The 11 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Here are the 11 best Nigerian afrobeats songs that came out last month.

In this new series, we take a look at what we believe are some of the best Nigerian songs released in the past 31 days.

Two revelations this month: first is Skale’s live performance of “Temper” off his latest album, The Never Say Never Guy, on Ebonylife TV. Alone with a mic and backed by two percussionist, he sang note-perfect, switching pitches with impressive control, all while the dancing and enjoying himself.

Second is Nasty C’s retooling of Runtown's Nigerian smash hit “Mad Over You” on Coke Studio South Africa. What, until now, was the perfect pop song you couldn’t possibly improve upon gets a facelift by the boy wonder.

Read ahead for The 11 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month, listed in no particular order.

Patoranking “Mama Aboyo” ft. Olamide (Prod. by Major Bangz)

This is a ghetto gem from a lineage of street anthems from the likes of Mad Melon & Mountain Black, Baba Fryo, Daddy Showkey and Majek Fashek.

On paper, a collaboration between Patoranking and Olamide doesn’t excite much. but when delivered, it excites in many ways. Afrobeats-Patoranking is every bit as authentic as dancehall-Patoranking, and for this we should be grateful. Why? Because rarely do we come across one artist in whom both musical heritages live true as one.

Patoranking’s debut, God Over Everything (2016), is a fine, fine album and a final condensation point of Nigeria’s decades of incorporations of reggae and dancehall into its pop-sphere.

Skepta “Hypocrisy” (Prod. by Skepta)

“I'm a Nigerian Eagle,” proclaimed Skepta on “Hypocrisy” three weeks before the Boy Better Know Takeover at London's O2 arena. It was a huge undertaking which the group had done independently and the hope was that even more crews would emulate them taking their fate, music and revenues int0 their own hands. They also refused to give any press interviews, leaving “Hypocrisy” to double as a promo single and press release.

It was the first time fans heard “the MBE got rejected,” speaking of the Queen’s Honour list before adding the reason why —“I will not be accepted”—a rebuttal that crystallizes the general attitude grime artists have taken towards the British establishment.

Reminisce “Ponmile" (Prod. by Jospo)

This one draws you in and makes you listen. I'm grateful for the sung English, which makes the Yoruba a little more comprehensible, but am taken in altogether by the melancholy, wistfulness, emotional fatigue and helplessness which Reminisce's singing conveys.

The video depicts marital strife in a hyperrealist fashion, pressing home the subject matter, but what gets the guts is the emotional tear, and the cave which the writer must have gone into to find this song.

Timaya "Telli Person" ft. Phyno & Olamide (Produced by Kenny Wonder)

Timaya’s ability to straddle a thumping beat with ease is exceptional, as is evident in his guest freestyle on Ndani TV—an impromptu performance that could easily become a decent club single.

Going by this alone, “Telli Person” must have come to him easily. The Olamide-Phyno tag-team are solid additions to a song and video that's almost too rich in patterns, colours and theatrics. But then, some complaints are mere luxuries.

2Baba “Gaga Shuffle” (Prod. by Dapiano)

“I swear, this is one of my fave tunes of 2017,” announced Burna Boy on Twitter last month. He was referring to “Gaga Shuffle” and the reason for this goes beyond mere fondness, if similarities between both artists are taken into account.

Like 2Baba, Burna has a sideline in a particular kind of dancehall mixed with afrobeats cadences and inflections.

2Baba goes a step further than most 'Pon Pon' songs by incorporating the “Gaga Shuffle” dance in a video that seems to promote clean living—unless that's just how middle age men are at house parties. 2Baba’s second August drop, “Amplifier,” is a very decent afrobeat-meets-house song—a turn he’s been perfecting since his first solo attempt in 2004’s “Keep It Rocking.”

Simi "Joromi"

Retooling Sir Victor Uwaifo’s “Joromi”—from an ancient tale about hubris into one of charming love signals—Simi has cleverly updated an old classic into a lush, mild-mannered afropop song. Her ability to produce, mix and master records is deeply impressive.

About a year ago, Simi’s singing on her EP with Falz grated for this writer. About a year later, Simi’s singing on new single “Joromi” is very pleasing to this writer. Her new album, Simisola, is a total delight.

Phyno “Zamo Zamo” ft. Wande Coal (Prod. by TSpize)

Phyno’s singing found full expression and purpose on his sophomore effort, The Playmaker, a supremely textured album and a true musical achievement in this new afropop era.

Phyno’s singing is now so confident he leads on the same song as Wande Coal, who's continuing an impressive line of guest features this year.

Produced by TSpize, this mid tempo soother joins the long list of 'Pon Pon' iterations that have become de rigueur in Nigerian pop today, and a pretty good one at that, in which both men pine for a lover’s attention.

Phyno’s second single of the month “Mmili” is another rich mix of Ghanaian-borrowings, South African house, and afrobeats before this present era of calm. Full marks all around.

Olamide “Wo!!” (Prod. by Young John)

“Wo!!” is no doubt a standout street anthem. It enshrines Olamide in the pantheon of ghetto chroniclers, especially those that have come from Lagos and connected countrywide.

The single was the subject of a reported ban by Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission and health ministry, unfounded claims except for the latter, which drew official attention for seeming to promote smoking.

"Wo!!" is produced by Young John who helmed other Olamide bangers like “Shakti Bobo” and “Story for the Gods”—as well as both of Baddo’s August drops “Love No Go Die” and “Update.”

Yemi Alade “Knack Am” (Prod. by DJ Coublon)

By crowning herself Mama Africa, Yemi Alade is positioning herself as next in line to Miriam Makeba—the same Makeba whose music spoke against racists regimes in Southern Africa and the US, was adored by African presidents, championed by Harry Belafonte, and whose career suffered due to opposition to her 10 year marriage to Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panther leader.

Perhaps the title is strictly musical in which case Yemi Alade’s claims stand.

Few others have retooled highlife in this new pop era as well and as consistently as Alade has. “Knack Am” continues this rich streak, this time helped by DJ Coublon, who's made recorded live instrumentation central to his work. By doing so he's been able to satisfy both the old ears of highlife and new faces of afropop.

Wizkid “Medicine” (Prod. by Masterkraft)

As if to prove he could make Nigeria's new 'Pon Pon' sound his own, Wizkid dropped two loose singles, “Medicine” and “Odoo,” both produced by the mercurial Masterkraft.

One 'Pon Pon' based song would have put away any doubts Wizkid isn’t clued to what’s in on home turf. Dropping two gems is a stunt move that reaffirms his genius.

Falz “Something Light” ft. Ycee (Prod. by Sess The Problem Kid)

Here’s the best thing about this song: Falz combines really well with Ycee, trading solid bars and eliciting strong comparisons with Junior & Pretty, pioneers of ‘indigenous rap’ in Nigeria.

Junior’s use of the word “surprisation” on the duo's hit song “Bolanle” could easily have come from Falz today. Ycee, for his part, proves to be a good match for jester-Falz, coming close to eclipsing his host with some light wordplay, “you want something light, something nice/ but you’re still wearing bra when I’m offing light/ this your own attitude, e dey soften mic/ and i’m taking shit Eazi but it’s not Skin Tight.” Nice.

“Something Light” mocks women who pretend to a class and refinement that is beyond reach. The problem is Falz was in the news recently for decrying the glorification of fraud and fraudsters in a song by 9ice—a rare case of moral uppity from one contemporary artist to another.

Jester-Falz’s rap repertoire, in its use of malapropisms and low comedy, would seem to mock the diction of the less privileged. Falz would reject this characterization, though, claiming artistic license, free speech or some other, as will 9ice. Both would be right and yet still be implicated as creators of these personas.

Photo: courtesy of Natsai Audrey Chieza

100 Women: Natsai Audrey Chieza is Changing the World One Petri Dish at a Time

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textile manufacturing.

The bold jewel tones of OkayAfrica 100 Women honoree Natsai Audrey Chieza's silk scarves aren't the product of hazardous chemicals or silkscreen printing. Instead, they are the product of bacteria. Specifically coelicolor, a strain of bacteria found in soil that happens to excellently synthesize organic chemical compounds. Working in the trade for six years, the Zimbabwean materials designer quickly came to understand why the textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Knowing that the most harm occurs during the process of dyeing fabrics, she decided to take action.

Chieza has worked with leading brands such as Microsoft, Nissan, and Unilever to usher in a new approach to science and design. Through her creative R&D; studio Faber Futures, the design innovator uses the process of creating with bacteria to assist in moving mankind away from our fossil fuel dependency. As the biopigment expert put it [last year during her TED talk "Fashion has a pollution problem—can biology fix it?"], in the future we must make sure that we are not "mirroring the destructive legacies of the oil age."

Her interdisciplinary approach to biology and fashion has sparked spirited conversation about the future of sustainability and pollution in textiles. Here, Chieza expounds on her start, the pros and cons of creating something new and the urgency of change.

The following has been edited for length and clarity

Akinyi Ochieng for OkayAfrica: STEM and the arts are often conceptualized as separate worlds. However, in your career, you've managed to find the overlap. How did you, a materials designer, end up dabbling in biotechnology?

Natsai Audrey Chieza: I've always really wanted to work within the creative field. I used to work in architecture where I really enjoyed my education in a systems approach to designs and designing for multiple contexts. But I wanted to explore a different side of the design world, so I began exploring the skill and context of material flows, and how technology and futures fits within this framework of how we design.

For my own work and my practice, not having a scientific background made me try things based on what I understood about materials and what I understood about the interactions in which those materials existed in society. I'm interested in a political lens, an economic lens, and how textiles perform in reality. That's not necessarily the approach that a scientist would have taken. Now that's not to say that science isn't important—it's vital. But innovation can occur in that intersection.

Did you go into this thinking, "Oh, I'll figure it out. There must be a path to make this work"?

To be honest, when I started off, the field was not defined. I think I found something really interesting, which was about how biology was becoming a realm of design, and I just explored that as best as I knew how as a designer and non-scientist. It just so happened that around me there was a context that was imagined but enabled me six years later to say, "That's the industry where this work belongs" and stakeholders who give me a space to further my work in a creative and experimental. The path was never anything clear at all. I learned as I grew.

There's a phrase that is often repeated today: "You can't be what you can't see." But you have really created a niche for yourself. What are the benefits of entering an emerging space?

I think what's amazing is not having anyone or anything telling you that what you think is impossible. If you're carving a new territory then you must trust in your instinct and vision to effectively push where the work can be and where it exists. You're not asking permission to do anything. Of course the flip side of that is you have to bring people with you, and so part of you being able to do the work is convincing people that your vision has legitimacy and it's worth exploring, worth taking a risk to look outside of that box.

It's often quite challenging to figure out how to find the strength to push something that hasn't been done before. There's no precedent or rulebook to my work, but sometimes it's really nice to have a rulebook. [Laughs] However, I think it's made me a person who doesn't see challenges as obstacles that are in the way, but more as problems that can be solved. And I think that's the good thing.

Much of your work is about biopigments. What color excites you?

It's not really the colors that excite me. It's color as a cultural context that really fascinates me. I'm really interested in if a microbe is almost like this living factory that produces this pigment, and the technology can be shared and deployed with people as to how you work with it across the world, then what are the cultural interventions that can happen in South Africa versus in Argentina versus in the United Kingdom, based on this common microbe. I think that's always been what interests me the most, the context in which our materials exist. I think a really good example is indigo, and how from Japan to West Africa, indigo is just this really, really rich material, and the process and the craftsmanship that goes into it. I'm interested to see how the future ecology of making arises in response to biotechnologies across the world.

Where do you see yourself and your work evolving in the near or long term?

I'm sort of going through that growth moment where you've been working toward something and then you've arrived at that and you're like, "Right, what's next?" I think I'm fundamentally somebody that wants to use design as a discursive tool to understand how our technologies proliferate. My focus is really on the imagined life sciences and how they're going to become very much a part of all of our lived experiences, and particularly in the context of really urgent changes that are happening from a local level to a global level. From global warming and climate change to resource scarcity across regions, our response to what I think being able to design with living systems, can afford us in the future. So my work really is about understanding how to engage stakeholders across different sectors to grow a consensus around how we're going to leverage these sorts of technologies so that they can be technologies for good. That's really where this is going.

This article appears as part of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2018—a project highlighting the impactful work done by African women across the globe. Throughout March, we will be publishing a series of profiles, videos, interviews and feature stories on these inspirational women.

Click here to see the entire list of 2018 honorees.

Maia & The Big Sky LP cover.

Start Your Week Off Right With This Soulful Kenyan Collaboration

Maia & the Big Sky connect with Blinky Bill for "Pawa."

Maia & the Big Sky's music routinely blends soul and funk influences with the coastal rhythms of Kenya and features singing in both English and Kiswahili.

Maia's recently tapped into the vinyl revival wave as her 11-song Maia & the Big Sky LP is reportedly the first Kenyan album released on vinyl since the 1970s.

The Nairobi-based artist is now sharing the new music video for "Pawa," the album's leading track, which we're premiering here today. Directed by Chris King, the beautiful new clip sees Maia & the Big Sky taking over the TV airwaves and minds of all of those watching, freeing them from the "power" that controls them.

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Photo: Mídia NINJA

The Assassination of Marielle Franco and the Dawn of Brazil's New Civil Rights Movement

Marielle Franco was one of a new generation of black activists trying to overturn Brazil's entrenched and violent racism

The violence in Rio de Janeiro right now is akin to a war zone, with per capita death tolls resembling those from Afghanistan and Syria. Two weeks ago I traveled there for business and stayed in the relatively safe and trendy neighborhood of Santa Teresa. Each night of my stay, was abruptly awaken by long streams of gunshots and also fireworks from the nearby favela of Falett. The fireworks—as I learned from my local friends—were not a result of any celebration, rather a signal that either drugs, guns, or the police have arrived. This is the norm for many of the 763 favelas in Rio which houses nearly 25 percent of the city's population.

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