After the exhausting stretch of the ‘Ember months’, the first quarter of the year is usually the slowest in terms of music releases. We understand that you are busy people and might not have gotten around to listening to most of the music that’s out right now, so we listened on your behalf. These are the 10 best Nigerian albums (albums, EP’s, mixtapes, playlists) of the past 3 months, in no particular order.
DÁRAMÓLÁ “THE LAST TIME I TRIED”
Dáramólá was born to do music, his mom is Gbemi Olaleye a veteran singer who’s behind the popular gospel tune “Leta Ayo”. The influence of Mrs. Olaleye, God and gospel are very strong on her son’s debut album The Last Time I Tried.
Dáramólá is a jack of many musical trades, he made a name for himself primarily as songwriter and producer in Christian music circles in the States, working with the likes of gold-selling rapper Lacrae. On his own album, the singer produced most songs by himself and the cohesion between thought and sound is remarkable. The album is heavy without being dark, Dáramólá’s love for God shines through with every listen and you know light and darkness don’t mix. Read full review
JIDENNA “THE CHIEF”
After numerous delays, Jidenna’s debut album The Chief has finally arrived. It arrived on the 7th anniversary of the rapper’s father’s death. The album is therefore an ode to Jidenna’s father and grandfather, both of whom were chiefs in their lifetime. It is also a soundtrack to modern manhood.
The sounds are wide-reaching, from Afropop to trap to highlife to pure rap. Unlike some American-Nigerian artists before him who were slow to identify with their Nigerian roots, the eternally well-manicured MC embraced his. The result is a fascinating melting pot of Western music and Nigerian influence. The Chief is an album that defies categorization, nothing about Jidenna’s music sounds like it was recorded with conformity in mind. Read full review
OZONE x TEY CHAPLAIN “LAST NIGHT IN LAGOS”
Aristokrat Records is back in the building with “The Last Night in Lagos”, a dope new collaborative project by Ozone and artist/producer Tey Chaplin.
It’s a 5 track EP that seemingly came out of nowhere and serves as further proof of Ozone’s brilliance behind the mic but for many, it will be their first introduction to his accomplice Tey.
Ozone’s rap career unofficially started off with heated rap battles in UNIPORT. He and his Pitakwa brethren Aristokrat made the switch to Lagos, the city of bright lights, but every once in a while the talented MC feels the itch to leave – his rap dreams haven’t worked out exactly how he had planned. He shares his come up stories and much more on this new EP.
BLAQBONEZ “LAST TIME UNDER”
Blaqbonez has released a new tape titled Last Time Under, which is a follow-up to 2015’s impressive introduction – Cassettes, Tapes and TVs. If you’re looking for heavy, trunk-rattling trap anthems, this mixtape is for you.
Unlike his previous project, Blaq’s emphasis this time is less on rhyming and more on finding wavy melodies. Sometimes his raps come out as a mumble as a result but it’s obvious that the young MC sees a future in this trippy, trap lane.
That said, there are still a number of proper rap songs on the mixtape that you can cram the lyrics to, that is, if you’ve refused to surf along on Blaqbonez’ new wave. Read full review.
COBHAMS ASUQUO “FOR YOU”
I can’t believe it took this long to have a studio album from Cobhams Asuquo but it took this long to have a studio album from Cobhams Asuquo.
Another surprise was the fact that the album is an entirely gospel project. Cobhams most recent singles were records such as the satirical “Boos It” (featuring Falz) and the splendid love ballad “Empty”, so those looking for that kind of musical diversity on this project would be let down.
However, that takes absolutely nothing from the quality of the album Cobhams chose to put forward. For You comprises of 14 tracks and features Grammy, Stellar and Dove award-winning producer Aaron Lindsey, singer/songwriter Claire Hendershot and Choc City’s resident gospel specialist Nosa.
“BARS 2: GUILTY AS CHARGED”
Payper Corleoné was riding shotgun when Terry fired the first lyrical round at Ikechukwu on “Look What You Did To Him”. That was actually Payper’s record, but any up and comer would be overshadowed when two veterans are going at it. Any.
Corleoné played it right, that record gave him leverage and he capitalized by releasing a new mixtape Bars 2: Guilty As Charged. Terry is the biggest name on the project, so Corleoné’s rap skills take center stage.
The Bayelsa native raps like he has hunger in his belly. The story line for the mixtape series is intriguing, Corleoné is on trial for killing the rap game, to which he unrepentantly pleads guilty. Hip-hop in Nigeria is in a sorry state, he’s just trying to restore the feeling.
MR EAZI “ACCRA TO LAGOS”
Mr. Eazi is a man with the master plan – the next phase of that plan was to release Accra to Lagos and continue his highly-successful worldwide tour around it.
The breakout star of 2016 went to great lengths to temper expectations for ATL by calling it a mixtape but the truth is, the project is structured more like a proper contemporary hiplife album.
Ghanaian and Nigerian women are the centrepiece around which most of the furniture of ATL is arranged. Eazi is that rare kind of ego-free, male popstar that wears his heart on his sleeves. His frankness makes for an engaging listen and his open embrace of both Nigerian and Ghanaian culture adds to the depth of the project. Read full review.
BANKYONDBEATZ “FUEGO SENORAS”
BankyOnDBeatz is one of the producers of the SoundCloud generation that you have to keep your eye on. The Lagos-based sound smith has already been in the studio with a handful of established artists and is steadily making a name for himself.
Fuego Senoras is a bold new project from him. Banky was able to bring seven ladies from hip-hop, house, soul, neo-soul and R&B together on one EP but without deviating too far from the edgy sounds and dingy vibes that listeners of his own music have come to know and love.
Each lady takes her turn to sing about femininity and feminism, from their own point of view, each one never once sounding like they were doing so while standing on a soapbox. Read full review.
When Iyanya left MMMG, his former Ubi Franklin tried to dress up the split by claiming that Iyanya’s new label situation would be an offshoot of the company he helped build.
We now know that not to be true, Iyanya is signed to Mavin Records and is being managed by Temple. While it seems like progress on the surface, the singer has gone from being the leader of a label to being a floor member of another, albeit a bigger one. Alas, the Kukere Master is no longer the musical powerhouse he once was.
As he transitions through an uncertain time in his career – where sex appeal is no longer a sure-banker and hit songs are hard to come by – Signature is a reminder of how the supremely talented Iyanya is. Read full review.
LEGENDURY BEATZ “AFROPOP 101”
Afropop 101 is one of the best collaborative projects of 2017. The 9-track mixtape features Wizkid and members of the Star boy extended family Maleek Berry, R2Bees’ Mugeez and Mr. Eazi, as well as Simi, Niniola, Timaya,and Vanessa Mdee.
Legendury Beatz may be releasing their first full body of work in 2017 but their contribution to Afropop culture started as far back as 2010.
In the years since then, they have worked with just about every top artist in our music space but perhaps their most important contribution to the culture is in helping to define the sonic template for one of Afropop’s biggest stars Wizkid and, by extension, the rest of the genre. Read full review.