The Lagos Review Top 100 Afrobeats Songs of 2021 (Week 2)

Part 2 of 4

Welcome to week 2 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.

  1. Dhortune, “Ever”

Dhortune marks the year with the release of “Ever”. While the excitement about his “Thank You Concert” is yet to abate, the artist crystallises the euphoria with a ballad that celebrates a woman’s beauty. The lyrics are hinged on Yoruba Language. Dhortune serenades his lover aided by guitar twangs for sonic articulation. Just like most of Dhortune’s songs, the lyrics are simple and mellifluous. ED

  1. Aramide featuring Peruzzi, “Iyawo Wa”

Five years after releasing her critically acclaimed debut album, “Suitcase”, R&B singer Aramide returns with an EP titled, “BitterSweet”. “Iyawo Wa”, an ambient and laid-back song off the EP features DMW signee Peruzzi.  Aramide’s sequentially arranged storied first verse got the needed complement from Peruzzi who assured her of his love and attention in spite of an array of suitors. Both artists birthed a song that is relatable due to its accessible lyrics and danceable due to its heavy percussion. ED

  1. Rema, “Soundgasm”

Decades later, Rema would repurpose whispers of the Ying Yang twins for a sweltering summer hit with its own neologism for a title. “Soundgasm” is a marriage of the root words, sound and orgasm obviously. The song details a rendezvous that began as a Netflix and Chill date and progressed to inaudible actions whispered into the wicked rhythms that London produced and Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young mixed. It is a triumph of a mating song, in spite of its lyrical difficulties. DA

  1. Bad Boy Timz, “Move”

For Bad Boy Timz, the first half of the year ended with label troubles, bruises, and jail tales. Turning away from the past, he moved to a new label and distribution deal with EMPIRE. “Move”, the somatic-friendly tune, crafted with Semzi Beatz, prescribes remedy for the bad dancer: all that’s required is to sway sideways to Bad Boy Timz’s hypnotic command. UI


  1. Naira Marley, “Koleyewon”

Regardless of Naira Marley pushing “Koleyewon” as a protest anthem against police brutality and bad governance in its accompanying pantomime video, the theme of the song is celebration. On the second verse, he raps: “aiye mo, orun mo/o ma shock e/ni odun yi, o ba’n sope/ba’n bet e,” over hard-hitting Niphkeys production. Although, “Koleyewon” bears no political undertone, it’s the song that you play to celebrate wins in a country that kills its young and censors opposing voices. UI

  1. Larry Gaaga featuring Theresa Onuorah, Flavour and Phyno, “Egedege (Remix)”

In the 1990s, Theresa Onuorah enchanted Igbo audiences with her music, but rumours pertaining to her spiritual affiliations underlined the mysteriousness of her persona. Nearly three decades later, one of her signature songs, “Egedege”, has received a remix treatment. Without the burden of demonisation, she hands in sultry vocals that have aged well, while Flavour and Phyno add a modern spin to the song that makes it just as fitting for a Friday evening ride through Enugu as it is for a Sunday afternoon town hall meeting. With Christmas fast approaching, this is one exciting addition to the oriental festive playlist. JC

  1. Adekunle Gold featuring Lucky Daye, “Sinner”

Adekunle Gold has delivered a lot of soulful ballads with a predilection for naming them after women. He’s written for Sade, Sabina and Delilah. On “Sinner”, he sings for Sheba. Sheba, the femme fatale in “Sinner”, is a reference to Queen Sheba, the Biblical visitor to King Solomon, who was enthralled by Solomon’s wealth and wisdom. Adekunle Gold brings back his church boy side on this duet with American singer, Lucky Daye. AI

  1. Ajebo Hustlers featuring Omah Lay, “Pronto”

George “Knowledge” Dandeson and Isaiah “Piego” Precious gained mainstream attention in 2020 when their hit single, “Barawo”, found its way into the unofficial nationwide #EndSARS playlist, and even got an artistically-muted remix treatment from serial hitmaker, Davido. But what do you get when two street-savvy Port Harcourt boys team up with a high-flying handsome young man from the same city? A pre-Valentine’s Day release which focuses on lust rather than love, with lyrics that dwell on clandestine romance and oral stimulation. “Pronto” is a nod to the duo’s versatility, but it also establishes Omah Lay as the lady killer who says the naughtiest things in the most melodious ways. As a bonus, the name of one of Nigeria’s finest writers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is finally inserted into Naija pop culture verbiage. JC


  1. Azanti, “Time Difference”

Azanti’s talent as a music producer and a songwriter has never been in doubt. The apprehension has been whether he can croon on the beat. He silenced the skepticism recently with the release of an eight-track eponymous EP. “Time Difference”, the breakout hit from the EP chronicles the predicament of lovers flung across different continents with crippling doubts around commitment and fidelity in a digital world. For anyone who has ever been in a long-distance relationship, the theme is relatable. ED


  1. Teni featuring Davido, “For You”

Davido and Teni’s first industry collaboration gave Davido a solid hit in “Like Dat” with Teni being just the songwriter, a background contributor. The collaboration that produced “For You” for Teni’s debut album is solid and it feels like payback for the earlier collaboration. The song is groovy in a way that it is easy to forget the story that it tells yet it is introspective and personal enough for one to sink it in, like the two artists are doing a proper RnB love duet. They both align in the song with no one outshining the other. The song also combines Pidgin English, English and Yoruba languages, a method of language mixing that both artistes are good at. AI


  1. Timaya featuring Buju, “Cold Outside”

Inetimi Odon, professionally known as Timaya, has developed a habit of dropping at least two bangers every year. His most recent single, “Cold Outside”, is a track that has him reiterating his desire to live a life devoid of rancour. It’s getting formulaic now – “Gra Gra” and “Chulo Bother Nobody” exist as previous epistles from the same gospel – but brilliant production from Yung Willis and a tasty vocal contribution from Buju – Nigeria’s current Prince of Hooks – means that it’s an experiment that works. At least, that’s what 3 million YouTube streams in the space of three weeks tend to suggest. JC

  1. Crayon featuring Rema, “Too Correct”

A few years ago, a young Charles Chibueze Chukwu stood up in the middle of a university entrance exam and walked out of the hall. These days, the 20-year-old goes by the name, Crayon, and he is one of Afropop’s most exciting young projects. Two EPs down the line, the Mavin Records signee, whose craft and vocal deployment are largely influenced by Wande Coal, is slowly figuring out life as a young, fast-rising artist. “Too Correct”, a club-themed track produced by Andre Vibez, is the lead single off his “Twelve A.M” EP. He teams up with his more popular label mate, Rema, with whom he has been friends since 2019, as he adulates a love interest’s gluteus maximus while paying tribute to Tonto Dikeh’s backside. Amapiano is a sound that is slowly becoming overwrought, but it is used well in this song. With Rema serving up a contagious hook as he attempts to rhyme “Eseosa” with “mi casa” and “bulldozer”, the two succeed in creating one of the year’s bigger dance anthems. Oh, that clubs across the country would reopen soon enough! JC


  1. Mainland Block Party featuring LADIPOE and Terry Apala, “Champagne Already”

In the beginning of the second quarter of 2021, Mainland Block Party — a brand closely associated with music — launched the Confluence Project. It involved bringing two artists and a producer to make remixes of already-released songs by the artists, usually blending two songs into one.  For this particular track, Sess teamed up with LADIPOE and fuji-trap king, Terry Apala. “Man Already” was a song released early in LADIPOE’s Mavin career, and Terry Apala’s “Champagne Showers” was released in 2016. A blend of this rap track and fuji-trap song resulted in magic. Without Mainland Block Party, we’d never have known what these two artists sound like together. FS 


  1. Wizkid featuring Burna Boy, “Ginger”

Released as the third single off Wizkid’s critically-acclaimed LP, “Made in Lagos”, this single was always going to ride on star power rather than artistry. With two Grammy winners contributing their vocals, and Kel P teaming up with P2J to provide production input, anything short of a smash hit would have been a disappointment. There isn’t much lyricism going on, but both artists seem to enjoy themselves on the track, even though fans of Burna Boy would have preferred a longer verse for their idol before the fadeout. “Ginger” not only stands out as a top-tier collaboration, but as one of the signature songs of a 14-track album that dwells on dance, wine and sex. JC


  1. Johnny Drille featuring Styl-Plus, “Odo”

Mavin Record’s loverboy Johnny Drille continues his impressive run of R&B songs with “Odo”. Featuring Nigeria’s boy band, Styl-Plus, the song brings back the old-time rhyming that marked R&B songs in the early 2000s. Styl-Plus is not the only classic thing about the song, it also samples Marc Anthony’s early 2000s hit, ‘I Need You.’ Johnny Drille and Styl-Plus deploying Pidgin on the song affirms the fluidity and potency of the language in delivering standard R&B songs.  AI


  1. Ria Sean, “Stamina”

The first look the world has of Ria is glorious. She’s at her most confident and she’s holding out her hand, calling you into her sanctum. “Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-monade,” but lemonade is code for something else. She exudes sensual energy and handles it with grace and poise. In August, she releases “Fluid”, a 6-track project themed on sex. She knows it, you know it, and you can’t fault it. Produced by Dehveen, she sings soulfully about gratifying sex, more enjoyable because it’s outside the sanctity of marriage. Ria Sean is redefining sexuality on her own terms, and we are here for it. FS


  1. Savage featuring Victony, “Rosemary”

Twice this year, Savage has pulled out two bangers out of thin air: Buju-assisted “Confident” and “Rosemary”. “Rosemary” featuring genre-bending Victony hearkens to expectations of sultry pop and bedroom riddims. Although Victony’s year started on a sour note on account of his accident, he has bounced back and is out for blood. On “Rosemary”, his songwriting is solid and he invites you to sing along and dance with him; and of course, it’s tempting as he makes a brilliant argument with his sensual melodies. The question is: will you say Yes to his call? FS


  1. Olamide, “Julie”

“Julie”, the fourth track off Olamide’s ninth solo album, “UY Scuti”, begins with lustful whispers and moans. Amidst deft production input from Eskeez, it is deliberate and direct in its sensuality, and with its slow tempo; it runs like the climax to last year’s smash hit “Infinity.” It’s refreshing to see the 31-year-old insert subtle romantic undertones in such a cool and collected manner, and on a record that holds itself out as a testament to Olamide’s artistic evolution. “Julie” is the one song that perfectly illustrates the change in direction. JC

  1. Tems, “Avoid Things”

It’s been two years since “Try Me”, and Tems now finds herself fully flung into mainstream pop royalty. She is easing in nicely, flashing shy smiles at concert venues. “Avoid Things”, produced by Guiltybeatz, is one of the more emotive songs off her sophomore EP, “If Orange was a Place.” With a rhythm reminiscent of reggae ballads, Tems sings about vulnerability, detachment, and mind games. If you have ever been unsure of where you stand with a lover, then the lyrics “I try to resolve things/involve you/but you don’t want to be sorry” will resonate more than most. JC

  1. Dangbana Republik & Bella Shmurda, “Party Next Door”

The best way to explain Bella Shmurda’s “Party Next Door” is the viral meme of happy-go-lucky online content creator, Tmiz Taiwo, revelling in his nonchalance. Fine Boy Bella cuts the same image: easygoing, fun-loving, always on the lookout for the next high. Vibez-produced “Party Next Door”, off his sophomore EP, “High Tension 2.0”, explicitly describes Fine Boy Bella’s pop manifesto and hedonistic lifestyle. The guitar-driven song captures a typical night out – and the nightlife scene – in Lagos: lots of booze and psychoactive substances, party and bullshit. UI


  1. Gabzy, “Toxic”

Gabzy’s “Malone” EP is unabashedly chauvinistic. He boasts of his toxic tendencies and playboy personality traits. It’s unusual; it’s odd. But people love it. In this current climate, we are often reluctant to admit what we want out of relationships, or in Malone’s case, situationships, and lead the other party on until we get what we want. When both parties are not on the same page, everything eventually gets messy. Gabzy is not about that life. In “Toxic”, he tells his tryst partner upfront what she’s getting herself into. He wants her, but he’s only giving her half of him, yet he doesn’t want to see her happy with another. That, in every definition, is toxic and here’s a man readily admitting to it. It’s brazen, and rhythmically, too. FS


  1. King Perryy, “Crème De La Crème”

After his entry into the music industry with “Man on Duty”, released under Timaya’s Dem Mama Record label in 2018, and “Murder”, his hit single with Teni The Entertainer, released in 2019), King Perryy released his debut album, “Citizen of the World” in April 2021. Dabbling in a genre that is relatively new to the audience, his sound is definitely distinguishable. It’s a solid project and “Creme De La Crème” is one of the many enjoyable tracks. The concept eludes many as it is used in several contexts, even ones where it doesn’t belong, but King Perryy asserts that his lady’s body is the best of the best. Sensuality and guile intact, he loses concentration and he is right to. FS


  1. 1da Banton, “Can’t Stop”

Off his new project, “Original Vibe Machine”, 1da Banton’s “Can’t Stop” is arguably the jewel of the bunch. Deviating from his usual theme of enjoyment, he throws himself into singing about love and he sounds convincing. He has every reason to serenade his love interest: her sheen’s mesmerising. Even if his reason is superficial, he remains enamored. You hear the unmistakable affection in his voice, which is why this song is perfect. FS


  1. Bella Shmurda featuring Zlatan & Lincoln, “Cash App”

Golden boy, Bella Shmurda, smug with fairy dust, ended 2020 in spectacular style with his late year delivery, the energetic “Cash App”, which has been described as a Yahoo boy instructional by some and as a hustle-on-steroids motivational by others. With help from Zlatan, whose powerful rhetoric about (not) swallowing sputum and an accompanying American bank robbery themed video, Shmurda may be celebrating the return of his namesake Bobby Shmurda from the jailhouse. In the time since the latter’s jail term, Bella Shmurda has gone from unknown gangling boy to someone we can no longer ignore, cue in his wicked incantatory bridge and you will realise that he is resilient and possesses energy for days. DA


  1. Zinoleesky, “Naira Marley”

Marlian Records crooner Zinoleesky has used his fuji lilt and facility for Yoruba street aphorisms to enrich amapiano rhythms on countless tracks and “Naira Marley” is no different. He pays obeisance to his Agege roots and to his mentor whilst reaffirming his cool vibes and his indifference to what can easily be categorized by others as paranoia. The song is a bit of a show-off but that is the Zinoleesky shtick. DA

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