All in all, they have all contributed their quota to growing the Nigerian Hip-Hop staple.

2019 has been an impressive year for albums in Nigerian music. To Nigerian artists, albums are the most unimportant things because they can go through an entire successful career without an album. Only a Nigerian artist who recognises the place of albums will work to release one.

Hip-Hop is a genre without a foothold in most of Africa’s music markets. The reason is simple; Africa is built around musical enjoyment that relates to dance. Hip-Hop is seen as a more word-based genre of music that doesn’t tickle the nerves of dance. Thus, Hip-Hop plays second fiddle to all manner of pop/dance music.

Nonetheless, Hip-Hop has a strong niche in a lot of society - Nigeria is one of those societies. Nigerians have had to fuse Hip-Hop with Nigerian lingo and essential Nigerian sounds to thrive. Nonetheless, some Nigerian rappers have rejected the fusion approach. Instead, they have kept the Hip-Hop ‘pure’ in sound and lingo.

All in all, they have all contributed their quota to growing the Nigerian Hip-Hop staple. The result; bars and importantly, some great albums. This list documents the top 10 Nigerian rap albums of 2019. Criteria is; critical acclaim, reception, impact (if any) and commercial success (added advantage).

Honourable mentions

  1. Brainee - Chapter 1 
  2. Idowest - Mafia Culture Vol. 1
  3. ELveeqtor - B4dsonshine

10.) Psycho YP - YPSZN2

'YPSZN2' is PsychoYP's manifesto to a larger market. (NativeMag)
'YPSZN2' is PsychoYP's manifesto to a larger market. (NativeMag)

In 2018, Psycho YP released YPSZN. While it was underrated, anyone who listened realized it was one of the best rap projects of that year. Before then, he had released an EP titled, Lost In The Sauce. He also released two four-track EPs with Kuddi Is Dead under the name, This What You Wanted.

But starting in 2018, he started making a push for what he called “Awolowo money” on ‘YPSZN’ featuring BOJ. He started making Afrobeats/Afropop songs with mainstream appeal. Of course, he had the range. YPSZN2 is a continuation of his experimental tendencies as he evolves as an artist. Boy, it’s a good album.

9.) iLLBliss - Illosophy

ILLBLISS returns With a Brand new EP titled 'iLLOSOPHY.' (The Goretti Company)
ILLBLISS returns With a Brand new EP titled 'iLLOSOPHY.' (The Goretti Company)

iLLBliss has no bad projects and that run continued well into 2019. First, he dropped iLLYZilla with producer, TeckZilla. The next one was titled, Illosophy and it is filled with philosophy on wax from the mind of a grown man.

With it, he documented relationships, loss and growth.

8.) Blaqbonez - Mr. Boombastic

Blaqbonez - Mr. Boombastic EP. (Instagram/Blaqbonez)
Blaqbonez - Mr. Boombastic EP. (Instagram/Blaqbonez)

Blaqbonez has come a long way since his battle rapping, rap competition days. After releasing Bad Boy Blaq in 2018, he released a re-up for the same album in January 2019. Mr. Boombastic is the birth of a new experiment through which Blaqbonez hopes to crack the mainstream.

It’s a mixture of Afrobeats, Ragga, Reggae and sung-rap. The EP was a success.

7.) Falz, Ajebutter22 and BOJ - Make E Nor Cause Fight 2

Falz, Ajebutter22 and BOJ release, 'Make E Nor Cause Fight 2 EP.' (Instagram/Ajebutter22)
Falz, Ajebutter22 and BOJ release, 'Make E Nor Cause Fight 2 EP.' (Instagram/Ajebutter22)

The first Make E No Cause Fight was released by just Ajebutter and BOJ - it was excellent. But then, we got a God-sent project in its follow-up.

This entire project is like intentional precious melange born of freewheeling creativity in style of sound, language of communication, style of delivery and messaging. With regular everyday totems and pop culture/Nigerian peculiarities, Falz, Ajebutter and BOJ created the most beautiful lines, verses and hooks. BOJ literally created the hook on ‘Faaji’ off the most random things.

The detailing on this EP also represents creatives in their element playing ‘point and kill’ with anything they find sonically pleasing. This freewheeling creativity also shines in the selected producers and even the mixers. Did anybody notice what happens from 2:48 on ‘Faaji’?

6.) Phyno - Deal With It

Phyno to drop new album, ‘Deal With It’ on September 4. (Instagram/Phynofino)
Phyno to drop new album, ‘Deal With It’ on September 4. (Instagram/Phynofino)

Before Phyno released this album, people didn’t know what to expect. What was more unsettling was the unexpected nature of the album amidst a string of ‘unsuccessful’ singles. But a day before the album dropped, the producer roster gave people some hope.

When the Deal With It dropped, the lack of hype around it made people listen with clear heads. Sadly, it also came in the thick of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The whole drama drowned out the album and conversation around it. But when you listen, it’s a perfect balance of Phyno’s ‘Oliver De Coque essence’ and his buccaneering rap tendencies.

Although it suffers on an excessive range of filler tracks, the album was still a good listen.

5.) Illgod and Timi Kei - SoulSoup

Album art for 'Soulsoup' by Illgod and Timi Kei. (Dell Music)
Album art for 'Soulsoup' by Illgod and Timi Kei. (Dell Music)

A quality album by two Port Harcourt boys; one, a producer and the other, an incredible rapper. Illgod had been known on SoundCloud as a beat-tape maker that interpolates Fela samples for Hip-Hop beats on his Kalakuti series. Timi Kei was heralded as the next rap star to come out of Port Harcourt, but he took on other passions.

Nonetheless, he's came back on this project with the fire of rookie talent. In his heart was some of the most ridiculous bars and flow schemes that Nigerian Hip-Hop saw in 2019. On ‘Respiration,’ he created one of the best moments in 2019 Nigerian Hip-Hop. As a whole, the Soulsoup makes the list for its overall quality.

4.) Ex’O - The Wake

On 'The Wake,' Ex'O returns with one of the best Nigerian rap projects of 2019. (iTunes)
On 'The Wake,' Ex'O returns with one of the best Nigerian rap projects of 2019. (iTunes)

Ex’O is an OG. He is a producer who released his first project in 2000. Even if that album's title became public knowledge, you would have to walk a mile on hot coals to get a copy of it. However, what you might remember is that he is the rapper and producer who was most famous for his excellent work with Nuff Noyz.

The Wake is grown man raps on wax. Now married for eight years with three kids, Ex’O’s priorities have changed from proving he can rap to chilling introspect about the things that actually matter in life. He discusses the circumstances of his upbringing, bad governance, B-Elect’s death and other important issues.

The Wake is not just one of the best rap albums of 2019, it’s one of the best Nigerian albums of 2019.

3.) Show Dem Camp - Clone Wars IV: These Buhari Times

Show Dem Camp's 'Clone Wars IV artcover [iTunes/ShowDemCamp]
Show Dem Camp's 'Clone Wars IV artcover [iTunes/ShowDemCamp]

In 2016, Buhari had only been in office for one year as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Yet, a comical skit went viral on the internet. Nigerians in the video blamed every negativity in their lives on Buhari. We laughed about it, but the Buhari administration has been that nonsensical.

In January, Nigeria’s premier rap group Show Dem Camp announced yet another project - the fourth installment in its Clone Wars franchise. Interestingly, it had a subtitle that Nigerians could resonate with. ‘These Buhari Times’ came in the thick of Nigerian frustrations with its president.

At times, that subtitle seemed an afterthought on an album that primarily shines on personal issues and introspects, but it was a great album. It’s only real blemish was its length.

2.) The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey) - Alternate Ending

Album art to 'Alternate Ending' by The Lost and Found (Boogey and Paybac). (The Lost and Found)
Album art to 'Alternate Ending' by The Lost and Found (Boogey and Paybac). (The Lost and Found)

The only album stopping this album from being the top Nigerian rap album of 2019 is the impact Falz was able to conjure with Moral Instruction. Alternate Ending is a follow-up to Face Off by The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey).

Both rappers had released one album and one EP each over the 18 months preceding Alternate Ending. When Alternate Ending dropped, it was a masterful concept album about the power and utilization. On it, Paybac and Boogey did rappity-rap, found introspect, made music and had great features. Shout-out to Majesty Lyn for ‘Memories.’

1.) Falz - Moral Instruction

Falz Moral Instruction art cover [Instagram Falz]
Falz Moral Instruction art cover [Instagram Falz]

Before this Moral Instruction dropped, Falz had rebranded himself as a socio-politically conscious person who makes music. When he dropped ‘Talk’ the first single off the album, social media went mad with anger. ‘Feminists’ turned to Sango, spitting fire and brimstone with the thought of a five-year-old.

Falz dropped an album that inspired think-pieces right and left. If one didn’t know better, one might have thought the album was made by Kendrick Lamar.

Everyone had a take on Falz’s topical base for the album and the channeling of Fela. Ordinarily, this album might not be better than others it has toppled, but its impact cannot be denied. More importantly, it was named Album of the Year at Headies 2019.