These days, “Afrobeats to the world” has moved from a saying to an actual movement. Nigerian artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Fireboy DML and Tems are topping the charts and having fun with stars like Drake, Rihanna and Beyoncé. But while the world has taken notice of Afropop, it wasn’t always like this. Thinking back to when I fell back in love with Nigerian music thanks to Tay Iwar’s 2013 song The Box, I decided to talk to other Nigerians about the time they finally realised that Nigerian music is the shit.
“Listening to Davido’s Fall for the first time in an Atlanta club changed everything for me”
As a second-generation Nigerian in the US, I never really connected with Nigerian music. My family raised me on the classics like Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey, but in trying to fit in with white kids, my taste shifted to rock and metal as I got older. In 2017, I eventually moved to Atlanta — a predominantly black city — and that’s how I got re-introduced to Nigerian music.
On a night out with some of my co-workers, I heard Davido’s Fall for the first time. To see everyone in the club, including non-Nigerians and non-blacks singing along to this Nigerian song changed everything. I still love rock and heavy metal, but that hasn’t stopped me from knowing all the words to Davido’s Fall and Jowo.
“I didn’t connect to female Nigerian artists until I saw the video for Kele Kele Love by Tiwa Savage”
Before seeing the video for Tiwa Savage’s Kele Kele Love in 2010, I just didn’t feel like Nigerian women made music for girls like me. I love and respect all the women that were making music at the time, but seeing that video and hearing that song made me go, “Whoa! That’s a no-nonsense, sexy, bad bitch like me.”
She wasn’t afraid to be sexy and to sing about whatever she felt like — I loved that. She blazed the trail for all the new girls and that’s on period.
“I don’t think I remember life before Asa’s Awe”
I know it’s cliché, but Asa’s Awe changed my life. Before I listened to Asa’s self-titled album, my idea of Nigerian music was songs I could dance to in the club and not songs I could listen to for great storytelling. And to be honest, it was fine that way. It wasn’t until I went on a road trip with my brother from Lagos to Ibadan and he played that album over and over again that it clicked for me. It wasn’t just the melodies or vocals for me; it was the deep, rich stories she told with every word and every sound. Now I listen to other artists like Bez, Lindsey Abudei and The Cavemen (even though I don’t get what they’re saying, I feel super connected to the music.
By the way, Awe is the reason I started writing short stories. So when I say that song changed my life, I mean it.
“Cruel Santino, Amaarae and Shane Eagle made something magical with Rapid Fire”
I didn’t even know alté was a thing until my friend dragged me out for a show in 2018 and Cruel Santino and his crew came out to perform Rapid Fire. My memory of it is the feeling that came with seeing the whole place turn into a mosh pit of people jumping and screaming at the top of their lungs. For someone indifferent to Nigerian music at the time, just seeing all of this sent shivers down my spine. Every time I listen to Santino’s music now, it just takes me back to that moment.
I wasn’t into Nigerian music before because of what I was hearing on the radio, but Cruel Santino introduced me to a new type of Nigerian sound.
“Niniola’s Maradona changed the game for me”
I remember hearing Niniola’s Maradona for the first time and just knowing that this song was going to be the sound of the future. And lowkey, I was right. It was around the time I was falling in love with South African club sounds from artists like Bucie and Black Coffee, so it just worked perfectly. Niniola and Sarz took a huge risk with songs like that and now we have a lot of artists making songs like Maradona. It wasn’t like I didn’t like Nigerian music, I just didn’t care until I heard this bop in 2017.
“Temi Dollface’s pen game on Pata Pata made me pause, listen and go ’Who is she?”
This chick came, dropped like two hit songs and disappeared. Why? When Pata Pata dropped in 2013, a lot of artists were doing the same thing, using the same producers and adopting the same formula. We didn’t have variety and then this girl came in singing, “Pour me a drink and I’ll tell you a lie. Baby what would you like to hear? That I’m in love with you and all the things you do. You know that wouldn’t be sincere.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s how you open a song. That is songwriting and the song that made me go, “Oh shit, Nigerian singers dey write o!”