The 13 Best Nigerian Songs of the Month
Featuring Rema, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, Kizz Daniel, and more.
Read ahead for our selection of the best Nigerian songs of March.
Yemi Alade 'Bounce'
"When de tin don hold body, you go dance" instructs Yemi Alade, who is the undoubted queen of dance and often indifferent to the current taste in Nigerian pop especially when her considerable international fanbase cuts across countries and languages. On "Bounce," she continues the success she's had with 2016's "Kofi Annan," blending its humour and lexicon with Nigerianisms.
Burna Boy 'Anybody'
Burna Boy continues to find new shades in his voice, even when channeling Fela, better than most afropop artists. The self-styled "African giant" has more to say on the matter when he sings "respect is reciprocal / even though una know say I special" in his richly gravelly voice.
Rema 'American Love'
"She's so sad she don't talk too much / damn I like how your body drop" goes Rema on "American Love," a potent mix of lust and empathy over a booming trap beat ushered in by a melancholic guitar, continuous and often twinned with "yaps" and "yaws," two of the many melodic components that make the newcomer's Rema Freestyle EP a rich listening experience.
Compassion and uncomfortable truths are a potent mix on AYLØ's first single of 2019. "We're all damaged baby / don't wanna add to it." As he tells it, "Paris!" is about a short lived yet memorable encounter with an unavailable woman. In the song's lyrics, the experience is abstracted from real life events; "I awoke in someone's arms on a terrace / finally happened / careless, cuz when she moves i'm a fool." This is sung in his enjoyable malleable voice, one which he hopefully keeps pushing.
Remy Baggins 'Let Me...?' & 'TENSION' feat. Funbi
Remy Baggins' undoubted natural vocal abilities still wear traces of his influences on Hentai, a debut EP which scores high on sensual slow soothers. In "Let Me..?," he's an eager lover waiting for the merest hint of consent to begin—"I won't do a thing until you left me / I just want to hear you say it out." On "TENSION," Baggins finds a willing accomplice in the silky-voiced Funbi while proving himself a writer who pays attention to detail: "traffic on the way / and traffic back home showing you pepper" ("show you pepper" is a Nigerianism loosely meaning "give you trouble").
GoldLink x Wizkid "No Lie" & GoldLink x Maleek Berry "Zulu Screams"
Two standout songs off the celebrated release of GoldLink's debut album, broadly titled Diaspora. Maleek Berry's hook tames the throbbing drums and prickly guitar on "Zulu Screams," whose riotously colourful video is directed by ace director Meji Alabi. Wizkid's impressive sideline as a dependable hook man, especially on rap songs, continues on the two-part suite of "No Lie,"
Idowest 'Ye Mama'
By far the most well executed song on Idowest's Mafia Culture, Vol. 1 EP is "Ye Mama." Over the song's viscous trap beat, Idowest compactly layers bars that end with three syllable rhymes. It is a confident project opener whose other highlights include the gqom heavy "A Day Money" and "Who," released last December.
Kizz Daniel 'Eko'
It is the immensely confident songwriter who will title his album, No Bad Songz, as Kizz Daniel did with his 2018 sophomore release which indeed did not have a single bad entry of song-making. He appears to have moved on from the impressive work since the release of the endlessly covered "Fvck You" and now "Eko," a deeply affecting ode to the bustle and spirit of Lagos city. Robust drumming finds balance in a satisfying bass and hook, the work of guitarist and producer Phil Keys with whom he made "Yeba".
Omawumi 'Tabansi' & 'Without You'
"Vocal powerhouse" is a description that accompanies Omawumi's name time and again. When combined with sensible songwriting the result is one to savour as on "Tabansi," the stand out single from her album, In Her Feelings. Wronged by an abusive lover, she insists "I'm stronger, I'll rise from this," a generosity of spirit conveyed with fragile yet strong singing that is vulnerable but not defenceless, a lament free of self pity. Elsewhere on the sonically cohesive project, a plinking piano and the later addition of drums and saxophone brings Fela's afrobeat closer to its jazz roots on "Away." Omawumi's muscular singing, without aiming to, strongly captures Fela's signature grunting while an electric guitar adds zest to the roots reggae and afro-R&B diction of "Mr Sinner Man."
Naira Marley 'Opotoyi (Marlians)'
Capitalising on increased notoriety since his release from detention by Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commision, Naira Marley rallies his fans to the dance floor on "Opotoyi" before lamenting his woes and other failures of judgement in people on "Why?". The latter is by now a customary and still efficient tack by the persecuted artist. What remains impressive is Marley's ability to tease musicality from his monotonous drawl.
Where many a producer use trap drums as an updating device for just about any genre (gqom in this case), the assuredly inventive Masterkraft opts for the drum rolls common to juju which, in theory is a clash of two heavily rhythmic beats, but instead makes for a rich alchemy.
Tiwa Savage, Kizz Daniel, Young John 'Ello Baby'
Tiwa Savage turns up on "Ello" with Kizz Daniel and producer Young John, who closely reimagines DJ Coublon's production on 2015's "Woju,"
Modenine & Teck-Zilla 'Sound Bwoy Killa' & 'Kaiser Flow'
Modenine raps with a snarl, a tool that adds real bite to his wordplay on"Sound Bwoy Killa" and "Kaiser Flow," as well as elsewhere on Esoteric Fellow, a joint album entirely produced by Teck-Zilla. [Read our rare interview with Modenine here]