The Lagos Review Top 100 Afrobeats Songs of 2021

Part 3 of 4

This is Week 3 of our continuing countdown of the best afrobeats songs from Nigeria in 2021. Many thanks to our contributors: Ayodele Ibiyemi, Emmanuel Daraloye, Fatiat Saliu, Jerry Chiemeke and Udochukwu Ikwuagwu.

50. Joeboy, “Sip (Alcohol)”

Alcohol is a recurring motif in Joeboy’s work, if his hugely successful song, “Focus” and its didactic video is to be reckoned with. On “Sip”, we return to the theme of escape and alcohol, the preferred beverage, is anaesthetic to bad things, and who dances more vigorously than an inebriated person? Tempoe’s production is at the cusp of hypnosis and finds chemistry in Joeboy’s suggestive vocals—it is a win for both of them. And the breweries too. DA

  1. MohBad, “Feel Good” 

Building on the success of his previous Amapiano record, “KPK”, MohBad dropped his Niphkeys-produced single, “Feel Good”. As the title suggests, the song is a feel-good anthem. MohBad skillfully interpolates lyrics from James Brown’s “I Got You” while spitting brilliant lines such as “májẹ́ kọ́n mú mi even if na die minute (sic)” and infusing humour to balance the sombre, hard lines of struggles, pain, poverty (sapa) and come-up in Ikorodu. UI


  1. Oladapo, “Alone”

Produced by P.Priime, Oladapo’s “Alone” is sonic genius. Oladapo, an Afro-fusion artist, croons about wanting the lady he fancies all to himself and is willing to do whatever it takes — including buying her everything she wants — to have her. Although the theme of mutual exclusivity in transactional relationships has become trite in contemporary pop, Oladapo is skilled enough to add his own twist to it.  FS


  1. Peruzzi featuring Fireboy DML, “Southy Love”

What Nigerian musicians get up to in their studios will one day be the stuff of a Luc Sante-type think piece – or how else could we account for the neologism “Southy Love”. My guess is that, in the beginning, there was an Amapiano vibe for the songwriting duo of Peruzzi and Fireboy, who decided on a mellow crooning exercise about physical longing in the context of romance. No player outshines the other here and there are no explosive moments, just a linear constancy, the stuff of earworms, and ultimately, an exercise in syrupy crooning about love and other demands.  DA


  1. Basket Mouth featuring Oxlade and Show Dem Camp, “Myself”

Veteran comedian, Basket Mouth, seems to have finally stamped his name in the music industry with the release of his executively-produced contemporary highlife album, “Yabasi”. “Myself”, the lead single off the project, enunciates the live-and-let-live mantra, caution against reckless lifestyle; it also celebrates life in a chaotic society like ours. The new school palmwine music promoters, Show Dem Camp, delivered two warm verses to accompany Oxlade’s melodic hook. ED


  1. Burna Boy featuring Polo G, “Want It All” 

Despite standing twice as tall on his wealth, awards, including the Grammys, luxury clothes, jewellery, cars, and glories of a successful life, Burna Boy still wants more. On “Want it All”, his hip-hop credentials are laid bare on the guitar-driven, trap record as he gets emotional, telling the story of his come-up, hometown glory and accolades. Produced by Smoke Ono, Chance the Rapper’s frequent collaborator, “Want it All” features Polo G, who adds his brief melodic rap to the record. UI


  1. Omah Lay, “Can’t Relate”

Perhaps Omah Lay’s pivot to stardom was one of the unexpected things 2020 gifted us, alongside the COVID-19 virus and the lockdown. After releasing his debut project, “Get Layd”, which did excellent on the charts and on the streets as well, he released his sophomore EP, “What Have We Done” months later. He relayed that the project was borne out of the unexpected turn his life took after his project’s release and the events following it. “Can’t Relate” aptly describes the life of an artist after an instant explosion to fame. He sings about how designer shoes and luxury clothes have replaced a certain stability that came with anonymity. Nobody can relate to Omah Lay’s feelings and it can be quite lonely at the top. FS


  1. AV, “Big Thug Boys”

Adindu Victor, better known as AV, earned much vaunted attention with his unexpected hit, “Big Thug Boys”. It is a lot of myth-making with tongue-in-cheek humour including a sexist aphorism about divesting panties—but this hardly sheds the song of good faith. Produced by Kulboy with the debt of a bass line from Del B-produced Wizkid’s “On Top Your Matter”, we anticipate heftier hits from AV, the officially praise singer of the enigmatic “Big Thug Boys”. DA


  1. Troniq Music, Oxlade “Ojuju”

DJ Coublon delivers a lush shuffle to which Oxlade layers his silky vocals calling up a Nollywood popularised scary figure, Ojuju Calabar, as a metaphor for the phobia of falling in love. Is love such a precarious thing? The answer, if there is, is that once a man or woman begins to contemplate if they are indeed in love, they may have gone past the point of no return. DA


  1. Joeboy, “Show Me”

Joeboy is a certified hitmaker, and his debut album, “Somewhere between Beauty & Magic”, proves this. Despite the heavy engineering on SBBM towards scoring radio hits and huge streaming numbers, “Show Me” succeeds in sounding genuine. In his boy-never-gets-the-girl, inexperienced lover persona, Joeboy tries lucklessly to woo another love interest. Interestingly, the beauty of “Show Me” lies between the mellifluous lyrics and bare production, translating to the TikTok song of the year. UI


40. Wizkid featuring Buju, “Mood”

“Made in Lagos” had already made an impression as Nigeria’s quintessential modern pop record, but Wizkid still wanted to make more music, so he invited the high-flying Buju for a studio session. “Mood”, one of the four tracks that made it to the album’s deluxe edition, is a song that dwells on wine, jiggly backsides and night-time lust. Amidst a supplicatory tenor, Buju expresses his desire for someone to “cool his stress”, and when Wizkid says “when you wake up/then you splash it on me”, he creates a mental image of orgasming that is as graphic as it gets. JC


  1. Peruzzi, “Murda”

“Rum and Boogie”, the 20-track LP, is Peruzzi’s fourth project since his introduction to the Nigerian music scene in 2018. The long-awaited album which had its release date shifted on multiple occasions because of extraneous circumstances was definitely worth the wait. “Murda” was the first song the audience assimilated because of its relatable lyrics. The catchphrase, “belly fat, leave it like that” was immediately adapted by the general public and even promoted by Peruzzi himself. The lyrics preach self-love and acceptance regardless of apparent physical flaws. It’s definitely one of Peruzzi’s better compositions. Tapping into current trends and spreading a positive message can never go wrong. FS


  1. Tiwa Savage featuring Brandy, “Somebody’s Son”

It has been an interesting year for Tiwa Savage, whose “Water & Garri” EP notches up her musical trajectory as the perfect alchemy of Afrobeats frolicking with 90s R&B. She resurrects nostalgia here by bringing the Queen of that era, the ageless Brandy, for a duet and making her sing a love song in Yoruba. It is a song about hope, more than it is about love. DA

  1. Guchi, “Jennifer”  

“You say you got me/But I know say you dey lie with that look in your eyes/Stop acting funny/Shey you no dey pick my call/I don call you ten times,” Guchi sings the opening lyrics on smash hit “Jennifer”, which has become soundtrack for social media videos featuring heartbroken women. The rise of Guchi’s “Jennifer” is interesting and another thesis on virality of songs, catchphrases and pop culture moments in this Tik-Tok-curated era. But before then, the delivery of the song must be applauded especially in the current amapiano-driven pop market. UI


  1. Lojay & Sarz, “Tonongo”

One of the jewels 2021 brought us is Lojay, the crooner with ethereal vocals and amazing song-writing. Legend has it that Lojay approached Sarz, in awe of his talent, and wanted to make a song together but Sarz gifted him a whole EP. Tonongo is the lead single off their collaborative EP, “LV N ATTN”, and it is undoubtedly orgasmic. The subject of the song is a dancer Lojay was opportune to watch in a popular strip club in Lagos, and the way he appraises her skill is unrivalled. Sarz delivers over and beyond in the production, and it results in a brilliant composition. FS 


  1. Dunsin Oyekan, “Yah”

Yah is the shortened form of the Hebrew name for God and who else would title their song “Yah” if not Dunsin Oyekan whose music is premised on encounters and conversations with God. Oyekan has stamped his feet as a minister of the gospel and while he might not qualify to be called a pioneer in the subgenre of gospel music that he sings, he is one of the frontrunners. The subgenre, a relatively recent phenomenon, features Pentecostal ministers who intersperse their songs with singing in unknown tongues. Another attribute of most his songs adopted in “Yah” is the call and response, which he seems to have perfected. The song repeats lyrics many times but Oyekan’s boisterous nature and the heavy percussion cover for it. Not quite Afrobeats but it does it for us mostly on Sunday mornings. AI

  1. Dai Verse, “Your Body (Cocaine)” 

Asides the puzzling title of his breakout hit, Dai Verse’s “Cocaine” works as a delicious mood shifter. Just two years shy of professional music experience, Dai Verse has registered his name as a potent songwriter with “Cocaine”. Even though little is known of the artist, as he buries his face behind hats and ski masks, perhaps a resolve against celebrity lifestyle, his art has finally become known. From “Cocaine”, three things are obvious: Dai Verse’s adroit use of the psychedelic substance as metaphor for love, his love for wordplays and double entendres, and an undeniable damn good voice. UI


  1. Tems, “Crazy Tings”

2021 has been a whirlwind for Temilade Openiyi, professionally known as Tems. Delivering an enchanting hook on the biggest hit of the year has changed everything, and from appearing in alternative playlists, she now performs on NPR’s Tiny Desk. “Crazy Tings”, the lead single off her sophomore EP, “If Orange was a Place”, sees Tems reflect on fading romance, self-discovery and moving on from lovers who revel in gaslighting. Tems’ high-pitched alto registers seamlessly, but it is the drums that do the magic on this track produced by the experimental Guiltybeatz. Surely, featuring in a Drake album is no fluke. JC

  1. Ayra Starr, “In Between” 

Ayra Starr’s youth may trick many to disregard her most potent feature: her dark, visceral thoughts, which she explores on “In Between”. On the song, she’s exhausted as she utters in French: Je suis fatigué. Even though she’s not suicidal, she’s admitted to being depressed. The beauty of “In Between” is that it offers a connection to those battling depression. (If you need someone to speak to, please call – LUTH Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative: 09080217555, 09034400009, 08111909909, 07013811143; Lagos suicide prevention and counselling: 08058820777, 09030000741; Nigeria Suicide Prevention Initiative: 08062106493, 08092106493; Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative: 08091116264, 08111680686). UI

  1. Brymo, “kàn Mi Ti F́ Ẃẃ” 

Regardless of Brymo’s proclivity for Bohemian lifestyle, he continues to profess love from a broken heart. On “Ọkàn Mi Ti Fọ́ Wẹ́wẹ́”, off his latest double album, he agonises on the fleeting nature of romance and impracticability of monogamy. Brymo’s traditional views are often in conflict with his cosmopolitan lifestyle – the lifestyle of the average Lagos boy; these contradictions show up on the referenced song. Piano-driven “Ọkàn Mi Ti Fọ́ Wẹ́wẹ́”, the more expansive prose of his “I Don’t Have a Heart” song, confirms the linguistic hypothesis that some meanings are obscured when we translate words to English. UI

  1. Buju, “Outside”

It is on features that Daniel Benson, professionally known as Buju, has mostly thrived in 2021, earning him the nickname Captain Hook. But his solo efforts are further proof that he is no pushover. The BlaiseBeatz-produced “Outside”, a 191-second-long track that dwells on hard work and the need to avoid distractions, has the 24-year-old hand in falsettos that make for pleasant listening. Keys and acoustic blend nicely on this one, and the positive reception that this song has enjoyed is a testament to Buju’s vocal dexterity. JC


  1. Ayra Starr, “Bloody Samaritan”

Music journalists would often define young artists as fast rising even though it might not fit. For Ayra Starr, the label is apt, evidenced in the virality of “Bloody Samaritan”. “Bloody Samaritan” leads with a saxophone solo before quickly segueing into the song’s theme of resolve against detractors in a sexist, carnivorous industry. “Bloody Samaritan” fascinates in the deft delivery of accessible lyrics in English and Pidgin over persuasive percussion and horns. AI

  1. CKay, “Felony”

It has been three years since Chukwuka Ezeani, best known to Nigerian music listeners as CKay, sampled a Distruction Boyz beat while dancing around caravans and repetitively yelling about the arrival of a “Container”. These days, he is more expressive about his love for women than his love for bank notes, and a record deal with Warner Music has brought about some artistic rebranding for the 25-year-old, which extends to fashion choices. He puts his alto to work on “Felony”, a love-themed ditty, off “Boyfriend” EP, replete with onomatopoeic lyrics like “your love dey make me jogodo/the love dey burst my bololo/my heart dance Awilo”. In a country whose citizens are streaming-shy, 2.4 million views in its 6 months is not the worst of returns for a pop song that preaches the gospel of being lovestruck. JC

  1. Blaqbonez featuring Amaarae and Buju, “Bling”

Blaqbonez might not have forgiven his ex-lovers for his pain and agony but he has sublimated those experiences to curate one of the standout projects for the year, “Sex over Love”. “Bling”, a pre-release single, chronicles one of those not-too-cool experiences with females. With input from singer Buju and fusionist, Amaarae, you may slow whine with your lovers or friends while listening, but you will do well to be careful and follow Blaqbonez’s edict: sex over love. ED


  1. Zinoleesky, “Kilofeshe”

With the stunning acoustic reverb of Amapiano lurking in his recent works, Marlian records’ multi-coloured boy, Zinoleesky, adds yet another win to his unbeatable streak of popping records. Even his boss, Naira Marley, should be envious. When he says he is doing extraordinary things, he is not only consolidating on his wins in the studio booth, but also delivering yet another hit for his teeming fans, this reviewer inclusive. DA

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