2022 was an incredible year for Nigerian music: Burna Boy’s Last Last became a global hit, Ayra Starr gave Gen Zs musical bragging rights with Rush, Omah Lay made emo boys feel seen and Tems caused some damage with acts like Beyoncé, Future and Rihanna. Despite all this, the one name we couldn’t stop calling was Asake.
With hit after hit, Asake put his foot on our necks, marking one of the biggest runs the industry has seen since Naira Marley’s 2019 breakout. Can Asake’s big break be replicated? Probably not anytime soon. But there’s a high chance the artistes on this list could end up as major breakout stars by the time we close out 2023.
The biggest underdog of 2022, Seyi Vibez has become one of the most streamed artists in Nigeria without the backing of a label — even though fans are just finally getting to attach a face to the sound and name.
Building his following organically, with honest stories about his early days in Ikorodu and the complex reality of adjusting to fame, Seyi has used songs like Chance (Na Am), God Sent, +234 and Para Boi to keep Nigerians in a chokehold, and we’re here for it.
Rap is not dead in Nigeria, it’s changing, and Odumodublvck is one of the rappers at the forefront of this movement.
One of the pioneers of the Nigerian drill scene, his fearless lyrics and high-life-inspired melodies have called out the government on Potor-Potor, spoken against police brutality on Bloody Pavements and soundtracked some of the biggest raves in the country with Agbalagba. Closing out 2022 with the addictive single, Picanto, Odumodu and his Okpu Agu seem set to take over 2023 with vim.
We were all psyched when the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack dropped. After being excluded from the first film’s soundtrack, it felt good to see Nigerians dominating the conversation this time. But among heavyweights like Burna Boy, Rema and Tems, was Bloody Civilian, an artist not many people had heard of before. Wake Up, Bloody Civilian’s entry on the Marvel Soundtrack was a loud, rousing banger, but it had nothing on her follow-up single, How to Kill a Man.
Remember how Tems and Ayra Starr came and changed the game? There’s a high chance 2023 might be Bloody Civilian’s year.
TAR1Q’s 2022 EP Son of the Moon might be just 15 minutes long, but it still manages to make a strong introduction to the type of artiste he’ll be. From the opening track, Emotions, which has him in love with two women, to Dear Insecurities, the album-closer on which he battles with his inner demons, TAR1Q shows different sides of himself, all while making the five-track project cohesive AF.
If you’ve spent hours listening to Omah Lay, you need to add TAR1Q to your playlist ASAP!
Mavin Records’ latest signee might not have a face as famous as Ayra Starr or Rema, but best believe you’ve heard his voice before.
From his star-making verse on the label’s 2022 hit, Won Da Mo, to the viral TikTok sound coined from his single, Ta Ta Ta, Bayanni has proven himself a worthy baton-collector in the Mavin hit-making factory. The next move? Increase social media presence and push a unique personality Nigerians can relate to.
Not everyone can successfully turn 15 seconds of fame into a thriving singing career, but that’s exactly what Ugoccie did after Do You Really Love Me? her TikTok parody of Rotimi’s My Bed transitioned into a bonafide hit. Since then, the rapper/singer has worked with artists like Phyno and Niniola on her 2022 debut EP, A Piece of Me. Best believe you’ll see and hear a lot of Ugoccie’s cheeky humour in 2023.
Lobi’s Freemotion is hands down one of the most underrated debut projects of 2022. A deadly combination of Wande Coal-like circa Ololufe falsettos, Tay Iwar-inspired harmonies and the seductive BDE of The Weeknd before the whole pop fiasco, Lobi’s take on R&B feels familiar yet distinct. From the brooding Roses to the self-assured No Pressure, Lobi makes his mark in under 20 minutes, and now, we want more.
Efe Oraka is no stranger to the game. Stealing hearts with her 2017 single, Wonderland, Efe quickly became a fave of SoundCloud babies just around the time artistes like Odunsi the Engine and Cruel Santino started to achieve widespread attention.
While she’s been on and off for a while, Efe’s ethereal voice has only gotten better with each project, as evidenced by her 2022 singles, No More and Damn, Daniel. Hopefully, she puts out more music and finally claims the alt. R&B princess crown that’s been waiting for her.
Afrobeats is constantly evolving, with new iterations popping up every day. Rema helped make Afro-Rave a thing, and before him, Fireboy DML introduced audiences to Afro-Life with Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. Now, thanks to Major AJ, a new sound is brewing, and he calls it Afro Disco.
Taking elements from the strings that carried some of our parents’ fave highlife and funk records of the 80s, Major AJ’s EP, Retroverse, was a major standout of 2022. With tracks like Taboo and Mr Lover (which samples Angelique Kidjo’s Agolo) bringing the past into the present, I can only imagine what new musical territory Major AJ will explore in 2023.
SirBastien makes music for misunderstood Gen Zs who get tattoos when they’re sad and profess their love by sending playlists. While I don’t do any of these things, I still deeply connect to SirBastien’s music because he reminds me of a Frank Ocean and Thundercat love child.
After 2022 which saw him work with Rihanna and Tems on the Black Panther soundtrack, there’s no telling where SirBastien’s music might take him in 2023. But I’m down for the ride as long as he remains quirky and exciting.