calm Down” to press further into global markets, so it is telling of his authenticity that he sonically sets this release in South-Southern Nigerian music and its hand-beaten drums. There is no mention of ‘charm’ anywhere on the song, so perhaps it can be assumed it was named for how addictive it is.
Asake – Lonely At The Top
“Lonely At The Top” is another attempt by Asake to distance himself from the comparisons that have trailed him since his breakout. He takes the same two-pronged approach as he did on “Yoga”—speaking on his superiority and then backing it up on the strength of the very same song. Just like “Yoga”, too, he does this while taking a step away from his patented ‘Fujipiano’, reminding once again that he is a more rounded artist than he is given credit for. Its title is more prophetic than braggadocios, and we can expect Asake to spend the next few years trying to live up to that tag. With songs like these in his locker, though, it shouldn’t take long.
Victony, Tempoe, Don Toliver and Rema – Soweto remix
“Soweto” is one of those songs with a melody you can never quite get tired of. It’s why the track, originally released on Victony’s Outlaw EP of May 2022, has spurned three different remixes and an EP without pushback from fans—they just can’t get enough. The reasons for this are apparent even on its original version—Victony’s vocals blend seamlessly into Tempoe’s underrated production, a match made in heaven. It leaves Don Toliver and Rema with not much to do on this remix; they find spaces to fit in where they can stretch the song’s sonic palette to excellent results.
Tiwa Savage, Young Jonn and Ayra Starr – Stamina
Young Jonn, the wicked producer-turned-artist more than delivers here, Tiwa Savage reminds us why she is queen of Afropop and Ayra as princess makes stronger her campaign to carry on the legacy. Their contributions are interwoven exquisitely; chorus blends into verse and back into chorus again, while Magicsticks focuses on providing an Amapiano-influenced production on which none of the trio feels out of place. When stars align, like they do here, the product is heavenly.
Davido and Musa Keys – Unavailable
The second song on this list from Davido’s Timeless, Unavailable is the more popular track, and here Davido fully delves into the Amapiano elements he skirted on “Feel”. Magicsticks and Ragee combine behind the boards, and the beat they emerge with is bouncy and dynamic. To surf it, Davido has invited South African Musa Keys, who is at home on this production; his entry in the second verse is a highlight of the entire album. Davido was one of the first Nigerian artists to work with Amapiano, and he shows here he has not lost his flair for the genre.
Bnxn, Kizz Daniel and Seyi Vibez – Gwagwalada
This track proves, like “Stamina” did above, that three isn’t really a crowd when the artists know their craft. Bnxn and Kizz Daniel take turns with the chorus, but it is when they interweave lines on the postchorus that their contrasting vocals highlight their individual strengths. Seyi Vibez brings his streetwise essence to the track, slotting in a slang-heavy verse while Magicsticks adapts the beat to his taste. The song shines not just in collaboration but chemistry, and these acts have plenty.
Shallipopi – Elon Musk
The baron of Planet Pluto, Shallipopi, made his entry via “Elon Musk”, and although it was followed by two more singles and eventually culminated in an EP, it still holds a special place in his Amapiano-influenced discography. His Benin origins shine in the rough version of pidgin he speaks and the local slangs he has now made public lingua—”now you don confirm evian dey”. It was made as a ode to Yahoo boys, but even working class people will find Shallipopi’s bouncy ryhthms and his streetwise swagger irresistible.
Kcee – Ojapiano
Kcee’s return to prominence in 2023 came through “Ojapiano”, which arrives at a time when Amapiano’s reign has artists and producers searching for innovative was to fuse the South African genre with indigenous sounds to create a product that holds on to Nigerian identity. “Ojapiano” does just that, as Kcee unites the Oja flute (played by Ojazzy Igbonile) with pumping log drums over which he proclaims his grand return—”Nne, you go see command o/ I don land o”. He has already followed up with “Ojaginger”, a similarly crafted track, and if this is how he intends to spend his next era, we doubt anyone has any complaints.
Hallelujah – CKay feat. Blaqbonez
Party No Dey Stop – Adekunle Gold & Zinoleesky