The Best Afrobeats Songs of 2023 So Far
Featuring BNXN, Ayra Starr, CKay, Asake, Olamide, Rema, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Joeboy, and many more.
The first half of 2023 has produced an assortment of great sounds. Culling the amorphous musical movement known as afrobeats, the past six months have showcased African artists at their most dazzling and intentional, reaching deeper and wider into popular and alternative culture alike to create transcendental music. This list recognizes the best songs released this year so far, boasting that hard-won mix of sonic ingenuity and popular acclaim.
Follow our monthly Best Afrobeats Right Now list to stay updated on the latest afrobeats hits.
BNXN ft. Kizz Daniel & Seyi Vibez "GWAGWALADA"
“Gwagwalada” is an all-star affair. Starting off with dramatic adlibs from Kizz Daniel, the song progresses into a dance-ready ear candy produced by Sarz, . BNXN’s signature vocals take the hook in good stride, promising to focus on the individuality of his journey, while Seyi Vibez–Nigerian pop’s revelation since last year–delivers a short but sweet verse, setting up Vado for a fitting closer. It’s not usually such star-studded cuts works, but the usage of space and distinct melodies renders this song a special quality.
Ayra Starr "Sability"
Debating Ayra’s star quality is like questioning the wetness of water. Every year since her emergence she’s soundtracked memorable moments by releasing songs with an almost unparalleled grasp on popular culture. “Sability” continues the self-appraising quality of her previous record “Rush,” but here she leans more into the vivid aspects of African culture. Everything from the writing to the beat and the video presents her in the light of an African diva; also, her sampling of Congolese icon Awilo Logomba’s “Coupe Bibamba” is a fine stroke, giving the song a sweet rush of nostalgia while Ayra’s future-facing vision remains solid.
CKay ft. Blaqbonez "HALLELUJAH"
Amapiano influences continue to serve up memorable moments in Afrobeats songs. Proving one of its purposeful purveyors with “you”, CKay has again gone that route with his first record of the year. “HALLELUJAH” is an appreciative ode to the formative experiences in one’s life, its mood of triumph carried beautifully by the musicians. Blaqbonez’s verse is one of the strongest all year, floating with so much verve over the Magicsticks production.
Asake & Olamide "Amapiano"
Seemingly unsatisfied with his unprecedented 2022 run, Asake has continued to fan the embers of his celebrity coming into this year. After the revealing releases of “Yoga” and “2:30”, he’s now collaborated with label boss Olamide on this fun number. Culling from the South Africa sound as the title suggests, the song demonstrates the uncanny ability of both musicians to pick a vibe from any direction.
Kwesta & Kabza De Small "Huzet" ft. Papta Mancane, Ma-E, FKA Mash
With their collaborations coalescing in the Speak & Vrostaan joint project, it’s been clear that Kwesta and Kabza De Small have insane chemistry. On “Huzet” the winning formula is again replicated, this time with a host of featured acts. While there’s elements of Kabza’s signature log drums, the pace is decidedly slower, allowing the verses to build around it with real intent. It’s a pace that also works well for Kwesta’s drowsy but playful flow, offering a cocktail of styles in just over four minutes.
Joeboy "Duffel Bag"
Joeboy has been on a great run since last year as he leads up to the release of his sophomore project. He continues that run with “Duffle Bag,” a quintessential feel-good song about turning up for one’s lover. Delivered in Joeboy’s signature breezy writing, the warm bass lines and strings enliven the production, making the record come alive. While some have questioned Joeboy’s potential, his unparalleled ability to create a hit song has continued to keep him in the conversation since making his debut some years ago.
Tiwa Savage, Ayra Starr, Young Jonn "Stamina"
It’s no surprise what happens when three hitmakers get on a song: everything gets incinerated with musical acuity. Sparingly releasing singles since the Water & Garri project, Tiwa Savage calls up Young Jonn and Ayra Starr for this anticipated number. Her assured vocals taking the pre-hook, Jonn’s impressionable crooning is complemented with Ayra’s dynamic rhythm, and Magicksticks on the production makes everything come together beautifully.
Davido "UNAVAILABLE" ft. Musa Keys
Over the year, the instantly catchy chorus of Davido's “UNAVAILABLE” has been everywhere. A prime contender for song of the summer, the breakaway hit from Timeless has a fun sound that’s easy to associate with. Coupled with its TikTok-winged dance move, it’s that rare record that has a bit of everything for everyone, exuding love that’s surely the desire of an often painstricken world.
“See body oh,” a lyric delivered in the sensational style of Rema, has been one of the catchphrases of the year. Following up on last year’s debut album Rave & Roses, the Nigerian wunderkid’s ultra (his own version of a deluxe) featured this song. Catching onto several channels of popular culture and media, it’s a song that showcases Rema at his finest as a pop hitmaker, touching those sweet spots of sensitivity and serenade that’s earned him his shining crown.
Omah Lay "reason"
One of the most intriguing artists afrobeats has ever seen, the music of Omah Lay has everything on lock: message, melodies, and mood. He’s an astute songwriter as he’s demonstrated throughout his oeuvre, but he’s an equally adept singer. Off the deluxe of his imminent classic Boy Alone, “reason” is an introspective song about mental health and its manifestations in the young person. Even though the production is decidedly groovy, there’s no way one wouldn’t stop and think upon hearing the line: “What is the reason you don’t have your own peace of mind?”
Plucked from the Igbo flute known as Oja, Kcee's "Ojapiano" has been a genuine sensation in the first half of the year. Although released in an advanced period during that time frame, its sonic vibrance has caught on to several people across social media and in physical spaces, soundtracking the essential activity of having a good time. The song also raises the potential of honing into traditional aspects of one’s culture to present a refreshing perspective to the scope of pop music.