Best 50 Nigerian Albums of 2020

Words by: Dami Ajayi (DA), Udochukwu Ikwuagwu (UI), Ayodele Ibiyemi (AI), Jerry Chiemeke (JC).

2020, a difficult year by every standard, has been an extraordinary one for Nigerian music.

With an excess of 100 albums, both LPs and EPs, released, it speaks to the tenacity, growth and resilience of our musicians, who were steady working (instead of touring), making memorable music.

The Lagos Review has chosen to bring attention to these artists by highlighting their works. Trust us when we say it was an exhausting procedure, from conception to execution. It involved a cohort of fine music journalists who have listened to albums through the year. We had to speak for albums that we felt deserved these coveted spots and then we had to put our pen in service of how their music made us feel.

Beyond the scope of the reigning afrobeats and dance music in general, we had to deploy our trawlers in the direction of other genres. We had to look beyond popular music and venture also towards the indie circuits and the underground. Our intention was to cover the entire creative economy of our musicians to the best of our ability.

As with lists, there is consequently, a forgone alternative and this is an inevitable limitation. Honourable mentions to albums like 9ice’s ‘Tip of the Iceberg’, Yemi Alade’s ‘Empress’, Harrysong’s ‘Right About Now’, Sarz’s ‘The Sarz Academy’ and PayBac iBoro’s ‘Cult’ for being impressive projects but sadly, they didn’t make our final cut. 

We present to you, the TLR Top 50 Nigerian Albums of 2020.

Enjoy!

50. Lil Kesh, Ecstasy

Barring a few features, the past thirty-six months has been fairly devoid of meaningful activity from the former YBNL prodigy. The chart-topping days of “Gbese” and “Efejoku” were long gone, and people seemed to have moved on from the Bariga-born rapper who once churned out “hits from back to back”.

This eight-track EP was supposed to mark a triumphant return (or at least a reminder of brilliance) for the 25-year old, but “YAGI Level” seemed to be the only track that came close to providing the sonic appeal that accompanied his debut album. There was a struggle for chemistry with Naira Marley on “Opor”, the collaboration with Fireboy failed to provide any real spark, and there was hardly any elegance on “Agbani Darego”. JC

49. Terri, Afro Series 

He is best known for his contribution to two songs composed by his label mate Wizkid (“Soco” and Roma”), but it is easy to forget that Starboy prodigy, Terri, also put out a 7-track EP this year. Afro Series is testament to the freshness of Terri’s sound. “Ojoro” is sure to cause feet-shuffling, and “Kill Man” is a dance anthem reminiscent of “Joro”. He is quickly finding his own rhythm and voice, and if he matches his uniqueness with some consistency, he could potentially be one of Nigeria’s biggest acts in the near future. JC

48. Isaac Geralds, Love And Heartbreak

Doused in r&b and afrobeats, this 10-track LP reflects on first-time attraction, talking stages and fading romance. Rappers Ladipoe and Eva Alordiah offer assistance on “Cross Your Mind”, Sound Sultan joins the wailing on “Mixed Feelings” (which samples Odunsi’s lyrics in “Desire”), “Ijebu Girl” is a hilarious take on being lovestruck, and Tiwa Savage shows up for a duet on post-breakup ballad “Just In Case”. For some reason, Geralds’ personality fails to rub off on this project. The vocalisation seems restrained, and the production is dodgy for a huge stretch. It’s not the worst debut, but if Geralds is going to break into the industry, there is some more work to be done. JC

47. Laycon, Who is Laycon?

Big Brother Naija winner Laycon released this body of work months before his victory. Long before his participation in the show, he had been aware of the roles that fans play in celebrity culture and it is not surprising that he won the show eventually. Singing, rapping and even just talking, Laycon maximises the production and panders to Nigeria’s fandom culture. A bit of humble bragging and safe braggadocio, the songwriting aims to please listeners. ‘Fierce’ which has Chinko Ekun and Reminisce as guest rappers is a manifesto, an anthem of sorts for Laycon and his fans, an attempt to court listeners and build a fanbase. While this is a modest album, assisted by the BBN fame, Laycon has more to do to assert himself in a fast paced industry. AI 

46. Moelogo, ME 

It’s interesting that Moelogo’s finest moments in 2020 were shared on Tiwa Savage’s Celia album with songs, “Üs (Interlude)”, “FWMM” and “Celia’s Song”, and not on his fourth EP, ME. Regardless of the irony of not populating a project named after a first person pronoun with intimate records, ME shows a part of Moelogo previously not fully explored. Moelogo samples elements of juju music on tracks such as “Koshi” and “I Wonder”, following in the steps on his 2016 record, “Penkele”. UI

45. Flavour, Flavour of Africa

Grandiose title notwithstanding, Flavour offers his seventh album rather late in the year as if assured that it will be the soundtrack of our first Covid Igbo Xmas. His methods haven’t changed since his third joint, Blessed, but his technique has endured refinement and his themes, perennial recycling. Highlife remains his lodestone, updated with top-notch productions; Masterkraft, being one of the usual suspects. As usual, there are party songs, prurient sampling of evergreen highlife songs, the mandatory gospel song, that song composed to endear Igbo patrons and engender Igbo pride and numerous songs about quivering female buttocks. Flavour’s victory is that he almost succeeds every time. DA

44. Temmie Ovwasa, E Be Like Say Dem Swear For Me

Temmie Ovwasa’s stint with YBNL may not have been the most productive from a commercial point of view, but their talent was never in doubt. Their debut album, whose title makes for curious reading, feels like an unleashing of pent-up emotion, garbed with the flavour of art.In their first time out, Temmie Ovwasa chronicles a journey that dwells on mental health, sexuality, industry politics and identity. The production is gritty, but their penmanship is sublime, and from a songwriter’s perspective, this is one of the better albums of the year. JC 

43. Protek Illasheva, Counter Culture

On this album, Protek, formerly of Rooftop Clan, takes an alternative commentary on contemporary matters outside the walls of the church, infusing pop culture references into his lyrics. Contemporary rappers, Vector and M.I. Abaga, are cast on this project for a balanced perspective on the gospel – after all, Vector and M.I. Abaga began music in the church. On Counter Culture, Protek shows vulnerability (“I Need You”), expresses identity (“Life of God”, “Identity”, “Jesus is Real”) while seeking love (“I Gat Love”) and flexing his hip hop credentials (“No Hook”). UI

42. Mercy Chinwo, Satisfied 

In the year that the biggest songs out of Africa, “Jerusalema” and “Way Maker”, were gospel records, Mercy Chinwo was the face of the genre, releasing videos of popular numbers, “Obinasom”, “Akamdinelu” and “Na You Dey Reign”, off her sophomore album Satisfied, topping YouTube music/video charts. On Satisfied, Mercy Chinwo sticks to piano-driven anthems complimenting her vocals, with “Obinasom” serving as anchor of the album. The abundance of crossover hits on this project are evidenced in the usage of its songs as caller tunes and music for adverts, Snaps, InstaStories and street activation campaigns. UI

41. Etuk Ubong, Africa Today 

Etuk Ubong’s sophomore album, Africa Today, recorded by exclusive invitation from the Dreamers Label, is a worthy addition to the Afrobeat tradition. Although he insists on calling his brand of music, Earth music, the shining principle of Afrobeat abides with this album in the similar way Jazz did with his first album. The music is terse and sharp; his lyrics incendiary and vitriolic. A litany of complaints about what Africa and Nigeria today is but masterfully conceived with an irresistible groove, Fela would have been exceedingly proud. DA (read full review here)

40. Odunsi, Everything You Heard Is True

20 months of little activity and inconsistency meant that by the time Odunsi released this 7-track EP, the momentum gained from the well-received LP Rare had evaporated. With a listening time of just about 14 minutes, “Everything You Heard Is True” has the alte proponent experimenting with sounds while offering listeners a tour of his intimate side. “Wicked Sexy” would fit into a Tik Tok challenge, and “Body Count” is a tribute to middleclass millennial hedonism. Per themes, it continues from where “Alte Cruise” left off, and runs like the final lap of a slumber party. When it comes to churning out music like this, you find that aesthetics, ultimately, can only do so much. JC (read DA’s full review here)

39. Reminisce, Vibes & Insha Allah

Recorded during the lockdown, Reminisce’s fifth project, Vibes & Insha Allah, arrives on the wings of breezy Fireboy DML-assisted “Ogaranya”. Vibes refers to a nonchalant attitude popularised on Twitter and attributed to the response of Nigerian government to social and economic issues. However, Reminisce isn’t focused on politics. “Jogodo”, the highpoint of the EP, offers the sole political commentary while touching on “many, many things” which surprisingly an inebriated Reminisce succinctly describes. Vibes  pales in comparison to his past records but “Gbedu”, with a “Jeun K’oku” sample, stands out. UI

38. Davolee, Festival Bar

Success isn’t served a la carte; ditto for failure. Twenty-five year-old Davolee’s career has been filled with bumps and some glories, starting with his attention-grabbing verse on Olamide’s “Pepper Dem Gang”. “Festival Bar”, a damn good narrative taking listeners through his troubles as a waiter at a certain Mama Gee’s bar at Governor’s Road, Ikotun, Lagos followed. We were taken by Davolee’s powerful story as he encapsulates the Nigerian workplace where both employer and employee devise tactics to exploit each other. Festival EP follows his career as he raps about his experience with potential employers/investors and fans. The 4-part EP summarises the Isolo-bred emcee’’s manifesto to the music industry. Hopefully, he has our attention much longer than telling his life story in a pop-centric, vain world. UI

37. Omah Lay, What Have We Done

Basking in the euphoria of mainstream recognition and the positive reception of his debut EP Get Layd, Omah Lay released a second, perhaps to sustain the momentum. Songs like “Godly” and “Can’t Relate” have him acknowledging the perks of new-found fame, and his hit single “Damn” gets the remix treatment with the assistance of U.S R n’ B star 6lack. This record lacks the verve of its predecessor, but it shows how measured and more comfortable Omah Lay is with his sound, and if Get Layd was the main course, then What Have We Done is a fairly decent dessert.  JC

36. Praiz, To the Moon

 Praiz’s sex appeal is not only a consequence of his well-chiseled torso; his sultry voice also plays a role. Ignoring the ironies and possibilities of not scoring hits on this project, Praiz enlists friends for his sex playlist. To the Moon EP is a collection of bedroom ballads and mood-shifters with the eponymous track featuring the raw emotions of Praiz  and Kingxn. Praiz shouldn’t be taken to be a two-minute man despite the double entendre on his previous EP as he offers lovers a sixteen-minute ride into euphoria on this project. UI 

35. Cheque, Razor 

Prophets aren’t fancied in their hometowns, but Cheque has other ideas when he sings, “they gon’ love me now in my hometown”. Trap drums laid the tracks for Cheque’s journey from Ondo to Nigeria superstardom on hit track, “Zoom”. For Cheque, born Akanbi Bamidele Brett, Razor EP is to display his versatility, criss-crossing genres of afropop, trap and r&b. At times, the music sounds alien to the zeitgeist, especially when he intones like Roddy Ricch on whirling “Hollywood”. But afropop has a wide berth to accommodate even outliers like Cheque. UI

34. K1 De Ultimate, Fuji The Sound

Fuji The Sound is as authoritative as a title can get and the songs back this up in true K1 fashion. It is an attempt at mainstreaming Fuji music while departing from the traditional Fuji sound. For a genre that is now over 50 years old, this pop feel to a Fuji titled album is a sign of maturation. K1’s voice in the album is also raw and this shows the indubitability of his legacy. Drawing from old tunes and collaborating with modern pop artists, the EP is memorable. It feels like a follow up to his coronation as the Mayegun of Yorubaland months earlier. AI

33. Umu Obiligbo, Signature (Ife Chukwu Kwulu)

This dynamic duo is special because singing groups are becoming rare in the country but the album is also special because of its effort at mainstreaming Igbo highlife music. The songs in this album are relatable for a lot of people and they break barriers that native language songs often have by appealing to audiences across cultures. The ten songs on the album have all the trappings of Igbo highlife music; money, mainstream philosophy and dance. The tradition of patronage is also perpetuated in many of the songs. There is purity in the overall production efforts and all the instruments are clear, like it is a live performance. This album makes Umu Obiligbo’s live performances desirable. AI

32. Oxlade, Oxygene

Oxygene is a thoroughly enjoyable one and it has a generally warm feel to it. With Moelogo as the only featured artist, Oxlade is insisting that he is good on his own. However, he has no point to prove because he is already one of the stars of his generation. ‘Away’ is a notable track and it is deservedly acclaimed. It is a formula for vibe music, a likable song. It is so good that one would easily forget its weak lyrics. The album proves that Oxlade can do well with many genres and there is coherence in the overall album. The EP is good and it is just a slice of what Oxlade is capable of. It does exactly what an EP is supposed to do: raise expectations and make listeners want more. AI

31. Wurld, Afrosoul

A year ago Wurld teamed up with veteran producer Sarz to create I Love Girls With Trobul, but this time the blue-haired crooner does it alone, crafting a 7-track project with production input from the fast-rising Tempoe. “National Anthem” is a toast to success, “Story” is a relatable love ballad, “Ghost Town” acknowledges the struggles that come with getting by, and “Can’t Come Outside” reflects on long-distance relationships. This body of work is as cohesive as it gets, and with heavy reliance on percussion as well as honeyed vocals, Wurld succeeds in creating a nocturnal playlist that is as memorable as it is listenable.   JC

30. Wande Coal, Realms

Six years since his last project, afropop’s finest crooner, Wande Coal, named for his jetblack complexion, lends his vocal cords to the Realms EP. This project holds no anxiety about pop or mainstream, every track reminds us of Mr Coal’s ability to turn a love song into a dance ditty. The duty of his enthralled listener is to follow the unpredictable calisthenics of his assured vocal performance. This EP opens strong with the verified classic, ‘Again’, the sultry declaratory love song and ends with the same song in a different iteration enhanced with a Wale rap verse. In between are gems like “Ode Lo Like”, “Naughty Girl” and “Vex” reminding us that Wande Coal could tease us from the couch to the dance floor but the bedroom is the final destination. DA

29. Blackmagic, Black Magic Version 3.0 (Starving Artist)

Five years after his acclaimed Version 2.0, Efemena Mukoro returns from a self-imposed hiatus with his quirky rap bars and a smooth alternative sound that has been all but hijacked by the swanky Lagos Island-lurking Alte collective. On Version 3.0, his sound may appear to have aged but not his music. He remains a vital progenitor of the alternative genre, bringing the cool of slow pun-filled rhymes to riveting synth and reverb-rich rhythms. He gets help from the phenomenal songbird Tems on the memorable ‘Soon’ and is credited alone on the chirpy but wise ditty, ‘No Need’.  DA (read DA’s full review here)

28. Niniola, Colours and Sounds

Few songs released in 2020 can compete with the brilliance and elegance of Niniola’s “Addicted”. Little wonder it was nominated for Best Vocal Performance (Female) at the 2020 Headies. Niniola’s Colours and Sounds, her sophomore album, blends her usual afro-house with r&b and afrobeat as she sings with a fuji lilt. While the music collates sounds, the accompanying videos are a collage of colours, paying homage to popstars of the nineties and early noughties (Missy Elliott on dance-ready “Look Like Me”; Obesere on high-energy “Omo Rapala”; Kollington Ayinla and his “Ijo Yoyo” dance on “Addicted”; Sir Shina Peters on the Femi Kuti-assisted “Fantasy”). However, Colours and Sounds tends to overindulge on a monotonous sound through its fifteen tracks. UI

27. Cuppy, Original Copy

Intense, edgy and confident, it is obvious that Cuppy poured herself into making her debut studio album. She was deliberate about every aspect and the star-studded album reflects a positive use of privilege. Original Copy is a symbol of her transition from DJ Cuppy to Cuppy, the musician even if her DJ roots still show up. At thirty minutes, the twelve tracks are short but they are long enough to prove to us that Cuppy is beyond just Florence Otedola, she is an ‘Original Copy.’ AI (read AI’s full review here)

26. Timaya, Gratitude 

Egberi Papa I has evolved from struggle tunes to sensual music. On his seventh album, Gratitude, Timaya comes into his own; he’s self-conscious and understands his position in the pop pantheon. “I know some artists wey we start, I hear them no more”, he sings on “Born to Win”. He continues, “Look around, turn around see, the grace for my life is so special”. It can be argued that Timaya’s longevity is based on his ability to reinvent himself. “Gratitude” is a mellow album with highlife and afrobeat infusion. “Chulo Bothers Nobody” and “I Can’t Kill Myself” are the anthems to welcome this phase of the 40-year-old Inetimi Timaya Odon. UI

25. Barry Jhay, Barry Back

Barry Jhay dedicates this album to his father. However, there is something confident and ambitious about his sound in this album. It combines the groovy nature of current pop music with the often serious nature of folk music, reminding us again of Fuji music.  Also, there are sprinkles of Christian music and ‘Ma sope’ reminds us of the now rested trend of dedicating a song to God in Nigerian albums. With a name and a voice that reminds us of Ayinde barrister, Barry Jhay has big shoes to fill. If he intends to fill his father’s big shoes, he has a long way to go even and this album is only a fairly decent start. AI (read UI’s full review here)

24. Mr Eazi, One Day You Will Understand

This EP features some artists from Mr Eazi’s mentorship program, Empawa Africa but the sound is Mr Eazi’s typical Banku style. The short length of the EP is not surprising and it is characteristic of Mr Eazi but the four songs have replay value. The songs are relaxed and Eazi’s laid-back swagger is obvious all through. With his heavy influence on other artists on the Empawa Africa imprint, he can use this EP model annually and his ideas would live forever. This is not a typical EP and perhaps this and other steps he takes is why he said we will understand him one day. AI

23. Korede Bello, Table for Two

Since his single “Godwin” blew, Mavin artist, Korede Bello, has had both industry highs and lows. He has been the object of scorn by critics who poked fun at him for his stale music. Korede Bello’s comeback, from the forgettable Belloved album, happens on the Table for Two EP. For instance, where salsa-inspired “Oh Baybe” failed on Belloved,  “Hey Baybe” offers superior songwriting on “Table for Two”. “Sun Momi” kickstarts his matured take on romance and what emotions can offer a twenty-something man or woman in this age of transactional relationships. Perhaps, washing your mind off the fleeting nature of love as told my Iya Taaooma to loverboy Korede will make you both a believer and a Bellover. UI

22. Kizz Daniel, King Of Love

With his record label and trademark struggles behind him, Kizz Daniel rolled out his third LP offering mid-2020. While there could have been a little more ingenuity with the title, there is still much to enjoy in this record. King Of Love gets off to a flyer with “Jaho”, and by “Yapa” the tempo drops, before things heat up again with “Chana” and the curtain draws with the humourous “Hook”. The novelty of Kizz Daniel’s sound is threatening to wear off, and the tracks lack the “unskippability” of No Bad Songz, but there are at least four hits here, and expect them to still feature at a few weddings.   JC

21. A-Q, God’s Engineering

Perhaps the most prolific rapper of his cohort, A-Q has stuck to the tradition of releasing an annual album. He extended that by releasing, The Live Report, a duet album with M.I Abaga this year. His solo album, God’s Engineering, is an endearment in service of his own description but this gifted wordsmith brings more than navel-gazing self-appraisal to the studio booth. He spends time reflecting on his dalliance with latter day fame while giving a generous dose of nostalgia about a Lagos Mainland middle-class childhood and a sassy song about zodiac femme fatales. DA (read DA’s full review here)

20. Pasuma, M.M.M

Not to be confused with the Ponzi scheme, Pasuma’s LP drives a certain level of consciousness while balancing the listeners’ ambitions with a pandemic’s reality. M.M.M, acronym for Money Making Machine, Oganla’s latest sobriquet, fits his serial metamorphosis as a popstar. 2020 wasn’t quite the year development experts predicted, but M.M.M cedes guidance to a higher power on ‘Adua’. Pasuma’s abiding trait has been retaining the Fuji essence, while pushing boundaries with infusion of contemporary sounds in his music. ‘Corona Virus”, celebrating life and death, examines the cycle of life. The question of why “Birthday Song” is a prelude to a perfect song for an imperfect world is what the 30-minute song delves into. Perhaps, moralising a pandemic could give us raison d’être, especially in a country rife with uncertainties. UI

19. Bella Shmurda, High Tension

 Bella Shmurda may have envisioned 2020 differently on “Vision 2020” but the year was indeed his year. “Vision 2020” launched him into the music industry with a remix featuring Olamide. Both mentor and mentee have something in common: both tried lucklessly with internet fraud, but succeeded with music supported by ID Cabasa. Fineboy Bella’s High Tension EP curates love, hope, exuberance and similarities between government and organised crime. Bylinks-produced “Upgrade” offers a peek into his mind: sex (commentary on sex industry), hope, navigating poverty and inflation, influences and homages (God, seniors in the industry). Either speaking on his coming of age and vicissitudes of life (entrancing “Ginger Me”), or touching existential questions (gospel-inspired “Omnipotent”) or matters of the heart (“Liquor”), Fineboy Bella’s words are important. UI

18. Tems, For Broken Ears Only

Tems is exceptional and this EP is a testimony to this. The entire twenty minutes proves again that she is not playing catch up with anyone. Her song-writing is reflective and light-hearted. The entire album feels like a sequel to her debut track, ‘Try me’ which is unforgettable and her style remains consistent. Although this EP shows a lot of promise, not many musicians can hold on to a single sound without slipping into monotony. Still, ‘For Broken Ears Only’ is a masterful combination of alté music, r & b and afrobeats. AI

17. Illbliss, Illy Chapo X

Veteran emcee, Illbliss’s 10th studio album, Illy Chapo X is easily one of his finest. Released smack in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic this album marks a more personal milestone coinciding with his 40th birth anniversary. His usual aesthetic triad of hard-hitting beats, clear enunciation and copious braggadocio spiced with Igbo words does not fail the album’s range of familiar themes. Miss Kedike may be missing from the ensemble but the love duets are competent with assists from Niniola and Yemi Alade. Illbliss’s contemplation of himself, his Igbo ethnicity and Nigeria, at large, is a competent addition to his own corpus and that Nigerian rap discography. DA (read DA’s full review here)

16. AQ and MI Abaga, The Live Report

When two of the best emcees in Africa collaborate on a project, you already have an instant classic in your hands. Like most successful collaborative projects, it is more of a complementary than competitive spirit which shines through on this EP which reflects topically on the Nigerian state and the plight of her citizens. Everything is touched upon from the 5G conspiracy theorists to faddish Pentecostal pastors with both poise and nuance. These street poets bring their consciousness pretty close to the mainstream and the contemporaneous on The Live Report. It is a timely and lively reflection and criticism of the now, a relevant consideration that probably took very little to achieve given their craftsmanship. DA (read DA’s full review here)

15. Fireboy DML, Apollo

The positive reception enjoyed by his debut album (Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps) meant that expectations in respect of Fireboy’s second full offering were always going to be heightened. This 17-track LP has him take the safe option of sticking to the boy-meets-girl narrative, albeit in a more sombre dimension. On this record, he appears more vulnerable than the self-assured bard from the year before. This body of work is not as imposing as its predecessor, and the production falls short, but his penmanship cannot be faulted, and he clearly knows how to tell a cohesive story.  JC (read JC’s full review here)

14. Patoranking, Three

With his third strike at the LP album, Patoranking brings his facility for spinning dancehall hits to joyful story-telling. Three is an apt but blatant title for this twelve tracks updating Patoranking’s discography with agile experimentation and fusion of dancehall with Afrobeats, Afrobeat and even Hip Life. Thematic rehashing from his previous albums notwithstanding Three’s best moment, ‘Abule’, delivers a party banger with robust myth-making destined for whining hips.  DA (read Patoranking’s full review here)

13. Qdot, Alagbe

‘Alagbe’ is part of QDot’s moniker so it is assumed that this eponymous naming is defining. The strength of the album lies in the varied genres as represented by the featured artistes but Qdot is at home with them all. QDot shows that folk music and afropop can work together smoothly and sticks to his culture of courting and praising his patrons. Rapping, singing, speaking in unknown tongues and referencing other songs, the album combines eclecticism with prolificacy. It is a syncretic body of work but it moves in too many directions for it to be tagged didactic. AI 

12. Simi, Restless II

Smack in the middle of the Covid pandemic, Simi gifted us with “Duduke”, a modern ode to motherhood. Inspired by her personal experience, she did not let motherhood deter her from releasing, Restless II, a delayed sequel to her first EP, is another good notch on Simi’s discography. Six tracks produced by frequent collaborator, Oscar and Sess, give us a dollop of the usual Simisola experience. Her quirky but mellifluous voice singing clear lyrics mostly about love and the shenanigans of romance. She features husband Adekunle Gold, yet on another fairly effectual duet. Perhaps it is time for these two songbirds to gift us with a duet album, like she did with Falz. DA

11. Brymo, Yellow 

Brymo’s most ambitious studio album yet, Yellow, was released to a flurry of passionate and polarised reviews. There are those who opine that Brymo’s songwriting in English on this project was somewhat disruptive and his indulgence in electronic music and easy listening genre is a bit too afield. And there are those who think Yellow is easily Brymo’s best outing. Regardless of where you edge your bets, Brymo’s assured gravelly tenor rendering stories of the dispossessed, is definitely one of the most unique experiences in Nigerian music. DA  (read DA’s full review here)

10. The Cavemen, Roots

Wailers’ Barrett brothers may have cracked the percussion-bassist combo first, but the Okorie brothers, better known as The Cavemen, are arguably the first siblings to deliver that vaunted earthy Igbo heartland variant of highlife. Roots has just enough grit and sass to update the joyless abandon of indulging in sensations, even in troubled times. Like Rex Lawson’s discography peppered with female names, the tracklist comprises tracks named for women like Ifeoma Odoo, Anita, Bena – perhaps fictional recipients of doting affection and frustration in equal parts. What the Cavemen achieve beyond recouping all the nostalgia of West Africa’s greatest dance music is to offer new contemporaneous directions for highlife. DA  (read DA’s full review here)

9. Chike, Boo of the Booless

This album is better appraised by ignoring the corny title but this does not take away from it as a classic R&B album. The soulful songwriting is lucid, yet deep enough for it to qualify as high art. It gained a lot of traction because of the timeliness of its Valentine’s Day release and its position as part of albums onboarding a new era in an industry earlier dominated by street music. With only three features from other male musicians, Boo of the Booless is a really good debut album and there has never been anything like it in the Nigerian Music Industry, it is bar-raising. AI  (read DA’s full review here)

8. Basketmouth, Yabasi

For the original soundtrack of his latest TV show Papa Benji, comedian and rapper Basketmouth curates an all-star collaborative album featuring the best rappers and singers the industry can boast of. The 10 track album produced exclusively by Duktor Sett courts a highlife tendency which fuses rather nicely and tangentially with other genres. The songs also possess a humorous flair with pithy aphorisms and naijaspeak that may be lost to an international audience but the delight of these songs will be to see how they complement the TV show which inspired them.  DA

7. Adekunle Gold, AfroPop

AG Baby shows why he is on a winning streak in this album. Without the PR efforts and accolades that others pursue, his 3rd album shows a musician who has now mastered his craft. It is an activation album marking his overall transition from Adekunle Gold to AG Baby. Perhaps the only thing that reminds us of his old persona is his storytelling, he attempts to define a new subgenre in this album and he is successful at it. The diverse influences are obvious and AG baby and his team are at their sonic and production best in this album. AI   

6. Davido, A Better Time 

Making another record barely twelve months after the release of A Good Time was not in Davido’s initial plans for 2020, but a COVID-influenced tour cancellation meant that there was enough studio time to build on the previous year’s success, and also try to improve on the shortcomings of his previous effort. With seventeen tracks and a diverse array of collaborators, the twenty-eight-year-old attempts to soothe listeners with a narrative that borders on love, lust and dance. There is less alienation and more cohesion compared to the last LP, but at certain points there is still cause to question the creative decisions that characterised the birthing of this album: while Nicki Minaj (“Holy Ground”) and Sho Madjozi (“I’ve Got A Friend”) blend in well enough, Sauti Sol (“On The Way”) and Lil Baby (“So Crazy”) simply don’t. There will be hits from this (Mayorkun pulls a virtuoso performance on “The Best”), and the songs are listenable (“Jowo” is wedding playlist material), but they lack the staying power required to make a body of work more immersive. JC

5. Wizkid, Made in Lagos

Wizkid’s elusive fourth album, Made in Lagos, appeared during the turbulent times of #EndSARS protest and further underscores the escapist aesthetic of Afrobeats. Rather than lull us into night clubs and shisha lounges, Wizkid’s Made in Lagos is a mid-tempo tonic of mostly mellow bedroom ballads. His smoky tenor lending itself mostly to repetitive loops of ad libs, Wizkid gets significant assists from accomplished singers all around the World. Made in Lagos owes most of its production credits to London-based P2J but the new sultry directions belong to Wizkid, who while courting physical intimacy, wants to remind us that the Afrobeats is proudly Nigerian and made in Lagos in principle. DA  (read DA’s full review here)

4. Tiwa Savage, Celia

Her personal life and politics have always been under scrutiny, but Tiwa Savage’s music, to a large extent, remains above reproach. There is a deliberateness which Savage put into her third studio album, from collaborations (Sam Smith, Davido, Stefflon Don, Naira Marley, Dice Ailes and Hamzaa lend their voices and pens) to the production input (Pheelz, Blaqjerzee, London, P2J and Speroach.) If the first half of the record was defined by upbeat Afropop, then the second half is tinged with sombre, post-breakup rhetoric marinated in R n B. The LP has its weaknesses – “Bombay” is a tepid joint that leaves much to be desired – but on this album named after her mother, Savage manages to tell a convincing love story while embracing her femininity at the same time.  JC  (read DA’s full review here)

3. Olamide, Carpe Diem

 Olamide’s gorgeous cover for Carpe Diem aligns with the scintillating and mellow music he offers. It triumphs where his experimental projects, trap-infusion 999 EP and fuji-flavoured Lagos Nawa! album, failed. “Triumphant” suggests why those projects may have failed: the successive loss of his parents weighed him down as he sunk into depression and drugs. Carpe Diem showcases his best songs in years, offering a joyous soundtrack to a difficult year. UI  (read DA’s full review here)

2. Omah Lay, Get Layd

Port Harcourt-born Afrofusion star Omah Lay made an impression with his debut single “You”, but it was this 5-track EP that consolidated the 23-year old’s claim to fame. Songs like “Damn”, “Bad Influence” and “Lo Lo” were as sonically adept as they were thematically endearing: a cluster of narratives around a suave bad boy always allures. There is hardly a wrong note on this EP, and it is the most impressive debut made by a Nigerian act in recent memory.  JC  (read DA’s full review here

1. Burna Boy, Twice as Tall

Burna Boy’s fifth album already puts him in the realms of its prophetic title, looming above his contemporaries, twice as tall with a second Grammys nomination under his belt. This optimism is somewhat dashed by the fact that this reprisal album is nominated within the same category but the accomplishment of Twice as Tall is that it summons vintage Burna Boy with widespread affectation for fusion and pop posturing. With Puff Daddy or P.Diddy or Love’s A & R input, we enjoy a Burna Boy album that replaces the grit of African Giant with the assuredness of an aspiring but inspired American popstar. DA  (read DA’s full review here)

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