In Nigerian music, greatness doesn’t last. However, some artists have found the hunger, consistency and success to transcend the limitations of greatness. However, even those who transcend those limitations struggle to achieve ‘The Trifecta.’

What is ‘The Trifecta’?

Also known as ‘The Perfect Three,’ it is three consecutive top quality, universally acclaimed and commercially successful albums by an artist. For certain artists, hits will add to their notoriety, but hits are not exactly a criterion to judge ‘The Trifecta.’

Most successful Nigerian artists like 2Baba, Shina Peters, Majek Fashek, Naeto C and almost everybody else did two groundbreaking albums back-to-back. Also sadly, the great Oliver De Coq doesn’t qualify for this list because two of his trifecta dropped in the 70’s and one in the 80’s. It’s also hard to follow his 80’s discography due to conflicting release dates.

Without ado, let’s get to the conversation;

Honourable mentions;

D’Banj

D’Banj just missed out on the top 15 because his sophomore album was basically an EP that was padded with his debut, No Long Thing and turned into a whole album. Equally, No Long Thing is a good album that changed the Nigerian tide, but it’s not exactly the best album. But you see The Entertainer, that’s a classic.

Tony Tetuila

The closest to the top 15 is Tony Tetuila’s trifecta between Morning Time, My Car and E Go Better.

Femi Kuti

Femi Kuti could have had the trifecta with Shoki Shoki, Fight To Win and Day By Day, but Day By Day isn't as great as other. The closest to a trifecta is Africa For Africa, No Place For My Dream and One People, One World. However, One People, One World never really got the same acclaim, on the level of the Grammy nominees preceding it.

Nonetheless, One People, One World will always have 'Evil People,' an incredible record.

Evi Edna Ogoli

She was barely legal when she released her debut album, My Kind of Music in 1987, but she became Nigeria’s queen of Reggae regardless. She misses out on the top 15 because her sophomore album, though impactful, was said to have been slightly underpar in comparison to the highs of both her debut and her groundbreaking third album, Happy Birthday.

ALSO READ: 10 Nigerian artists who have avoided sophomore album

For context, all three albums were released under Polydor.

The top 15;

15.) Brymo

Period: 2013 - 2016

Albums: Merchants, Dealers and Slaves (2013), Tabula Rasa (2014) and Klitoris (2016)

In terms of pure quality, Klitoris might be a weaker album to others since Brymo’s rebirth in 2013, but it’s still good enough to complete a trifecta. In fact, it’s stuck in between two trifectas in Brymo’s discography.

Merchants, Dealers and Slaves is largely thought to be Brymo’s magnus opus, but that might have changed with Yellow. You see Tabula Rasa, it deserves more respect outside Brymo’s core stan base. That was an incredible album.

14.) Yinka Ayefele

Period: 1999 - 2001

Album: Sweet Experience (1999), Divine Intervention (2000) and Something Else (2001)

Yinka Ayefele’s magnus opus will probably be somewhere between Aspiration and Fulfilment. Equally, Aspiration, Fulfillment and New Dawn is another incredible trifecta in this 24-album career, but the first trifecta just takes the cake.

After his accident, Bitter Experience (1997) got some traction for its amazing roll-out, but Sweet Experience was where he started coming into his own as an artist. The album was so successful that rumours swirled that Ayefele sold his physical health for success through rituals.

By Divine Intervention and Something Else, he had become a full start who commanded incredible fees for shows.

13.) 9ice

Period: 2008 - 2011

Albums: Gongo Aso (2008), Tradition (2009) and Basorun Gaa (2011)

9ice’s early discography is often unfairly perceived with slight doses of ignorance. For those who experienced 9ice’s music, Gongo Aso is one of the finest albums that Nigerian music has ever seen. Tradition might have been polarizing at the start, but it grew on people and had as much impact and staying power as ‘Gongo Aso.’

Basorun Gaa is an exceptional album with high replay value. As 9ice’s first album away from ID Cabasa, Chephoo and TY Mix experimented and found 9ice a new sound for ‘Everyday,’ ‘Attitude’ and ‘Adigun Ojuwonlo.’ Of the 18 tracks on this album, at least six were hits.

Of course, there was also Versus.

12.) Flavour

Period: 2005 - 2012

Albums: Uplifted (2010), Blessed (2012) and Thankful (2014)

Ijele launched onto the Nigerian scene in 2005 with his debut, Nabania. It was an interesting take on Nigeria Highlife and Traditional Folk music, fused together with Pop. Flavour canvassed topics like love, God, heartbreak and more.

ALSO READ: Flavour - Flavour of Africa {Album Review]

This template was tweaked for his first mainstream success, Uplifted in 2010 and then repeated for Blessed and Thankful. He never looked back as he became one of Africa’s most distinctive performers of his generation.

11.) Onyeka Onwenu

Period: 1982 - 1986

Albums: Endless Life (1982), In The Morning Light (1984) and One Love (1986)

Onyeka Onwenu was a stunningly beautiful singer who became Nigeria’s heartthrob in the 80’s. This was in the thick of Nigeria’s obsession with Electro-pop, Alt-pop and Disco, after the era of Psychedelic Rock.

Endless Life had some parts sung in Igbo and In The Morning Light was a conscious tale of positive topics, which also referenced God. One Love was a rallying cry to Nigerians about what we need.

10.) Eedris Abdulkareem

Period: 2001 - 2002

Albums: P.A.S.S (2001), Mr. Lecturer (2002) and Jaga Jaga (2004)

Nigerians ignorantly spit on the greatness of Eedris Abdulkareem, but in the early 2000s, he was the Nigerian rapper who arguably became Africa’s biggest artist on Kennis Music. After the Remedies split, Tony Tetuila released his Paul Play Dairo-produced debut album, Morning Time in 1999.

It was so successful that it put Abdulkareem and Eddy Remedy under pressure. More importantly, Tetuila's album had a fresh sound. When Abdulkareem finally released his debut, P.A.S.S, it was a groundbreaker for Kennis Music.

It produced smash hits, ‘Oko Ashewo,’ ‘Oko Omoge,’ ‘Player Meji’ and ‘Wackawickee MCs.’ ‘Come Back Home’ was also a sleeper hit which heralded Pasuma’s run with the Nigerian Hip-Hop community as African Puff Daddy.

While Mr. Lecturer was not as good an album as ‘P.A.S.S,’ it was still a groundbreaking album which produced the classic eponymous record which documented sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and abuse of office in Nigerian universities before Sex For Grades and Citation.

In 2004, he released the socio-political critique, Jaga Jaga, which threw the Nigerian government in the mud and angered then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo who made a snide comment towards Abdulkareem in Yoruba.

9.) KWAM 1

Period: 1993 - 1995

Albums: The Ultimate (1993), Consolidation (1995) and Reflection (1995)

During a recent illuminating conversation with Pulse Nigeria, legendary cinematographer Clarence Abiodun Peters talked about the piercing of the veil in Nigerian folk music. It’s known as the 77/91 era. The entrance of KWAM 1 in 1991 took the music from ordinary consumption into something else.

ALSO READ: KWAM 1 - FUJI, The Sound [EP REVIEW]

KWAM 1 must have at least four trifectas in his career, but this one stands out because;

  1. It witnessed KWAM 1’s first arch with sonic experimentation. 
  2. Consolidation was the moment which made KWAM 1 the Fuji maven of his generation and set him on the path to greatness. 
  3. Reflection’ was an impressive experiment with faster paced music after KWAM 1 had markedly slowed it down with his last two albums. Reflection was also a positive energy in the face of negativity that Nigeria faced at the time.

8.) King Sunny Ade

Period: 1982 - 1983

Albums: Ja Funmi (1982) Juju Music (1982) and Synchro System (1982)

First off, neither of these albums will be in the top three of King Sunny Ade’s albums in terms of quality, impact and even critical acclaim. What they represent is King Sunny Ade’s finest, most consistent three album run.

Juju Music and Synchro System were his two releases under Island Records, as the heir apparent to Bob Marley. Both albums also debuted within the Billboard 200 and ‘Synchro System’ got a Grammy nomination for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording in 1984.

When he refused to westernize his music, he left the deal and continued releasing music. However, his next genuine groundbreaking album came when he released Odu in the 90’s.

But before all that, he released the hugely successful and popular album, Ja Funmi during his impressive 1982-1983 run. The album produced the classic tune of the same name.

7.) Asa

Period: 2008 - 2013

Albums: Asha (2008), Beautiful Imperfection (2010) and Bed of Stone (2014)

When Asa met Cobhams Asuquo at Allianz Francais in 2005, she was a France IJGB who had a hot craving for fried yam. Although they became friends, thanks to Asa’s lifelong friend, Janet Nwose, it was their musical output that will truly be the striking point which leads back to that album.

Together, they worked on Asa’s classic debut album, Asha which produced hits in the thick of Nigeria that had found its contemporary pop sound. ‘Jailer,’ ‘Fire On The Mountain’ and ‘Bibanke’ are classic Nigerian records that have become lifelong radio darlings. Beautiful Imperfection is Asa’s magnus opus.

When the album clocked 10 in 2020, Pulse Nigeria did an anniversary review that broke down the socio-political meaning of the album in painstaking detail. What followed was Bed of Stone, Asa’s most commercially viable album till date. Purely in terms of album quality, it will be hard to find a better three album run in Nigerian music since the 80’s.

6.) Lagbaja

Period: 1996 - 2000

Albums: C’est Un African Thing (1996), WE (2000) and ME (2000)

Look, Lagbaja had three different trifectas between 1991 and 2000. First he had; Ikira, Lagbaja and C’est Un African Thing. Second, he had; C’est Un African Thing, WE and ME. Third, he had; WE/ME (as a double album), We and Me Part II and ABAMI, his riveting dedication to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

ALSO READ: 20 years after Lagbaja’s warning on ‘Suuru Lere,’ Nigeria is in trouble

That said, the second trifecta gets the nod because it’s a beautiful potpourri of hits, socio-political commentaries and activism. ‘C’est Un African Thing’ was a hotbed for hits like ‘Coolu Temper,’ ‘Africalypso’ and ‘Baby T’a Ni Ko Fe Wa.’ It also had album cuts like ‘Owo Eko’ and ‘Dis Is Lagos,’ which documented both sides of Lagos reality.

WE’ discussed Nigeria, responsibility, unity and patriotism from the perspective of the Nigerian people. He then used ‘ME’ as a converse narration of those themes from the aggregate of one person while being more commercial. WE/ME was a double album that shook the Nigerian mainstream with its layered doses of scary artistry when it dropped. It also got Lagbaja on some major European tours.

‘WE’ produced hits like ‘Me And You No Be Enemy’ and the classic Folksy ballad, ‘Suuru Lere,’ a record that drove many grown Nigerians to tears in the 2000s. ‘ME’ produced hits like ‘Simple Yes or No,’ ‘Gra Gra,’ ‘Feyin E’ and the classic record, ‘Konko Below.’

5.) Burna Boy

Period: 2018 - 2020

Albums: Outside (2018), African Giant (2019) and Twice As Tall (2020)

At the 2015 MTV African Music Awards, Nigerian superstar, Burna Boy was a hungry artist with incredible depths of talent. He snatched the microphone from his former friend, South African rapper, AKA and stole French Montana’s show during the performance of ‘Ain’t Got No Worries.’

Two years later, his career looked to be dwindling as his albums even stopped being an acid trip down fruit-laden paths. Then his mother came back into the frame as his manager while he signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records/Warner. The first record from a revamped Burna Boy was fan-favourite, Outside.

The album produced the international smash hit, ‘Ye.’ It also produced ‘Heaven’s Gate,’ on which Burna Boy produced the best show of his layered sonic palette and scary natural talent opposite the talented British singer, Lily Allen. Then came African Giant and its three-hit run, which culminated in the classic street tune, ‘Kilin Dem’ and a Grammy nod.

Unsatisfied with his Grammy loss for ‘African Giant,’ Burna Boy pushed the limits of his creativity and produced Twice As Tall - another Grammy nominated album.

4.) Olamide

Period: 2012 - 2014

Albums: YBNL (2011), Baddest Guy Ever Liveth (2013) and Street OT (2014)

When Olamide released Rapsodi, many knew he had talent, but nobody really knew what he was about. As such, nobody really paid him any significant attention as much as Wizkid or even Davido. But a year later, he launched his own label at 22 and released the eponymous sophomore album, YBNL.

He survived the dreaded sophomore slump and followed it with the classic album, Baddest Guy Ever Liveth, which is his greatest album. He then switched the sound up and owned the Nigerian mainstream with his fourth album, Street OT. He went from the doubted one to the main guy with incredible consistency and drive.

3.) Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe & His Nigerian Sound Makers International

Period: 1987 - 1988

Albums: Peoples Club Of Nigeria Special (1987), Ife Onye Metalu (1987) and Ana Masi Ife Uwa (1988)

Like Oliver De Coq, Osadebe’s discography is also hard to follow. In the 80’s alone, he released over 30 official albums - without counting event albums that became actual albums. We could have mentioned any three-album run from the 80’s because that was Osadebe’s best spell in terms of popularity, impact and influence, but there’s something about Osadebe’s music with his Nigerian Sound Makers International.

Peoples Club of Nigeria also opened a pan-African appeal for him. Ife Onye Metulu had Osadebe rubbing shoulders with the best in the world at major international events and Ana Masi Ife Uwa helped him retain his influence on the home front.

  • Preston Chukwuigwe 
  • History Professor 

2.) P Square

Period: 2005 - 2009 or 2007 - 2011

Albums: Get Squared (2005), Game Over (2007), Danger (2009) or Game Over (2007), Danger (2009) and The Invasion (2011)

Take your pick, P Square had two different trifecta runs. In a recent interview, legendary Nigerian cinematographer, Clarence Abiodun Peters called P Square the greatest Nigerian acts ever. In truth, P Square were arguably the greatest act of their generation; possibly only rivaled by 2baba.

Get Squared was their claim to stardom, even though their debut album Last Nite had success in its own right. It was also the first time they experimented with their video album releases, which birthed street sensation ‘Bizzy Body (Remix).’ By Game Over, P Square stepped into their own and owned success by right.

ALSO READ: Osagie Alonge breaks down P Square’s ‘Game Over’ on his podcast, A Music In Time

During a Loose Talk Episode, legendary Nigerian music producer Don Jazzy spoke about how the album influenced the direction of D’Banj’s classic album, Entertainer. It was around this time that P Square started selling out stadiums across Africa. Danger might have had the success of ‘Game Over,’ but it’s still a timeless album that produced a string of smash hits.

Then, there is The Invasion which might just be P Square’s greatest album ever.

1.) Fela

Period: 1981 - 1989

Albums: Unknown Soldier (1981), Army Arrangement (1985) Beasts of No Nation (1989)

Fela must have had three trifectas in his career, but the run that truly stands out is arguably his most political run creative run. It took him from the popular Nigerian artist to the staple of Nigerian pop culture, counter-culture and international repute.

It was around this time that he performed at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey as part of the Amnesty International A Conspiracy of Hope concert along with Bono, Carlos Santana, and the Neville Brothers.

Beasts of No Nation was particularly a turning point in Fela’s career. Released as an anti-apartheid record, while the album cover depicts U.S. President Ronald Reagan, UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and South African State President Pieter Willem Botha, it was released after Fela’s 20-month stint on dubious currency smuggling charges. He had been sentenced to five years in prison.

Patrick Byron has described the album as the bridge between entertainment and education. Preceding it was Army Arrangement, the riveting political critique of the Nigerian military government and laced with swashbuckling instrumentation. After this run, the frequency of Fela’s releases slowed down.

Thank you to everyone who researched, worked with and contributed to Pulse Nigeria for this listicle. You are all immensely appreciated.