Audio

The 14 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month

Featuring Falz, Wizkid x Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Tekno and more.

The global reach of afropop should know no bounds. Davido's performance to a sold out crowd of 10,000 people in Suriname adds to his staggering lists of achievements, as does Wizkid's sold out concert at the 20,000 capacity London O2 Arena.

Newcomers have been just as impressive with surefooted releases from the likes of Ceeza Milli ("Yapa"), Kheengz ("Mamana" & "Almajiri"), Ajura ("Enchanted"), Akuchi & Wavy The Creator ("GTA") and Blaqbonez ("Melanin Melody")—a fair summary of the best new talents to come from the country.

Read on for our selection of the Best New Nigerian Songs of the Month.


Falz "This Is Nigeria"

Excoriating Nigeria for its societal ills is a favourite pastime of its citizens (and naysayers), but Falz's reinterpretation of Childish Gambino's "This Is America" crystallizes the worst impulses and failings of the country, its government and its people with real flair and feeling. OkayAfrica's Damola Durosomo broke down the video and track expertly here.

Olamide x Wizkid "Kana"

Wizkid's genius for song making could never be overstated. All four singles released this month range from the impressive to the truly exceptional. There's the sweet breeze of "Fake Love" with Duncan Mighty, the elegant bounce of "Nobody" with L.A.X and the shaku-fitted "Immediately" with Mystro.

The pick of the litter would have to be "Kana" with Olamide, a marvel of songwriting devoid of the safety hooks of chorus, bridge and verses. Both artists weave melodic line after line, progressing each other's lyrics and cadence in a manner that would seem haphazard if unscrutinised, but is in fact a brilliant construction sung with real feeling. Wizkid smooths and glides over MuTay's unshowy production while Olamide's tonal emphasis is as convincing as he's ever sounded. Full marks all around.

Davido "Assurance"

The new lover boy anthem, Davido is as earnest as ever offering to a lover the double whammy of protection from financial loss and and a guarantee of his affections in a typically grand fashion.

Patoranking "Suh Different"

Few artists other than Patoranking best embody Nigeria's long adaptation of Jamaican dancehall, all of which can be found in the artist's precise annunciation in the single line chorus "Girler Whine suh different oh"—where the first word "Girler" is Jamaican accented while the emphasis on "oh" is positively Nigerian. Just as impressive is Patoranking's nimble use of his strong singing voice all over the staccato percussion of Mix Master Garzy's production.

Tekno "Jogodo"

Pon Pon is so 2017. And so rather than the pair of synths that give it the onomatopoeia, the same mellow production now comes with one synth, or without. "Jogodo" comes fitted with retro cool in the way Tekno has reimagined memorable melodies by Mad Melon and Mountain Black of "Danfo Driver" coupled with Tekno's own inimitable use of uncluttered beats, and playful & simplistic lyrics (since 2016's "Pana") to make big statements about his considerable influence on much of Nigerian pop.

Ycee "Your Love" & "Awon Da"

Nigeria's own boy wonder showcases his brain for song making that is radio-ready and on trend but done with real pizzazz.. "Your Love" is a familiar summer fair with heavy bass synths over which he has created a sweet and memorable line about a lover who is "stuck in my memory." On "Awon Da" with Damilare, he astutely adapts juju and mumble-trap on gqom in a most impressive fashion, setting a high standard for any subsequent iterations of trap-gqom in Nigeria and elsewhere. Fucking brilliant.

Reekado Banks "Pull Up"

Reekado Banks is proving to be a nimbler singer and songwriter. Over a delicious beat by Altims' full of groove pockets that combine drums, guitar and attention seeking cymbals, Banks deploys well judged, top layer afropop lyrics, all of which bring a sexy charm, even more than the chorus suggests.

Teni "Askamaya"

For a catchy chorus, Teni has cleverly reworked a melodic riff—"loke loke"—from Sir Shina Peters, one of Nigeria's greatest showmen and exponent of pop-juju. The key to the bubble and bounce of Spellz' beat is to lock a groove with a sped up refrain, as did Wizkid in "Soco." Teni does it here with skill, flair and some bad-assery. In her own words, "I'm the girl you shouldn't fuck with." Say no more.

Yung L "Anya"

There's a general sense of competence and unshowiness in Yung L's songwriting that could easily go unnoticed. On "Anya", he makes love overtures singing well enough but without showy stank or shades that would immediately invite praise. Even the revisionist dance production is workman-like and serves an afropop singer well in 2018, as it would Whitney Houston in 1993 on "Every Woman" and Chaka Khan 15 years before her.

Kiss Daniel x Don Jazzy x DJ Big N "My Dear"

Freed from contractual restrictions, Kiss Daniel has been collaborating with more and more artists which continues to bring out new shades in his voice—if only as a result of contrast with other voices, if not an active approach to make up for lost time. The raspy charm of his voice combined with nasal accent in Don Jazzy's brings a richness to the revivalist highlife of the latter's production. Daniel's impeccable skill for song making is also on show in "Baba", but comes a close second only because the live recorded instrumentation of Killertunes' beat retraces the arrangement DJ Coublon made for "Good Time" (2016) also by Daniel.

Reminisce x DJ Xclusive "Slay Mama"

The propulsive rhythms in South Africa's gqom beat would tempt many a rapper to rattle and ride over it but not Reminisce who has chosen to tease out, with the right amount of sleekness, the hollow and stark in this Jay Pizzle beat.

Korede Bello "Sote"

"Sote" (pronounced "sotay") in pidgin English loosely means length of time or large amounts, and one which Korede Bello has used to emphasise his feelings for a lover over a pon pon beat as good as any. But then, with a dazzling line of monied patriarchs—Femi Otedola, Michael Adenuga, Aliko Dangote, Tunde Bakare and Don Jazzy—who in their right mind would say no?

Tiwa Savage "Labalaba" & "Tiwa's Vibe"

Somewhere between the pair of releases by Tiwa Savage is the conclusive entry into this month's list. "Tiwa's Vibe" is spoilt by a flat title as if to peg a random voice note and the main refrain of "shayo," a Nigerian colloquialism for alcoholic drinks, is too commonplace to have real bite. "Labalaba" suffers a similar problem, the reference to Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" too easy a crutch on which to balance a song. The rattled refrain of "Labalaba" is what gives the song, and any such beat, real zest.

Mr Eazi "London Town" & "Overload"

Don't be fooled by the name, a tough-talking Mr Eazi convinces on "London Town," whose catchy and crowd-pleasing chorus is brilliantly contrasted by growled verses. And who better than Hollowman Giggs to bring the right amount of bounce and menace to a song about male posturing over production whose laden bass synths are heightened with each clash of the cymbals.

Just as impressive is "Overload," whose song title refers to a woman's figure but whose execution is anything but and finds Mr Eazi deploying his lazy growl to great effect—a nod to Tony Tetuila's indelible hit "Omode Meta nSere." Both verses from Mr Real and the interestingly named Skincare are sturdy additions.

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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