It’s been another great year so far for Nigerian music with outstanding releases from the country’s well-cemented stars making it far and reaching ears across the globe. 2021 has also seen the quick rise of new names to keep an eye out for in the highly-competitive Nigerian music scene. Check out our picks for The Best Nigerian Songs of 2021 So Far below.
While “Essence” technically dropped in 2020 as part of Wizkid‘s Made In Lagos album, the new year has seen the song catapult into massive levels, even making it into the U.S. Apple Music Top 50 charts. Kicked off by outstanding vocals from Tems, “Essence” sees both Nigerian stars riding an undulating synth piano riff — crafted by producers Legendury Beatz and P2J — into the perfect breezy summer track. It’s no wonder celebs like Kevin Hart, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner have been posting of videos of themselves jamming to the track as the weather turns warm in the Northern hemisphere.
Olamide shared “Rock,” a mellow and flirtatious little number, as the lead single from his new 10-track album, UY Scuti, titled after one of the largest known red stars. “Rock” is a smooth jam you’ll have repeating over and over again. “The song is saying my lady doesn’t have to do too much to impress me — I love you already,” Olamide mentions.
With his pink hair and eye-patch Ruger has become one of the new breakout artists coming out of the highly-competitive and saturated Nigerian music scene in 2021. “Bounce,” the highlight from his Pandemic EP, has been rising in the Nigerian charts and, with just one listen, it’s easy to tell why this sugary and addictive track is a hit. “Bounce” actually peaked at number one last week on Nigeria’s Apple Music charts.
Adekunle Gold ‘It Is What It Is’
Adekunle Gold dropped the single and music video for “It Is What It Is,” a song about acceptance and remaining calm and centered in the face of life’s adversities. “The truth about freedom is it is only found in clarity of self,” Adekunle mentions. “I believe this song is about letting yourself be free from every other voice but the one guiding you internally.” Keep your peace people.
New Mavin Records signee Ayra Starr came fresh out of the gate and got people talking with “Away,” the lead single from the 19-year-old’s self-titled debut EP. Born in Benin and raised between Cotonou and Lagos, Nigeria, Starr’s sound allows her versatility and distinctive styles to take center stage. The introductory “Away” is a pulsating, hip-grinding track that re-explores what typically makes up a break-up song.
Afropop star Joeboy dropped his long-awaited debut album Somewhere Between Beauty & Magic in February. The 14-track project is the official follow-up to the young artist’s debut Love & Light EP which dropped in 2019. While no additional artists feature on the album, it is nonetheless an impressive body of work with several bangers to have stuck on repeat.
Burna Boy came through with the brand new single, “Kilometre.” The Chopstix-produced song sees the superstar singing about the distance he’s traveled, literally and figuratively, to reach his current level as one of the top African artists in the world. “Kilometre” is an energetic track built on a repetitive refrain that will get stuck in people’s heads and soundtrack many a dance floor to come.
Rema shared the eye-grabbing new music video and single “Bounce.” In the new clip, the Mavin Records star takes us to a place that can only best described as Mad Max-meets-Burning Man as he celebrates, well, “booty bounce.” It’s a wild post-apocalyptic affair that matches the fast-paced freneticism of the single and its Don Jazzy-produced beat. Jazzy also appears in the video.
Mr Eazi‘s “The Don” and its accompanying short film, were shared as the lead bits from his latest EP Something Else. While Mr Eazi describes the project as “the calm before the storm”, the multi-talented musician did not disappoint. With production credits to Killertunes and E Kelly, “The Dn is an operatic, ‘afro-trap’ ballad of note, “The Don” gives fans a glimpse into Eazi’s bountiful bag o’ tricks and treats, as well as teasing the highly anticipated EP to come.
Lojay x Sarz ‘Tonongo’
Up-and-coming Nigerian artist Lojay connected with producer Sarz for this highly-addictive single “Tonongo,” a song which is about Sarz’s experience of falling in love with a stripper. “‘Tonongo’ is about expressing the depth of emotion that lies beyond the surface,” Lojay mentions. “The single was inspired by the atmosphere of a strip club – moody and dark — a fitting ode to the dancer the song was written about. I enjoy the duality of the song. It ended up making itself and that’s the beauty of it, the beauty of music. It’s so spiritual. I’m just a vessel. I hope people relate to it and find beauty in it.”
Seyi Shay & Yemi Alade ‘Pempe’
Seyi Shay and Yemi Alade teamed up for an explosive collaboration titled “Pempe,” a vibrant and mid-paced number that exemplifies a quintessential afrobeats song and everything that makes it infectious. Mixed and mastered by Kel P, this one is a seamless and fun collaboration between the two Nigerian artists.
YUNG L ‘Yaadman (Intro)’
Yung L delivered the single and music video for “Yaadman,” an addictive and energetic dancehall track built on slick guitars and heavy beats. It came paired with the striking visuals directed by TG Omori. “Yaadman (Intro)” is the first track on Yung L’s album, Yaadman Kingsize.
Bankulli & Not3s ‘Foreign’
Afropop manager-turned-singer Bankulli came through with a fire track and accompanying visuals featuring Not3s. On his latest go at being center stage, Bankulli (who got a Grammy nod for his work on Beyoncé’s Lion King: The Gift) recruited British-Nigerian Afroswing crooner Not3s to add his golden touch to the track. The snappy “Foreign” is sure to appease fans with it’s stylish and catchy vibe, and equally as pleasant visuals to match.
Femi Kuti ‘As We Struggle Everyday’
Femi Kuti‘s “As We Struggle Everyday” was the lead song from his double album Legacy +, a joint endeavor with his son Made Kuti. The single is a politically-charged afrobeat tune about people having the voting power to hold their ‘leaders’ accountable, but often failing to do so. Throughout the song, Femi sings “As we struggle everyday We try to find a better way See these leaders wey suppose jail Na him my people dem dey hail.”
Teni ‘For You’ ft. Davido
Singer and songwriter Teni shines in the music video “For You” featuring fellow Nigerian star Davido. “For You”, which is centered on a prison escape, sees Davido and Teni teaming up for a thrilling visual escapade.The music video starts of with Teni behind bars and comically relays the love story that lead to her re-arrest. “For You” is a standout from Teni’s Wondaland album.
Laycon ‘Fall for Me’ feat. YKB
Nigerian rapper Laycon dropped his debut album, Shall We Begin, which features appearances from the likes of Mayorkun, Joeboy, Teni, and Terri across its 12 songs. The album’s lead single “Fall For Me,” featuring YKB,” is a highly-infectious affair paired with a trippy music video. Read our recent interview with Laycon.
Tekno ‘Enjoy (Remix)’ ft. Mafikizolo
Tekno dropped the remix to his upbeat and electric single “Enjoy” which was released towards the end of last year. The Nigerian artist enlisted South African Afropop duo, Mafikizolo, who have added their signature flair to both the remix itself and the accompanying visuals.
Another banger from Rema on makes it on this list because of his impressive consistency. In “Soundgasm,” Rema adds country-style guitars to his ever impressive bag of tricks. The London-produced track showcases the Nigerian star’s vocal range as he goes from a high-pitched refrain to rap-sung verse melodies seamlessly. The music video follows Rema to a house in Nashville where he’s joined by a female companion. “Dimension,” another noteworthy Rema feature from this year alongside JAE5 and Skepta should also be on your rotation.