2021 was a year of recovery.
Sometimes it seemed like music was all we had to get us through the most trying times of the year. These were the best of the best.
10. Egedege- Larry Gaaga ft. Theresa Onuorah X Flavour X Phyno
The harmonic Egedege traditional music pioneered by the iconic Queen Theresa Onuorah finally crossed over to the pop mainstream thanks to the heroic efforts of showbiz impresario Larry Gaaga who brought along Flavour and Phyno for the ride. With Masterkraft’s commanding beat updating the sound and Queen Onuorah herself sounding better with age, as if her voice was placed in a time capsule, Egedege is an instant classic.
9. Feeling- Ladipoe ft. Buju
What to say about Feeling that hasn’t already been said? According to Spotify, Feeling is the most streamed Nigerian song of the year. The stellar duet also finished top 10 on Apple Music and was ubiquitous on TikTok for most of the year. The song was enough to cement the stardom of both Ladipoe and Buju as they would go on to enjoy a hugely successful year.
8. Bounce- Ruger
In a year when Blaqbonez cornered the market on the ribald and the raunchy, fresh faced newcomer Ruger also made a huge splash in this space with his breakout single. The eye-patch wearing Ruger was a major sensation thanks to the sweaty, electrifying rhythm of Bounce, a no holds barred declaration of the act of copulation. Sex never sounded sexier than on Ruger’s Bounce.
7. Ozumba Mbadiwe- Reekado Banks
In a year where South Africa influenced the bulk of the music that came out, Reekado Banks’ Ozumba Mbadiwe felt like one of the most thrillingly original. Mournful yet increasingly ecstatic, Ozumba Mbadiwe works as a tribute to one of Lagos city’s most important stretch of roads. But perhaps it is even better as protest music, paying homage to the lives lost in the tragic October 2020 murders by the state government.
6. Coming- Naira Marley ft Busiswa
The horniest song of the year came from two of the most expressive performers on the continent. South meets West as Naira Marley and Busiswa achieve aural perfection in this sinfully playful celebration of the sexual acts basic and freaky. Rexxie’s jumpy instrumentals provide all the heat for both singers as they trade raunchy verses building to a sweat-soaked climax.
5. Essence- Wizkid ft Tems
The Grammy nominated Essence is probably the most successful Nigerian song ever released. Wizkid and Tems’ power duet became a global sensation with the Justin Bieber remix becoming the first Nigerian song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 peaking at number 9. What makes it special though? The lilting, hypnotic beat by Legendary Beatz, Tems’ stunner of an intro? The irresistible chorus? Wizkid’s lazy drawl? We think all of the above.
4. Rock- Olamide
Olamide is an icon, a legend and the moment and with Rock, off his latest album UY Scuti, he attempts a change of direction yet again. The YBNL boss is enamored by a lady and his tone is tender yet convincing as he croons sweet nothings elevated by the seemingly tentative but strategically placed piano licks. No one could resist with Rock doing insane numbers on streaming platforms and scoring heavy rotation on radio.
3. Bling- Blaqbonez ft. Amaaarae and Buju
When the sum of its parts is added up, Bling achieves something close to musical perfection. The beat is a gentle miracle especially paired with the shimmering keys, soft horn blasts and that damn bling sound that follows mentions of the title. Amaarae and Buju provide the sufficient dynamism that complements Type A’s production and makes Bling a forward thinking afrobeats stunner.
2. Gone Girl- Obongjayar X Sarz
This stunner tracks the end of a relationship with Obongjayar’s airy vocals flirting against the ferocious beats supplied by Sarz. Obongjayar is a confused fellow struggling to accept reality and hoping to be convinced otherwise even when all the signs are clear. It is not often that an afrobeat song is well written as this but Gone Girl scores bonus points for being impeccably packaged and intoxicating in addition.
- Work Fada- Tiwa Savage Ft. Rich King and Nas.
To underscore how brilliant and game changing this opener to Tiwa Savage’s Water & Garri EP is, American rap icon Nas is on it but he is probably the least exciting thing about the song. Clocking in at well over 6 unhurried minutes, on Work Fada, Savage and Rich King take turns crooning about putting in the work and avoiding get rich quick schemes. You will probably never be prepared for the first time Work Fada hits you. It comes like a tidal wave and then washes over you, seeping into every musical pore. Illuminating stuff.
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.