2020 was crazy for Nigerians—From the Covid shit-show that started early that year, to being cocooned at home during the lockdown period, to the economic downturn that followed the lockdown, to the Nollywood-esque drama that ensued when it came to the knowledge of the public that high-ranking government officials were hoarding Covid palliatives—Swarms of Nigerians stormed various warehouse locations, going head-on against armed operatives to collect their share of the loot—A scene straight out of an action movie! A cascade of jaw-dropping events followed—Coordinated prison breaks nationwide, the EndSARS protests, the Lekki Tollgate massacre, amongst others. Amid the hubbub, the teeming music scene was an escape and a beacon of hope. This year, as the ship of the nation’s transition to normalcy set sailing, the smorgasbord of amazing music released helped hold it steady.
Here are our 12 best Nigerian projects of 2021. (In no particular order)
- Zilla Oaks No ZZZ 2
The No zzz 2 album is an embodiment of the evolution of Zilla Oaks as an artist from the No zzz album in 2018, the next 3 years showcases his growth and eloquence as he exudes his maturity, storyline, and evolution as an artist, over a project fun-filled with; egotism, lyricism dark synths, and heavy drill and trap beats.
This album remains a top-tier African hip-hop album and one of the hardest to be released in 2021.
- Phyno, Something to Live for (Album)
The Something to Live By album is an ingenious project well packaged and presented in its very essence; catchy and hypnotic choruses swaying from his native Igbo language with English. Phyno cleverly interchanges the two in a bid to continue to connect with his roots and expand his international acclaim as a Nigerian Hip-hop heavyweight.
- Psycho YP, Euphoria (Album)
On this project, the ace rapper leans on a selection of sounds—electronic, bashment, Afropop and trap to conjure a truly eclectic and enjoyable project worthy of applause. The themes of the project are far-reaching, ranging from family to the music business and everything in-between.
- Olamide, UY Scuti (Album)
10 years ago Olamide dropped his first album Rapsodi, this year he dropped his 9th studio album UY Scuti. Comparing the two albums reveals two amazing projects that are worlds apart. On the album, the industry behemoth continues his evolution in sound that started on Carpe Diem (his 8th album)—From the brash street style that characterized his sound for almost a decade to an eclectic mid-tempo style, marked by more intentional and reflective lyrics.
- Little Simz, Sometimes I might be Introvert (Album)
“Sometimes I’ll be in my own space, my own company, and that’s when I’m content …” – Little Simz
In the chasm of the lockdown, the idea for this masterpiece was born. The illustrious rapper lets us into her world, using razor-sharp lyrics, poignant sounds, and masterful collaborations to conjure a spectacular project.
- Tiwa Savage, Water, and Garri (EP)
Following her scintillating run with Celia—Her critically acclaimed album released in 2020—the queen of Afropop followed up in full force with Water and Garri. Easily her most experimental body of work, the soundscape of the EP ranges from RnB to Afropop and Alternative. She teams up with Alte stars Tay Iwar and Amaarae to bring a youthful zest to the project, whilst balancing the equation with features with veterans Nas, Rich King, and Brandy. The EP sends a strong message to the world—The queen is still on the throne and she has no plan of slowing down anytime soon.
- Blaqbonez, Sex over love Deluxe (Album)
On this project, the iconoclastic rapper-singer whips his magic once again. He challenges the commonly held idea of ‘Love over sex’, arguing the case for ‘Sex over love’ on the 19-track project. Rapping or singing with swaggering braggadocio, the beats oscillate between hardcore rap sounds and classic Afropop as the virtuoso makes the case for hedonism.
- Ayra Starr, 19 and dangerous (Album)
In January this year, Ayra made her debut into the music industry with a five-track eponymous EP. The reception to the project was overwhelmingly positive and her entrance was noteworthy—Everyone was talking about this new kid—Ayra. Barely six months following her debut, she followed up with her debut studio album 19 and dangerous—A bold and risky move. Without any doubt, the album has lived up to its name. Ayra is an ice-cold killer who has just carved up space for herself in the industry and will be around for a long time.
- PrettyBoy DO, Love is War (Album)
Popular for his boisterous nature and iconoclastic swagger, Prettyboy once again fails to miss as he combines his peculiar character with his rapturous sound. On the project he oscillates between love and ‘war’ songs—He addresses subjects ranging from love to political injustice, to the everyday struggles of being a young Nigerian man. The project elicits all sorts of emotions—melancholy, anger, love, and nostalgia.
- SARZ and Lojay, LV N ATTN (EP)
Easily one of the most enjoyable and culture-shaping projects of the year. Ace producer SARZ continued his tradition of teaming with formerly obscure newcomers to create mind-blowing projects. He joined forces with Lojay on this one. The project is eclectic, encompassing a range of sounds—Amapiano, electronic, Afropop, … The tracks are impeccably produced, the melodies are infectious, brash zingy SARZ-type percussion that makes you want to lose yourself in the sound. Lojay displays an incredible mastery over language, stringing words and phrases into relatable lyrics that hit home. He uses his voice with the dexterity of a master, conjuring the right emotions in listeners, like a ventriloquist controlling his puppet. (Lojay should be illegal)
- Tems, If orange was a place (EP)
The EP is one of the most cohesive projects released this year. If orange was a place is a masterpiece, worthy of unwavering praise. RnB songs with infusions of Latin Jazz, Afropop, and Soul—She veers away from her usual pensive sound palette and moves towards a sunnier sound. The 5-track EP is voyeuristic—She sings about moving on from a deceptive lover, finding love, her time in a prison cell in Uganda, rising above her enemies, missing her lover, amongst other things, taking us on a memorable journey, using her music as the vehicle.
- Wizkid, Made in Lagos Deluxe Edition (Album)
Was there any doubt that MIL Deluxe would make number one? The project features the tracks from the original Made in Lagos Album, coupled with four fresh additions—Anoti, Mood, Steady, and Essence Remix featuring Justin Bieber. The sheer brilliance of the Album, its cultural impact, the exploits it did on global charts—Essence remix peaked at no. 9 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, two Grammy nominations, the joy, comfort, and succor it brought to millions of black people across the world—All these are reasons why MIL Deluxe deserves to sit amongst the top tier projects of 2021.