The Lagos Review Top 100 Afrobeats Songs of 2021

Part 4 of 4

This is the final 25 of our countdown of the best afrobeats songs from Nigeria in 2021. Many thanks to our other contributors: Ayodele Ibiyemi, Emmanuel Daraloye, Fatiat Saliu, Jerry Chiemeke and Udochukwu Ikwuagwu.


  1. Flavour, “Levels” 

If it was ever in doubt that Igbos know how to party, that was cleared at the biggest pop culture event of the year when Obi Cubana buried his mother. To soundtrack that moment, Flavour and Masterkraft got into the studio to document for posterity on “Levels”. Following the template of “Doings” – his December 2020 hit – Flavour calls up fellow Anambrarian, Zubby Michael, reusing his catchphrases. Because, if it’s a hit, Flavour must be the curator. UI


  1. Obongjayar & Sarz, “Gone Girl”

With a vibe that sounds like it’s both futuristic and from the ‘90s, Obongjayar and Sarz have us in a chokehold with “Gone Girl”. In a surprisingly unique way, Obongjayar sings about his partner seemingly falling out of love with him. He’s heartbroken and forlorn, but we can’t help but dance because it’s a bop. The melody of “zombie, zombie, zombie…/gone girl, where did you go”, plagues us, in a good way, during the day and at night.  FS


  1. Burna Boy, “23”

Following his Grammy win, Burna Boy released “23” off “Twice as Tall” as a radio single. The basketball-themed video featured Burna channelling his greatness through the eyes of women. His feminocentric consideration isn’t the centre on “23”, however, though three women are pivotal to his success: his momanager – Bose Ogulu, his stylist – Ronami Ogulu, and his publicist – Bukola Sawyerr-Izeogu. “23” opens with sombre piano keys as OluwaBurna sings, “music make me feel I be Jordan”. Burna is self-aware as he addresses naysayers, “then come dey doubt am…no go do like say I don’t deserve am.” Media and fans have labelled him cocky and disrespectful to OGs perhaps his “34” song didn’t clear his position, doing another basketball-themed record – an ode to the GOAT – will ensure that they get the memo. UI


  1. Jaywillz, “Medicine”

Newcomer Jaywillz finds uses for his soothing vocals on “Medicine”, a cliché string of epithets that have never sounded more refreshing, reassuring and even convincing with his delivery. The serenade is effective perhaps because of the assured slow to mid-tempo and the subtle mumbling of a response to his insistent call. The hope is that Jaywillz has more lively love songs to belt out. DA


  1. Omah Lay, “Understand”

Afro-fusion wunderkind, Omah Lay’s “Understand” is the archetype of Afro-fusion. Layered on the track, his signature voice reflects a pained lover whose intention lies in heartbreak and not dance. Drilling on the theme, the cover art paints the singer in a comatose state drowning in a pool purportedly of love lost. He sings on the paradox of male-female relationships which highlife legend, Orlando Owoh, had earlier expressed in his reworking of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “No Woman Nuh Cry”. In his own thesis, he reimagines the paradox, singing “You make a boy sick and a boy well”. AI

  1. Fave, “Beautifully”


During the heat of the lockdown in 2020, Fave was the young girl who blessed our Twitter and Instagram timelines with freestyles we all thoroughly enjoyed. We watched as she built a brand and fanbase with her talent. In April 2020, she released “N.B.U” — birthed out of a freestyle she did on a Jinmi Abdul beat earlier in the year. That helped solidify her foundation in the music scene. “Beautifully” is her first track of 2021, and in it, she articulates her thoughts on love and how it makes her feel.  What is the concept that most attracts people, if not love? It instantly became a fan favourite, because who doesn’t want to tell their romantic partners about how their love makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside? FS


  1. Cheque featuring Fireboy DML, “History”

Nigerians love grass to grace stories and it is obvious in many tracks that are released. This collaboration between Superboy Cheque and Fireboy DML feels like something that should have happened long ago; the synchronisation between the two artists is almost unbelievable and the track is intelligently titled “History”. In spite of the boyish sound, the two artists prove themselves as masterful vocalists and the lyrics of the song follows a logical progression. The relationship between the two artists as former colleagues in school also strengthens the story behind the lyrics. AI


  1. Olamide featuring Omah Lay, “Infinity”

In retrospect, “Infinity” may be the finest moment on Olamide’s comeback album, “Carpe Diem”, and all thanks to Port Harcourt wunderkind, Omah Lay, who tendered one of the most articulate introductions on an Afrobeats song. His quatrain rhymes cucumber with Awilo Longomba, energising a risqué tune about the preferred duration of a sexual encounter: infinity. Olamide is calm, assured even, measuring up with competent bars, but we all know who the real celebrant is. DA


  1. Kizz Daniel, “Lie”

Produced by both Blaise Beatz and PhilKeyz, Kizz Daniel’s placeholder for 2021 is a cautionary love song about reassurance. This is timely; assurances haven’t aged well and if there is a need to reiterate affection, it is best to do so on a mid-tempo riddim with a grumbling bass line. It is vintage Vado, even if he hardly calls himself that anymore. Those who know his range understand how he turns mundane things into ear candies. DA


  1. Savage featuring Buju, “Confident”

“Confident” is exactly that. It is a pick-up line that starts with dutch courage and ends in confidence—but what is not quite clear is if the aim is achieved. But if the monologue’s tone and Tempoe’s thumping sound is taken seriously, one can confidently say that Buju made good, both as song persona and singer. DA

  1. Fireboy DML, “Peru”

Fireboy DML continues his impressive run with “Peru”, a song that has proven its ability to stay in the airwaves for long. If his talent was in doubt, “Peru” has shown how talented Fireboy is. His inventiveness with language is obvious in “Peru” and his reference to diverse things is commendable. The track rhymes ‘do’ in English with ‘dó’ in Yoruba and ‘jo si’ which means ‘dance to it’ in Yoruba with Jozi – such genius! Add an Ed Sheeran assisted remix and watch the renactment of an Essence effect. AI

  1. Reekado Banks, “Ozumba Mbadiwe”

Beat on by two top shot colleagues around the #EndSARS period, Reekado Banks needed this hit rather badly. It is top shelf, cool vibes, amapiano ditty referencing that popular VI street, Ozumba Mbadiwe, where that cursed toll gate rests, but it is really about protests and squabbles and how the battle is totally different from the war. Crisp music video too. DA


  1. Ruger, “Bounce”

Reminiscent of Baba Fryo, eyepatch-wearing Ruger and his dancehall tunes appeared months following the lockdown with his “Pandemic” EP. “Bounce”, the highlight of his debut project, projects to a bedroom rendezvous between a lover and his interest. Although Ruger, in typical Yorùbá demon fashion, wants his interest only for the night, this riddim is bound to continue for many trysts before the cock wakes the lovers up. Whether lovers for the night or lovers at night, Ruger’s “Bounce” makes the playlist. UI


  1. Vector featuring GoodGirl LA, “Early Momo”

On the road to the “Teslim” album, Vector dumbed down his hard punchlines for some mellow soul. “Early Momo” creates a perfect ambiance for lovemaking with input from chanteuse, GoodGirl LA; the song revolves around self-love with a dash of sex talk. It also shows the dynamism of Vector as an artist and it is another proof of GoodGirl LA’s unappreciated vocal range. ED


  1. Lojay and Sarz, “Monalisa”

When a musician wants to make a hit Afrobeats song, veteran producer Sarz is one of the surest people to work with. For Lojay, “Monalisa” is the product of that alliance. The song has become an integral part of the ongoing global renaissance of Afrobeats, alluding to the works of its eponymous forebear, Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece on Italian renaissance. Sarz’s presence is obvious throughout making it memorable. AI


  1. Omah Lay, “Godly”

Riding on the positive reception of his debut EP, Omah Lay released a 5-track follow-up record called, “What Have We Done”, with “Godly” as lead single. On the mid-tempo track, the 25-year-old acknowledges the perks of new-found fame, attributes his success to divine powers, and lets his audience in on his favourite liquor. With over 31 million streams on YouTube, it is clearly one of the more successful Nigerian singles of the last six months, and further proof that this suave bad boy from Port Harcourt clearly doesn’t know how to hit any wrong notes. JC


  1. DJ Kaywise featuring Phyno, “High Way”

DJ Kaywise, born Kehinde Okiki Ayorinde, has come a long way since fiddling with turntables at a pool party on the 2013 Dammy Krane song, “Hangover”. He has been involved in some of Nigeria’s infectious streethop tunes over the decade, but “High Way” is probably his biggest song yet. From Instagram to TikTok, this light-hearted collaboration with Phyno featured in viral social media videos throughout the first quarter of 2021. The Enugu-born rapper made a huge impression with a hypnotising hook and lyrics rendered in Igbo dialect, but it was Yung Willis’ production effort that caused this high-tempo track to stand out. “High Way” is one of the year’s real earworms, and not without good reason. For the 28-year-old DJ, years of creating hundreds of mixtapes look like they are finally paying off. JC


  1. Rexxie featuring MohBad, “KPK”

Rexxie, in-house producer at Marlian Records, teams up with label mate, MohBad, to lay this incredible dance tune frothing over with rapturous joy and breaking-in not one, not two but three slangs with accompanying acronyms to boot! KPK stands for Ko Por Ke, part rhetoric and exclamation, and OPP stands for O Por Paa; OPG stands for O Por Gan, both exclamation and response to the abundance that is related to the female form, that recurring muse of Afrobeats music in particular and music, in general. DA


  1. Masterkraft featuring Bella Shmurda and Zlatan, “Hallelu”

When other Africans complain about Nigerians adopting and taking over trends from other countries, Masterkraft’s ‘Hallelu’ can be used as a case in point. The song domesticates the Amapiano sound and one would think the sound as distinctly Nigerian. Featuring Bella Shmurda, whose current run is relentless, and Zlatan Ibile, who has sealed his place as a carefree, street rapper, the chord progression is striking and it reminds listeners of why Masterkraft is on top in spite of the proliferation of talented younger producers in Nigeria. If the production was not good enough, the owner of the song would have been pushed aside by Bella Shmurda’s energy and Zlatan’s forceful rap but the three of them asserted themselves on this song. AI


  1. Joeboy, “Focus”

A high point in Joeboy’s debut album is the song “Focus” and its crisp tragic video. A mid-tempo foray into how unrequited love trashes about in the victim’s psyche, it reflects the myth about Greek gods famed to have created love to stymie cosmic boredom. But for the sufferer of the affliction called love, it is germane for it to be reciprocated. The persona in Joeboy’s song is asking a lover to focus while he is losing focus and drying out his bar. The song snapshots this chaos and relentless turmoil that resonates with the listener who understands that the sufferer is light years from a realisation that this may not be love after all. Definitely one of the more tender moments in recent Afrobeats history and a strong win for the “Baby” crooner. DA


  1. Olamide, “Rock”

Call it a ghazal of romantic propositions or a summery ditty about prospective affection – and you won’t be far away from what Olamide achieves on this song about lamba, love, lounging bodies and romantic possibilities. Check his irreverent humour (in his aside about wearing agbada for mosquitoes), his outlandish reference to a Domino effect in a party love song (but works wickedly) and perhaps the first name-check that Marilyn Monroe will garner on an Afrobeats song – what is more than obvious is that the pre-Wilderness Carpe Diem days has been logged into the past and the bright UY Scuti days are here, with Rock has gambit. That anticipated album is already irresistible. DA


  1. LADIPOE featuring Buju, “Feeling”

LADIPOE’s ascent to the pop pantheon has taken more than a decade but since the arrival of his lockdown-friendly ditty, “Know You”, he has been on a home run. On his second song of 2021, “Feeling”, he features Buju on a dancehall-type production. “Feeling” evokes the tenderness of Jesse Jagz and Wizkid’s “Bad Girl”, serving as template for Andre Vibez to build percussive excitement for the feel-good song of the year. Feeling’s selling point is the convergence of simple wordplay, infectious hook and singsong rap verses. UI


  1. Chiké featuring Simi, “Running (to You)”

‘Running to You’ is what happens when two talented musicians come together. Everything about the song is perfect. The r&b sound is the trademark of both musicians and the excellence in the song is not entirely surprising as both Chiké and Simi are masters of ballads in their own right. The lyrics feature both English and Igbo languages while alluding to the Holy Bible and Kung-fu. As deep as the lyrics are, it is also relatable and has a distinctly Nigerian touch. AI


  1. Tiwa Savage featuring Nas & Rich King, “Work Fada” 

Work Fada’s allure is the convergence of easy lyrics and complex production. Rich King, Tiwa Savage’s childhood friend and experimental musician, delivers the most intricate beats Tiwa Savage has ever crooned on. “Work Fada” is an inspirational, rise-and-grind track rendered on a pot-pourri of experimental jazz, blues, folk, afrobeat tunes. Every element on “Work Fada” is special, even Nas’ talk-rap verse. For the critical acclaim that Tiwa Savage’s latest EP, “Warri & Garri”, has garnered, her superb work on “Work Fada” deserves high praise. UI


  1. Wizkid featuring Tems, “Essence” 

When Alté queen Tems met Wizkid on a duet for his elusive Made in Lagos, she came with her A-est game! A spot-on tweet suggests that she was singing for a D-need on Maslow’s hierarchy but much more must be said about the innate chemistry between both crooners and the alchemy of P2J’s beat. It is a love song insisting on monogamy, an irony, you must agree, from serial daddy Wizkid, but the song is one of the few moments when alté shares the spotlight with mainstream Afrobeats and outshines it. DA

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