There were more Nigerian music albums —LPs and EPs—in 2016 than in 2015 and it is quite interesting that in spite of the ascension of the single, the album hasn’t quite fallen by the wayside.
There were debut albums that found meteoric rises. Surprisingly, there were also sophomores which thrived. Veteran musicians also released albums that drew fresh attention to their genius and there are lesser known artists who finally struck gold. Enjoy.
Comprising twenty tracks and lasting one hour and twenty-five minutes, there is no dull moment on Phyno’s sophomore album. With a coterie of seven A-rate music producers, and featured artistes like Onyeka Onwenu, 2 Baba, P Square, Olamide, Flavour, M.I, Burna Boy(x2), Mr Eazi, Zoro, Decarlo and Tidinz (not necessarily in their order of acoustic weight), this album is easily the most ambitious acoustic thing this year.
Phyno’s sophomore album does what is usually unattainable for most second albums. The Playmaker pushes the conversation further in Igbo with hip-hop and highlife, and obeys that creed about how artistic excellence is about taking what has been done and updating it.
Mode Nine, Insulin
Probably the most decorated lyricist Nigeria has ever known, Mode Nine has about 6 Headies to his name. On this 21 track album, Mode Nine has no hang ups about asserting bragging rights or frolicking in familiar terrains of hip hop. This is close to traditional poetry, Modo being the street poet and polymath running commentary about issues from North-Eastern Nigerian terrorism all the way down to female groupie mentality.
The music in Insulin is prescribed for combating societal ills. It is not quite the critic’s work to audit the potency of prescribed treatments especially the type doomed to the fate of a prescription paper.
A-Q’s Rose might as well be his most ambitious attempt at cross-over (and breakthrough) since his prodigious career began. He plays his latest release as a narrative, evidenced by the way the 18 tracks are listed in prose form. The album, Rose, is almost a gem. It is a work of genius almost ruined by ineffectual collaborations with big industry names. Oh yes, it does not sit with the zeitgeist, rather borrowing its ethos from hardcore hip hop— just like the Americans used to do it before hip hop went figuratively and literally south. What’s more important however is that A-Q’s registers and experiences are deeply Nigerian, middle-class and human—and not necessarily in that order.
Reminisce’s fourth album is easily his most confident. For one, the beats are mid-tempo, a slight departure from the zeitgeist of heavy ‘shoki-attuned’ percussion. Rhyme, wordplay and use of local slangs are top-notch—and of course this validates Reminisce as a rapper who cares deeply about language. El Hadj is 56 minutes and 50 seconds of sheer brilliance that sits side by side with Alaga Ibile, Reminisce’s classic sophomore.
Patorankin, God over Everything
It has been three years since Patoranking broke into the mainstream Nigerian music with his Timaya-assisted, Del-B produced ‘Alubarika’. His problem was not belting out hits – which he did, several times—see ‘Girlie’, ‘Make am’, ‘My woman My everything’. Patoranking’s problem was that of uncertainty; he claimed he was not sure that his music was fit for the Nigerian palate.
Patoranking’s triumph remains his ability to fuse genres of music seamlessly. When he does dancehall, he owns it. When he does afrobeats, he owns it. When the album wanders into lover’s rock reggae, he owns it. But this album should have been called anything but God Over Everything.
Kiss Daniel, New Era
The adjective “New” is quite integral to understanding the victories of Kiss Daniel. The 20-something-year-old Water Engineering graduate is a breath of fresh air and at the same time reminds us of all those that came before him.
On a first listen, it is clear that Kiss Daniel draws a line across the traditions of African music, passing through a timeline of highlife and juju music all the way to what is now called afrobeats. Sometimes a phrase, a falsetto, or an adlib will bring to mind King Sunny Ade, Kayode Fashola, Dele Taiwo, Klever Jay, Danny Young and even 9ice.
Seamlessly switching lyrics from Yoruba to Pidgin and then English, the music of the baby-faced and gangly Kiss Daniel finds audience in almost every ear it falls upon. The highlife of the golden age and the Caribbean Ska music were made for dance, specifically of sinuous African curves. Almost fifty years after, Kiss Daniel’s music makes you want to do same.
Brymo’s latest 11 track indie output lasts about thirty-three minutes and that is thirty plus minutes of gorgeous alternative music. Klitoris is clearly a metaphor for sensation, and soul music is nothing without that. Knowing this, this meditative album becomes a tub of sensations. Brymo has conquered once again, and with his fifth album named after that glorious knob of nerve endings, he makes us see his more sensual and sensitive side and reminds us that being naked isn’t always a physical or a pornographic endeavour.
Adekunle Gold, Gold
The Gold album presents Adekunle as the new poster boy of affection. Yes, the album sometimes insists on being a paean to breakthrough but it also marries this with love matters- occasionally grappling with infidelity (in Temptation), long distance relationships (No Forget with Simi), physical intimacy (Beautiful Night) and rebound (Fight For You). Every other song speaks to the struggles of the modern African man who aspires to some measure of wealth in many ways.
With his language oscillating between Pidgin English and Yoruba, Adekunle Gold’s debut hardly strays from the confines of mid-tempo ballads situated within the frame of highlife and folk song. This requires that there is a marriage of sorts between digital and analog techniques as acknowledged in the credits for numerous studio session instrumentalists.
Tiwa Savage RED
So Mavin’s First Lady called her new album after the colour red, a neat play on the alphabets RED—in an acronym for Romance, Expression, Dance. Clearly taking a cue from the lack of an over-arching direction of her first album, her sophomore is conspicuously ambitious, although the last creed of dance comes first. Notwithstanding, RED has its glorious moments not quite attributable to the all male cast of featured acts.
At 14 tracks, this suitcase is not as heavy as the standard Nigerian portmanteau. She wears her influences rather proudly. Asa. Laryn Hill. Sade Adu. Micheal Jackson. Tina Turner. Ultimately, Aramide aspires to jazz.
Suitcase is clearly the first of many great things in the discography of this hardworking singer-songwriter who just gave 2016 its best album by a female Afrosoul vocalist.