Picking a top 10 list like 2020 proved a lot more difficult this year, the consensus with our editors was that it’d create leeway for a few impressive projects to go entirely unnoticed. To this end, here’s a list of our top 15 EPs of 2021.
15. JayBlu Ovie — From Blu To You
On Jayblu Ovie’s debut EP, From Blu To You he tests new waters, taking a sharp turn from his old sound to explore a more vulnerable side. The EP is a collection of letters to his past flames, inspired by the fickle nature of love.
Jayblu Ovie crafts simple but soulful lines aimed at communicating the extent of his affection for his past lovers and current love. In all, Jayblu Ovie achieves his intent here — a lovers soundtrack and no bad songs. Not the most popular EP on the list, but definitely a standout with a clear message, “don’t sleep on Jayblu”.
14. Tems — If Orange Was a Place
The rise of Tems has been quick but steady. Every single has been a considerable improvement on the last. IOWAP continues her journey exploring diverse emotions, like yearning, hurt and exploring confrontations. There’s an impressive amount of coherence to the EP, for a year blessed with highlight reels — the project feels like an endless swan song for all the bad vibes from 2021.
13. Ruger — Pandemic EP
Firstly, the project’s name is timeless. Very impressive. Thankfully, the songs on the project share the same quality as the name. If Ruger came to rock the boat, he surely did with the Pandemic EP. It’s difficult to talk about Ruger’s debut without mentioning “Bounce”, the gift that keeps on giving. However, the assortment of dancehall records make it impossible to resist the guy “with pink hair and eyepatch”. His smooth delivery as he explores themes based on love and sex deserves considerable credit.
12. LadiPoe — Providence
It might be tempting to dismiss Ladipoe’s perpetuity and chalk up most of his success to monster hits like ‘Know You’ and the Buju assisted ‘Feeling’. His decision to exclude both as part of major projects speak to a certain brand of defiance. It’s even possible to classify his audacity as a peculiar form of integrity. The result is “Providence”, his latest effort is measured, calculated and undoubtedly, a fine blend of technical command and captivating ideas.
Technical command seldom meets captivating ideas. Sometimes, projects (especially within the hiphop scene) are so fractured, it becomes difficult to seriously consider the tracks as members of one cohesive body of work. On ‘Providence’ Ladipoe is measured, calculating and clinical, definitely one of the best extended plays of this year.
11. Laime — If Summer Happened
Do you like Burna Boy? Yes? Then you like Laime no questions asked! Even if the answer was a resounding “No”, you should still check Laime out. The refreshing point about his similarity with the African Giant’s sound is he is not a copycat, he’s different enough to be his own person— he’s Laime.
The title of this EP wasn’t a fluke either, it sets the tone for an authentic summer vibe. With solid assists from featured artistes like L.A.X & PsychoYP, the EP has the benefit of scale. If Summer Happened is an intentionally crafted project capturing the essence of an artiste finally comfortable with his own sound and ready to stamp his mark on the industry on his own terms.
10. Oladapo — Blind
Heavy on the Afrobeats and R&B vibe, Oladapo made his way into the radar of the music industry with his lead single “Alone” off his EP “Blind” which was produced by P.prime. While “Alone” was impressive, the complete body of work is further proof of Oladapo mastery of the Afro-fusion sub-genre, and the young superstar’s status as one of the most talented newcomers on the block.
9. Ayra Starr — Ayra Starr EP
The celestial being announced her appearance with the self titled beauty— Ayra Starr EP. The project set the tone for what was to come and ensured she was one of the most talked about persons across social media for quite a while. The combination of top tier production with equally impressive vocals isn’t even the best thing about the project— it’s relatability is.
8. Tomi Thomas— Hopeless Romantic
Tomi Thomas’s music is famous for rooting you in the familiar while driving you to beautiful unfamiliar realms. The songs on the project have a certain Caribbean feel to them. They’re happy, big, energetic and cheerful. Even the slightly melancholic songs tempt you to feel a little deeper.
Honest lyrics and melodious guitar riffs make this project stand heads and shoulders above many others released this year.
7. Buju — Sorry I’m Late
One gets the sense that on “Sorry I’m Late”, Buju is thankful, grateful to be able to do this, after the year he had in 2020. In 2021, Buju has had arguably the best year of any artiste in the Nigerian Soundscape, and now he caps it off with the long awaited EP for his fans; old and new alike.
In all, “Sorry, I’m Late” is less a groundbreaking project as much as it is a warm, heartfelt gift to his fans, and in the cold, dark world that is the music industry, that is probably all the young legend needs.
6. Tiwa Savage — Water & Garri
In all, this EP is a culmination of all the lessons learnt in Tiwa’s career. It displays a deft understanding of Soul music from a woman who has listened to it all her life. It’s perfect and outstanding features are the fruits of more than a decade of collaboration, and the pain and sexual tension in the music is the kind only a grown woman can truly relate to and experience.
5. Lojay & Sarz — LV N ATTN
Lojay is perhaps the most promising breakout act of 2021. On his latest effort, Lojay collaborated with ace producer Sarz to put out a truly remarkable body of work which quickly skyrocketed Lojay’s career to the top. LV N ATTN is one of the few projects from 2021 that literally had no skips, judging by the high quality of music churned out this year— that says a lot.
Prior to the release of the project, the work’s lone feature, Grammy award winning Wizkid seemed like he’d take all the shine from the work. However, time tells an entirely different story. The project’s final track, “Monalisa” set the charts ablaze and is prime to do more in 2022.
4. Tay Iwar — Love & Isolation
Arguably the most talented young R&B artiste in modern Nigerian music, Tay Iwar never misses and the genius wasn’t about to record his first miss on Love & Isolation. On the back of his stellar performance on Wizkid’s “True Love”, he builds on his foundation of celestial sounding blends of R&B. The special thing about his sound is you can’t get it from anyone or anywhere else.
Love & Isolation tells heartfelt stories about love, pain and strength. And there’s only one artiste within the afrobeats scene who embodies these emotions well enough to convey them seamlessly— you guessed right, Tay Iwar. The EP is an impressive attempt storytelling and it is noteworthy that the fact that Tay Iwar’s audience might be niche, doesn’t make the project any less amazing.
3. Obongjay & Sarz — Sweetness EP
Sarz & Obongjayar is the pairing we had no idea was needed in 2021 and is arguably the best pairing this year. Obongjayar made a special sort of soulful sound you can’t shy away from. By the end of the first track you know you’re set for a trip and by the end of the fourth track, you don’t want to get off. Obongjayar’s honesty is etched into the lyrics and Sarz acts as a DHL staff, skillfully aiding its delivery.
2. Kizz Daniel — Barnanbas
Barnabas is the experimental EP that didn’t sound experimental. The great thing about this project is it’s dedication to pivoting across genres. From strong afropop servings like “Pour Me Water” and “Lie” to slow burners like “Addict” and “Burn” to a solid highlife offering like “Oshe” which features The Cavemen— we find that Kizz Daniel is not just a certified hitmaker, but one daring enough to cross genres as he stamps his authority as one Nigeria’s most versatile acts.
1. Ckay— Boyfriend
Our number one extended play is by Africa’s boyfriend, CKay. His attempt to solidify his emo-pop wave over 7 beautiful tracks in a little over 20 minutes scores full marks from us. It’s a daring idea, and CKay executes with some aplomb!
The curious thing about this project is the fact that it sounds like something that was made with each listener in mind. And by listener, no one means, the entire universe. It’s closer to, the group of people that appreciate CKay as the well rounded creative he is. Off the back of 4 features, the project is a well packaged gift with a bow hand delivered by a bossom friend, rather than some parcel dropped off at the threshold of your door by the DHL guy.