Remember their names. They are here to stay.
Making the claim of being the best rapper in Africa is a pretty audacious move, especially when it comes from a skinny 23-year old with an affinity for bright colors. It is the kind of boast that can define or derail a career, especially one that hasn’t been established in the mainstream, or even in the underground scene. But it is one that Blaqbonez (born Emeka Akumefule) wears confidently. A veteran of 8 Eps/mixtapes, Blaqbonez has been hailed as a leading light for a new generation of wordsmiths.
Olamide’s YBNL has proven to be one of the most consistent star makers of the decade. Fireboy DML’s breakout single Jealous has been one of the defining sounds of 2019. Laughters, Tears & Goosebumps , the late-year debut album that followed proved to be a fan favorite with Fireboy DML’s vocal songwriting acumen and vocal performance drawing comparisons to Wande Coal’s seminal Mushin to Mo’Hits.
Based in Lagos and Madrid, Nnamdi Ehirim is the author of the breakout novel, Prince of Monkeys. This exhilarating debut is a fine addition to the coming of age subgenre. Tackling politics, class, power and spirituality, Prince of Monkeys is set in middle-class Lagos during the ‘80s and ‘90s and follows a group of close friends as they discover Lagos on their own terms. Following some political turmoil, the young adults are forced to grow up, picking up real world lessons along the way.
To interprete the role of Nnamdi Okeke in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, director Ramsey Nouah chose to go with the fresh faced Swanky JKA. It turns out to be somewhat of an inspired choice as Swanky JKA waltzes right onto the screen turning in a playful yet commanding performance that should be a star making turn in a world with any justice. Believable in equal turns as a struggling young man and a Lagos big boy, Swanky JKA’s good looks fail to divert from his hard work of creating a credible, relatable character.
The 22-year-old singer scored two of the biggest hits of the year with Baby (over 15 million Youtube views) and its follow up Beginning (Apple Music Nigeria number 1). An alumnus and chief advocate of the effectiveness of Mr Eazi’s emPawa initiative, Joeboy’s success isn’t limited to Nigeria as he has been welcomed in other markets like Zimbabwe and Kenya. His debut EP, Love & Light was released to considerable fanfare.
2019 was the year Sharon Ooja made the transition from web darling to proper big screen leading lady. Following up her strong run from last year, Ooja keept the momentum breaking out big time with major roles in some of the year’s buzziest titles. She also showed a capacity to move from comedy (The Bling Lagosians) to thrillers (Coming from Insanity.) Next year, she headlines the EbonyLife Films drama Òlòtūré.
With the red hot career of Rema, Don Jazzy proves once again that he is not one to be written off. Signed to Mavin Global’s new imprint, Jonzing World, Rema has had a most stellar year. With ubiquitous hit song Dumebi, the 19-year-old singe wormed his way into the playlists of teenage girls and a certain former United Sates of America president. His three projects –Rema, Rema Freestyle and Bad Commando have shown his versatility and artistic range.
Try Me, one of the most indelible hits of the year was brought to you by the singer/songwriter/producer known as Tems. Born Temilade Openiyi, her distinct urban sound is infused with a mixture of alternative RnB and Neo Soul, all set to a rousing strong delivery. Tems lists Lauryn Hill, Asa, Burna Boy, Amy Winehouse and Frank Ocean as some of her strongest musical influences.
Sadiq Onifade, professionally as WurlD, is a Nigerian American power singer and killer songwriter. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, WurlD relocated to Atlanta as a kid. He began his career writing songs for artists such as BOB, Akon and Mario. His collaborative album recorded with beatmaker Sarz landed at No. 1 on Nigeria’s iTunes Albums Chart. He was able to host his debut live concert this December proving once and for all that his talent belongs in the big leagues.
Winner of the Access Bank ART X Prize, Etinosa Yvonne is a self-taught documentary photographer who considers photography to be a medium of expression and a tool to drive social change. Etinosa leverages on the power of visual storytelling to create awareness, educate and inform. Last year, her project, It’s All In My Head merged layered photographic montages with interview extracts in order to reflect on the rising number of violent conflicts like the Boko Haram insurgency.
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.