After a number of delays and missteps, we are finally in the last stretch before the 2018 Headies. The Headies nominees list this year is easily the most diverse the award showcase has ever amassed, pooling critical and commercial hits from July 2016, to December 2017 in 25 categories. So far Davido leads the pack with six nominations thanks to his monster hits ‘FIA’ and ‘IF’. Wizkid, Olamide to everyone’s surprise Simi follow close behind with five nominations each. We’ve decided to break down the list of nominees and make our predictions, just in time for the award’s May 5 ceremony.
First the Non-voting categories (winners in this categories are chosen by a jury of their industry peers).
Best Recording of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Hallelujah – Funbi.
2017 was Funbi’s break out year after struggling under the radar for a couple of years. Funbi gives the best vocal performance of his career so far, mixing a classic sound with distinctly Nigerian cultural touch points. And the production and Ikon works a madness on the composing that instrumental.
WHO WILL WIN: Heaven – Banky W.
Barely anyone remembers Banky W’s ‘Heaven’, but we haven’t forgotten his whirlwind wedding to Adesua Etomi and if Heaven (Susu’s song) somehow wormed its way into the nominations, it will most likely ride all the way to a win purely on sentiment.
Best Pop Single
WHO SHOULD WIN: Mad Over You – Runtown.
Runtown united Ghana and Nigeria and sold out tours across the country based on this riff on Mr. Eazi’s banku music. If there’s anyone who should win purely on the merit of how they were able to shift what we consider ‘pop’ in 2017, it should be Runtown.
WHO WILL WIN: Davido.
MOBO’s and EMA’s prove that the Davido train just won’t let up. The only person who can snatch an award out of Davido’s hands at this point is Wizkid. Everyone else can just go home.
Producer of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Sarz
Sarz was the single most important element in Niniola’s meteoric rise to continental acclaim, helping her craft a whole new genre of Afro-house music that centers Nigeria and ‘Maradona’ is its Rosetta stone. That alone should give him the win.
WHO WILL WIN: Tekno.
With who big a cultural phenomenon IF became, Tekno is almost certainly a shoo-in for producer of the year.
Best Reggae/DanceHall single
WHO SHOULD WIN: Rock Your Body – Burna Boy.
Since Burna Boy released Outside and put to rest any grumblings about his place at the very apex of Nigerian music, he released Rock Your Body, a return to the sound that made him a star after a year of non-stop controversy. It went viral in a heart beat and had us feening for more Burna which is what a great comeback single does.
WHO WILL WIN: Rock Your Body – Burna Boy.
Burna Boy is dancehall/Afrofusion. Not up for discussion.
Best Rap Album
WHO SHOULD WIN: Rose – A-Q
A-Q has consistently delivered a level of wordplay that has earned him the respect of the country’s most respected journalists and the grudging admiration of his peers. Many argue that Rose is his Opus, with M.I Abaga at the wheel and Beats by Jayy on productions. A true storytelling masterpiece that will be referenced for at least the next decade.
WHO WILL WIN: 27 – FALZ
Olamide would have been the front runner in this category if Falz hadn’t taken the promotion of 27 and basically revolutionized marketing rap in Nigeria. With a critically acclaimed Christmas concert, a concert film premiered in cinemas and an album that was ‘beyonce’d’ on us, no one is forgetting 27 in a hurry.
Best R&B/Pop album
Don’t understand the logic behind lumping R&B and Pop together, but yeah, it’s their award show.
WHO SHOULD WIN: This Is Me – Niniola
Niniola had the best year sonically, almost every single she released off her debut album became cultural touchstones and crossing age-demographics and winning Niniola a decent but loyal fanbase across the continent and beyond. Plus her sound was the most original this year, yet the most accessible, if anyone deserves to win best Pop album, its her.
WHO WILL WIN: Sounds from the otherside – Wizkid.
To be honest, its a toss up in this category, Simi and Adekunle Gold are the new school who have made the mainstream transitions with their albums. Omawumi went the Asa route and created a modern classic and Flavour returned to his roots, any of them can win this at this point.
But the win will most likely go to Wizkid, because international crossover album.
Best Music Video
WHO SHOULD WIN: Yolo – Seyi Shay
The whole point of a music video is to contextualize a song and bring it to a whole new audience and Seyi Shay’s Yolo did just that. But it did something else, it finally allowed Seyi Shay rebrand herself as more than an Afropop singer vying for that coveted spot as Nigeria’s pop girl du jour. Meji Alabi did the damn thing.
WHO WILL WIN: Come Closer – Wizkid.
Daps managed to merge Wizkid’s distinctly Nigerian aesthetic with high end American pop sensibilities. And who could forget all those gorgeous women that foreshadowed all the gorgeous ‘tribal’ makeup in Black Panther. The video hit 1 million views in 48 hours so…
Best R&B Single
WHO SHOULD WIN: Tonight – Nonso Amadi
Nonso Amadi is the biggest thing from the ‘New Age’ music movement that swept across the country with their new sound and a DIY approach to music. With a voice smooth as silk and lyrics that embody that post millennial angst, Amadi crossed over into the mainstream on the strength of two singles, and by God, that should be rewarded.
WHO WILL WIN: Let Me Know – Maleek Berry
This isn’t by any means one of the best songs off Maleek Berry’s phenomenal debut EP (that would be ‘Kontrol’), but Maleek was everywhere and it would have been murder to not honour his achievements in 2017. An R&B nod is a tidy way to give him accolades and sate his fanbase.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Juice – YCEE and Maleek Berry.
Juice was a massive hit. As big as a hit between two relatively unknown singers trying to break into the mainstream could get. It basically put Tinny Entertainment on the map and turned YCee into an A-List performer. And even if you strip all that, Juice had one of the catchiest hooks of 2017 period.
WHO WILL WIN: Wizkid.
Wizkid is winning this, the only thing in contention is who he wins it with, Drake or Tiwa Savage. My money is on Savage though. The Sugarcane EP was largely snubbed and this might be small compensation.
Best Rap Single
WHO SHOULD WIN: You rappers should fix up your life – M.I
M.I legacy was in contention until he released ‘Fix up your life’ in 2017 and had all the rappers scurrying into the booth. Talk about impact.
WHO WILL WIN: You rappers should fix up your life – M.I
The Headies started from the Hip-Hop World awards, and M.I represents the zeitgeist of that time. Not to project too much, but M.I is winning this.
Best Male vocal performance
WHO SHOULD WIN: Romeo and Juliet – Johnny Drille.
Johnny Drille is easily one of the best vocalists working in the country today and the single’s he’s released this year have all been sleeper hits, affirming his talent and skill. Winning best male vocal would simply be affirming what everyone already knows.
WHO WILL WIN: Folashade – Praiz.
Johnny Drille is who Praiz was in 2014 when he released his cover of Rihanna’s ‘Stay’, a cover many people argue is one of the best made of the song. Folashade is interesting vocally, but not at the apex of Praiz’s skill as a vocalist. But he is long overdue a win, and this will be the one where he clinches it.
Best female Vocal performance.
WHO SHOULD WIN: In The Air – Waje.
‘In the Air’ was Waje’s comeback single and Waje does the damn thing on that song, reminding us exactly why we fell in love with her on PSquare’s ‘Do Me’. Waje manages to infuse some serious vocal pyrotechnics into a fairly generic pop song, elevating it into a masterclass in control. If the world was fair, Waje would win this hands down.
WHO WILL WIN: Butterflies – Omawumi
Omawumi delivers a crowd pleasing piano ballad, and in the battle for vocal performances, the piano ballad wins EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! (Just ask Dare Art Alade).
Headies Next Rated.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Maleek Berry.
Maleek Berry took an EP and conquered the world with it, even performing on the same stages as Jay-Z and Beyonce, all on his own merit. Next Rated is a bit of an insult to Maleek Berry at this point, but at least the Headies could compensate him by giving him the win.
WHO WILL WIN: Mayorkun
Apart from the fact that Mayorkun’s debut album has been a runaway success, he also has that all encompassing sheen of Davido on him and that will be the little extra push that will help him win this category.
Hip Hop World revelation
WHO SHOULD WIN: Niniola.
As far solid debuts go, Niniola’s This Is Me sounds like nothing else released in 2017, so much so, music journalists were forced to coin the term Afro-house to categorize her sound. With a distinct brand, a cache of music videos that push the genre and a cross-generational fanbase, Niniola is well and truly a revelation.
WHO WILL WIN: Adekunle Gold
Adekunle Gold is growing in strength with each video he puts out and each project he works on. Plus he is reinventing juju, a genre of music with a long revered history. He already has the attention of the Nigerian mainstream and the judges will definitely consider that when they put him up to win the category.
Lyricist on the roll
WHO SHOULD WIN: Liquor Night – Boogie.
Boogie has been spitting fire since the very single he put out. But even more than that, Boogie is a truly transcendental rapper, able to flit through genres and lyrical styles, dipping between punchline heavy rap and powerful storytelling. Liquour night is as good an example of the kind of fire Boogie brings to a track and its time he got some mainstream recognition.
WHO WILL WIN: You rappers should fix up your life – M.I
M.I triggered the whole industry with a 3 minute rap. He might have let some other rappers dance around his throne, but he has all their ears.
Best Street-Hop Artiste
WHO SHOULD WIN: Penalty – Small Doctor
Small Doctor embodies the street in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time. He literally has the ready made backstory, complete with a stint as an Okada rider. Penalty managed to cross over into the highest and most sophisticated musical circles with such ease that some people began draw parallels between him and Da Grin. He hasn’t been able to replicate that level of success but there is still time.
WHO WILL WIN: Wo- Olamide.
The front runner in this category, Olamide has been the outlier in the other categories in which he has been nominated and he will be pacified with this award.
Best Alternative Song
WHO SHOULD WIN: Radio – Nonso Amadi
Radio was the song that introduced us to the powerhouse talent that is Nonso Amadi, and has ruled airwaves because of how chameleonic the sound Amadi crafts in this song is (he produced as well). As far as alternative song that go mainstream and ‘New Age’ artists who find mainstream fame, Amadi’s ‘Radio’ is the gold standard.
WHO WILL WIN: Romeo and Juliet – Johnny Drille.
Johnny Drille is our defacto indie music darling and while we can’t understand why he was nominated for Best Pop single as Romeo and Juliet is clearly a ‘countrified’ indie song, he is easily the juggernaut in this category.
Album of the year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Simisola – Simi
After many years as Nigeria’s indie-pop princess, Simi finally stepped into the limelight with her debut album Simisola, which she wrote and mastered. Simi takes all the elements that made Nigerians fall in love with her music and supersizes them, crafting a multivariate album that will as much at home at a contemporary concert as it would be at an Owambe. A versatile debut definitely worth an album of the year nod.
WHO WILL WIN: Sounds from the other side – Wizkid
Put Wizkid in any category and you know he is winning it, and to be honest, after the MOBO’s, The Headies not giving him AOTY will cause some major bad will.
Artiste of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Wizkid.
Wizkid has conquered the international world with his stellar US debut ‘Sounds from the other side’, paved the way for Mr. Eazi to aim for world domination and injected much needed life into Tiwa Savage’s comeback EP, gifting her a killer verse on ‘Ma Lo’. 2017 was definitely hisMad year and if all things were considered Wizkid would easily coast to an Artiste of the year win.
WHO WILL WIN: Davido
While Wizkid might have the globe under his thumb, but Nigeria is definitely Davido’s Oyster. And the Headies will factor Nigerian impact over global impact in their final judgement.
Song of the year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Mad over you – Runtown.
Twelve months later, we are still feeling the seismic impact of Runtown’s breakaway hit ‘Mad Over You’. It was the song that made Runtown a global phenomenon, earning him enough money to pay off a Lamborghini. It was the blue print that helped Davido launch his comeback after his dismal outing with Sony and give him his hit ‘IF’. It was such a phenomenon, even Nasty-C’s cover became a bonafide hit. What more do you want in a song of the year.
WHO WILL WIN: IF – Davido.
Davido was a phenomenon before ‘IF’ but that song really confirmed every single projection and prophecy about Davido’s potential to become a musical giant. ‘IF’ is easily the song of the summer for 2017 and will win this category easily.
Rookie of the Year
WHO SHOULD WIN: Teni the entertainer
Teni the entertainer wrote the most underrated of Davido’s 2017 singles while cementing herself as a bonafide perfomer with her crowd pleasing ‘Fargin’. She’s barely begun to flex her creative muscles as a songwriter and performer but no one can deny her outsize potential. Her winning Rookie would be the fire she needs to get serious with her music.
WHO WILL WIN: Kidi.
Barely anyone remembers that Kidi is actually Ghanaian and started his career there. Ever since Davido and Mayorkun jumped on the remix of his smash hit ‘Odo’, he’s not left the lips of Nigerian music lovers. We talked about the massive influence Davido wields, and we suspect that influence will be the defining factor in this category.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Yemi Alade.
Yemi Alade has cracked the code of performance, and her sold out headlining concerts across the continent bear testament to her electrifying performances. Conquering Swahili and French speaking countries as well is something very few Nigerian artists have managed. The Queen of the stage would easily coast to a win in this category in a perfect world.
WHO WILL WIN: Falz
Falz is a showman through and through, if his Christmas concert is anything to go by, he knows how to put on a fully theatrical performance. It’s a close toss between himself and Flavour, but he will certainly edge through.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Nasty C.
As far as innovation goes, Nasty C has been miles ahead of the competition. His short film, Bad Hair, was as experimental and ambitious as they come, drawing parallels with Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Nasty-C has also crossed over with collaborations with Runtown and Major Lazer, a true international artiste if we ever saw one.
WHO WILL WIN: Cassper Nyovest
After filling out stadiums in South Africa, Cassper Nyovest remains at the top of the totem pole for African rappers, he is also on the top of the charts too. Nyovest will easily coast to a win in this category. .
These are our definitive predictions. See you May 5th, lets see how many we got right.
P.S: We left out Best Industry Supporter and the Viewer’s Choice awards for journalistic propiety.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.