The current burst of youthful energy in Nigerian Hip-Hop is thanks to drill music, a bubbling subgenre. +234 Drill, as Nigerian rappers call it, has enjoyed visibility and churned out great records this 2023.
In March, we introduced you to the Nigerian drill artists you should know about. To celebrate the end of year, we picked out 30 impressive drill tracks of 2023 and narrowed it down to 14 undisputed jams of the year.
AGBALAGBI – OluwaMillar
The intro to AGBALAGBI flows with joyous flutes that cue in a sample of a Baba Suwe classic, “Agbalagbi to ju agbalagba lo”. The chorus is catchy, but the verses are even more infectious. It doesn’t only tick the boxes of puns and punchy one-liners, it’s a showcase of superiority that distinguishes MC OluwaMillar from the crowd with spellbinding tongue-twisting rhymes and apt football references in mostly Yorùbá. You may be good, but Millar says he’s better.
No Excuses — MOJO AF & EESKAY
MOJO AF and EESKAY are skilled rappers and braggarts. On this upbeat drill record, EESKAY’s verse hammers on the years he’s spent in the game, consistently working hard to stay in the conversation. He passes the baton to MOJO AF, who drops self-appraisal bars, stoner quotables and money brags. These guys are always an exciting duo when they come together, and some rap listeners’ new favourites.
Omo Yahoo — Norchkingz
This song went viral on TikTok and exposed indigenous rapper, Norchkingz, to a broader audience. Omo Yahoo captures the youthful exuberance of the internet fraud lifestyle with uncouth bars. It sarcastically asks “ballers” from wretched homes if their parents know they’re squandering millions — a Nigerian reality.
FLATLINE – Tomi Obanure & KVV (Kinfxlk)
“If you’re not gang, why you throwing up gang signs?” Obanure and KVV of Kinfxlk take a swing at pseudo-gangsterism with the hook of this track. With the music video, they paint vivid imagery that’ll comfortably sit under horrorcore, an anthem bursting with the obtrusive energy of Olympic weightlifters. Their music may be niche, but it’s quickly gaining traction with Abuja at the forefront of Nigerian Hip-Hop — thanks to the meteoric rise of ANTIWORLD GANGSTAS and Psycho YP.
Grealish — Runjozi
Titled after Jack Grealish, a Manchester City football club player, this song talks about feasting on opps and beats like “Popeye’s spinach”, but its sweetest part is the thematic beat that protrudes over Jozi’s baritone vocals. A skilled rapper, music producer and sound engineer, Runjozi distinctly designs his sound around his flow, cadence and voice texture. Grealish is the third track on eight-man rap band, BAD INFLUENCE’s Under the Influence EP, and it’s an absolute sports car stereo tester.
Apapa — Alpha Ojini
The sapa tale on Alpha’s self-produced jam is more celebratory than sympathetic. Of course, he had to douse the heavy lines on finding beauty in the struggle with humour. Alpha has lofty dreams of owning shipping containers in Apapa, living his best life and compensating for all the times he was down. Don’t we all?
Oloun — PayBac iBoro feat. Payper Corleone
Oloun, the 12th track on PayBac’s latest album, West African Goat
Hamilton — T.O.D SZN feat. Mo’Gunz
Hamilton sparks with a tone sinister enough to wake night marauders. Although juiced up in metaphors and street slang, T.O.D SZN and Mo’Gunz paint a picture of explicit street violence and what it means to be territorial. Their charismatic back and forth is simply a rap lover’s delight.
Jaiye or Not — D.S.6
“Jaiye” is Yoruba for “enjoy”. This hard-hitting tune about only living once, in multilingual delivery, skippy drums and haunting melodies, has become the Nigerian driller’s template for a local resonating hit. In the current music climate, anthemic songs in four minutes are rare. Jaiye Or Not by D.S.6 (Droxx and Slimsyxx) is one of those rarities.
Numero Uno — Mo’Gunz feat. President Zik
In a rap world complicated by ego and one-man movements, Mo’Gunz stakes his claim as “number one”. He is insatiable about taking over the game, but he’s also open to healthy collaborations. Numero Uno is a brute, bouncy, sing-along rap jam.
Darth Vader — Kaylu
It’s a different feeling when you’ve been in the game for a while but you don’t get the accolades you think you deserve. Kaylu sees that the mainstream music game differs from his champion days in Unilag. Strapped up to ignite momentum on bigger stages, Darth Vader is his entry as one of Naija’s most powerful rap Jedi ever.
OSHAMOR — Qeeb feat. Mo’Gunz
Qeeb has been silent since 2021, but his latest EP, ROUGH & READY, released in October 2023, mirrors his go-getter mindset. He channelled this energy especially with Mo’Gunz on OSHAMOR (meaning “You know”). If head-knocking verses and an aggressive chorus about pushing through hurdles get you pumped, here you have it.
Superman — Kene Himself feat. Droxx & Soto Eon
Kene Himself’s baritone vocals erupt with the command of a sophisticated Igbo chief as he runs through this beat with a sharp verse about poise. Superman’s chorus is infectious and memorable. And Droxx’s and Soto Eon’s contribution took the song from a nice rap joint to a spirited one.
Afghanistan — Rebelwav & Droxx
Collaboration has been one of the most vital elements of drill music. It’s why Rebelwav and Droxx have been more visible in 2023. On this track, they liken their daily Nigerian experiences to harsh living in Afghanistan — a well-understood exaggeration. Afghanistan is the last track on their joint EP, Haram Pack, which dropped in November.