No matter how much the highs of a good year take the most avid fan, January inevitably brings with it one question; What next?
2018 was, in ways, a watershed moment in Nigerian music. A new king took the throne, a new queen sent out her statement of intent, and on the international stage, we won big.
The question will now be asked of the people who dominated the conversation in 2018, like Burna, and those who, like Peruzzi, have everything to prove.
These artists may still be reeling from the hangover of a very detty December but it’s never too early for new music.
Some of my faves have already announced they’ll be dropping new music this year. Others are, well, toying with our emotions.
But that never stopped anyone from expecting what we deserve. Definitely not me.
Davido – TBA
It seems like a century ago that Davido dropped that debut album.
Ice Prince was the superstar. Reminisce was finally breaking out. And Davido’s music seemed, to most casual fans, like a labour of love.
Now, he’s the big dog–record label chairman, international hitmaker and father of two daughters. He’s entering this year at the peak of his powers, with two of the best songwriters on his team and an expectant audience.
David’s mentions of the project have hardly gone past references to “My album…” but it’s almost certain OBO’s sophomore drops this year. The timing couldn’t be better. God safe us when it happens.
Maleek Berry – TBD
I can imagine a future where a white-haired former journalist explains to a room full of kids how a record producer reinvented himself as a pop star over the course of two brief, delicious EPs.
After learning the ropes as part of Wizkid and Wande Coal’s teams, Maleek is now a verified heavyweight on his own.
Now established on two continents, and already shaking the right hands in the US, Mr Berry’s debut is due, and he knows it.
Melodies abound for this man, and Maleek on his day can take you from Ikoyi to Rio in the same song.
That and his Afropop leanings have reflected on two stellar EPs–now it’s time for the coup de grace and the final chapter of a transition made in Gbedu Zion.
Santi – TBA
“Santino has this city in a headlock”–a tweet read after Santi, the mysterious, dreadlocked rager who makes anthems for a generation rocked a crowd of his peers to a sweat-soaked frenzy at a concert last December.
Over several years, Santi has built the cosigns, the records, the loyal cult following for the moments that are bound to come.
He may be little more than the face of the alternative music scene in Lagos now but almost everyone who’s a fan of the kid swears he’s the one.
After ending the year on a high with “Rapid Fire”, it’s a good thing that Santi began the year by announcing an album for January. We’ve been waiting for a while.
Wizkid – Made In Lagos
If you listen to the people who treat music as a lifeforce, the face of Afropop’s tour of the UK and the US is on his way back home.
Few pop stars can spend a decade topping charts while carrying a genre’s finest elements to new ears around the world.
But it would be unwise to count Wizkid out.
His fourth studio album has been touted as a return to the source – to Lagos and the overcrowded studios where it all began.
It may be where Wizkid finds the sauce to blow our minds again.
Burna Boy – TBA
Burna Boy’s 2018 was written in the stars–a beautiful story of overcoming one’s predilections that you could adapt into 30 languages.
But it’s over now. And no-one will know more than Burna that you’re only as good as the people’s last memory of you.
There’s word that last year’s “Outside” is the prelude to something else; a mixtape that took on bigger importance with an international record deal and a few collaborations.
Now Burna’s settled into big boy mode. Let’s see him swing for the stars.
Falz – TBA
Steady, consistent, calculated. Falz is a marketing course waiting to be studied. First introduced to us as a quirky, funny gimmick, Falz now comes up in conversations about new Felas and the best Nigerian rappers.
All of this while taking statues at award shows and offering poignant commentary.
He is in the big league now, which is why he must punch at even higher weights. Can Falz take Nigerian hip-hop to a new place? Can he take a very vacant throne even? What happens when he stops trying to be funny?
This could be the album that answers all those questions.
Tiwa Savage – TBA
The only woman in the game who can touch Tiwa lives in France.
Mummy Jam-Jam is proof that angels never die or get old.
Just when we thought we’d seen the best, Tiwa underwent a reinvention in 2018 helped undoubtedly by rumours of a fling with a certain Starboy.
Never mind that while all that was festering, she dropped one of the biggest songs of the year in “Ma Lo” and took a ride on the Duncan Mighty train with one of the better collaborations, “Lova Lova”.
The Tiwa who made R.E.D seems so far away now. Which is why this one has to drop that album so we can get to know her better.
Reminisce – TBA
Reminisce’s nickname literally translates to Chairman. Chairman in the sense of a gang leader who tries to usurp a king of boys, or an indigenous rapper who will hold his own in Queen’s English with the finest of the bunch.
Staying in the conversation in 2018 would have been enough for Reminisce, but the man’s role in one of 2018’s best movies reminded us of all the things we love about Baba Hafusa – grit, ambition and versatility.
2019 is the year where Alaga reminds us what he can do behind the mic.
Lady Donli – TBA
To some, she’s the female face of the Alte community. To others, she’s the unknown young singer who made a criminally brief festival on the intro to Mr Eazi’s 2018 album, “London To Lagos”.
Either way, Lady Donli is coming for your necks in a flowing dress, with cowries in her locks and the sensation of an old soul.
After a year spent in bars and arenas in Europe and North America, she’s back at home.
Her tweets suggest she’s in the studio, and with the experiences she’s gathered on the road for inspiration, we won’t be against Lady Donli striking gold on her debut.
Runtown – TBA
Runtown is like the uncle from Texas who we hardly hear from, until he calls on a Friday afternoon and the entire family gathers around the phone like loyal fans. Label battles have played their part in keeping him away for stints at a time but the singer says the worst is in the past now. If songs like “Oh Oh Oh (Lucie)” and “No Permission” are anything to go by, Runtown has finally found his aesthetic.
It may seem obvious that we’ll get the laid-back, dreamy Afropop he silenced doubters with in 2016, but that’s fine because it’s just what we want.
Teni – TBA
Love abounds for Teni. Unknown to most at the start of the year, she ended 2018 as the year’s biggest revelation, a viral sensation that is fiercely loved by her fans. Teni ticks all the boxes that should matter–she has the range, she writes like a ghetto poet and her talent for making songs is freakish–as evidenced in those Instagram videos where she makes demos out of unsuspecting friends.
She’s begun the year with a headstart–the absolutely uplifting “Uyo Meyo” and if we can rely on her record, another single should be in the offing.
Few Nigerian prodigies have ignored such raw desire for their music over time.
In Teni’s case, it would be almost criminal, because we know Makanaki can pull off something beautiful.
Tekno – TBA
As with most nascent spaces, Nigerian music has regularly churned out a new successor (or pretender to the throne) each year–one artist who changes the texture of the popular sound, puts out the year’s biggest single or just shows an astounding level of promise.
In 2017, that person was Tekno. Yet, despite heavy demand for a full body of work, Tekno chose to ride out on the strength of singles.
There is little doubt that the man knows his stuff–melody and an innate sense of rhythm drive his music and has also provided hits for peers like Davido.
Sadly, illness ultimately slowed down his pace as 2018 wound down.
With all the big dogs dropping this year, it might be time for Tekno to put his hat in the race and finally claim his place.