Nigeria’s most prestigious music award, The Headies, has supported local musicians since it launched in 2007 rewarding hard work, passion and consistency. 

However, the nominees list for its 16th edition came out on July 12, 2023, and it doesn’t look as rewarding as it could be. 

The Headies arguably get things wrong — ignoring better quality music like CKay’s Love Nwantiti in 2022, overlooking Arya Starr for “Female Artist of the Year” in 2022, and lack of attention to details (like nominating projects that were released outside the eligibility period). One can also say the award organisers favour the mainstream musicians over niche creators.

Take the “Rookie of the Year” category, for example. It should celebrate the new music artists on the scene who haven’t dropped albums yet. Khaid, Guchi, Bloody Civilian, Bayani, Eltee Shkillz all fit the bill. But interestingly, they also nominated OdumoduBlvck, who has over four full-length projects to his name. What metrics did the organisers apply here?

For “Producer of the Year”, Dibs, who’s been churning out street bangers like Bullion Van and Chance (Na Ham), shouldn’t be missing on the list. And the “Best Rap Single” category seemed to mistake Back In Uni

by BlaqBonez for a rap song yet The Guy by M.I Abaga was left out? The “Best Rap Album” category is also not complete without The Guy and Lost Boy by Erigga.

Despite the impact T.I Blaze’s Sometimes had on the Nigerian streets and general pop culture, it went without recognition on The Headies’ list. Meanwhile, let’s call the “Best West African Artiste of the Year” category what it really looks like — a Ghanaian musician list. West Africa has 18 countries, but as usual, only two have artists on Headies’ radar this year. They even misidentified The Therapist’s nationality as Liberia, instead of Sierra Leone. 

Overlooking the release of Bandana, one of Afrobeats’s biggest moments of 2022, Asake was absent from the “Afrobeats Song of the Year” nominees list. Asake, who’s been Afrobeats’ biggest artist since his debut with Mr. Money With Vibes?

Why is the “Best Inspirational Single” category called that if the nomination list will just be filled with gospel artists like Nathaniel Bassey, Mercy Chinwo and Victoria Orenze? They even slipped Davido (who released Stand Strong outside the eligibility period) in the middle like we wouldn’t notice. Why not just call the category what it looks like — a gospel music category? 

For the love of music, we call for The Headies to replace surface-level inclusivity with deeper research into Nigeria’s rich and varied music scene. What’s an industry celebration without proper representation of its constituents?



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