A few weeks ago, we shared the 10 best Nigerian albums of the 2010s, and now we’re back with the solo tracks that helped shaped the decade. Our picks for this list are the very best songs that defined careers, reinvigorated genres, and travelled far beyond our borders.
Ice Prince — “Oleku” ft. Brymo (2010)
Thanks to one of the decade’s greatest choruses, courtesy of Brymo, Ice Prince landed what has to be the most impactful Nigerian rap song of all time. For a genre that rarely gets mainstream love, “Oleku” set the standard for just how high a hip-hop song can fly.
Yemi Alade — “Johnny” (2013)
The YouTube comments section of Yemi Alade’s monster hit, “Johnny” is littered with fans from every corner of the world. The anthemic track about an unfaithful partner might just be the most far-reaching Nigerian song of the decade.
Wizkid — “Ojuelegba” (2014)
Wizkid has dropped many defining hits in the span of his illustrious career, but Ojuelegba”, the decade’s greatest come-up song, remains his magnum opus. Even the remix, which features the one-two punch of Drake and Skepta, still can’t hold a candle to the epic original.
Adekunle Gold — “Sade” (2015)
Before its reworked version became Adekunle Gold’s breakout hit, “Sade” was simply the singer’s refreshing take on One Direction’s “Story Of My Life”. The fact that a refix received so much radio play and fan love remains one of the decade’s most pleasant surprises.
Tekno — “Pana” (2016)
Very few Nigerian artists understand the art of crafting earworms quite like Tekno, and the track that finds him utilising that ability to full effect is his 2016 love song, “Pana”. As one of afropop’s most visible hits, it played a huge part in boosting the genre’s global appeal.
Runtown — “Mad Over You” (2016)
Mad Over You”, Runtown’s love letter to Ghana — its women, food and sound — was not only one of the biggest songs of both 2016 and 2017, but it also sparked an essential conversation about appreciation vs. appropriation within the African music scene.
Davido — “If” (2017)
2017 was the year of Davido’s awe-inspiring resurgence, and it was all thanks to one perfectly executed hit. Following the disappointing Son of Mercy EP, the afropop star returned with the Tekno-produced “If” — a powerhouse love song that helped course-correct his entire career.
Niniola — “Maradona” (2017)
The reach of Niniola’s “Maradona”, her breakout track about a shitty partner, feels limitless. The afro-house banger became a number one radio hit in SA, got remixed by Grammy-nominated producer, DJ Snake, and even recently got sampled by Beyoncé.
Burna Boy — “Ye” (2018)
“I can’t come and kill myself”, Burna Boy sings on the second verse of “Ye” — a standout off his 2018 mixtape, Outside. That very relatable line is what helped take the Phantom-produced track from just a seriously catchy hit into what many dubbed Nigeria’s unofficial national anthem.
Rema — “Dumebi” (2019)
More than any other year this decade, most of the biggest and best songs that dropped in 2019 were helmed by newcomers, with the strongest of the lot being Rema’s astonishing “Dumebi”. It helped herald the fast-rising 19-year-old as the future of afropop.