The Best Ghanaian Songs of 2018

Here are the 23 best Ghanaian tracks of the year featuring La Même Gang, KiDi, Juls, Efya, Sarkodie, M.anifest, Kwesi Arthur, Kuami Eugene and many more.

Welcome to our inaugural list of the Best Ghanaian Songs of the Year.

The big name artists have made impressive showings in 2018, as did a swathe of newcomers who are making commendable strides towards their debut projects and establishing their identities. Even more refreshing is the emergence of emo raps in the music of La Même Gang. Friction between Sarkodie and Shatta Wale may divide fervent fans but it's made for some energetic competition and debates in what's been a big year's harvest of soundscapes, styles and good fun.

Read along for our selection of the Best Ghanaian Songs Of 2018. Listed in no particular order. —Sabo Kpade

GuiltyBeatz x Mr Eazi x Patapaa x Pappy Kojo "Akwaaba"

"Akwaaba" is undoubtedly the biggest Ghanaian dance anthem of 2018. Banku Music in-house producer Guiltybeatz dropped this as his debut single featuring Mr Eazi and rappers Pappy Kojo and Patapaa. The song and its accompanying dance went viral shortly after its release, and it has been seen on dance floors all over the world, instantly putting the producer on the map.—Nnamdi Okirike

Kuami Eugene "Wish Me Well" 

A tale of well wishes to well wishers that may also double as a rebuke to naysayers, "Wish Me Well" excels as a secular gospel song in the way it combines personal triumph with religious innocence. Kuami Eugene traces cadences and techniques—like some signature ad-libs and the hook's cluttered refrain and sweet melodic lines—that are reminiscent of Wizkid, but without a smudge on his own singing talent. —Sabo Kpade

Kwesi Arthur x M.anifest "Feels" 

"Feels" is one of the hardest Ghanaian hip-hop songs you'll hear this year. Elite rapper M.anifest delivers a potential anthem featuring rising rap sensation Kwesi Arthur who demonstrates his hook-making skills. M.anifest laces the track with introspective and inspirational bars, reflecting on his wins on the instrumental produced by MikeMillzOnEm. —Nnamdi Okirike

Shatta Wale "My Level" 

As is evident all throughout his latest album, Reign, Shatta Wale reaches new emotional heights when he beats in his gravelly voice about his life struggles. This is proven on "Life In Nima" and elsewhere as on "Alakpator" and "My Level," which presents humility while insisting on his status. —Sabo Kpade

Joey B x La Même Gang "Stables" 

A-list rapper Joey B dropped a banger featuring the Ghanaian cool kid music collective, La Même Gang. Maintaining the cowboy ethos he adopted in his last project, the Ranger EP, the rapper sticks to the template, presenting the American Western aesthetic in the artwork, visual, and even the production of "Stables"—fast paced guitar chords over a trap beat produced by Nova. La Même Gang members Darkovibes, RJZ, KwakuBs, Spacely, and Kiddblack each deliver their own verses, finishing up a hip-hop joint you won't be forgetting any time soon. —Nnamdi Okirike

Amaarae "Fluid"

Amaarae is one of 2018's best discoveries. A petite songstress with multicolored hair and killer fashion sense, she delivers R&B and soul with dreamy sultry vocals that have you feeling like you're in the clouds. "Fluid" is a cut from her debut EP, Passionfruit Summers. Both the song and its video draw you in immediately, starting from the atmospheric production to the colorful and pleasing visuals. The singer uses every tool at her disposal to pull you into her world and get you hooked, and we're definitely not mad at it. —Nnamdi Okirike

E.L "Ghana Meets Naija" 

"We fit fight hard we fit beat Naija / why you dey fear? Them dem breath like us" rails E.L on this big push back against the dominance of Nigerian artists on Ghanaian pop music. He rallies his country men: "the whole Africa go shock when them see what's inside us / but the whole quality for rise up / mediocrity for die kraa."—Sabo Kpade

KiDi "Thunder" 

One of Ghana's new superstars, KiDi, has delivered hit after hit of great afrobeats tunes. The singer employs a proven formula of catchy lyrics, sing-along hooks, and easygoing highlife-influenced instrumentals that make his love songs instant anthems. "Thunder," a song that will definitely have you singing along at first listen, is no exception to that rule.—Nnamdi Okirike

Becca x Sarkodie "Nana" 

"Nana" is a pledge of unbridled love and loyalty by Ghanaian pop royalty that makes one wonder just how delightful and influential a joint album à la The Carters could possibly be. Both are in excellent form: Sarkodie is ever compact and precise, his athletic delivery and big boasts the perfect accompaniment to Becca's celestial voice, here, beautifully restrained with light flourishes and echoed with muted vocals. —Sabo Kpade

Eddie Khae "Do The Dance" 

"Do The Dance" is a hip afrobeats joint that blew up seemingly out of nowhere. Months after its release, the song by the up-and-coming rapper Eddie Khae exploded into a dance anthem. However the track itself isn't the only star of this show, as its accompanying dance step, as seen in the official video, became the rave of the clubs and dance floors in Ghana. Eddie Khae delivered an unsuspecting hit with this one, and party people all over Ghana thank him for it.—Nnamdi Okirike

La Même Gang "Stone Island"

Intense and happy friendships between males, as portrayed in the video for La Même Gang's "Stone Island," are a rarity that the song itself, melancholic as it is, could only achieve in parts. A strong sentiment such as, "I felt bad when homie said send me cash and I can't do shit for him / I felt bad when he buried his dad and I showed up late for it" speaks of a private shame while in the video, a shot of the group shirtless and cuddled up in bed is strikingly tender.—Sabo Kpade

Akwaboah x Strongman "Forget"

Newcomer Akwaboah is a songwriter and vocalist signed to Sarkodie's Sarkcess music record label. "Forget" is one of the standout singles from his debut album, Matters of the Heart. "Forget" is a simply beautiful afrobeats tune that has the singer professing his feelings for his love interest, with a guest verse by labelmate and Sarkodie's protégée, rapper Strongman.—Nnamdi Okirike

Efya x Mr Eazi "Mamee"

Expect no less a well crafted song from two of the most convincing singers in afropop. "Mamee" is another brilliant duet by Efya and a male artist, after the gem that is "Could This Be Love" with Mugeez, but this time it's Mr Eazi who deploys more stank in his voice than otherwise known. Meanwhile, Efya repurposes the majesty in her voice in service of a perfectly enjoyable pop song. —Sabo Kpade

R2Bees x Wizkid "Supa"

The R2Bees and Wizkid combo isn't a new one, and each time the afrobeats heavyweights get together to cook something up, they always dish it solid. "SUPA" is no exception. A laid-back afrobeats joint, it opens with a smooth verse from Wizkid, with Mugeez and Paedae following up to finish it off. The song is a single from the duo's upcoming SITE 15 album. We can't wait to see what else the project has in store.—Nnamdi Okirike

B4Bonah x M.anifest "Devil Is A Liar (Remix)"

B4Bonah is a newcomer who has demonstrated a knack for delivering thoroughly enjoyable music. This song is the remix to the artist's earlier dropped solo effort, this time featuring an additional verse from fellow Ghanaian rapper M.anifest, which upgrades the already infectious afrobeats song to a 10/10, with compelling visuals to match.—Nnamdi Okirike

Juls and Kojey Radical, two highly-buzzing British-Ghanaian acts, excellent in "Normal," a pairing of vocal virtuosity and sensible beat-making that went to even more complex depths in 2017's "Temperature Rising."

Kwesi Arthur "Woara"

Rising rap sensation and BET Award nominee Kwesi Arthur switches it up to deliver a Ghanaian highlife tune. "Woara (God's Engineering)" is an inspirational tune that has the rapper telling the things God has done for him, and giving thanks for his recent successes. The song flew up the charts in Ghana immediately after its release, becoming Kwesi's biggest hit since "Grind Day."—Nnamdi Okirike

Sarkodie "Black Excellence" 

Sarkodie extols the virtues of hard work and self-reflection with characteristic zest and precision over woozy bass synths and trap drums in this Nova-produced banger, "Black Excellence."—Sabo Kpade

Medikal x Kwesi Arthur x Ahtitude "How Much"

A bar-fest as ferocious as any, the trio of Medikal, Kwesi Arthur and Ahtitude address a pertinent question—"how much be your too much money?"—with enough verve and audacity to make any loaded pocket insecure. —Sabo Kpade

Wendy Shay "Bedroom Commando" 

An unabashed title for an unabashed invitation, Wendy Shay makes no bones about her sensual intentions to a love interest. With urgings to "fire, fire," Shay invites as well as challenge her lover with an ego boost "bedroom commando" and an even bigger one promised: "call you my hero." Who could resist! —Sabo Kpade

King Promise "Abena" 

Beneath the very decent writing and what is a perfectly enjoyable love song in "Abena" is a disciplined R&B voice and technique that will continue to serve King Promise well. —Sabo Kpade

Miyaki "Anfara"

Translating to "it's begun" in Hausa, "Anfara" is a single from one of the new wonder boys of Ghanaian pop, and self-described "youngest in charge," Miyaki. In title and composition, "Anfara" is reminiscent of another song of the same title by ClassiQ, the gifted upcoming Nigerian rapper who is also Hausa. More interestingly, the song presents a new dimension with not just the language—which is rarely used in top layer pop in either countries—but also the melodies and humour, particular to Hausa folk songs. —Sabo Kpade

Mzvee x K "Bend Down"

An unabashed dance floor number that is quick to get down to business, "Bend Down" combines the both MzVee and Kuami Eugene's strengths in pop-highlife, pop-R&B and in-trend dances to make a satisfying song and video which does not out stay its welcome. —Sabo Kpade

Follow our Best Songs of 2018 playlist on Spotify.

Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

I Would Rather Breathe Than Think Outside the Box

South African artists were already working for little to no pay, but the pandemic has unleashed a flood of exploitative work requests right when we need money the most.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

On the radio the other day, I heard a small business owner of a costume design company being interviewed and asked how they have managed to:

a. Reinvent themselves during this period, and

b. Think outside the box while doing so.

Their conversation made me think about how I have not managed to wrap my head around any sort of future, or reinvention outside any kind of box—beyond the one that wraps itself around my immediate reality. When the lockdown was announced, three friends and I withdrew to a remote area where internet access was dubious and, most times, simply not available. I would need to walk a bit of a distance to locate a spot under a tree or up a mountain to be connected for thirty minutes, or so.

Then I would do a basic comb through my emails and respond to work or requests that were already underway pre-lockdown. I only responded to new requests that either afforded me the opportunity to earn an income or those that allowed me to be productive on my own terms.

I was tired, lowkey grateful for the global pause, and no longer interested in the overly productive, overloaded nature of my previous normal. Something about the forced halt made me realise that I was on the edge of everything—myself included. I turned down anything that required me to join the endless online festivals, zoom panel discussions, Instagram takeovers and live readings. I refused all opportunities that needed me to grapple with any sort of forced normalcy. The ones that offered data or airtime or solidarity as compensation or assumed that I had gone pro bono. I needed a moment. I needed the space and time to re-bargain with the point of it all.

The pause was both useful and scary. It brought to the surface fears and revelations about the shortfalls of our industry and how creatives are positioned within the productivity machinery and economy of South Africa, or rather all the ways we fall outside of it.

As Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi mentioned in a briefing two months ago, "On the issue of freelance workers—unfortunately with the current legislation they fall outside. Maybe what we are going to do is that after this we will have to re-look at it in terms of our legislative amendments and start a debate about that." Why are there laws that have gone unchallenged? Who should be challenging them? Why are artists hearing, out loud for the first time, of convenient loopholes that render us outside of an economy that taxes us like everyone else, and consumes us and our work. Yet, in times of crisis, this same economy engages with our art and our productivity and our products, but still deems us on the margin, outside, and non-essential. If we are not assisted financially, how can we be productive, how can we acquire the resources to produce? How can we apply our minds to anything else outside of survival and scrambling to stay afloat.

Pandemics do not mean that artists have gone pro bono

When you approach an artist with the assumption that they have gone pro bono during this time, when you draft an email to request a collaboration, a commission, a participation, a productivity of any kind, please bear in mind that artists are up against an unconcerned and corrupt government that has failed to provide aid and assistance to their sector during this time.

Theatre critic Sara Holdren says "Art is hard and most of it fails—either in small ways or catastrophic ones." In South Africa, the process of making art is hard, sure, but more than that, the conditions and the context in which we make work fails us in catastrophic ways that will require more than a debate and amended legislation. It will need, for starters, a minister who cares about the arts and understands its soul and mechanisms. This pause has brought about more questions and concerns for me than inspiration to reinvent or think outside the box. I have questions about the box itself and why I feel asphyxiated and trapped by its design.

I would rather breathe than think outside of the box

This pandemic has made me question what my career, livelihood and stability have been built on; what has been propping them up all this time, and what has been allowing me to appear valued and valuable in this economy? What does and will the spectrum of value look like in a normal that has been disrupted and now sits in a near distant future that may or may not be near?

Then I find myself vacillating between hope and concern. My hope is that when the pandemic is no longer with us, artists can have a come-to-jesus conversation about what has contributed and exacerbated this attitude and disrespect toward our practice and industry, I hope we can challenge the legislations that we have been dared to challenge, I hope we can be productive in ways that serve us and make sense for our well-being, that we will be paid our worth and that our society will realize that without the artist producing, there will be no art, or music, or films, or books and things that have kept people entertained and creatively nourished during this time.

My concern is that the "free"content artists are currently creating and the free access to art or performances, will not make this realisation possible, and that this kind of access, that was already undervalued and exploited, will be irreversible. The exploitation dialogue is tiring. Being treated as non-essential is tiring and terrifying too, and while most of the world can slowly start going back to work, most artists will probably have to hang tight until 2021, maybe even 2022.

While artists deal with a hoax of an arts and culture department that is dead to us and a minister who tweets more than he does his job, in an ideal world, I wish that artists could afford to indulge uncertainty, and fear, and pause, in ways that allow them to heed the call made by Nicholas Berger in his piece The Forgotten Art of Assembly [Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making] "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one."

Koleka Putuma is an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre director. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia is in its 10th print run and her play No Easter Sunday for Queers Sunday for Queers won several awards.

get okayafrica in your inbox


Interview: Omah Lay Is Nigeria's New Young Act to W​atch

We sit down with the rising Port Harcourt-born musician to talk about his latest EP, Get Layd.