2023 was an incredible year for Nigerian music. There were dozens of quality albums that challenged listeners this year. These albums spoke to us the most. Here are our picks for the Top Ten albums of the year.
10. GHETTO GOSPEL – Balloranking
On Ghetto Gospel, Balloranking literally takes on the role of the voice of the streets. The album is an incredible show of the grit and determination that drive the streets.Whether it’s women, hustle, or plain enjoyment, you get the feeling that you’re listening to something authentic. These are Balloranking’s lived experiences. For many like him, coming from the ghetto, this is gospel.
9. EMEKA MUST SHINE – Blaqbonez
Blaqbonez is probably the most gifted “artist-marketer” of his generation. His ability to sell his brand and promote his music is second-to-none in the music industry. However, when you’re so gifted with gimmicks, the talent might take a backseat in people’s consciousness. “Emeka Must Shine” isn’t just a reminder of Blaqbonez’ talents. He dares you to forget with this album.
Range is the biggest quality on display here. On the album Blaqbonez alternates from reggaeton to dancehall and pop, resulting in the year’s most impressive sonic adventure. On Hip-Hop tracks like “Bad Till Eternity”, he still flexes his lyricism with poignant references to pop culture.
His previous album “Young Preacher” might be a slightly better body of work, but “Emeka Must Shine” achieves something more. Blaqbonez demands that he be taken seriously, and the results shine all the way through.
8. BODY & SOUL – Joeboy
Joeboy simply stays within the confines of love and its complex themes. The result of this resolute devotion is his very own love letter to love, “Body & Soul”.
The defining quality of Joeboy’s music is beauty, and this album is a quintessential example. Carefully selected features draw out the best from his guest artists (OdumoduBlvck is a standout). Lead single “Contour” is still the most underrated song of the year, and “Wetin Be Love” is simply a hit in waiting. Somewhere between beauty and magic, Joeboy gave us “Body & Soul” and it is breathtaking.
7. UNRULY – Olamide
Olamide has never played by the rules—more often than not, he makes them. On his 10th album, the rap mogul had nothing left to prove. The result is an album that is less concerned with hits as much as with slow-burning quality.
On songs like “Gaza” and “New Religion,” he is familiar, yet the change in his music and artistry is all too evident. “Unruly” is transcendent, beyond the worries of commercial success. “Unruly” is the sound of hedonism, success, and freedom at the highest levels.
6. I TOLD THEM – Burna Boy
There is no album on this list more confident, assertive, or self-congratulatory. But when you’re a talent of generational proportions like Burna Boy, it is absolutely well deserved.
Much like Olamide’s “Unruly”, “I Told Them” is very unconcerned with commercial success. With its pulsating beats and hip-hop leanings, this is Burna Boy’s victory lap. While “Love Damini” was filled with personal confessions of heartbreak and anxiety, “I Told Them” sees Burna Boy pat himself on the back. He’s sittin’ on top of the world, and with this album, he took us right there with him.
5. TEQUILA EVER AFTER – Adekunle Gold
With his last three albums, Adekunle Gold has managed to do the extraordinary. Each album has been an honest representation of his current state of mind, while having at least two monster hits and giving a masterclass in branding. “Tequila Ever After” does not change our perspective of AG like “Afropop” and is not quite pensive like “Catch Me If You Can.” But it shows one of Africa’s biggest pop stars at his most breezy and relaxed. As the name implies, “Tequila Ever After” is the year’s most breezy vibe.
4. VIBE TILL THY KINGDOM COME – Seyi Vibez
It’s hard out here for a street artiste (in more ways than one). The artiste has to stay connected with his grassroots fans enough to build a fanbase while being marketable and enjoyable enough to appeal to other classes of society. The balance is elusive but necessary.
It’s this balance that makes “Vibe till Thy Kingdom Come” such a great album. It offers range, quality music and straddles both ambition and identity competently. It also helped that there are bangers all through. After all, No Seyi, No Vibez.
3. EZIOKWU – Odumodublvck
Davido may have released Afrobeats’ greatest comeback ever and Asake may have continued his streak of chart dominance, but no one can deny that 2023 was the year of Odumodublvck. “Eziokwu” was the culmination of all that success and surpassed industry expectations to become the most successful album by a rapper in years.
‘Blvck’s ability to merge rapid-fire verses and delivery with catchy hooks and melody make for the perfect synergy of Afropop and rap that is “Eziokwu”. While many may find his style boorish, ‘Blvck has found an audience that swears by him.
2. TIMELESS – Davido
There are many universal truths in the world, and one of them is this: No one can make hits like Davido. And while the superstar’s hitmaking prowess has never been in doubt, his albums have often left much to be desired. “A Better Time” as a whole was more miss than hit, and “A Good Time” felt more like a glimpse into a potentially great Davido album.
That album finally came with “Timeless.” No album this year was able to effortlessly blend mass commercial appeal with cohesion and a seamless listening experience. From the rollout to the sheer number of potential singles (Kante, Na Money, Picasso, In The Garden, For The Road, to name a few), “Timeless” was always going to be the most commercially successful album of the year. What no one counted on was its vulnerability, quietly resonant emotional weight, and seamless cohesion. The result is one of the best albums of the year and Afrobeat’s greatest comeback of all time.
1. WORK OF ART – Asake
“Mr. Money With The Vibe” was a fantastic album packed with hits and almost frantic with energy. But with every month that passes, it’s clear that it doesn’t compare to the absolute “Work of Art” that is Asake’s sophomore album.
Released almost immediately after his debut album, one would think “Work of Art” was a quick pastiche of songs designed to capitalise on Asake’s current popularity. He does capitalise on the success of the first album, but he does something more with “Work of Art”—he”shows us his range and artistry. With songs as introspective as “Lonely at the Top” and textured as “Yoga,” Asake’s beats the sophomore curse in every metric possible. This is our album of the year. Asake’s stunning work of art.