Top Nigerian Music Talents To Watch In 2021

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Last year, we put together a list of 17 young trailblazers in the Nigerian music space who were on a path to making remarkable impacts in their various sub-genres of the contemporary music scene and many artistes on that list have gone on to vindicate the list and contribute to the credibility of our music scouting intelligence reports at Nigerian Sounds.

Artistes that appeared on the list include Mohbad and Zinoleesky, both of who got signed by Naira Marley to Marlian Music shortly after the list was published, Tems, who is currently the princess of the Alternative-pop scene and PsychoYP who is generally considered to be one of the hottest young rappers in Nigeria. Also included in the list was Lil Frosh went on to sign to Davido Music World and got dropped shortly after  when allegations of domestic violence were levelled against him in October. The biggest revelation on the list was  Bella Shmurda, who most people did not know about in 2019, but is now the most controversial and dynamic new artistes in Nigeria.

For this year, we present another list of young Nigerian artistes who we studied for the entirety of 2020 and gained an encyclopedic understanding of the progression of their respective careers. These insights have led to a comprehensive list that took into factors like historical musical antecedents, commercial appeal, quality of music, brand affiliation and the overall craftsmanship of each individual act. The final determinant factor was the musical clairvoyance of our editorial team in predicting the next crop of Nigerian music superstars which has proven to be considerably accurate over the past few years.

Here is a list of the hottest new Nigerian acts of 2021.

1) Omah Lay

Omah Lay
Promotional Photo of Nigerian singer Omah Lay, all rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- Stanley Omah Didia

Record Label:- Keyqaad Records

Genre:- Afro-Fusion

Musical Influences:- Celestine Ukwu, Burna Boy, Duncan Mighty, Drake, Russ.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- You [April 2020]

Associated Acts:- Ajebo Hustlers, Burna Boy,

Notable Guest Appearances:- DJ TunezPami Featuring Adekunle Gold, Omah Lay & Wizkid.

Biggest Record Yet:- Bad Influence

From the great garden city of Port Harcourt, that had previously produced contemporary urban music behemoths like Timaya, Duncan Mighty, Frank D Nero and Burna Boy, Afro-fusion artiste Omah Lay made an unexpected appearance on the scene last year and essentially took the game by surprise, with a mission to etch his name in the sands of time like his hometown heroes that preceded him

Nobody would have predicted that the 23-year-old singer would take the game by storm, racking up over 100 million combined streams on digital service providers for his projects and score an international collaboration all in the space of one year, making him perhaps the most accomplished rookie in the last decade of the contemporary music business.

From the age of 15, the artiste-whose father was a drummer in the band of Igbo Highlife legend Celestine Ukwu-had been honing his musical capabilities, first as a producer for a few years, before he decided to delve into the world of vocalizing his music; a decision that eventually paid off in magnanimous proportions last year. In May, he dropped his multi-platinum EP Get Lay’d to rave reviews. The project was propelled by the hit singles You and most notably Bad Influence, which gained him worldwide recognition and helped him score collaborations with A-listers like Olamide, Wizkid and Adekunle Gold. Within the next few months, the EP had amassed over 60 Million streams online. In November, he followed it up with another project What Have We Done, which is currently a fan favourite spurred the hit singles Damn Featuring 6lack and Godly.

His arrest and detention in Uganda last December for allegedly breaking Covid-19 regulations –alongside the Number 1 pick of last year Tems-, eventually snowballed into a cause celebre and was followed by public outcries from Ugandan entertainers and politicians home and abroad. He returned home after his subsequent release and immediately released a video for his single Godly,which is currently sitting in excess of 5 Million views on Youtube.

So far Omah Lay has exhibited a level of craftsmanship and professionalism that is way beyond his years and with the combination of his edgy production skills and unique velvety vocals, he is poised to become an ambassador for GenZ and is arguably the artiste most suited to take the scene to new heights for his generation.

2) Joeboy

Joeboy Profile, Joeboy Bio
Promo photo of Nigerian singer Joeboy. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- Joseph Akinwle Akinfenwa.

Record Label:- Empawa Africa Limited/Gorilla Sauce.

Genre:- Afro-pop.

Musical Influences:- Wizkid, Mr Eazi.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Faaji Featuring Mr Eazi [October 2018]

Associated Acts:- Mr Eazi, Mayorkun, Killertunes, King Promise.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Young Jonn – Let Them Know Featuring Tiwa Savage & Joeboy, DJ Neptune – Nobody Featuring Mr Eazi & Joeboy.

Biggest Record Yet:- Baby.

In 2019, 23 year old talented Afro-pop singer Joeboy was one of the premier beneficiaries of the Empawa Africa project that as launched by Afro-pop superstar Mr Eazi that same year and was instrumental in launching his accelerating career.

Joeboy made the best out of the seed fund provided by Mr Eazi to shoot a music video for his signature single “Baby, which skyrocketed to 16 Million views on youtube when it was released and set the singer on his way to megastardom. “Beginning” came after and signalled his potential as a next rated star as it reached No. 1 in Apple Music Nigeria and Uganda, as well as top 10 spots in Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe.

In November 2019, he released Love & Light, his first body of work, which was generally considered as one of the best projects from a new artiste and showcased the full spectrum of his musical capabilities.

Last year, he continues his fine streak, delivering an array of standout, chart-topping singles, including All For You, Call, and Lonely as well as appearing on stellar collaborations with already established names like Tiwa Savage, LadiPoe, Larry Gaaga, GuiltyBeatz and Teni. His appearance on the single Nobody by DJ Neptune, which also featured Mr Eazi ended up as one of the biggest songs of the year in Nigeria and further buttressed his position as a young prospect with an exceptionally bright future ahead of him.

With his debut album Somewhere Between Beauty And Magic set to drop this year, Joeboy is an artist who should be on the radar of every contemporary music aficionado. With a machine like Empawa Africa behind him, he is sufficiently equipped to live up to all expectations.

3) Laycon

Laycon
Promo photo of Nigerian rapper Laycon. all rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- Olamilekan Moshood Agbeleshe.

Record Label:- Fierce Nation Entertainment.

Genre:- Rap.

Musical Influences:- Reminisce, Jay-Z, Vector, M.I.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Blaq Bonez – For Daddy Featuring Terry Tha Rapman, Paybac, MVP, Peter Clarke, High M & Laycon [December 2017].

Associated Acts:- Chinko Ekun, Reminisce, Blaqbonez.

Notable Guest Appearances:- DJ Neptune – Nobody [Icons Remix] Featuring Laycon & Joeboy.

Biggest Record Yet:- Hip-Hop Featuring Deshinor.

Before he was announced as a contestant for the 2020 edition of the Big Brother Nigeria reality show series, Lagos state born, Ogun State indigene Lekan Agbeleshe, better known to his fans as Laycon was a relatively unknown rapper, who since 2014 had been releasing freestyles and a few underground rap songs. That same year, he was also a top ten finalists of the 2017 MTV Base LSB challenge He had previously appeared on NS as a featured artiste on the single For Daddy by Blaqbonez, but was totally eclipsed by bigger names like Terry Tha Rapman and Paybac who appeared on the posse cut and were more established rappers at the time.

His debut EP, Young Black and Gifted was released in 2016 and flew below the mainstream radar and 3 years later, in early 2019, he released two mixtapes Any Given Monday [The Playlist] and Any Given Monday II , though impressive, they equally failed to garner any mainstream coverage. He then released Who Is Laycon, a better-rounded body of work that initially performed like all his previous projects, but his announcement as a Big Brother contestant a year later turned his fortunes around, as the album was unearthed by his fans on social media and skyrocketed into the I-Tunes top 10 Chart;albeit while Laycon was still inside the house and cut off from all forms of information or communication.

The album continued to gain widespread popularity and spurred two hit singles Fierce Featuring Chinko Ekun & Reminisce, as well as the fan favourite Hip-Hop, which is currently the biggest single of his career. He emerged as the winner of the competition and was immediately appointed as the Youth Ambassador in his hometown of Ogun State and was made a traditional chief as well.

 He appeared on the remix of the monster hit single Nobody By DJ Neptune, a move that was supported by his teeming fanbase generally referred to as Icons and put his name back into the music charts.

With enduring support from mainstream names like Davido, Wizkid, Teni, Tiwa Savage and many more and equipped with a handsome largesse from Big Brother and a handful of strong socio-political connections, Laycon is well-positioned to put his celebrity stardom to the side and pursue his original passion of creating pure rap music.

 

4) Olakira

olakira bio, Olakira Biography
Promo photo of Nigerian singer Olakira. All rights reserved 2021

 

 

Real Name:- Adefemi Ebenezer.

Record Label:- U&I Music.

Genre:- Afro-pop.

Musical Influences:-  Fela Kuti, Wizkid, Kirk Franklin, Chris Brown, Boyz II Men and Wande Coal.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Hey Lover & Flirty Signal [July 2018].

Associated Acts:- Davido.

Notable Guest Appearances:- NIL

Biggest Record Yet:- In My Maserati.

Before 2020, the name Olakira rang no bells to even the most astute observer of the contemporary music scene. Even after he made his debut in 2018 with two spectacular singles Hey Lover and Flirty Signal, two songs that were good enough to garner substantial airplay on several radio stations and won him his first set of fans-Including Nigerian Sounds – He remained far below the radar and continued to work his way up to the top.

The following year, he dropped an EP Wakanda Jollof, a decent project that gained him even more fans and also served as a frontal showcase of his musical capabilities, as a songwriter, singer and producer. He described the EP as a brilliant mix of Afro-pop and dancehall tracks, inspired by the originality and ingenuity of the African modern sound and the global aspirations of Africans and solidified by the one thing that binds us all – Jollof. 

In 2020,  inspired by his love for the luxury vehicle brand, he delivered a smooth, soft and groovy self-produced single In My Maserati, which reflected his true musical identity and eventually became his definitive single till date. The song shot him all the way into the limelight, worked it’s way up to several charts and crept into the number 1 spot in Nigeria and  The Gambia, Uganda and several southern African countries.

Now he had arrived. His name finally began to ring bells in the mainstream and most fans could finally put a face to the single as the Clarence Peters directed video for the song racked up over a million views within a month of its release and began to win him accolades from most music industry heavyweights. If there was anybody who was expected to characteristically react first to the emergence of another potential star in the music industry, it was DMW boss Davido, who broke the gauntlet and personally reached out to Olakira to request an appearance on the remix.

The remix was subsequently released last October alongside a video that is currently sitting at 12 Million views on youtube. The remix is currently one of the most recognizable pop songs in Nigeria and boosted his stock greatly. The news that he recently inked a deal with Universal Music Nigeria certainly makes him an artiste to watch because if he could achieve all he has within the space of two years independently, imagine what he would do with a powerful global mechanism that the new contract affords him.

5) Bad Boy Timz

Bad Boy Timz Bio, Bad Boy Timz, BadBoyTimz
Promo photo of Nigerian singer Bad Boy Timz. All rights reserved 2021

Real Name:- Olorunyomi Oloruntimilehin.

Record Label:- Anonymous Music.

Genre:- Afro-pop.

Musical Influences:- Olamide, Burna Boy.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Check & Balance [June 2019].

Associated Acts:- Oxlade, Rahman Jago, Mayorkun, Fireboy DML.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Olamide – Loading Featuring Bad Boy Timz, Rahman Jago – Mo 40 Featuring Barry Jhay & Bad Boy Timz.

Biggest Record Yet:- Michael Jackson.

Just like any other young Nigerian aspiring to make it big in the music business, Young Afro-pop artiste Bad Boy Timz had a plan and started off early creating freestyles on instrumentals of his favourite mainstream songs. Throughout his time in secondary school, the Lagos state both artiste continued grooming and honing his musical skills until he graduated and gained admission into the Bells University Ota Ogun State, where he is currently studying for a degree in Computer Engineering.

His numerous freestyles, some of which had videos to go with them made their way online and garnered him several accolades from various music industry enthusiasts home and abroad, most notably, award-winning UK Rapper J.Hus who gave him a glowing co-sign that reinforced the belief that the business of making contemporary Nigerian music was really his calling. He eventually caught the ears of Anonymous Music, a Lagos based entertainment outfit that made him an offer he couldn’t refuse and by June 2019, Bad Boty Timz signed a record deal and released his first single, the Ozedikus-produced track Check And Balance.

In August 2019, he released an eponymous EP Timz, which contained 6 tracks and contained the sleeper hit songs Odo Featuring Barry Jhay and the Zlatan-assisted Hustle. By the beginning of 2020, his name was already being whispered as one of the next best potential stars in the game, however, most of the accolades came from keen observers of the scene as he was yet to score national hit that would make his potential glaringly obvious to all and sundry. It was his Michael Jackson inspired single MJ that did the trick, as it was released in April and racked up over 1o million streams across all platforms within the space of 2 months. The song was remixed in as many months and was good enough to warrant 2 remixes, one with Mayorkun and the other with Teni.

Despite the fact he is still an undergraduate at the university-a situation that will undoubtedly restrict his opportunity to promote his music adequately like other artistes in his position-,Bad Boy Timz has everything lined up to go on to achieve even greater things this year. His appearance on the Olamide single Loading, a song that is currently one of the biggest songs on the streets of Nigeria, is actually a statement of intent and points to the trajectory in which his career is currently escalating. Bad Boy Timz’s career is certainly loading stay tuned to him in 2021.

6) Ajebo Hustlers

Ajebo Hustlers Bio, Ajebo Hustles Biography
Promo photo of Nigerian musicians Ajebo Hustlers. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name(s):- Knowledge(L) & P.I Piego(R) [stage names]

Record Label:- Ajebo Hustlers Inc.

Genre:- Afro-Fusion.

Musical Influences:- Burna Boy, Duncan Mighty, M-Trill, Korkormikor.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Bole & Fish [Remix] Featuring Tha IBZ & Tha Suspect [August 2015].

Associated Acts:- Dandizzy, Nissi, Dr Barz, Omah Lay.

Notable Guest Appearances:- DJ Joenel – Armageddon Featuring Dr Barz, Dandizzy & Ajebo Hustlers.

Biggest Record Yet:- Barawo [Remix] Featuring Davido.

You may just have heard about the name Ajebo Hustlers over the past 2 years, but the duo known individually as Knowledge and P.I Piego and certainly no newcomers to the music business.

They both started their careers off individually as solo artistes in their home city of Port-Harcourt with Piego the singer following after the steps of artistes from PH like Korkormikor, Duncan Mighty and Frank D’Nero, his counterpart Knowledge the rapper spent his formative years immersing himself in the works of the likes of Specimen A, Tick Lips, Mack Gee and M-Trill. They both dropped solo projects in the early 2010’s and eventually decided to combine their collective skill sets to create a brand new sound and musical identity.

I feel a sense of personal achievement and fulfillment upon hearing that upcoming Port-Harcourt artistes P.I Piego and Knowledge have finally been signed to Grafton Records. That is because they have been on my radar for quite some time now and I have always said that they will get signed to a reputable record label one day. – @Fazillion (October 2015)

The impact was almost immediate as the Ajebo Hustlers brand was officially launched in 2018 and promoted with their first single as a duo Ketu, which featured Yung 6ix and was instrumental in getting them their first taste of National stardom but it was their Terry Apala-assisted single Sophisticated Iyawo which was released that same year that became their signature single at the end of that year. Their 10 track debut album Ideas In My Voicenote which was also released in 2018 and served as a documentation of their musical journey and hustle in Lagos. It contained all the aforementioned tracks and received rave reviews from a great percentage of people who listened to it.

In 2020, their single Barawo, a socio-politically charged single which was inspired by the diminishing state of the country, extrajudicial killings, and police brutality was released and quickly became a rallying call as the #EndSARS movement had already begun hitting fever pitch across the globe. The song warranted a remix that featured the usual suspect Davido, whose appearance on the track helped propel the song even further up the charts, and opened up Ajebo Hustlers to an entirely new set of mainstream admirers.

With a new project tentatively titled Timeless on the way, and various collaborations with mainstream artistes in the pipeline, Ajebo Hustlers are just getting started. Judging them by their musical pedigree and journey so far, it’s obvious that P.I Piego and Knowledge are the best big superstars to emerge from the great Garden City.

7) The Cavemen

The Cavemen Highlife, The Cavemen Nigerian singers, The Cavemen Highlife
Promo photo of Nigerian musicians The Cavemen. All rights reserved 2021

Real Name(s):- Kingsley & Benjamin Okorie.

Record Label:- Sounds From The Cave.

Genre:- Highlife.

Musical Influences:- ABBA, Westlife, Michael Jackson, Oliver De Coque.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Lady Donli – Corner Featuring The Cavemen & Vanjess [February 2020].

Associated Acts:- Lady Donli, Nsikak, Tomilola.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Lady Donli – Corner Featuring VanJess

Biggest Record Yet:Beautiful Rain.

Honestly speaking before 2020, I had never heard of The Cavemen and unless you had access to their inner musical caucus, neither had you. That’s because from 2018 the duo of biological brothers, who double as contemporary highlife singers had been operating musically, primarily behind the scenes as producers, live performers, instrumentalists and back up vocalists.

They spent their young years growing up in Abuja and honing their musical skills in the church, with Benjamin focusing on the Drums and Kingsley primarily handling the Keyboard and Bass. Upon completion of their tertiary education, University education came calling and while Kingsley, the older of the duo went off to Kano to study Law, Benjamin decided to pursue his passion academically and opted for full education in a musical institute in the Federal Capital Territory.

They reunited after Kingsley returned a trained attorney at Law, but their passion for music was reignited as they opted to form the group and spent the next two years exploring the Abuja underground indie music circuit. They played at numerous live shows and hobnobbed with already established names like Bez Idakula, Onyeka Onwenu, Asa and others. However, it was an encounter with Alte queen Lady Donli in 2019 that put them on a path to national prominence. They collaborated with the singer on her acclaimed album Enjoy Your Life, on the single Corner and the music video for the song which was released in February 2020 was the first time the world would set their eyes on the eclectic and creative brothers.

Their relationship with Lady Donli went a step further, as she agreed to work with the duo as an executive producer on their album Roots, which was released in 2020 and was generally regarded as one of the best albums out of Nigeria last year. The 16-track LP was a sonic renaissance of traditional Highlife EP, that re-energized the genre and connected with lovers of music across various age grades.

Their music, sound and brand identity expanded a 100-fold last year and placed them right in the midst of the spotlight. They have been nominated for several awards for their debut album and I expect 2021 to be another monumental year for the spectacular duo.

8) Jamo Pyper

Jamo Pyper Bio, Jamo Pyper
Promo photo of Nigerian musician Jamo Pyper. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- NIL

Record Label:- Zanku Records.

Genre:- Street-pop.

Musical Influences:- Olamide, Da Grin, Zlatan.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Omode Meta Featuring Naira Marley & Zlatan [October 2018].

Notable Guest Appearances:- Zlatan – Unripe Paw Paw Featuring Oberz, Papisnoop & Jamo Pyper.

Biggest Record Yet:- If No Be You Featuring Mayorkun.

Over the past decade, the Lagos street-pop scene is one that has blessed the mainstream music scene with a long string of talents and provided a unique sound that has gradually crossed over into the contemporary urban scene. Since Olamide uttered the now-famous phrase “Streets ti take over”, artistes like Seriki, Small Doctor, Idowest, Slimcase, Mr Real and most recently Zlatan, Mohbad, Lil Frosh, Zinoleesky and rave of the moment Bella Shmurda have all emerged from that scene and made enjoyed considerable successes in their careers.

Jamo Pyper is another artiste from school who started off in 2015 building a buzz for himself, employing the use of social media to publicize his freestyles, song covers and eventual singles which won him a  long string of fans and helped foster his ambitions as an artiste with a mission to make a mark in the game. Around the same time, his musical abilities were enough to secure an audience with Zanku Records street-rap Superstar Zlatan, who was then just blowing up and was still a long way from reaching the astronomical heights he has now attained; nonetheless, the Lagos Anthem rapper invited him to join his entourage as an official member of his then unsigned crew.

As Zlatan blew up, so did his crew which also includes Oberz, Papisnoop and Rahman Jago and on January 2020, when he announced the launch of Zanku Music, Jamo Pyper was the first artiste ink the dotted lines on the record contract. The single Unripe Paw-Paw, was his first taste of national success as it featured the entire label line-up and has already grown into a nominal hit single. He appeared on the label compilation album Road To CDK which came shortly after and was one of the standout performers on the project as his single Suffer was one of the standout songs on the 5-track EP. He released his debut solo single If No Be You Featuring Mayorkun with a music video which has amassed over a million views on Youtube since it was released in August.

Jamo Pyper is now in pole position to be considered one of the breakout stars of 2020. Armed with an arsenal of resources available to his label CEO, his position as Zanku Records next-in-line is one that makes him one of the most promising artistes in the game to me.

9) Cheque

Cheque Penthauze, Cheque Kyle B
Promo photo of Nigerian rapper Cheque. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:-  Akanbi Bamidele Brett.

Record Label:- Penthauze Muzik.

Genre:- Afro-fusion.

Musical Influences:- Olamide, Phyno.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- As Kyle B 

Papa Shii & Ife Hoes Featuring Blaqbonez [July 2015]

As Cheque

Penthauze Records – Nyem Space Featuring Phyno, Nuno, Rhatti &  Superboi Cheque

Associated Acts:- Phyno, Rhatti, Nuno.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Olamide – Warlords Featuring Phyno, Cheque, Rhatti & Snow, Phyno -,Recognize Featuring Cheque.

Biggest Record Yet:- Zoom [Remix] Featuring Davido & Wale.

In 2019, when Phyno unveiled the new artistes Nuno, Superboi Cheque and Rhatti, all of whom he had signed to his label Penthauze Records, Cheque was the guy who I least considered would be the first among them to achieve mainstream stardom. That was primarily because Unlike Cheque,  Rhatti and Nuno had previously released singles which gave me an idea of their musical capabilities and served as my yardstick for including the latter as one of my artistes to watch last year.

Little did I know that Superboi Cheque was actually the most seasoned of the bunch, as he used to go by the stage name of Kyle B and had appeared on Nigerian Sounds regularly since 2015 with solo singles, as well as collaborations with some of his schoolmates at O.A.U including  Chinko Ekun, Blaqbonez and Zamorra, all of who blew up before him. That realization made me return to the archives to unearth his music most of which can be found on this website and in July 2015, after he released Papa Shii and the Blaqbonez-assisted Ife Hoes, I had this below to say about the singer.

It is not every day we come across upcoming artistes who make PURE R&B music, but today I am pleased to unleash Kyle B who debuts on NS with two new songs Papa Shiii which is my favourite among the two and Ife Hoes,( over a J.Cole Beat) an ode to the loose women of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife that featured Blaq Bonez with an interesting verse. They are really good songs, in my opinion, what’s left for Kyle right now is consistency. Though he is a Rapper, I prefer the R&B joint. –@Fazillion [July 2015].

It would be a bit far-reaching to say he took my advice. However, a few years later he had rebranded his image, jettisoned his traditional rap style and restructured his vocal delivery with a more melodic style that aligned better with the direction in which the contemporary sound was evolving, a decision that subsequently worked wonders for his career. He released there Masterkraft-produced single Satisfied, his first offering on Penthauze and followed it up immediately with a full-length EP Razor, which amassed over a million streams on Audiomack within a week of its release and is currently peaking at 34 Million streams. The project contained the smash hit single Zoom, which is currently one of the top singles in Nigeria, so much that it prompted a remix which features Davido and Nigerian-American Grammy-nominated rapper Wale.

With the recent success of Fireboy DML who was previously signed to a management deal at Lagis based outfit Cruel Station for a year alongside Cheque, he will be inspired to replicate the success of the YBNL Records star under the banner of a label owned by the ying to Olamide’s yang, Phyno.

After 5 years of hard graft, Cheque has finally arrived; judging by his well-documented ascendancy up the musical food chain and everything he has achieved in 2020, his nomination as an artiste to watch in 2021 by Nigerian Sounds is a well-deserved no-brainer.

10) Buju

 

Buju Nigeria, Buju Nigerian Singer, Buju Nigeria Bio, Buju Burna Boy Artiste
Promo photo of Nigerian singer Buju. All rights reserved 2021

Real Name:- Daniel Benson.

Record Label:- Spaceship Music.

Genre:- Afro-pop.

Musical Influences:- Burna Boy, 2Baba Idibia, Wande Coal.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Spiritual Featuring Zlatan [August 2019].

Associated Acts:- Burna Boy, Nissi, Leriq.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Do Me Nice Featuring Buju, DJ Jimmy Jatt – Worry Me Featuring 2Baba & Buju.

Biggest Record Yet:- L’enu [Remix] Featuring Burna Boy.

 New generation Afro-pop talent Buju is another artiste on this list who came to my attention the latest; at 22 years of age, he is arguably the youngest on the list, which means that prior to 2019, he had not spent a great deal of time pursuing a career as a recording artiste-a factor that may have affected his landing on my radar. Nonetheless, it is quite remarkable what the artiste who is also a prodigious pianist has achieved in a short period of time.

Since he made his appearance on Nigerian Sounds on August 2019 with the Zlatan-assisted Spiritual, he went on to appear on the Show Dem Camp single Do Me Nice and also featured on a duet with 2Baba on a DJ Jimmy Jatt track titled Worry Me. Also developing a reputation as a strong collaborator, he also went on to appear as a featured guest on a  myriad of singles with various artistes, most of who had already become fans of his seemingly inestimable musical capabilities. His burgeoning reputation within music industry circuits led to him being singles out by Grammy-nominated Afro-fusion superstar Burna Boy, who in April 2020, signed Buju up to his Spaceship Collective. Immediately, a remix to his previously released single L’enu was released which featured Burna Boy and set him off on the highly coveted path to mainstream superstardom.

Buju’s official artiste profile reads as follows:

Buju, whose name is an acronym for “Beauty Underneath Just Understood”, was born Daniel Benson. Buju is a fast-rising 22 years old Nigerian Afro-fusion singer and songwriter who draws inspiration to create his music, ranging from his personal experiences, his environment or the experiences of his friends. His ability to tell stories effortlessly in his music whilst including vivid melodies and harmony is something that has made his music a ‘must-listen’ as it is unexplainably enjoyable. He has released a series of singles, including “Spiritual” featuring indigenous rapper Zlatan, “Lenu” and “Ohema”. In 2019, he bagged a nomination for the “Rookie of the Year” category at the HipTV Headies Awards. His ability to freestyle on any instrumental gained him exposure on social media and coupled with his music, he is an unstoppable wave indeed. Buju is most definitely an artist to watch out for in the years to come as he is believed to have ‘just what the world needs to listen to’ and it is evident in his music.

Appearing on a song with 2Baba Idibia and Burna Boy within 2 years of pursuing a career in music is a far fetched dream for most emerging artistes in Nigeria and I’m sure it was quite the same for Buju but his abilities as a songwriter and vocalist have helped him achieve this momentous feat. These unique talents of his also landed him a lucrative deal at an industry powerhouse and under the tutelage and guidance of a Grammy nominee. No other artiste in the business has that advantage therefore Bujus  position in the game cannot be taken for granted,

11) Yonda

 

Yonda DMW, Yonda Bio
Promo photo of Nigerian musician Yonda. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- Adeniram Abayomi’

Record Label:- Davido Music World

Genre:- Afro-pop

Musical Influences:- FELA Kuti, 2Baba Idibia.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Las Vegas [January 2017]

Associated Acts:- Davido, Burna Boy, Mayorkun, Dremo.

Notable Guest Appearances:- DMW – Aje Featuring Davido, Peruzzi, Yonda & Fresh VDM.

Biggest Record Yet:- Las Vegas [Remix] Featuring Burna Boy.

In April 2017, Davido Music World recording artiste Yonda was unveiled as a new addition to the label line-up in a partnership with Lagos based management outfit Lazy Boy Entertainment who are credited with discovering the dynamic songwriter. The following year, he kept himself busy, releasing impressive songs that registered his presence in the mind of many listeners including his breakout track Las Vegas and the Mayorkun-assisted Bad Girl Riri which followed shortly after. The latter was revamped shortly after with Burna Boy appearing on the official remix.

His stock continued to rise most significantly among his labelmates who by then had discovered his reputation as a potent songwriter who could craft chart-topping hit songs for other artistes to vocalize. His work rate is reportedly exceptional, following in the footsteps of his labelmate Peruzzi who had already penned the single Fia for the label boss Davido who has never made a secret of his collaborative alliance with various songwriters that had previously written songs for him. Yonda definitely fit the bill and spent the next 2019 appearing as a featured guest on various singles with a wide variety of artistes including appearing on every project that had been released on the label since he got signed. Within the space of a year,  appeared on Mayorkun’s debut album The Mayor Of Lagos, Davido’s sophomore album A Good Time, and the highly-rated Mafia Culture EP by Idowest.

His songwriting capabilities have also extended beyond the walls of the DMW HQ, because earlier this year, an ongoing dispute erupted between friends-turned-foes Davido and Burna Boy regarding Yondas involvement in allegedly penning several tracks for Burna Boy. Yonda however, has maintained a dignified silence and has continued to dish out quality material; his EP, Wild Blue, which was released late last year wound up as one of the standout projects of 2020 and showcased a wider scope of his musical capabilities to his rapidly expanding fanbase.

From the moment in 2013, when it was revealed that Davidos hit single Gobe was originally written by songwriter Password, the floodgates of the contemporary music scene were opened to the admittance of this reality by various artistes and precipitated a ripple effect that helped songwriters-who were otherwise bullied into the shadows in silence-to openly take credit for their work as Ghost Writers. In recent years A-list artistes have openly enlisted the services of songwriters with acts like Moelogo, Peruzzi and Oxlade developing strong reputations in that department. Yonda is another musical artiste whom I expect to join in the fray as I envisage a scramble for his penmanship skills after his reputation was made known to the music industry. the art of songwriting is gradually becoming more valuable in the Nigerian music space, and Yonda is in a very good position to benefit from this era.

12) Nissi

 

Nissi Ogulu, Nissi, Burna Boy Sister
Promo photo of Nigerian diva Nissi. All rights reserved 2021

Real Name:- Nissi Ogulu.

Record Label:- Spaceship Music.

Genre:- Alternative Soul.

Musical Influences:- Burna Boy, Yemi Alade.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Pay Attention [August 2016].

Associated Acts:- Burna Boy, Buju, Ajebo Hustlers, Omah Lay.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Ajebo Hustlers – Symbiosis Featuring Nissi.

Biggest Record Yet:- Judi.

Spaceships Collective Nissi is a contemporary Alternative-pop diva, songwriter and painter with a difference. Her biological relationship as the younger sister to Burna Boy has not in any way affected her musical direction and capacity to foster a separate and distinct musical identity.

While her brother spent the better part of 2010-2016 musically running riot through the Nigerian music industry, she was tucked away I the United Kingdom studying for a degree in the University and upon completion of her studies 4 years ago, she made her debut with the politically charged soul single titled Pay Attention. The track encompassed topics serious subjects including extra-judicial killings, Police brutality, and discrimination based on race, gender, religion and ethnicity, thus proving that the politically conscious gene runs all the way through their family.

Since then, she has gone on to release a variety of tracks notably Criminal, Mama Mi, Ignite, Undercover, Over Here, Trouble & Tornado all of which have been met various degrees of success. Her collaboration with fellow Port Harcourt new sensations Ajebo Hustlers on the track Symbiosis, showed her collaborative prowess and eventually became one of the biggest songs on urban radio in their state last year. Last year, she released her debut body of work Ignite, a smorgasbord of musical tastes, ranging from a blend of Highlife, Afro-punk, and Afro-jazz, topped up with her own unique artistic twist. The project set her in good stead within music industry circles and received rave reviews from most critics who have slowly begun to respect her musical pedigree.

Ignite was wholesome and convincing enough to invoke her addition to Spaceship Collective, which was recently launched by her brother and is administered by their mother; It also includes Leriq and Buju. That co-sign, though from members of her family was rightfully earned as Nissi has previously pushed her music independently without any support from her brother musical connections.  Her signature sound could be described as a delightful melange of Highlife, Afro-punk, and Afro-jazz sprinkled with subtle elements of spirituality, Afrocentrism and socio-political consciousness all brewed together in a cauldron of divine femininity. And with the musical renaissance taking place in her home city of Port Harcourt, Nissi is currently in an advantageous position  and has all the required tools to disseminate her artistry in the right direction

 

13) Alpha Ojini

 

Alpha Ojini, Nigerian rapper Alpha
Promo photo of Nigerian rapper Alpha Ojini. All rights reserved 2021

Real Name:- Ebuka Alex Ojini-Ntamere.

Record Label:- Focus Music.

Genre:- Hip-hop.

Musical Influences:- M.I Abaga, Show Dem Camp, Jesse Jagz.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Butterflies [May 2017].

Associated Acts:- M.I Abaga, Blaqbonez, Show Dem Camp, Payper Corleone.

Notable Guest Appearances:- MI Abaga – The Tribe Featuring Alpha Ojini.

Biggest Record Yet:- Pop

Let’s face it, amongst all the genres in the contemporary music scene in Nigeria, Hip-hop is the most marginalized and neglected by the international label powerhouses who are beginning to get involved in the industry over the past few years. Even home worn record companies are getting increasingly sceptical about investing huge amounts in a rap artiste for fear of not recouping sufficient profit. This has led to an explosion of the independent hustle in Hip-hop as a majority of rappers to recently make an impact in the game have mostly achieved their various successes independently.

Alpa Ojini is another exemplification of this reality of the Hip-hop hustle, as he has singlehandedly built up a reputable profile as a songwriter, singer, producer and lyricist who possesses all the qualities required to become the next best Hip-hop supremo in Nigeria. Since he made his debut on NS in 2017, with the TOD-assisted Butterflies, he has gone on to release a handful of spectacular records, two critically acclaimed albums (Half Price & Chvmeleon)  and a handful of award nominations in the process.

His skills as a dynamic music producer have also been appreciated by his peers within the industry which resulted in a spike in demand for his services behind the boards. Last year, he amassed some production credits with artistes including Maka, Fortune Angelo, Phlow, Blaqbonez, Dremo, Payper Corleone and most recently M.I Abaga. His alliance with the Chocolate City head honcho began in 2014 after he submitted an entry to MI Abaga & Star Music’s “Best Rapper in The East” competition, a contest which he partook in and emerged as the winner. He then released the incisive confessional Vendetta in 2017, as a response to M.I’s castigation of the rap game on the now-infamous single You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Life which was released that same year and elicited a flurry of replied from a large percentage of hip-hop aficionados. His reply got to M.I’s ears and rather than engage him with animosity, Alpha was invited to the studio to create new music with the Chocolate Willie Wonka.

2020 witnessed Alpha enjoy the highest level of success in his career so far and pointed to a promising future for the multi-faceted Hip-hop artiste. His verse on The Tribe, a song off M.I Abaga’s recent solo EP Judah was personally my favourite verse by any Nigerian rapper last year and his assembling of some of the finest young rappers on the remix of his single POP is an indication of the high regard in which he is held by his peers. His latest single Chorister features British-Nigerian singer/songwriter Moelogo and signifies a broader acceptance of his talent by artistes outside the Hip-hop sphere. This move once again adds credence to Alphas pedigree as the next traditional rapper to crossover to the mainstream, making him one artiste who cannot be overlooked in 2021.

14) Umu Obiligbo

Obiligbo, Umu Obiligbo
Promo photo of Nigerian musicians Umu Obiligbo. All rights reserved 2021

 

 

 

Real Name(s):- Akunwafor Chukwuemeka Obiligbo and Ogbuozor Ifeanyịchukwu Obiligbo.

Record Label:- Universal Music Group Nigeria.

Genre:- Ekpili /Ogene/Highlife.

Musical Influences:- Osita Osadebe, Chief Ezigbo Obiligbo, Oliver De’Coque, Cardinal Rex Lawson.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Flavour – Awele Featuring Umu Obiligbo [December 2018]

Associated Acts:- Flavour, Phyno, Larry Gaaga.

Notable Guest Appearances:- Larry Gaaga – Doubting Thomas Featuring Umu Obiligbo & Davido.

Biggest Record Yet:- Culture Featuring Flavour & Phyno.

For most people resident outside the eastern region of Nigeria and it’s environs, contemporary Highlife duo Umu Obiligbo would seem like they are new artistes, but to Igboid people across the world, The traditional Egwu Ekpili exponents are somewhat of a household name. Not necessarily because of their achievements in music which are remarkable in itself, but due to their descent from music royalty as their grandfather, Chief Ezigbo Obiligbo was one of the innovators and most recognizable artistes of the genre in the 70’s. He was acclaimed enough to count the then president of Nigeria General Yakubu Gowon as one of his fans. Their father Ajana Obiligbo also played Highlife music briefly and served as a direct inspiration to his sons following the path which the family was already known for.

Their genealogical affinity for music must have acted as a catalyst around the late 2000’s when they began their foray into the music business, utilizing the wealth of education on the inner workings of the industry and had a handful of valuable resources that their ancestral heritage had afforded them. They dropped several albums, most notably Udo Ga Di (2014), Ife Di Nma (2014) and Ogu Ajoka (2018. They began to slowly crossover into the contemporary Afro pop scene by collaborating with eastern heavyweights like Phyno and Flavour Nabania, two artistes that appeared on the smash hit single Culture, which was released in 2019 and introduced the duo to an entirely new fanbase outside their home region. Last year saw them appear on more mainstream singles with artistes like Jaywon, Magnito, Basketmouth, Bracket, Mr Eazi and many more. Their appearance on Doubting Thomas, the lead single off the Rattlesnake film soundtrack alongside Davido was the hallmark of their crossover story so far and points to an even broader acceptance of their indigenous sound.

The commercially successful Signature, which was released last year wound up on a number of year-end lists for best album and further affirmed their ability to malleate their sound to satisfy a global audience. shortly after, reports filtered on the internet that the duo had signed a lucrative management deal with Universal Music in Nigeria to further expand on the mainstream success they tasted in 2020. I predict that the next few years would be memorable to the careers of Umu Obiligbo and 2021 should be a rally busy year for them.

 

15) Romeo Max

Romeo Max, Romeo Max Igbo
Promo photo of Nigerian musician Romeo Max. All rights reserved 2021

 

Real Name:- NIL

Record Label:- Independent.

Genre:- Rap

Musical Influences:- Phyno, Slow Dog, Mr Raw Nwanne.

First Appearance On Nigeriansounds:- Onye Obodo Featuring Zoro [October 2018]

Associated Acts:- Fanzy Papaya, Waga G, Zoro.

Notable Guest Appearances:- NIL.

Biggest Record Yet:- Bag Featuring Fanzy Papaya.

Although Igbo rapper Romeo Max has been plying his trade for over half a decade in the eastern part of Nigeria, the average music fan outside the region would probably have no idea about the existence of the eccentric and witty rap artiste. Nonetheless, they might probably have heard his sleeper hit single Bag, which started making its rounds on the airwaves and cyber waves around the festive season last year and is currently one of the biggest songs in the south-eastern part of the country.

The commercial sound on the aforementioned single might dissuade a first-time listener, who may also be a Hip-hop head from digging into his previously released catalogue of music but the versatile, Enugu state born artiste has already previously proven himself as a rapper and still has the ability to create traditional Hip-hop records. Following the blueprint of new generation Igbo rappers like Zoro and Phyno who have had to perform sonically commercial records like Kulture and Connect respectively, Romeo Max has spent years sharpening his versatile edge and emphatically demonstrated his mainstream inclination with the success of the Fanzy Papaya-assisted Bag.

From MC Loph and Mr Raw Nwanne, all the way down to Phyno and Zoro, Igbo rap artistes have continued to cross over into the Lagos mainstream market and continue to leave an indelible influence and contribute a great deal to the dynamism of  the sound, fashion, lifestyle and ultimately the music of the contemporary music scene. If the success of Bag is anything to go by, He is poised to be the next great eastern rap heavyweight and the success of his biggest single yet will certainly open more doors for him.

 

Fanboy

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