In this new series, we’ll be taking a look at what’s been breaking the Nigerian charts and what we believe has been the most noteworthy, as we compile The 10 Best Nigerian Afrobeats Songs of the past 30 days.
From established names to up-and-comers, big international collaborations to the promising newbie, a rapper’s delight to a makossa delight, noteworthy album releases and of course more Nigerian-Ghanaian cultural appropriations, which are clearly in rude health, check out our selections below.
Since we already published a list for the first half of July, this installment takes a look at the last two weeks of the month. Following lists will be monthly.
Yemi Alade “Charliee”
Yemi Alade already showed great form in adopting Ghanaian sounds in tracks like “Kofi Annan,” the closer to her well-rounded sophomore album Mama Africa. “Charliee” is another big overture, this time helped with Igbo, Ghanaian and Nigerian Pidgin “ibi crime the things you do/them go call the MOPOL.”
“Charliee” is the lead single off Mama Afrique, a 10-track album of notable songs from Mama Africa sung mostly in French and Portuguese. It’s a thoughtful and savvy move to increase her presence in the upper half of the continent.
Awilo Longomba “Esopi Yo” feat. Tiwa Savage
The London edition of One Africa Fest back in May was good, except for when it was bad. Of the good, Awilo Longomba’s set was full of sensual power as was Tiwa Savage’s, whose army of dancers and impressive choreography were cut short due poor organisation.
Both combine well on “Esopi Yo” over production by Babyfresh who made “All Over,” Savage’s big single of the year so far. Whether because of the legend of Longomba, or the endurance of makossa—or the pursuit of the Francophone markets—collaborations between him and Nigerian artists have all been mostly makossa with Nigerian additions as on “Rihanna” with Yemi Alade, “Enemy Solo” with P-Square, and now “Esopi Yo.”
LeriQ x DJ Tunez “Cotton Candy” feat. Burna Boy
“Cotton Candy” is a gem. All through, Burna Boy is faithful to a multi-syllabic rhyme scheme used to great effect, bringing neat symmetry to a neat melody “dem know say me nice and rich, cos I stack and pile my chips/me and the girls go together like 5 and 6.”
“5 and 6,” if I’m correct, is a Nigerian-ism taken to me “working closely” and most likely based on an old defensive partnership in football harking back to the days of Taribo West and Uche Okechukwu. Those were the glory days of Nigerian football. These are the glory days of Nigerian pop.
Davido “Pere” feat, Young Thug & Rae Sremmurd
Long promised and now delivered, “Pere” is the third impressive single from Mr Money Man, after “If” and “Fall.” He’s right to have saved this DJ Mustard production for the summer when his led-by-bass-synth-beats would do well in clubs as well as outdoor parties.
Young Thug and Rae Sremmurd are great additions, when not too long ago, the idea of Yoruba sung on a West Coast club beat would seem like a bad song idea. “Fans Mi” with Meek Mill lead the way and only recently, R Kelly did a decent enough job on the remix of “If.” This Young Thug and Sremmurd feature dovetails nicely with Davido’s impressive balancing act of strengthening his presence on the continent and in the diaspora, as he continues his “30 Billion World Tour” which is currently stateside.
Wizkid is king-ing. Sounds From The Other Side is mostly a triumph, and not a breath later he’s dropped a gem titled “Medicine,” which would have fitted on the album that he’s called a mixtape, but to avoid arguments, we shall call his “third full project.”
It’s not clear if this is in response to the taunt of a tweet from Davido last month suggesting the pre-release songs from SFTOS were “pon pon” and so not quite clued up to what’s current on home soil.
The equally mercurial producer Masterkraft whose own album, Unlimited (The Tape), dropped this July, has here crafted what by now should be a boilerplate borrowing from Ghana, but for how soothing it continues to be.
Reekado Banks “Easy (JeJe)”
“My Guy, My Producer, My official” announced Reekado Banks on his social media pages “we’ve made like 100 songs together” two of which he released at the same time in the closing days of July titled—“Easy (jeje)” and “Kiss Me”—from this bounty which also includes “Move” with Vanessa Mdee, his most recent video from the superbly confident debut album that is Spotlight.
Altim’s beat is also perfectly suitable to Bank’s always engaged singing as was evident two years ago when he made his entry with “Chop Am,” produced by Don Jazzy, which “Easy” most takes after. “Easy (jeje)” edges over the latter to make the list as it is more likely to cause a stir for being up uptempo and an easy one to dance to.
Ice Prince x Ladi Poe “Mr. Poe – Mr. Ice”
Half way through his guest-verse, Poe clutters syllables with impressive breath control just as the beat breaks into a jumbled drum roll. The aim is to dazzle and this he did, although bar “Feeling like a Barca coach, I don’t rely on the bench” is not as neat as it could be, or has gone over listener’s head.
Kendrick Lamar rewrote one of his verses when Jay Z jumped on the remix of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” to further stoke comparisons. What will be interesting to know is if the break on the beat for “Mr. Poe – Mr. Ice” was there before Poe jumped on it.
Poe cites Little Brother and Lupe Fiasco as inspirations. Another rapper whose fluidity and knack for clever and humorous bars he most takes after is Freestyle from Trybesmen. Lesser known, higher praise.
“Arabanko” addresses Harrysong’s legal woes with former label Five Star Music and former friend, Kcee. He does this in his ever charismatic fashion “cow meat carry am for pot, periwinkle show him face” to mean beef and snail might fit in the same pot but in origin are not of the same size. Other lines take shots at a certain celebrity blogger, and another at a famous former associate’s coke snorting habit, all said in jest, but never not serious.
Producers Pastor Sam and Twin Beatz have built on the traditional live percussion of the ogene (metal gong) and drums, used to accompany Igbo Atilogwu dance, over which Harrysong—always an engaging presence—weaves his tales of triumph over tribulations last seen done well on “Godwin” by Korede Bello.
Dammy Krane “Catch Feelings”
Currently facing fraud charges in the US, Dammy Krane continues to put out music that deflects the attention to his talents, which is evident on “Catch Feelings.” The single has a neat and effective hook and verses about developing feelings after intimacy, which are well weaved over production by Adey.
In the wake of Krane’s arrest and arraignment, photos of him and his antics in jets were mocked for presenting a life not lived. As if to highlight this on “Catch Feelings” he sings “First class, first class, all she wants is a first class/first class, private trips in a first class” inadvertently bringing more attention to his woes. The revelation by Davido that Krane co-wrote “Pere” with Young Thug and Rae Sremmurd was a complete surprise signaling his talents once again, and what he could go on to accomplish—only if he could free himself from the fuckery.
Johnny Drille “Romeo & Juliet”
Johnny Drille is cleverly adapting his brand of country/alt-country to the afropop soundscape using pidgin in the most un-intrusive manner “This love na for you and me” and later “Like MTN, I go find you everywhere you go,” both sung delicately it could easily be missed.
Age Beeka’s blazed a trail in 2003 with his debut, Age, as satisfying today as it 14 years ago. Age was produced by Jerry Gyang, guitarist and songwriter, whose The Love Album featured Asa, still the most high profiled of guitar-welders. So Drille’s emergence is not without context. What he has is a big label muscle in Mavin Records and, so, he’s well placed to take “home grown” country/bluegrass to newer heights. Check back in 14 years for a progress report.