During the 2015 Headies, Olamide famously took to the stage to protest Lil Kesh losing the ‘Next Rated’ award to Reekado Banks. At that moment, although it was wildly inappropriate, he had a point: Lil Kesh had simply had a better year than the Mavin Records newcomer.
Four years down the line, however, and it’s impossible to argue with the then-controversial choice. Reekado Banks is now widely regarded as one of the best afropop stars working today, while Lil Kesh hasn’t been able to muster up a solo hit in years.
Over the weekend, Rema, another Mavin Records wunderkind, took home the same award – meant, according to the Headies, to go to the “most promising act in the year under review” – and opinions were split, with many saying Zlatan deserved it instead.
So, like we recently did with the ‘Album of the Year’ winners, we’ve decided to take a look back at all the stars who have taken home the ‘Next Rated’ trophy, checking to see if the divisive category has historically been more laughable than prophetic.
Asa, the category’s first-ever winner, will eternally go down as one of its most inspired choices. 13 years and four acclaimed studio albums later, the soulful singer-songwriter remains very high on the list of the most adored Nigerian musicians working today.
The only ‘Next Rated’ winner who seems to have completely vanished into thin air, Overdose was once regarded as one of Nigeria’s strongest rappers. Now, he’s more likely to be remembered as the most inaccurate prediction the Headies ever made.
2008: Wande Coal
Since beating out the likes of M.I and Banky W a little over a decade ago, Wande Coal has done more than enough to justify the win. So, even though it’s been over a year since he dropped his last single, his status as afropop royalty remains inarguable.
It’s been 10 whole years since Omawumi became the second and, so far, final woman to win this award, and she’s still busy churning out incredible songs, reminding those who may have forgotten that she is easily one of our most accomplished vocalists.
In all fairness to the relentless duo, Skuki, they are the only ones amongst this year’s list of nominees – which included Jesse Jagz and D’Prince – still actively making music. Either way, it’s now clear that regardless of who won, 2010 was bound to disappoint.
With nominees like Wizkid, Olamide and Tiwa Savage, the Headies would have had to try really hard to fumble this one. That being said, it’s still pretty impressive that they went with the up-and-comer who would later go on to become the biggest afropop star in the world.
A year after the Headies intuitively crowned Wizkid the future of Nigerian music, they struck gold again with Davido. The afropop juggernaut is not only one of Africa’s biggest-ever stars, but he’s also primed to become an international mainstay as well.
2013: Sean Tizzle
At the time, awarding Sean Tizzle must have seemed like a no-brainer – he had one of the year’s biggest hits, “Sho Lee” – but a lot has changed since then. Now, it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when anyone considered him more “promising” than Burna Boy or Phyno.
This could have justifiably gone to either Runtown or Yemi Alade, but Patoranking is certainly an infallible choice. The dancehall star has been consistently great since he broke out, and in the past year, he’s been even more creatively ambitious than ever.
2015: Reekado Banks
Like we stated at the start of this article, Reekado Banks might have seemed like a strange choice at the time, but, in retrospect, it now makes total sense. The only other valid option would have been Kizz Daniel, who is also one of afropop’s brightest stars.
2016: Mr Eazi
A gifted artist and a crude businessman, Mr Eazi, more than most winners on this list, has greatly surpassed even our wildest expectations. In a relatively short period of time, he’s managed to cement himself as an invaluable player in Africa’s fast-growing music scene.
It’s been over a year since Mayorkun went from ‘Rookie of the Year’ to ‘Next Rated’, besting stars like Maleek Berry and Johnny Drille. While it might still be too early to properly assess the decision, as of now, it doesn’t look like the choice is at risk of ageing poorly.