Albums have long been a “fluctuating” element in the Nigerian music space. In the early 2000s, they were quintessential in cementing an artiste’s legacy and market value. By the 2010’s, we’d become a singles market, and the importance of albums waned considerably.
However, in the 2020s, the importance of albums in mainstream and international conversations has spiked astronomically, bringing us closer to a more holistic climate. Thus, from the barrage of albums released in 2021, from niche and mainstream acts alike, TXT ranks and gives you the best of them all.
10. King Perryy — Citizen of the World
The only other dancehall themed record on this list, King Perryy’s “Citizen Of The World” is more Afro-fusion than Reggae. In a year where artistes showed range and versality across different genres, King Perryy on this album, is the best in blending.
Genres ranging from pop, dancehall, and Afrobeat are fused together using his reggae roots to tie them in. It is a masterful 45 minutes of unbridled beauty. At 17 tracks, one might be tempted to label this album “sprawling”, but the songs are short and to the point, making them enjoyable as opposed to exhausting.
The transitions between the songs are seamlessas well, making this perhaps the easiest listen of the year. With this record, King Perryy might be a Citizen of the world, but he is certainly a King of Afro-Fusion.
9. Yung L — Yaadman Kingsize
2022 saw the release of many polarizing records. For all it’s commercial success. However, Yung L’s “YAADMAN KINGSIZE” has had none of the familiar struggles with most 2022 releases. Unanimously acclaimed as his best work yet, “Yaadman” retains the laid-back depth that reggae has always possessed while avoiding the tired tropes of empty political commentary.
It is also by far the most cohesive project released this year, perhaps rivaled only by The Cavemen’s “Love and Highlife”, due to their specific sound. As with any “Magnum Opus”, we listen to “Yaadman with joy and trepidation. Will we ever get another Yung L record as good as this one? Only time will tell.
8. Dunsin Oyekan — The Gospel of the Kingdom
“First it was Fragrance, then it turned to Fire”. This is probably the most interesting Gospel lyric since well… Anybody can remember. As far as singles go, “Fragrance to Fire” is perhaps one of the most effective in terms of drawing attention to an album. Singles may underperform or take away attention from the album, but “Fragrance”, did just enough to be a bonafide Christian hit and draw attention to it’s parent album.
Oyekan’s fifth album is the kind of New Gospel you expect from a man if his generation. It’s fresh, it’s easy, yet steeped in scripture and worship Along with Ada Ehi and Sinach, Dunsin Oyekan is one of the few Artistes who makes what I like to call “Gospel Pop”. Clocking at Over 165 minutes, it is by far the longest album on this list, but what could be better? Worshipping the lord and basking in the truth of his word. Sounds like fun to me.
7. Sute Iwar — 199X
Two things characterise Iwar’s work — Non-conformity and sheer mastery. Hip-hop is perhaps the birthplace of all music, but the genre has died many deaths only to be reborn in different forms. While Ladipoe is the quintessential pop, top-40 rapper and ShowDemCamp continue to blend Highlife with R&B to refine their sound, Sute remains unmistakably nebulous.
199X is in turns genre bending as it is riveting. Years spent perfecting his craft, has led here, an expertly produced album that may even rival his best work, Paradise. A winning, through and through.
6. Johnny Drille — Before We Fall Asleep.
First off, we should be thanking God we even heard this, at all. We waited years, and years… and years, to hear this album. Some thought it wouldn’t live up to the hype. They were wrong. To be niche in Nigerian music is to be one of three things, “Altè” (Odunsi, Santi etc), “R&B” (Tems, Ogranya) and finally “Preachers of love”, which is where folks like Ric Hassani and Johnny Drille excel.
To quote Taylor Swift, Johnny Drille’s album is “a love letter to love.” Big, boisterous, and declarative, Drille’s debut album feels like an encapsulation of his entire artistry. It seals the deal and stamps out all doubt — Johnny Drille really is the Certified Lover Boy.
5. Killertunes— KillaXtra
In many ways, this project evokes the feeling of beautiful melancholy. An album rich with midtempo songs, with traces of, Afro-Fusion, Afropop and even Trap, Killertunes is masterful in his examination of love. Like many of the albums on this list, the features are inch perfect — neither overwhelm, nor become painfully redundant.
As one of the most dominant producers in the last decade, the best of the album is the production, cementing this as one of the best produced albums of the year. Many might argue that the album is a Wizkid intention, but really, it is the sound of an iconic producer turned artiste breaking free, and coming into his own.
4. Blaqbonez — Sex Over Love.
“Fifty Shades”, “Sex Over Love” has arrived! At 14 tracks, ” Sex Over Love” is fairly long yet, perhaps the most precise albums released this year. It doesn’t ramble, it doesn’t sprawl, it knows exactly what it intends to achieve, and it goes straight to that.
The album plays like a joke that was taken very seriously. This is by far it’s best quality. It’s hilarious, pensive, sexual and jarring all at the same time. Best of all, the album scores major points for the New Generation of rappers. M.I is near unbeatable in terms of making perfect rap projects but “Sex Over Love” is the sound of a victory and Blaqbones giving his elders a run for their money.
3. Joeboy — Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic
Joeboy is the quintessential Afropop star, no one has a knack for earworms like Joeboy. “Somewhere Between Beauty and Magic” is important for many reasons. First off, it has no features. When an artiste has no features on a Nigerian album, much less a debut, the implication is simple— They’re going for Gold. Some of the last debuts to go this route, “Asa”, “Laughter Tears and Goosebumps” and “Roots” have been touted as classics. Unfortunately “SBBM” is too divisive to be looked at this way.
While Joeboy’s project took a while to drop, his ability to churn out monster hits to satiate teeming fans was never in doubt. On SBBM, everything we love and respect Joeboy for, come together to create the perfect storm — and it’s a marvel every time you listen. It’s the classic Afrobeats instrumentation that can only come from working with producers who understand the vision, it’s the honesty and soul on songs like “Focus” and “Lonely” and curiously, it’s advocacy through the beauty that is, “Consent”. For these and for the relentless bangers on this record, SBBM is remarkable, and we thank Joeboy for it.
2. The Cavemen — Love and Highlife.
Now, enter the Musicians. The Cavemen’s sophomore album picks up where their debut left off, but this time, they’ve got technology and good company.
“Roots”, their debut, was a particularly ambitious album. The Cavemen sought to revive and reintroduce a niche sound to a mainstream market, while keeping it authentic enough to be consumed by the “real” lovers of Highlife. The plan worked, resulting in widespread critical acclaim and featured appearances that could rival those of legendary groups like “Styl Plus” and “P Square”. With a wide array of guests, L&H is a little more blustery, but the guests are all stellar (particularly Cobhams with a stunning vocal performance on “Were Kushin”)
With “Love and Highlife”, the Highlife duo take their campaign one step further. Gone are the rustic impressions of ’80’s music on their debut. Here, the Cavemen seek to make the sleekest, most polished version of Highlife they can. And so, where “Roots” sounds like a trip to the past, “Love and Highlife” sounds like both past and present. In all, “Love and Highlife” is effective in every way. It furthers their career in the best way possible, defies the odds as a great sophomore album, and is a great transition, perhaps to a more mainstream release.
Well done, Benjamin and Kingsley. Well done!
1. AYRA STARR — 19 & DANGEROUS
The thing you have to understand about Ayra is — She’s young. In the music business, talent is great and looks are premium, but YOUTH is a rare thing. Somehow, Mavin managed to find a girl with all three qualities and they pressed the latter advantage on the singer’s debut album.
We know she’s got a killer voice as shown on ballads like “Beggie Beggie”, a knack for trends (as seen on “Fashion Killer”, and “Bridgertn”), and a deft understanding of her market (Cast: Gen Z Anthem). One might think the name, “19 and Dangerous”, is cliched and boastful, but who cares, when there’s so much to boast about.
On this album Ayra bares all her teeth, and from what we can hear, we’d better be prepared. It’s undoubtedly our album of the year.