Drawing up a list of 10 best albums is no easy task and it was especially difficult because 2018 saw the release of an enormous amount of solid projects. Although a number of big names participated in the “sacred art” of album releases, unlike the year before, it is safe to say that heavyweights stepped aside for the rise of newer acts like Blaqbonez and Odunsi who made a case with their respective tapes.
The “Nigerian hip-hop is dead debate” is also officially over! Rappers held their own and offered some of this year’s best projects. In the list below, you will find albums that captured declarations of self-worth and personal struggles delivered in bars, politically-charged statements and jolly-good moments layered over infectious beats. Here is a ranking of 2018’s 10 best albums.
10. Odunsi The Engine – Rare
Release Date: October 12, 2018
Perhaps the most aptly christened project on this list, Odunsi’s ‘rare’ lives it up to its name in more ways than one. Apart from being an obvious departure from popular music in Nigeria, ‘rare’ also steps out of what has become the wave in the alte scene too.
Heavily influenced by the 80s and 90s, Odunsi’s debut is definitely not for everyone and at no point in its 14 track does it attempt to be. Not on the Davido assisted tune (divine) nor on the Runtown feature (star signs) nor even on the Santi and Nasty song (express) does Odunsi try to fit any box. Adventurous, brash and unapologetic, Odunsi proves that it really is his ‘time and nobody can tell me nothing’.
9. Blaqbonez – Bad Boy Blaq
Label: Chocolate City/100 Crowns
Release Date: August 31, 2018
The 10-track ‘Bad Boy Blaq’ album is easily the waviest project of 2018 – thanks to the man behind the mic. With a finesse that causes one to squint in excitement, Blaq was seen undergoing a seamless sonic switch – proving that he is proficient with the bars and also able to intelligently democratize for an experiential offering.
For fans of the rapper, the album is especially a thrill because it shows a substantial amount of growth for a musician who is clearly making stringent strides to push his pen and clean his craft.
8. M.I Abaga – Rendezvous
Label: Chocolate City
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Rendezvous is a musical buffet! With Rendezvous, M.I Abaga made the promise of offering a soundtrack for an evening out in Lagos and this was delivered in the most thorough way ever.
The 15-track project which the rapper deems a playlist is a different type of genius. A project that reflects a laudable degree of evolution and flexibility that not so many rappers can boast of. Everything worked out just fine – Rendezvous is a decent crossroad of musical diversity.
7. Mr Eazi – Lagos To London
Label: Banku Music
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Much like the debut of his Life Is Eazi series, his sophomore ‘Lagos to London’ accommodates all the elements we have come to love him for; relatable lyrics, groovy beat, and earworm melodies.
A fan of collaborations himself, Eazi collaborated with a diverse mix of musicians on the highly anticipated sequel. While most of the collaborators held their ground, for the most part, a standout moment on the album has to be the Simi-aided wedding-esque anthem, ‘Surrender’. From top to bottom, Lagos to London is pop and eazi.
6. Kizz Daniel – No Bad Songz
Label: Fly Boi Inc
Release Date: November 30, 2018
Despite a rocky label tussle that might have led to a shortlived career for many artistes, Kizz Daniel truly rose above the drama with the Nigerian pop songwriting masterclass that is ‘No Bad Songz’.
Before its release, one could have safely assumed the album title a statement of pride, but its release cleared every doubt as the album came and very well, lived up to its title. When Daniel’s tried and true formula gets tired and blue, the pop star injects new life into the records with mavin features like Diplo, Davido, Sarkodie, Philkeyz, DJ Xclusive, Demmie Vee, and Diamond Platnumz.
5. Adekunle Gold – About 30
Release Date: May 35, 2018
Sophomore slump where? Adekunle Gold took his time, and with a stunning rollout plan, returned with a triumph called ‘About 30′. With songs like Down With You (feat. Dyo), Fame and Call On Me, Gold played with new sonic textures while successfully retaining the core of his artistry. While the album is decidedly not adventurous in respect of themes, it is timeless and for that, we are grateful.
4. Seun Kuti – Black Times
Label: Strut Records
Release Date: March 28, 2018
Seun Kuti is the son of his father and his third studio album “Black Times” is proof of it.
With the politically charged album, Seun Kuti employs the services of his late father’s iconic Egypt 80 band and delivers an extremely melodious wake-up call. Kuti preached against corruption and all form of social and economic injustice that stems from poor governance.
Albeit fierce, Black Times is an appealing musical protest armed with all the soothing elements of the sacred Afrobeat genre.
3. M.I Abaga – Yung Denzl
Label: Chocolate City
Release Date: August 24, 2018
The term ‘long-awaited’ is used often to describe albums but perhaps none more than M.I’s ‘Yung Denzl’- possibly the only REAL concept album of 2018.
With the therapeutic project, M.I Abaga defied a lot of things including toxic masculinity. He embarked on a significant journey to finding himself and returned with lessons for anyone that cares to listen.
Easily one of the most iconic musical moments not only in Nigerian rap, but also in Nigerian music, ‘Yung Denzl’ finds its strength in its most vulnerable moments. Mature, consistent, clever and seamless, M.I was successful in creating a musical experience that only a musician of his caliber and consciousness can envision. M.I released yet another masterpiece and reminded us why he truly is African rapper number one.
2. Brymo – Oso
Release Date: March 27, 2018
OSO (Wizard) is melody wrapped in wit.
The 11-track tape sees Brymo taking listeners on an introspective journey that touches the subjects of love, life, and relationships. From “No be me” to the soulful “Bá’núsọ”, this trip is melodious and beyond beautiful. The blend of simple chords, even simpler words that hold so much depth and ear-soothing vocals all came together to create something that is absolutely stunning.
With OSO, Brymo cemented his position as one of today’s brightest musical talents.
1. Burna Boy – Outside
Release Date: January 26, 2018
Burna Boy’s OUTSIDE is 38 minutes of thrilling, exhilarating and absolutely stunning artistry. On his third major label release, Burna is at his most honest, introspective and creatively unpredictable.
The project embodies the singer’s truth and offers to the public, a light text of his personal experiences with no apology of any sort. On dexterity, OUTSIDE is Burna Boy’s most versatile offering as it saw him push far beyond the boundaries of basic dimensions – balancing speed, depth, and par storytelling.
Loose Kaynon and AQ – Crown
Another project from the exquisite stables of Chocolate City, ‘Crown’ is one of the few collaborative projects to come out for 2018 but its more than enough. Threading intelligently on the more than thin line between lyrical excellence and commercial appeal, the two rappers complement each other in a way that masterfully balances the musical equation. The feature-heavy project finds the two sharing their stage while always keeping the spotlight bright and hot on them.
Poe – Talk About Poe
Anyone who is even remotely familiar with Poe as a rapper knows how ambitious the musician is and was possibly expecting a longer project from him. In his succinct ten-track debut, the prolific rapper released a solid and diverse collection of songs which showcased his artistry. Complete with buzz-worthy collaborations with Seyi Shay, Efya, Funbi, and Tems, Poe proves that sometimes less truly is more.
Saeon Moruda – Birth Of the Boy Chick
Saeon Moruda’s ‘Birth of The Boychick’ is off the bat one of the more important projects on this list because of the notable want of musical albums by female musicians in 2018. Described by Saeon as a ‘mixtape album’. ‘Boychick’ is a bold musical statement with a single rapper feature by Falz.
Committing to the ‘BoyChic’ concept, documents her journey to self-acceptance while swerving from hardcore to emotional with no warning and an impeccable amount of ease.