Despite being another variant of 2020, 2021 was still a pretty great year for Nigerian music. With major crossovers between the alternative and mainstream pop music scene, this was a very experimental year musically and we loved every bit. As we round up the year, we decided to look back at some of the alternative songs that popped up on our radar in 2021. 

Selense – Cavemen 

The Cavemen stole our hearts in 2020 with the release of their debut album ROOTS. Drowning us in nostalgia, palm wine and pure enjoyment, it comes as no surprise that their second album, Love & Highlife follows the same direction. As the loverboys that they are, on  Selense we find the brothers professing their undying love yet again. What would normally sound corny, ends up being so cute we can’t stop blushing. God save us from Igbo men. 

Angel – Solis 

While Angel is a sultry standout from Solis’ seductive new project Stairway to Heaven, SoundCloud babies like us have known this song for a while now. There’s something about Solis’ voice that makes us want to fall in love, cuddle and make babies, but omo, streets are tough right now. 

Again – Tomi Thomas

Tomi Thomas’ music makes us want to travel to an island somewhere, relax by the beach and just be taken care of. One of the OGs of the alté movement, his ability to creatively mix Nigerian and Island influences is something that should be studied in schools. No one is doing it like Tomi Thomas and we’re obsessed. 

Searching – Lady Donli 

One minute she’s asking you to enjoy your life and the next — and without skipping a beat — she’s forcing you to examine all the life decisions you’ve been making as you embark on a journey of self-discovery. This, right here, is the power of Lady Donli and also why Searching was one of the few songs that really moved us this year. 

The Tree – Dwin, the Stoic and TiwaDara

“Cos I came too far to let these naysayers get their laughs. They’re fine with the fruits, but I’m taking the tree”. On this song, we are serenaded by Dwin’s vocals as he takes us on a journey of understanding self worth, as we reclaim our time and give our haters the middle finger (but with panaché and class). This was our anthem in 2021 and there’s a strong possibility that we’re carrying it over into the new year. 

Deeper – Ogranya and Brum3h

Remember when R&B men used to profess their love while break dancing under the rain? Good ole days. While Ogranya and Brum3h haven’t dropped the visuals for this song, their vocals remind us of those classic baby making music we shouldn’t have been listening to when we were young. These men can sing sha. 

Crazy Tings – Tems 

It’s Tem’s world and we’re all just living in it. Taking over the charts and scoring a feature on Drake’s album, 2021 was the year of Tems and she honestly didn’t need no other body. The first single from her latest EP, Crazy Tings wasn’t love at first listen for us, but now we can’t stop listening to this earworm. By the way, we are still judging all of you that sing “happening” instead of “appuning”. Tems said what she said. 

Peaking – Tay Iwar

If there’s one thing Tay Iwar does well, it’s getting us deep in our feels. He could literally sing the phonebook and we’d lay down, stair into space, thinking about love and life. The Love and Isolation EP is Tay Iwar at his best — subtle, vulnerable and beautifully honest. Closing out the EP, Peaking might have inspired us to call our exes, but then again, YOLO. 

Gone Girl – Obongjayar and Sarz

Obongjayar appeared on our radar right before the pandemic thanks to his incredible EP Which Way is Forward? After providing a soulful soundtrack for the lockdown, Obongjayar teamed up with superstar producer Sarz for a record that helped soundtrack our nights back on the streets in 2021. Sweetness, the EP is a fun ride, but Gone Girl is the song that gets us to our destination. 

Civil War – Isah the Prince featuring Efe Oraka, Nvthy and Kabasii

2020 was a tough year for young Nigerians. Following the events of the #EndSARS protests and the serious gaslighting that followed, there was an undeniable feeling of hopelessness and confusion in the air. And while it’s still hard to be gingered about Nigeria at the moment, something about this song seems to have activated our last two brain cells to fight not just for our country, but our lives as well. With a diverse group of talents, this is one song that helped us deal with the gbas gbos Nigeria kept throwing our way. 

Tycoon – Show Dem Camp

No one is touching Show Dem Camp when it comes to this rap thing. This song is just four minutes of Ghost, Tec and their guest stars flexing on us and to be honest, they’ve earned the rights. While we love their palmwine love music, we all know Show Dem Camp truly shines when they’re being disrespectful AF with hard truths and confidence on their Clone Wars series. 

Jaded – Yinka Bernie 

In a time where beats seem to be the driving force of most of the songs we consume, Yinka Bernie stands out with a voice that seduces and questions you at the same time. After a long hiatus, he makes a grand return with Jaded and trust us, it was all worth the wait. 


Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.