Four Takeaways from the 2023 Headies Nominations

key points to contemplate

Every year the Headies come to shake things up. Since its inception in the early 2000s, the award founded by Ayo Animashaun as the Hip Hop World Awards has maintained curatorial consistency while putting itself in the faces of Africans through its media channel, Hip TV. As a result, it’s been regarded as the premier award show around these parts.

Early this morning, the Headies confirmed its full nominations list for its 2023 awards show. Coming just after the middle of the year, the scene has witnessed several memorable artists and moments, crafting their myth or consolidation of established status. Thus the nominations arrive to quite the fanfare, contesting for relevance thick within a bubble of conversation.

We’re however about the music, and so here we react to some strong points from the nominations list. From the omissions to the glaring talking points and potentially scene-defining nods, we explore the most poignant conversations that could spring up from this nomination list.


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It should be obvious that Asake’s Headies moment is on the horizon, but that may not quite be the case. In the past the award organisers have made questionable decisions, leading to divisive comments in the aftermath. But Asake’s greatness should be unarguable by now; he’s shifted the soundscape of afropop, taking the popular amapiano sound into the hyperrealist portraits of Fuji lingua. An album full of literary hits, an uncontestable era stamped in time.

Among the categories he’s nominated in are the prestigious Next Rated, Album of the Year, Best Street-Hop Artiste and Song of the Year. He has some solid contenders, such as ‘Boy Alone’ in the album category and “Calm Down” and “Last Last” in the latter, but he has sufficient credentials to attempt a clean swoop. If anything, Headies’ recognition of him in those key categories would signal their interest level in popular culture, especially as Asake was the undisputed man of the year, particularly in Nigeria. With crossed fingers and bated breath, the country awaits their decisions, with the hope that perhaps, musical excellence would triumph at this year’s awards.

Emmanuel Esomnofu


Among other things, Nigerians love to discuss the state of R&B. To some, the genre’s smooth gaze has lost its relevance to the times; for others, contemporary incursions into the sound haven’t matched up to the standard of its golden era. Regardless of those conversations, a delve into the music reveals some timely gems, worthy bearers of all the romantic allure that comes with it.

For Headies, R&B has seldom been considered a major genre in its own right. There’s a surface-level understanding of its intricacies, especially as regards the subtle variations in the sounds being created by today’s Nigerian musicians. It really asks the question of what constitutes R&B, and some of the nominations on this year’s list don’t really answer that question. The Best R&B single category, for instance, has an obvious pop-directed song like Chike’s “Hard To Find”, while “Loyal” and “For My Hand” by Simi and Burna Boy don’t quite have the sonic peculiarities of the genre even with their emotive resonance.

No doubt, all three would best be situated in a Pop category, if they’re deemed quality enough. Similarly, the Best R&B album isn’t the best encapsulation of a genre whose practitioners have released stellar projects through last year. I find the nominees to be easily sourced, too predictable. There’s no doubt better research could have been done, to properly reflect quality and not just how much the project leans into the mainstream.



The Next Rated category has always been one of the most prestigious awards in the Headies canon. Awarded to the most impactful new artist under the year in review, it’s a category where its nominees are discussed, considering that the winner joins a rank of revered artists, many of which often go on to eclipse the success of their mainstream breakout year. Asake, Seyi Vibez, Young Jonn, Victony and Spyro are in contention for the award at the next Headies ceremony, a formidable list of nominees who made indelible marks on Nigerian pop in 2022—none more searing than Asake, though, the overwhelming favourite to pick up the award and the accompanying car.

With the Next Rated outcome seemingly predetermined, some of the discussion has moved over to the Rookie of the Year, a category dedicated to artists who have had a breakthrough year with no album in the year under review. Bayanni, Khaid, Guchi, Eltee Skilz, Bloody Civilian and Odumodublvck are this year’s nominees, an otherwise fine list based on the criteria, but there have been eyebrows raised due to Odumodu’s nod. The Abuja-raised rap artist is something of a young, if grizzled, veteran with more than half-a-dozen projects under his belt, which makes the rookie tag quite misleading. However, it is worth noting that recent songs like “Picanto,” “Declan Rice” and the recent top ten single “Firegun” have elevated his visibility beyond the cult following of his earlier work.

In truth, what these categories for “new” artists signify is that nominations are usually considered through artists’ relationship with the mainstream, not by their output and duration as professional recording and performance artists. Both Asake and Seyi Vibez had veritable street smash hits before last year, Victony was on NATIVE’s Fresh Meat radar back in 2020, while Bloody Civilian released music under an entirely different moniker two-plus years ago. It’s just another reminder that the Headies is for the mainstream.

Dennis Ade-Peter


In this year’s Producer of the Year category are Magicsticks for “Sungba (Remix),” Pheelz for “Electricity” Andre Vibez and London for  “Calm Down,” Tempoe for  “Soweto,” Kel-P for “Kpe Paso” and Rexxie for “Abracadabra.” In Afropop’s globe march, music producers have been instrumental in the expansion and reinvention of sound, picking influences from different genres and cultures and creating authenticity to the African space and its artists.

A standout feature of the contemporary music scene, especially in Nigeria, are that producers are assuming more active roles in the creative process. Whether as performing acts or sole owners of songs, they are no longer staying in the background and are choosing to push to the fore. One of the nominees in Headies the Next Rated category is Young Jonn, who began his career as a hit-making producer but is now making hits as an artist. In the Producer of the Year category, Rexxie and Pheelz are the owners of “Abracadabra” and “Electricity” respectively while Tempoe shares ownership credit with Victony on “Soweto.” This is indicative of the changing tides as more producers are seeing opportunities to establish themselves as creative contributors who deserve full recognition. As the Nigerian music industry continues to evolve, the wins of these producers will motivate up-and-coming producers to not sell themselves short and demand their respect as creatives.

Uzoma Ihejirika