In 2006, Nas released his eighth studio album Hip-hop is Dead, the title track and lead single off the album was the legendary rapper’s way of critiquing the state of the artform at that point with Southern crunk and snap styles enjoying so much prominence.

2017 was the year that the prophesy almost came to life in Nigeria as we had more rappers becoming singers and openly declaring that they were not rappers but musicians as the genre wasn’t really lucrative. It was also the year that saw The Chairman M.I Abaga demanding (although hypocritically) that rappers needed to fix up their lives following successful feats by rappers from the South of Africa with the likes of Nasty C and Cassper Nyovest having stellar years. However, despite all the gloom, some rappers went against all odds and continued to push the culture in a vertical direction. Rappers like Falz, Ill Bliss, Show Dem Camp, A-Q, Yung 6ix released albums that have done considerably well during the calendar year.

While many have stated that probably very few rappers made any impact this year, we at FilterFree have recognized the efforts of 10 MC who held it down in 2017, improving the genre and holding it down for the art-form.

10.  Terry tha Rapman

The last ‘active’ member of the incredibly talented SWAT ROOT clique. Despite being an OG in every sense of the word, Terry tha Rapman has remained a prominent figure all through 2017. Even though his album is yet to be released, Terry has managed to maintain relevance on the scene. The year saw him working with several upcoming rappers, co-signing them, while dropping videos and performing at events. Terry tha Rapman started the year with “Gangstar”, produced by longtime friend and fellow rapper Pherowshuz, then grew stronger with the single “Baby Boy”, which featured Barz.

He then dropped other singles  “Worry Worry”, “Baby Boy Remix” with S.O.S Music and Pherowshuz, and “Wickid” featuring Cynthia Morgan and Caesar. But arguably Terry’s biggest moment this year was his guest verse on Payper’s “Look What You Did To Him”, where he showed that, even as a vet, he isn’t afraid to battle for hip-hop’s sake by taking subtle shots at Ikechukwu. The buzz around the record helped Payper gain a larger following, Terry also returned the favor as vet and rookie worked together again on “Reality Rap”.

Terry was able to snag a coveted Olamide feature on his single “Obi”, before rounding up what has been a busy year by featuring on Blaqbonez on “For Daddy”. The song paraded other acts like Peter Clarke, Paybac, High M and Laycon. Despite not releasing any projects in 2017, Terry still plans a takeover as his projects are due for release anytime soon.

9. M.I Abaga

We were very critical of The Chairman during the calendar year, despite making major business moves and sealing endorsement deals, for a major part of the year, the veteran MC added nothing to the industry musically. His projects kept getting postponed and he began to sound drums of retirement. But like Aristotle said ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ and towards the end of the year, M.I seized on the relative inactivity of major rappers and owned the narrative in a move that generated a lot of reactions online.

From the moment he appeared on The Loose Talk Podcast which went viral, the Chairman had a game in play and his single “You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives” confirmed this. The single enjoyed major spins, with the video also gaining steady rotations across various platforms, so even though a number of industry observers hold divergent opinions about the song, there is no denying that it managed to put the Short Black Boy back into the rap debate and got people who normally turned a deaf ear, discussing rap, at least for a minute.

8. Ycee

 Following the success of his single “Jagaban” in 2015, Ycee has been on the brink of a break through. The rapper finally released his debut project early this year, it was titled The New Wave. Even though he did more singing than rapping on the project, Ycee gave the clubs and the radio one of the biggest anthems of 2017 with “Juice” – no easy feat for a rapper. It was a year that also saw the Festac-born act drop stellar verses on features with label mate Bella on “Radio”, Dapo Tuburna’s “Nothing Remix” and Falz’s “Something Light”. Ycee was also always in the news especially with his controversial tweets directed at Sony Music Africa and in particular Michael Agwu who heads the West African arm of the label. Ycee capped off the year with his performance at the AFRIMMA awards and releasing a dope record titled “I Wish” where he touted his rap credentials.

7. Yung 6ix

If there is one rapper who has the swag to go with his bragging, then that emcee is the self- acclaimed King of the South: Yung 6ix. The KKTBM boss had a quiet start to the year but things soon picked up when he released the video to his song “Money is Relevant”, and there was no turning back from there. 6ix dropped back-to-back heavy singles from “No Favors” (featuring Dice Ailes) to “Loving You” (with Korede Bello). Furthermore, he delivered a bright verse on AQ’s “Jazzman Remix”, was part of the Hennessy Cypher 2017, dropped the video for “The Man”, then released his third studio album High Star; “Gbe Seyin”, off the album, is already growing into a hit record.

6. Erigga

Another one who lays claim to the throne in the South is Erigga New Money. Known for his peculiar pidgin rap delivery, the young rapper is one who has consistently released music despite not getting the due recognition. From the turn of the year, when he blessed our speakers with singles like “The Way Your Matter Be”, to “Yab Them” and “Long Story”, then dropping videos for “Corporate” and fan’s favorite, “Industry Nite Refix”. Erigga released his album A Trip To The South which paraded acts like Duncan Mighty, Skales and Orezi. Erigga once again proving why his legacy on the streets remains unshaken.

5. A-Q

Gilbert Bani is one of my favorite Nigerian rappers and this year, his hard-work, commitment and growth continued to pay off. Just when you thought he couldn’t outdo Rose, A-Q gifted us with his album Blessed Forever, one of the finest projects this year and created a significant buzz with singles like “Jazzman”, “Lekki Expressway” and “Made by Voice Only”.

4. Phyno

Phyno makes this list not exactly because of his rap songs but simply because he is a rapper who has consistently dropped hit songs and remains a visible name in the industry. Outside selling out Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu at the third edition of his PhynoFest concert. The Playmaker was also responsible for hit songs like “Zamo Zamo” which featured Wande Coal, “Augment” alongside frequent collaborator Olamide and dropped a stellar verse on Timaya’s “Telli Person” that memorably went at internet sensation, Hushpuppi.

3. Falz

Falz the BahdGguy is more than just a rapper. With his unmatchable variety of flows and careful progression with his message, he has been able to redefine his art without needing to switch to singing. Falz started the year with the viral record, “Wehdone Sir”, then sustained his home run with hit records like “Baby Boy” “Jeje”, “Something Light” and “La Fete”. He dropped an album on his 27th birthday titled 27 which is still gaining rave reviews and rounded up the year with a performance at the Falz Experience that the internet is still talking about.

2. Olamide

Just like the first day of the year, Olamide is here again. His single “Wo” is recorded as the most searched Nigerian song on Google during the calendar year. “Wavy Level” was a mildly successful attempt at a culture shift and even though his album Lagos Na Wa showcases a rapper who has fully gone ‘left’, Olamide remains a force in rap. He continues to excel at an area where a lot of our rappers have failed and that is his connection to the streets, that was yet again evident at his OLIC4 concert.

1. Show Dem Camp

Ghost and Tec are the rap duo of the year hands down. They may not have been commercially successful as the likes of Phyno or Olamide but with 2 heavy contenders for rap projects of the year in Clone Wars 3 (The Recession), that was received well by the backpackers, and Palmwine Music EP, that introduced them to a brand new audience. The successful EP also allowed SDC to put up shows of their own and create a niche movement, it’s fascinating to see near-veterans still able to excite the game as if they are brand new acts.