The year was awash in excellent Eps and mixtapes with both established and upcoming stars putting in commendable effort to curate these side projects.
We have the extremely difficult job of picking out the best 10. Ranked from good to best.
- Sounds from the Other Side – Wizkid
Wizkid’s major label debut is as interesting as it is perplexing. In reaching out to new audiences across the Atlantic, the Star boy downplays the afro-pop wave that made him special in the first place. Songs like Sweet Love and Sexy retain the unending aspiration to the coolness of Fela Kuti. But Wizkid shows with the bulk of tracks on SFTOS, the underlying Caribbean vibe and the cross-cultural guest acts that home isn’t where his heart is.
- Signature – Iyanya
Signature EP would be quite disappointing if Iyanya had been in the habit of making solid albums by himself. But he doesn’t have a track record as interesting as the material on Signature. So the disc easily places itself- flaws and all – as the finest thing he has done in a long, long time. The bar may be low but the formula does make for a satisfying listen.
- Life is Eazi Mixtape Volume 1: Accra to Lagos- Mr Eazi
Mr Eazi’s idea of a hit song – or EP for that matter- is not the regular upbeat, hip thrusting bang that overflows from today’s top ten radio. Mr Eazi bends the rules a bit, luring audiences to his cause with mid-tempo slow burners. They take their time but they crawl under the skin eventually. Life is Eazi will not impress instantly with its brazenness but it may well show some staying power.
- In search of Higher Frequencies – Mojeed
Mojeed’s nineteen minutes short EP, In Search of Higher Frequencies is sweet music for those who think that popular music has stagnated in the last couple of years. A follow up to 2014’s just-as-stellar Westernized West Africa, …Higher Frequencies accommodates Mojeed’s diverse influences, but standout track, The Charm (with SDC’s Tec) shows that the rap game is where his heart truly lies.
- Sugarcane – Tiwa Savage
During a promotional round, pop queen Tiwa Savage described her latest six track EP as ‘’sweet and different.’’ She may have exaggerated the latter part but Sugarcane the EP is about as sugary sweet as the tall grass that gives the project its title. All Over and Ma Lo (with Wizkid and Spellz) are the inescapable hits that power the record while Get it now and Hold Me Down soften the edges.
- Palmwine Music Volume 1 – ShowDemCamp
Show Dem Camp’s instantly lovable if not quite original Palmwine music is a heady brew of hip-hop, soul, highlife and afrobeat. The duo of Ghost and Tec, industry veterans both, can still rap rings around any of their peers, but rhyming and punchlines take a back seat here as the duo take more than a passing interest in creating moods and feelings with incredible instrumentation and crafty melodies.
- Blaqbonez – Last Time Under: The Prelude
With Last Time Under, underground rapper, Blaqbonez makes an emphatic statement about his future career prospects, and we hear him loud and clear. The mixtape is proof that his participation in last year’s Hennessey cypher session was no fluke. His delivery is supremely confident, talent is genuine and the record employs top-notch production throughout the lengthy seventeen tracks.
- War – Odunsi the Engine and Nonso Amadi
When two of the brightest artistes of the sound cloud generation, Nonso Amadi and Odunsi the Engine come together to make music, War is what you get. The words short and sweet have become sad cliché when describing EPs such as this but War, made from pure intuition, uncouples romantic relationships so sublimely yet briefly (four tracks). Short and sweet is the most apt way to describe the project. More please.
- Virtuoso – Genio Bambino
Also known as Retro Dee, singer, rapper, producer deploys his prodigious talents to crafting Virtuoso, an impeccably produced boiler room of diverse sounds and genres instantly made for relaxed, easy listening. Virtuoso combines R&B, Trap, soul, afrobeat and hip hop and smelts them into a unifying whole. The project benefits from appearances by Lady Donli and Odunsi.
- SDC Clone Wars 3: The Recession – ShowDemCamp
The third volume of ShowDemCamp’s Star Wars inspired Clone series, arrived on the last day of 2016. It may well be the best yet. Heavy on the rhyme and murderous with the bars, the rap duo aspire to another level of greatness on this project, as they contemplate their legacy while taking aim at modern Nigerian living. Socially conscious yet playfully sure-footed, this body of work is simply outstanding.
The writer tweets from @drwill20
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.