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)
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.”
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)
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)
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)
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.