Brymo in "Heya!"
The 15 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month
The best Nigerian music of the month featuring Olamide, Brymo, Tiwa Savage, Simi and many more.
Beyoncé's towering set at Coachella could well be up there with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (a point she already made with Lemonade). Wizkid's own history-making sets were cancelled due to visa failures, a development which Nigerian music writer, Joey Akan, in his first story for OkayAfrica, concluded is a missed opportunity for Afropop. Maybe true, but then Beyoncé cancelled her set last year for private reasons only to make up for it with more goodness than anyone expects, or deserves.
Two more reasons to relish the genius of "Bey-chella" are the sampling of Nigerian novelist and thinker, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, from her essay "We Should All Be Feminists" on "Bow Down" and her riveting excursions into Fela Kuti's unmatched body of work by melding the bass guitar on her song "Deja Vu" with the horn and guitar arrangements on Fela's "Zombie"—as best a genetic reconstitution of Black and African music and cultural icons, as you'd find anywhere.
Read on for our selection of best Nigerian songs of the month.
"Onyeoma" - Phyno x Olamide
What started as a rapping tag-team by Phyno and Olamide has since turned into a revivalism of Igbo gospel music, the latest of which, "Onyeoma," would rouse a crowd in church or in a club.
Rather than a cheap attempt at grabbing attention, Brymo's near-naked appearance in the video for "Heya" underscores the naturalism in the song's composition and the artist's overall music ethos. Led by a plangent piano, he is either advising against (or rueing) losing out on love for pride's sake—"And every man dey look for woman to hold tight/ But na ignorance dey let love down"—though the third verse has him recalling sweet childhood memories he could never taste again. Brilliant!
Newcomer Ceeza Milli scores high marks for a perfectly enjoyable verse, when up against the song-making genius of Wizkid who has weaved his indelible melodies over the elegant bounce and bubble of Spellz' beat.
Mz Kiss is in excellent form on "Merule" combining impressive breath control and flow pattern over Tiwezi's heaving gqom beat, making for one of the most arresting of Nigerian takes on this most infectious of South Africa's genres.
As far as love overtures go, the words, "I'll love your Mama like she were my own," could leave stretch marks of desperation, or further convince a lover. Nitpicking aside, both Morayo and Drille make for an engaging singing duo from the opening jiiter of guitar chords to the very last clash of cymbals.
"Alele" - Seyi Shay x Flavour
The soul and power in Seyi Shay's voice does not get enough credit. She brings both to bear on "Alele" over production by DJ Coublon whose signature highlife production from recorded live instruments is also perfect for Flavour who, for his part, would be rightly credited with the continuing relevance of highlife in Nigerian pop.
So, a man stupid enough to leave Simi (if you would believe it) returns to town giving her a heart-scare—"if I set my eyes on you, it's unavoidable, I'll come undone / Oh I thought you were gone for good." Inconsiderate man aside, the skill and beauty in Simi's songwriting continues to impress, especially her show of vulnerability devoid of pity - a delicate balance easily described than created, surely.
"Kunta Kunte" features one of two strong vocal performances by Small Doctor in the same month (along with Dammy Krane's "Slay Mama"). His winning combination of juju and pidgin impressed on both songs, but what tips the balance is that "Kunta Kunte" is produced by C Kay who is based in Lagos, Nigeria and so represents the further indigenisation of South Africa's gqom in its adopted country.
The real Emo Gs came out the play on "Icy" delivering fitting verses over spaced-out arrangement of rattling snares and somber piano. Santi capably anchors the hooks before rounding up with a verse of his own but the pick of the litter (and not for the best reasons) is Izzy, who is either esoteric or simply untidy: "She call me daddy But then she got forty dads, In fact matter of fact I got the facts, This shit pricy so you know i leave the tag, This shit icy so i move with a pack" Lawdy!
A dancehall take on Pon Pon is a delightful surprise and good fit by Maddtonic, the fast rising dancehall artist. The one guitar lick particular to reggae takes the place of the pair of soft synths that define Pon Pon, while Maddtonic brilliantly weaves patois and pidgin with a top rate pick up line—"Girl, your body must win Grammy". Itching to hear the outcome of his own dancehall take on gqom.
"Only foreplay is allowed for you" sings Niniola offering a punishing delight on "Magun" which in Yoruba means "don't touch." More interesting is the astute manner she and her producers have reimagined South African house in the Nigerian pop consciousness.
Ajebutter22's flow and wordplay on "Yawa" are playful to the point of being elementary but also effective and memorable, especially when substantiated by the raspy charm in BOJ's singing voice.
Expect no less a banger from the pair who brought you two of Nigeria's best dance craze in shoki (Lil Kesh) and Shakiti (Olamide), this time along with Naira Marley who leads proceedings leaving the weight of the chorus to Olamide who's had good practice with "Wo!!", before the Lil Kesh comes in with an exuberant verse of his own.
Aided by fairly good writing, Omarion gives a very engaged vocal performance on this remix off Savage's triumphant Sugarcane EP. Long a connoisseur of bedroom R&B, his carnal straining combined with Savage's honeyed singing voice adds new life, which in no way diminishes the original.
Mr Real's "Legbebe" is owning the streets but rather than siphon from the uptempo house beat, JoulesDaKid has chopped and screwed the heaving beat into hot molasses. Together with his scene-stealing verse on M.I's "Wats Da Level?" (Rendevouz: A Playlist, 2018), Joules is setting up to be a exciting rapper to check for.