Despite the major challenges it encountered last year, namely COVID-19, Nigerian music, which is also the commercial hub of Afrobeats, is still very much alive and well, thriving with power and pomp.
Compared to 2020, the first couple of months this year have been less eventful but no less satisfying on the pop front. The West African country is witnessing a streak of impressive submissions. Smash hits from the last quarter of 2020, such as Olamide’s ‘Loading’ featuring Bad Boy Timz, Burna Boy’s ‘Onyeka’ and Wizkid’s ‘Ginger’, have continued to amass appreciable rotation in the new year. Nonetheless, an exciting new stack, led by an almost unexpected contingent including Ayra Starr and Bella Shmurda asserting themselves as fresh favourites, is collecting thick and fast in the mainstream.
A malleable music form, it is instructive to observe that Afrobeats is also beginning to embrace pop from southern Africa, most notably the house variant of amapiano.
There’s still an eternity to cover in 2021 and, as has become the tradition, Naija Afrobeats will run over with a delightful mix of soundtracks for the dancefloor, activism and personal emotions, transcending both the shores of Nigeria and the continent.
We bring you the latest instalment of our recurring listicle of the top Naija Afrobeats songs, which will be updated throughout 2021.
Loading by Olamide ft. Bad Boy Timz
Taken from Olamide’s last album Carpe Diem, ‘Loading’, featuring the fast-rising Bad Boy Timz, was a December staple, and its impact has carried on into this year. On one hand, the bouncy jam continues Olamide’s run as Nigeria’s biggest rapper today. On the other hand, it ushers Timz in as a new baton holder.
Cash App by Bella Shmurda ft. Zlatan and Lincoln
Like his vocal instrument, Bella Shmurda’s ‘Cash App’ is foiled in gusty vibration. Deploying the mobile payment service as a metaphor, the singer discusses daily hustle and daily victories. Assisted by colleagues Zlatan and Lincoln, ‘Cash App’ premiered in October 2020 to rave reviews. It was published on One World Global Records and has amassed millions of streams on DSPs.
The Don by Mr Eazi‘The Don’ is how singer and emPawa boss Mr Eazi entered 2021. It precedes his new EP Something Else. Additionally, it celebrates the musician’s honcho status in both music and entrepreneurship over the years. ‘The Don’, which gallantly blends pop with the operatic, was co-produced by Killertunes and E Kelly.
Away by Ayra Starr
Ayra Starr is Mavin Records head Don Jazzy’s latest protégé. ‘Away’ is taken from the young singer’s eponymous EP. In the passionate neo-R&B submission, Starr wants nothing more to do with a man who clearly spells trouble. Both song and EP have been met with resounding applause. Thus, Starr is the latest testament of Don Jazzy’s knack for creating stars.
My Life by DJ Manuel and Zlatan Ibile
Zlatan is known for up-tempo rhythms that spark spirited dance steps. On this new single, however, he teams up with DJ Manuel for a slow-going beat over which they render a heart-wrenching take on the realities of modest beginnings. Ultimately, however, the record preaches light at the end of the tunnel. ‘My Life’ was released on Zlatan’s Zanku Records.
Yaadman (Intro) by Yung L
Over four collections, the latest of which is Yaadman Kingsize, his sophomore album, reggae-dancehall act Yung L continues to make a case for himself as an important reference for the genre in Nigeria. The bass-heavy Yaadman is how the 11-track LP opens. Of its many attributes, including the golden trumpet phrases, it is Yung L’s staccato flow that makes the record a winner.
Pronto by Ajebo Hustlers ft. Omah Lay
Dynamic duo Ajebo hustlers, who shot to nationwide acclaim with ‘Barawo’, which questions the merits of jungle justice, partner with resident lover boy Omah Lay for ‘Pronto’, a number on lustful gratification. It was produced by Semzi and its accompanying video was directed by TBA.
For You by Teni ft. Davido
On the Davido-assisted ‘For You’, Teni celebrates love, patience and sacrifice, like 2018’s ‘Case’. ‘For You’, whose Dammy Twitch-assisted video is constructed around a tale of prison escape, announces Teni’s debut LP Wondaland, which has been in the works for about two years. The project is set for release on 19 March.
BBC Remix by Blaqbonez ft. Tiwa Savage
Foreign by Bankulli and Not3s
Renowned songwriter, talent scout and Recording Academy member Bankuli recruits UK singer Not3s on ‘Foreign’, whose upbeat vibe toasts financial opulence. ‘Foreign’ comes on the heels of the uplifting ‘Gemiro’, published last year.
Focus by Joeboy
Taken from the album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic, ‘Focus’ was inspired by true events encountered by one of Joeboy’s associates. The majestic highlife record explores the all-too-familiar subject matter of unrequited love.