By Obinna “Fazillion” Ifechi-Fred
Like the year 2015, this year was a remarkable year for the Nigerian music industry which some speculate was partially due to the cataclysmic effect of M.I Abagas chastisement of the entire scene in 2017 on his hit single You Rappers Should Fix Up Your Lives. Whether you agree with that assertion or not, the fact remains that this year, it felt like many Nigerian rappers went back to the drawing board, rediscovered themselves a la Vector and decided to release quality projects that will restore the rap game to it’s revered position.
Hip-hop as a genre has been responsible for creating the foundation of most artistes in the Afro-pop scene including Grammy Nominated Burna Boy, who began his career as a rapper and released two groundbreaking mixtapes Burn Identity and Burn Notice, before he transitioned into a national cum global Afro-pop giant.
In the present music climate, the Lamba sound-another subgenre of Nigerian Hip-hop music-heralded by mainstays like Naira Marley and Zlatan has been dominating the music industry and once more owes it’s national and global success to the conducive environment that the Hip-hop scene created for artistes to develop effectively before transitioning to mainstream stars.
Hip-hop may not be the most commercially viable artform to pursue at the moment, that, however, has not prevented the scene from expanding and welcoming new faces, diverse musical sounds and never-before-seen inspiration which continue to contribute to the development and longevity of the industry. Here are our top 10 Hip-hop projects of the year, which were selected based on commercial reception, lyrical pedigree, cultural significance and critical acclaim.
The final criteria are the ears of our editorial team, who utilized extensive knowledge of the Nigerian Hip-hop scene to thoroughly reviewed all the projects and arrived at an informed conclusion. Check out the list below.
Record Label:- Trap House Entertainment.
Guest Appearances:- Abstrakt, Erigga, Boogey, Phlowetry, Paybac, Enigma and Alpha Ojini.
Producers:- Stormatique, PRO Beats
Release Date:- 24 May 2019
Bayelsa born and raised rapper Payper Corleones career progression over the last 6 years is a case study in the virtue of consistency, tenacity and sheer doggedness in pushing your art in the Nigerian music space. After releasing a string of underground mixtapes and singles-which I elaborated further in the article I wrote about 17 Nigerian artistes to watch in 2020-, he finally released his most cohesive work till date, a Mafioso themed project titled Fly Gangsta From The 90’s.
The project was released as an EP, but its 10-track disqualifies it and makes it a full length studio album, and that’s exactly what it sounded like. Payper recruited an impressive support cast of his better known contemporaries including Alpha Ojini, Boogey, Phlowetry and Erigga, all of who brought their A-games and supported the final output with their collective lyrical infusions. As far as album titles go, the word “Gangster” has never been used before and Payper certainly makes history in that regard. He stuck to his gangster rap aesthetic but delivered razor sharp bars over pulsating beats on every single track.
It’s a complete rap project that will appeal to sceptics who might be discouraged by the title and wrongly judge it to be filled with violent, raunchy and crime-laden lyrics. The focus on The Fly Gangsta is reality rap (Sacrifice), introspective lyrics (Pain), comedic storytelling (Chicks For Lagos) and even a dose of some good old lyrical sparring (God Level). All the elements contributed to the final output which was just as good as any rap album released from Nigeria this year.
The only limitations that may have affected this project are insufficient promotion and advertisement, as there is a realistic limit to which an independent company like THG can push the project; however, having secured a Headies Award nomination this year for the Alpha Ojini-assisted single Sacrifice, that is a clear indication of the quality of the album and will Payper to an entirely new audience which will, in turn, raise his stock and lead some new fans to search for the album.
2019 is bound to be a pivotal year in Paypers career and he is on a mission to make himself known and respected in Lagos just like Cyrus Tha Virus from Benin, Erigga from Warri, M-Trill from Port Harcourt and Ikpa Udo from Akwa Ibom-fellow rappers from the Southern region of Nigeria-have all done before him.
- God Level Featuring Boogey & Phlow
- Chicks For Lagos Featuring Abstraktt
- Sacrifice Featuring Alpha Ojini
Record Label:- Focus Music Recording
Guest Appearances:- M.I Abaga, PsychoYP, Blaqbonez, Bella Alubo, GoodGirl LA, Ghost Of S.D.C, Oxlade, Kemi Smalzz and Paybac Iboro.
Producers:- Alpha Ojini [All Tracks]
Release Date:- 1 November 2019
Anybody who listened to Alpha Ojinis critically acclaimed debut album Half Price will not be surprised by his inclusion into this list, but to the casual hip-hop fan, this might be the first time you are hearing from the multitalented rapper and producer, who produced both albums in entirety.
When you first give his sophomore album Chvmeleon a spin, you may get a feel of just what the title implies looking at the albums sonic barometer. Lagos born Ojini belongs to a rare class of rappers who pen above-average raps and make even better beats. The album is a slight sonic departure from Half Price’s traditional hip-hop sound and employs a more light-hearted Trap vibe that will appeal to the younger generations of rap consumers. Alpha holds the unique distinction as the only rapper on this list who produced his albums singlehandedly, which makes him a double threat and points to the possibility of experiencing an eventful career.
The flows and styles on the album are as varied as the behaviours of the colour changing reptile that inspired the title of the album. The album contains more mainstream guests than his debut album which contributes to the overall quality of the project and makes it slightly better than his debut. Sprinkles of light-hearted humour, explicit sexual innuendos and traditional hip-hop braggadocio makes for a good listening experience and places Alpha in good stead to establish himself as one of the champions of the new school of Nigerian lyricists.
- Tongue Song Featuring Bella Alubo.
- Calm Down Featuring GoodGirl LA.
- This Money.
- See Heaven Featuring Ghost Of S.D.C.
Record Label:- GRAP Records.
Guest Appearances:- Bris B, Slimcase, DJ Niyor and Davido
Producers:- Sally Smoke, Spaceboy Mercury, VSix, Mr. Klebb, Kid Konnect, Masterkraft, DYC, Cubix, YinxDJInx and Vector.
Release Date:- 26 November 2019.
It has been 4 years since Vector released his third studio album Lafiaji which was met with polarizing views across the music consuming populace. While a lot of mainstream music fans were pleasantly surprised at his versatility and ability to create other genres of music apart from Hip-hop, his core fanbase was disappointed by Vector pulling a Skales and performing Afro-pop, Konto, Dancehall, Lamba, genres of music that are considered sacrilegiously commercial vibes to the hip-hop head.
Lafiaji was well put together and audacious but left an empty feeling in the hearts of most of his core fans who had long expected the rapper to differentiate himself from the mainstream Afro-pop sound which seemed to be the theme of an album which most people expected would be hometown hip-hop album, reminiscent of the widely successful Dr Dre album Compton.
Vibes before Teslim: A Journey To Self Discovery is a clear cut effort by the rapper born Olanrewaju Ogunmefun, to right those wrongs and return to the reckoning of the Hip-hop community. Released as a prelude to his anticipated album T.E.S.L.I.M, the album was crafted with a thorough blueprint, executed with elaborate song titles and conceptual lyrics that follow very clear themes, from drug addiction (Oja), mental health (Your Biology), socio-political commentary (A Man With A Gun) and human tendencies (Mind Games).
The album was clearly devoid of any commercial sound, and it felt deliberate and unwanted in a musical journey that will have most hip-hop purists pulsating. One thing Vector never had a problem with is bars and this new project is a shining example of that fact. His pen is sharper than ever and there are no filler tracks whatsoever except the Remix of his single Adurah, a track that was originally on Lafiaji.
Lafiaji is Vectors most credible Hip-hop project since the Bar-Racks mixtape and if the themes on this project are anything to judge by, them T.E.S.L.I.M promises to be one of the best albums of next year. Ondun!!
- A Man With A Gun Featuring Bris B
- Oja [Drugs & Friends]
- Mind Games
- Comfort Featuring Davido
Record Label:- Aint Nobody Badder Than Music.
Guest Appearances:- Ms Banks, Phyno, Dapo Tuburna, Niniola and Davido.
Producers:- KO, Adey, Fanatix, Syn X, Jay Poppin’, Elmore, Ballertosh, J.Biz, Buzzing Producer, Beats By Karma, Krizbeatz, AP Da Don, TwoSeven and Willis Give Dem.
Release Date:- 8 November 2019.
The successes experienced by rap superstar Ycee, with his breakout singles Jagaban (2015), Omo Alhaji (2016) and the monster smash hit Juice Featuring Maleek Berry, served as a gift and a curse to the career of the then-budding rapper, especially with Juice, which saw him perform with a melodic singsongy vibe that immediately caught on and had fans not only questioning his real musical identity but wondering if he had the ability to continue to churn out hit records on a consistent basis.
Notwithstanding the naysayers and doubters, Ycee continued to ride the wave of his success and released his debut project in 2017, an 8-track EP titled First Wave which won him a multitude of new fans and reinforced his true musical identity as a genre-bending rap star with the ability to deliver potent lyrical tracks, as well as radio-friendly mainstream records hat could compete with the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Skales, Tekno and other mainstream Afro-pop staples. Shortly after, as the biggest star on his label, he had to fulfil contractual duties by putting his solo career on hold and working on a premature joint album with his erstwhile relatively unknown labelmate Bella Alubo.
The album, Late Night Vibrations was released last January and although it spurred two nominal hit tracks with Empathy and Tropicana Fruit Juice, it seemingly set Ycee’s solo career back a few paces and shortly after rumours of internal disputes between him and his label Tinny Entertainment began to filter into the press mill. The situation further escalated and for the next 11 months, he was left in a contractual limbo which prevented him from releasing new original music.
The situation appeared to have been smoothened out at the beginning of this year when Ycee launched his independent record imprint Aint Nobody Badder Than and simultaneously announced the release of his debut album Ycee Vs Zaheer, which was inspired by the conflict between his two creative sides-rapping and singing-which he intended to resolve with the project.
Ycee however, met resistance from his former label boss who promised to disrupt his album release and made good his promise by leaking two of the songs on the album with high profile collaborations Bossing Featuring British rapper Ms Banks and Baseline Featuring Davido. His nefarious antics, however, did not deter Ycee, who received immense support from his throng of fans on social media who collectively derided his label boss and drove him far away from his former cash cow.
The album has since surpassed over 2 million combined streams on online distribution platforms and is a far improvement from his First Wave EP. Ycee the singer kept up with Zaheer the rapper, but in the end, the hip-hop tracks contained his best performances on the project.
Despite the label dispute, the musical identity conflicts and the rigours establishing a record company, Ycee managed to deliver a solid body of work that’s up there with the best Rap albums of the year.
- Bossing Featuring Ms Banks.
- Dada Featuring Dapo Tuburna.
- Wahala Dey.
- It’s Amazing.
6) Modenine & Teck-Zilla – Esoteric Mellow.
Record Label:- Redeye Muzik/Str8buttah Productions.
Guest Appearances:- Canibus and Akword.
Producers:- Teck-Zilla [All Tracks]
Release Date:- 31 May 2019.
Since the release of his groundbreaking debut album Malcolm IX: The Lost Sessions (2004), Nigerian hip-hop veteran Modenine has released an album, mixtape or EP at a ratio of 1 project every year. so it came as no surprise when he announced that he was releasing his 20th body of work and his 2nd this year, Esoteric Mellow, a collaborative effort with international Hip-hop producer Teck-Zilla. His fans knew exactly what to expect; a no-nonsense lyrical exhibition laced with hardbody boom-bap beats.
Having previously released The Monument in January, Modenine followed the 2018 blueprint that saw him deliver 2 albums Hence4th and Long Story Short in the same year and just a few months after promoting The Monument, he announced that he was working on a new project with Teckzilla, which was eventually released in May.
With a career that has spanned over two decades, Modenine has made clear his unapologetic decision to make his music the S.I unit for Boombap hip-hop in Nigeria and he has done just that. His albums have always been staples for hip-hop purists and boom-bap enthusiasts, and Esoteric Mellow is no different.
The album contained remixes to previously released tracks as well as a handful of unreleased music that was entirely produced by Teck who laced Modo with some spaced out, laid back and intergalactic sounds on which the Black Rap Messiah displayed some characteristic lyrical proficiency. The album also contained two international collaborations with American rappers Canibus and Awkword making cameos and giving Mode his first two US collaborations.
With Teck-Zilla having collaborated on 4 different projects this year, including MC Skill Tha Preacha (Nucleus 1), Illbliss (Illyzilla), Vader The Wildcard (Confluence), he clearly saved his best production for Modenine and the result is a full-body project that radiates in lyrical excellence.
- Kaiser Flow
- Black Vampire
- Super Human
- Collage Featuring Awkword
5) Boogey & Paybac (The Lost & Found) – Alternate Ending.
Record Label:- Timeless Music.
Guest Appearances:- Danladi, Mon Lee, Lyn, Aramide, JazzZ, Maka and Monki Bznzz.
Producers:- CHx, Sizzle Pro, Black Intelligence and Monki Bznzz.
Release Date:- 3 May 2019.
When super lyricist Boogey and eclectic rapper Paybac announced their partnership and decision to come together and form a duo named The Lost and Found, they were met with scepticism from a concerned section of both of their fanbases. This was due to the fact that no two solo rappers of their calibres had ever come together to form a group before in Nigeria. Furthermore, concerns were raised about the ability of two rappers to forgo their egos and solo endeavours to commit to a joint project in its entirety.
However, 3 years later, it has proven to be the best decisions of both their careers and has also propelled the rappers to the highest level of mainstream exposure that they have ever experienced until now. Their debut album as the Lost and Found, Face Off (2016) followed shortly after the announcement and was received to rave reviews by hip-hop aficionados and industry bigwigs.
They returned to pursue their solo careers with Paybac releasing The Biggest Tree and Boogey releasing Noveau Niveau, two projects that were hugely propelled by the success of their group debut and made them realise the importance of the joint venture which had helped improve their collective careers.
The decision to create a sequel as The Lost and Found was a no brainer and the two rappers teamed up once again for a sophomore project titled Alternate Ending which sought to improve on the quality of their debut which is exactly what they did.
The album turned out to be a symbolic masterpiece that encapsulates the perils of a hip-hop purist in the Nigerian entertainment space and contained themes that were centred around mental health, mortality, betrayal, introspection, stark realities and romance.
It was well-received by their fans and is still receiving even more stellar reviews than Face Off. The lyrical dexterity of the project was such that the track Implode, was nominated for the Lyricist On The Roll award at the 2019 Headies, an award which they lost to A-Q.
The album is the best project of both their careers so far and judging by precedence, the next few months will be positively eventful for both their solo careers.
- Shun Sir
- Uwaka Featuring Danladi
- Hard II Kill
4) Show Dem Camp – Clone Wars IV [These Buhari Times].
Record Label:- Show Dem Records.
Guest Appearances:- MI Abaga, Vector, Tems, Ozone, Phlow, Rotex, Boogey, Dap The Contract, Cina Soul and LadiPoe.
Producers:- SPAX [All Tracks]
Release Date:- 1 January 2019.
Every ardent follower of the Nigerian hip-hop scene should be familiar with Show Dem Camp, the lyrically gifted duo of Ghost and Tec, who have over the last 9 years established themselves as resolute pillars of the Nigerian music scene and spokespersons for the disenfranchised Nigerian youth.
Till date, they have released 1 major label album titled The Dreamer Project (2011) and 6 successful independent projects, split evenly between their Clone Wars and Palmwine Music Series. The latter mentioned series which was evolved to the Palmwine Express on the latest 3rd instalment has been characteristically crafted to contain radio-friendly and mainstream records whilst the former series exemplifies their conscious and hip-hop inclined inspirations.
The first instalment of CW’s, released in 2010 sounded like a loosely defined, experimental compilation of songs made both for the Palmwine and Clone Wars series, mixed together, however by the second instalment Clone Wars: The Subsidy,( a clearly defined musical theme was introduced and utilised thereafter.
Three years have passed since the third instalment The Recession was released and many fans had already given up on the prospect of getting a 4th, so you could imagine how elated we all were when These Buhari Times was suddenly released on the 1st of January with little fanfare or promotion.
With the production entirely handled by SPAX, Ghost and Tec exhibited a commanding performance that serves as the pinnacle of their craftmanship and perfectly encapsulates the current state of the Nigerian society.
The album which has attained critical acclaim-on NigerianSounds at least- has solidified the status of Show Dem Camp as elite rap artistes in the Nigerian hip-hop space who are fully aware of their revered status and are taking full advantage by cornering every angle of the rap market-even in these trying Buhari times.
- Savage Featuring LadiPoe.
- Respect, Loyalty and Honour Featuring M.I.
- Epigenetics Featuring Ozone.
- Hunger Cries.
Record Label:- Emirate Empire Records.
Guest Appearances:- Victor AD, Oga Network, Zlatan, Magnito, Sipi, Vector, Graham D, Yung Zee Onos, Prinx Emmanuel, M.I, Sami, Ice Prince, Funkcleff, Shuun Bebe and Dr Bars.
Producers:- No Limit, C Major, KO Beat, Kulboy Beats, Doka Shot, Lex Amazing and Prinx Emmanuel.
Release Date:- 4 October 2019.
Erigga aka Paperboi is one rapper that belongs to an elite group of Nigerian rappers who improve on the lyrical and sonic quality of their projects with each release. Having released his debut album The Erigma back in 2012, he went on to release A Trip To The South (2017) and Okorowanta ( 2018), all of which have been better received than their predecessors and helped take his career to greater heights.
Having returned this year with a sequel to his debut album aptly titled Erigma II, The Warri born and raised rapper delivered a masterpiece that could be described as a definitive and seminal project. Laced with comedic innuendos, gritty street tales and inner-city experiences, Erigga stuck to his proven script and utilized spectacular storytelling abilities in creating more vivid images that are bound to capture the imagination of his listeners.
The album also proves that Erigga has gradually won over the respect of his Hip-hop peers with collaborations with Ice Prince, and Magnito, as well as M.I Abaga and Vector who happened to have been engaged in a lyrical confrontation shortly after the album, was released.
Not since 6 Foot Plus, has another Nigerian rapper made a name for himself by performing majority of their lyrics in pidgin English but Erigga has improved from 6 Foot and taken the whole subgenre to another level, whilst delivering bars laced with elements-violence, sex, drugs and crime-that were previously unwelcome in the game before him.
No other Nigerian rapper has the ability to paint a more accurate and convincing picture of his environment than Erigga and his latest album Erigma 2 is his most vivid depiction yet.
- Welcome To Warri.
- Area People.
- Goodbye From Warri.
- Area To the World Featuring Victor AD
Record Label:- Penthauze Records.
Guest Appearances:- Runtown, Falz, Phenom, Teni, Davido, Cheque, Flavour, Don Jazzy, Olamide, Duncan Mighty, Harmonize, Zoro, Nuno and Rhatti.
Producers:- Benjamz, 8 Notes, Kezyklef, Kel P, Major Bangz, SourLarge, Killertunes, Masterkraft, Mystro, T-Spize, Yung Willis, Princeton,IamBeatz and Nameless.
Release Date:- 4 September 2019.
With the release of his third studio album Deal With It earlier this year, Igbo rap superstar Phyno was simply expanding and improving on a formula he utilized in making his first two albums resounding successes. With No Guts, No Glory (2014), he introduced the world to his unique style of Igbo rap music and diverse sonic influences, while 2016’s Playmaker was a crossover album that reinforced his status as “singing rapper” who can incorporate the mainstream pop sound into his album if he pleases. The album did spectacularly well and contained some of the biggest records of his career including Fada Fada, Ezege and Connect.
Deal With It, however, was a project that saw Phyno combine both elements and created an album that caters as much to his mainstream fans as it does his core Hip-hop audience. The album contains elements of romance, socio-political commentary, braggadocio, and hedonism, but also upholds the tenets of Hip-hop, spirituality, youth culture and razor-sharp lyricism. Phyno also does his best to blend his lyrics with more English language and together with Teni, delivered one of Nigerias strongest Igbo/Yoruba musical collaborations on Ka Anyi Na Ayo.
None Igbo speakers may be surprised at our assertion that the album is the second best Hip-hop album of the year, but none with an understanding of the Igbo language will question its position on this list. A better A&R direction may have eliminated a few fillers on the album and perhaps released a shorter and more concise LP, but I for one am not complaining.
Playmaker may be Phynos most mainstream album, but Deal With It is a lyrically superior project that saw him return to his first love-Hip-hop music which was executed with sublime precision.
- Ka Anyi Na Ayo Featuring Teni
- God’s Willing Featuring Runtown
- Body Featuring Harmonize
1) Falz – Moral Instruction.
Record Label:- Bahd Guys Entertainment.
Guest Appearances:- Demmie Vee, Sess, Chillz.
Producers:- Sess, Chillz, TMXO, Willis, T-Mothi and Alabama Georgia.
Release Date:- 15 January 2019.
The last time legendary album sleeve designer and graphic artiste Ghariokwu Lemi was called upon to create the album sleeve for a Nigerian Hip-hop album, it was back in 2004, when he designed the iconic cover art to Eedris Abdulkareems magnum opus Jaga Jaga. The album turned out to be one the most controversial and politically conscious hip-hop albums ever released in Nigerian history and even elicited responses and criticism from the then serving president Olusegun Obasanjo.
So in early January, when Falz announced that he was recruiting the famed illustrator to design the cover of his 4th studio album Moral Instruction, most critical observers of the scene already had a clear idea the musical path upon which he was about to embark.
The album, which many describe as a bi-product of the success of his 2018 smash hit This Is Nigeria is also a Fela-inspired project that sampled some parts of his classics and saw Falz taking his lyricism to loftier heights by tackling socio-political issues like insecurity, wanton loss of lives, election malpractice and general maleficence that have engulfed the land. The sound on the project was cohesive, compact and conscious and the absence of any guest rap verses gave Falz enough room to express himself adequately enough.
The album has been heralded as his best work till date and has equally received glowing reviews from reputable media platforms, most notably the 2019 Headies which declared it as the Best Rap Album Of the Year.
Though not as abrasive and imposing as Eedris Abdulkareem, Falz combined relevant elements of the ills of the Nigerian society to create an album that bears a cultural, social and political significance to this generation of young millennials, just like Jaga Jaga did 15 years ago.
- Follow Follow
- After All Said And Done