The NATIVE presents: Best songs of the year so far

The NATIVE presents: Best songs of the year so far

Olamide – “Science Student”

2018 has been a good year for highlighting social issues affecting young Nigerians, ranging from SARS to drug abuse. But before BBC, Buzzfeed and others swooped in to cover Nigeria’s on-going drug epidemic, Olamide’s “Science Student” first offered an unabridged inner gaze at the country’s drug culture using references and terms popular with those who suffer from drug addiction. The result was equal parts horrific and enticing, and an apparent recipe for getting people to react. “Science Student” became a hit off of the outrageous and humorous lyrics, but some older Nigerians called for its ban instead. This controversial double meaning for “Science Student” and it’s eventual ban spurred many weeks of public conversation. -Sh

Burna Boy – “Ye”

“Ye” brings us a jaded Burna Boy, speaking from within a country where socio-economic conditions are cyclical and everyone is too afraid to do anything about it. Despite the occasional pressures to be a medium for the masses, Burna is not ashamed his choice to stay away from larger-society problems is bolstered by privilege; an impractical solution for people who may not have the luxury of choice between a ‘G.Wagon Or The Bentley’. But Burna justifies the choice to be outside as a direct reflection of the reactions that have followed such endeavours in the past—because stereotypes skewer perspective (‘Dada Cover My Face, They Calling Me Lagabja’); or his means was misconstrued without the context for where he’s coming from (‘Plenty, Plenty Suffer Wey We Face, Just To Make Sure Money Dey’); and ultimately, because he cannot ‘Die For Nothing’. – T

Skepta – “Energy” Feat. Wizkid

For most celebrities, social media serves as the primary access through which fans glimpse into their personal lives. But if you’ve ever wondered just how tight Wizkid and Skepta are, vivid descriptions on “Energy” are your best bet. After collaborating on the famous remix of “Ojuelegba”, the two linked up for their first official single, solidifying the cordial relationship both have built over the years. While Skepta’s self-assured verses, counting his blessings is layered with intimidating jabs, Wizkid’s sultry vocals serve as an Afropop filter for Skepta’s grime sensibilities. – D

Hamzaa – “Stranded Love”

Hamzaa’s “Stranded Love” embodies the feelings from that moment after a break-up, when you realize you may have underestimated the impact of the heartbreak. While her emotive vocal performance tugs at tear ducts, the drop of the beat turns her melancholy into zen pop with fairytale-esque production from Eddie Serafica. Understandably, she cuts through the fantasy, declaring “You Belong To Me” on the hook. – TI

Starboy – “Soco” Feat. Spotless, Terri, Ceeza Milli, Wizkid

After releasing ‘Sounds From the Other Side’ to lukewarm local reception, Wizkid quickly realigned himself with Starboy music releases, tailored for his homegrown supporters. Though “Manya” from last year took a while to catch on, “Soco” featuring Terri, Ceeza Milli, Spotless and Wizkid were received on arrival. Perhaps its Wizkid’s shameless embrace of the Afropop sound he was accused of abandoned on SFTOS, or the spiritually-melodious hook, “Soco” is another massive hit under the Starboy’s iced-out sleeves. – D

Good Girl LA – “Faraway”

On “Faraway”, Good Girl LA’s debut single, the singer offers rich, lived-in metaphors, as messy as constellations pregnant with meaning, elusive, yet utterly compelling. “Na Me And You Suppose To Dey Ball Around The Town/ Show The Other Man Say You Got A Trophy Wife”, the song’s centrepiece, is the most direct and raw words you can hear from anyone. The beat Syn X produces with soaring synth lines that echo softly but never reaches a climax, soaks up Good Girl LA’s mopey cooing. Though her vocals are emotional, exploring the contours of her sorrow, she’s careful not to stray into rejection as her despair is all but moored in praises; “Baby I Dey Fall For You/ I Go Die For You”. -M

DMW – “Aje”

DMW has been forging its space in the fringes by rolling out singles and even projects. From Mayorkun to Dremo, the label has released quite a bit of music featuring de facto leader, Davido to help build a healthy buzz over the last few years. But with the release of “Aje”, featuring Yonda, Davido, Peruzzi and Fresh VDM, lesser-known members of the group are more visible than ever. Though they all perform casually Afropop sets, the approach is more business by the committee as “Aje” shows the diversity of the group’s composition. – DJ

Duncan Mighty – “Fake Love” Feat. Wizkid

After releasing 4 well-accepted albums between 2010 to 2014, Duncan Mighty has largely influenced the sound of Afropop with his infusion of highlife. Though he has pivoted his music from his hometown, Port Harcourt, since the dawn of his career, “Fake Love” his collaboration with Wizkid is Mighty’s most sublime effort at a national spotlight in recent times. “Fake Love” is a testament to Afropop’s rich history and harmony, pairing two iconic artists from different eras to perform the heartfelt song about trust and relationships. – D

Davido – “Assurance”

Romance-themed dance songs often come off a bit deceptive because of the insincerity of the lyrics. But with a real-life muse at the centre of “Assurance”, Davido is transformed into a genteel, charming and accessible lover boy. He serenades his love interest, taking delight in her flair singing, “Chioma My Lover, She Dey Wear Designer, She Get The Dollar”. But for all its sentimentality, Davido knows love isn’t a fantasy and makes sure to emphasise the importance of security in relationships as the core message of “Assurance”. – D

BoyBreed – “Follow Back” feat Jilex Anderson

Boy Breed’s “Follow Back” is deliberately sensitive, vulnerable. Set on a whine-set baseline, “Follow Back” is a telling of the exaggerated importance of first impressions in relationships instigated online. With additional vocals from Jilex Anderson on “Follow Back”, brothers Namdy and Frank create a theme song for the mystique and wonder of falling in love over likes and filtered images. – D

Mayorkun – “Bobo” Feat. Davido

A truly great pop song holds you in the moments when you’re most vulnerable, like when you’re in the shower thinking about loves that could have been. Mayorkun hits that mark with “Bobo”, a song dedicated to the sinking feeling of falling for someone out of your league. And though his emotive performance is compelling, it’s the inclusion of Davido’s verse where he seemingly plays himself as the irresistible playboy that makes “Bobo” the riveting Afropop song it is. – D

Odunsi x Zamir x Santi – “Alte Cruise”

For lack of a better concept, younger artists emerging in Nigeria have been labelled ‘Alternative’—despite making conventional Afropop with a bit more attention to composition. While the subculture has struggled to fight off the restrictive connotation of the word “alte”, it has also maintained cult-following attuned to its brazen urban lifestyle and distinctly 90’s-inspired aesthetic. The ‘alte’ generation’s mythos is fully realised on “Alte Cruise”, featuring Odunsi, Santi and Zamir who enunciate the ‘alte’ state of mind, with production and mixing done by Yinoluu and GMK respectively. – D

Teni – Askamaya 

Teni’s penchant for turning Yoruba slangs into buzzwords for hooks pays off on “Askamaya”, an Afropop song that tributes Adewale Ayuba’s classic, “Omoge Cinderella”. The mellow Spellz-production on “Askamaya” is fitting for the song’s rich narrative, reflecting on the flirtatious lifestyle of sex workers. Though we live in a society that frowns on sex-for-pay, “Askamaya” finds Teni celebrating the euphoric life without any trace of recoil or opportunism. Her lyrics: “Emi Nikan Tan, You Didn’t Fuck Me/ Listen I’m the Girl You Shouldn’t Fuck With” has so much spunk, she may as well have coined a bargaining line you might hear if you find yourself on the streets of Allen Avenue for any reason. – F

Patoranking – “Suh Different”

“Suh Different” is the latest chapter in Patoranking’s championed sound, melding influences from homegrown Afro-Pop and Reggaeton. On this track, pseudo-romantic confessional lyrics are just the right amounts of lightweight and steamy enough to serve as a mood-setting aphrodisiac. Over the sparse production, booming bass, rumbling drums and percussion, Pato sings of the type of love that makes you excited about the weekend.

Yinka Bernie – “Epistles” feat Amaarae and Idris King

Watch out for Idris King’s French-infused soulful entry on this slow-dance bop, by Yinka Bernie. Like any song dedicated to those late night conversations under covers, Yinka Bernie crafted this track to serve as the perfect homage to the throes of blossoming love. If you have any further questions, additional silky vocals from Amaarae at the close of “Epistles” will tell you everything you need to know. – T

PrettyBoy D-O – “Chop Elbow”

Despite D-O being warned to not listen to what “those NATIVE people” have to say, we must say this: “Chop Elbow” is the strongest indication we’ve seen thus far to suggest that D-O is here to stay. From the late 90s inspired music video to the enchanting refrain of “Gbo”, the artist who previously shone on dancehall-inspired records, truly comes into his own. The new generation of Nigerian artists get a bad rap for their distinct lack of social activism, but with records like “Elbow” in rotation, it shows just how it can be done. – SS

Tay Iwar – “Miracle Girl” 

Tay Iwar’s spirited tracks have always spoken for this enigmatic singer, songwriter, and sound engineer. On this track – the final piece of his teasing trifecta, 1997 – Austin ‘Tay’ Iwar is reminiscent of the young Frank Ocean, making use of simple chords during the verse, contrasted by an electric guitar accompanied by autotuned notes over the hook. The simplicity on the track places the right emphasis on his powerful vocals and the lyrics of the song, a fitting highlight considering the subject at hand is a passionate explosion of emotions. – W

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