Debut albums are seminal in any music industry across the globe. For us debuts like Wande Coal’s “Mushin To Mohits”, Asa’s “Asha” and 2baba’s “Grass To Grace” have defined what modern commercial and alternative music should sound like. Continuing from their predecessors, the debuts released in the new age (from artistes in the new generation of Nigerian music) have introduced us to newer sounds and blends and even broken new ground both locally and internationally.
TXT ranks the top ten debut albums of the new age, starting from 2018 till date.
10. Lady Donli – Enjoy your Life (2019)
For years before, male artists like BOJ, Teezee, and Fresh L curated and polished “Altè” to become the gleaming genre and subculture it is today. But 2019 was the year of the Altè woman, and none succeeded more than Lady Donli on her masterful debut album, “Enjoy Your Life”.
An eclectic celebration of positivity and enjoyment, the album features credits from some of the most gifted Alternate acts of her generation, including Solis, Amaarae, Tay Iwar, and Tems. Her work with the Cavemen on the album is particularly stunning, producing the singles “Suffer Suffer” and “Cash”.
“Enjoy Your Life” is a masterful album, but it is something even more: it is proof that when an entire subculture comes together to make music, magic is inevitable.
9. Joeboy – Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic (2021)
2021 was a slow year for Afrobeats, but thank God for Joeboy. Africa’s most resilient lover boy delivered what is arguably the most straightforward Afropop record on this list. It is bright romantic pop at its finest. It was also the most commercially successful album of 2021, with over 300 million streams across all platforms. With Joeboy, love really does conquer all.
8. Arya Starr – 19 & Dangerous (2021)
There was something about Ayra Starr’s rise that seemed bigger than even her. It wasn’t just great for the culture; it was necessary. Western markets had produced tons of teenage female acts, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Jojo. Africa hadn’t until Ayra—Ayra was ours. “19 & Dangerous” perfectly encapsulates what it means to be young, gifted, and African. It launched the career of the most dominant African female artist of her generation and was the most streamed album of 2021 by a woman. For us, the album was more than dangerous; it was a stone-cold killer.
7. Rare – Odunsi (2018)
Remember when we talked about “Enjoy Your Life” being a testament to glorious collaboration in Altè? Odunsi’s genre-defying sophomore, “Rare” is the holy grail of the genre. It is retro, fresh, free-spirited, and cohesive all at the same time. It’s most popular song, “Star Signs” is considered to be canonical in the genre. With albums like “Rare”, there are no errors. There are no flaws. It is simply genre-defying perfection.
6. Rema – Raves & Roses (2022)
Fireboy’s “Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps ” was perfectly timed, and Asake’s “Mr Money With The Vibe” was released less than a year after his major label debut.
But Rema’s debut album took three long years to arrive and built unprecedented attention before it’s release. The result is the most commercially successful album on this list and probably the most successful African debut album in history.
In terms of its quality, Rema effortlessly shows why he is a generational talent with stunning songs like “Dirty”, “Wine”, “Addicted” and “Are You There”. Its lead single, “Calm Down” has been hailed as one of the biggest songs in the world and the best-selling African album of all time.
As far as resumes for debut albums go, “Raves and Roses” is beyond stellar.
5. Chike – Boo of the Booless (2020)
2020 produced stunning records for Nigerian music in general, and Chike’s “Boo of the Booless” was among the very best.
Effortlessly infusing highlife with R&B, Chike examined love in all its forms, including heartbreak, marriage, cheating, forgiveness, and sacrifice. The biggest artists released albums in 2020, but a small independent album was the sleeper hit of the year. Sometimes you can’t beat quality.
4. The Cavemen – Roots (2021)
If you’ve noticed that highlife has become a requisite staple in most albums released today, this is the album that started it all. On the Cavemen’s masterful debut, they prove that musicality is not dead.
Primarily instrumental, the album has a rustic, live feel to it that sets it apart from any other album on this list. It’s one thing to make a great album, it’s another to revive an entire genre.
With the release and success of Roots, the Cavemen have already become part of Indigenous music history.
3. Asake – Mr Money with the Vibe (2022)
Most artistes rise steadily through the years, while some explode onto the scene. Asake’s debut is the definition of “blow” culture. With elements of fuji and streethop, every song on the album is good enough to be a single. The chemistry between Asake and producer, Magicsticks is palpable, and together they made the most dominant album of the last two years. Also, if you love crowd vocals, you should look to the source, and no one does it better than Mr Money.
2. Omah Lay – Boy Alone (2022)
Much of Afrobeats songwriting is concerned with melody. Omah Lay’s music is different, however. No other album on this list captures the desperation and depression of the human condition like Omah Lay’s “Boy alone”. With startling lyrics, anguished vocals, and brooding beats, Omah Lay confronts the dark in a soundscape built on escapism. His bravery alone would be noteworthy, but Omah Lay effortlessly documents the knawing depression of an entire generation. That’s monumental.
1. Fireboy DML – Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps (2019)
This is the zenith. This is the peak. This is the standard. Similar to fellow YBNL star “Asake”, Fireboy released a string of hit singles that would later make up a lot of this album. The difference is that while Asake might have improved on the formula, Fireboy started and perfected it. A love letter in itself, the album is a stunning blend of Fireboy’s Afropop and R&B sensibilities. From bold declarations (Need You) to diaristic prophecies (Wait and See) to party starters(Scatter, Vibration), there is something for everyone on this record. Every album on this list is probably a pioneering record in its genre or market, but “LTG” remains the standard for debuts, and that’s why it’s at the top of this list.