12 Great Afrobeats Songs of 2020’s First Half – Dami Ajayi

The first half of every year is a relatively quiescent period for Afrobeats.

Even worse for 2020, a leap year that has gifted us with the Covid-19 catastrophe.

The music industry has, mostly, floundered in the first half of this year. Perhaps lull is a preferred adjective, but what is most telling is that music has been released with measured ease.

Of course, the frenzy is already catching. Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy, the reigning trio of Afrobeats are poised to drop new work. The singles are also trickling in.

To look past the realms of what is popular to the idiosyncratic, find some of the songs that have remained on my playlist.

Omah Lay’s “You

Afrobeats did not imagine another Port-Harcourt Wunderkind so soon after Burna Boy but Omah Lay is cut with similar finesse plus musical pedigree—his grandfather was Celestine Ukwu’s Akatapo! Producer, singer and songwriter are three strikes that will make both Burna and Mr 2Kay marvel; “You” is that infectious raga love song that predates the dancehall of a creaking bed.

LadiPoe and Simi,” Know You

Who has more successful love duets than Simi?

LadiPoe may have asked this question before he teamed up with the now puerperal chanteuse. What they achieve with “Know You” is a pleasing love song and gambit for future affection. With a crisp music video with catchy colours and good acting, we hardly miss Simi. Poe finally scored a major hit, two years after releasing his masterly debut, Talk about Poe.

Wande Coal, “Again

He came to us first with a love song, Ololufe and the realm of affection is a place he always returns to. His song-writing is often at par and unperturbed by tempo but when Wande Coal decides to slow his sound down, the love song slaps different, like it does on “Again”.

DJ Neptune, Mr Eazi, Joeboy  “Nobody

Veteran Cobhams Asuquo did some fun studio piano work and harmonising on the repetitive chorus of this song but we all know the beauty is in the bridge. This song is about love, brio and boastfulness. The Micheal Jackson themed video is a delight as well and Joeboy continues to ascend atop the shoulder of Mr Eazi, even on this DJ Neptune ditty.

Simi,” Duduke

Pregnancy will never be the same after “Duduke.”

I already wrote an essay about Simi’s modern ode to motherhood. Simi brings the power of her songwriting to her  personal experience and what results is universal in its appeal. Oscar’s production is impeccable but would have been immaculate with some steer pedal guitar flourishes.

Adekunle Gold, Something “Different

The rebranding of Adekunle Gold as AG Baby is a warm career delight, especially when we reflect on the personal changes that is also ongoing. Simi’s songwriting comes through in this mid-tempo ditty about cunning lovers. Special thanks to Klever Jay who gifted us with the phrase, koni, which has come to stay in the Afrobeats lexicon.

Mayorkun, Davido, “Betty Butter

On steady repeat, Mayorkun delivers a delightful number about the eponymous Betty Butter, who in the music video is that femme fatale, who slays. Small girl, big god notwithstanding, the beautiful video vixen and summery ambience gives this humorous song the infectious touch about the cunning of women that has been sung about since Rex Lawson did “Angelina”!

A-Q, “Eggrolls

A-Q, the most hard-working rapper in Nigeria, released  his latest joint, God’s Engineering. “Eggrolls” matches the nostalgia of farting from consuming eggs with the nostalgia of being too broke to afford to buy eggrolls.

Eggrolls, sadly, have not endured as a form of pastry. Did not make into the small chops ensemble but remains a delight for the working class. A-Q delivers a song heavy on nostalgia with a light touch and hefty message.

Bad Boy Timz, Mayorkun, “MJ Remix

The ghost of Micheal Jackson will always abide with Afrobeats. Since Remedies stole Sakomo from MC Lyte’s “Keep on Keeping on” which was filched from Micheal Jackson’s “Liberian Girl”.

Newcomer Badboy Timz should be forever grateful to Semzi Beatz whose production is a top-notch party-disrupting dynamite. Mayorkun’s assists on the remix does not diffuse the charm of the original, but hopefully Bad Boy Timz will be bad enough to follow this up with another winner post-Covid 19.

Chike, “Roju

The confidence Chike brings to this love song imbues it with that Igbo highlife swag that will make Flavour happy. Forget that Chike is incorrigible with his titles and forgive his obsession with the word ‘boo’ but give him the respect of a fine singer and affecting song-writer.

Oxlade, “Away

Oxlade scored his first massive hit on this song and the video is such a summery delight about love and its reckless pursuit (read elopement) . Shot in a West African location with a retro-feel replete with a 1982 Volkswagen Beetle as get-away car, Oxlade’s song writing snakes around the quick tempo and the repetitive “Away” is near hypnotic, or as the woke will say, all vibes

Master KG, Burna Boy, “Jerusalema

Regardless of Covid, this ditty has made a pilgrim of us all. Heavy on percussion and clap reverb and that repetitive word that Nigerians have taken to mean Bode Thomas, bringing Burna Boy to this song only assures that it is a hit for the Nigerian market. Sadly Covid-19 means the gwara gwara response has got be indoors.

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