In Q2 2020, Facts Only by Pulse featured an episode of how Nigerian Hip-Hop was having a good year.
That run has continued for the rest of the year as Nigerian Hip-Hop has continued to produce the goods; one quality body of work after another. As revealed in the Pulse Picks for ‘Albums of the year,’ COVID-19 has had a role to play in Nigeria’s continued race back to being an album market.
This year, Nigerian rappers have been stupendous at their craft, producing storybooks and worthwhile concepts in form of raps. The music has been dense and resonant, and their words are forever etched on the sands of time. Either they are talking about love, women, society, politics, business or family, the dedication has been the same.
This was the hardest list to make - even harder than the list for album of the year. That is why we decided to extend the honourable mentions.
Here is the criteria for the picks;
- Year in review: December 2019 - November 30, 2020
- EPs with at least 5 tracks and at least 14 minutes long are considered albums because of reasons we have previously stated.
- Quality - the major criteria.
- Impact and commercial success - advantage.
Quality albums that deserve to be on the list but have been dropped for one reason or the other, after intense conversations in the Pulse Nigeria HQ.
Isah - Life Happens
Show Dem Camp - Palmwine Express
Elveektor - Nsibidi 2
Kiienka - Spaceman 2.0
Teeto Ceemos - Oversees After Dark
Mazi Codex - Drill Set
Veen - On Impact
Jaypachino - The Pachino Story 2
Martyn Chika - Paper Planes
Barzini - Beloved, Vol. 2 (The King's Opening)
Here is Pulse Nigeria's list of the top 10 Nigerian rap albums of 2020;
10.) Reminisce - Vibes and Insah Allah
For a project that was going to be titled 30+ Vibes, Reminisce definitely found a way to merge his ‘OGB4IG’ status with his more aware, contemporary self. The project starts off with a dedication to his role as a father to two young, beautiful Nigerian women. He then did socio-political commentary on, ‘Jogodo.’
‘Ogaranya’ was an Afro-pop record for the younger generation and ‘Eja Osan’ as well as ‘Over 2.5’ were for the streets. The project was a strategic move for the streaming market and it won. It should have been higher on this list, but its length vis-a-vis its quality over time isn’t sufficient to displace longer and even similar albums above it.
9.) BlackMagic - Blackmagic Version 3.0 (Starving Artist)
During an interview with Pulse Nigeria in January, BlackMagic said that the theme for this album was inspired by a playful diss from a friend who called him a ‘starving artist’. The album was made from the throes of an unbalanced mental health.
The project is filled with introspective lines about mental health, consent, toxic masculinity, patriarchy and more. Sadly, it never got the respect and love it deserves. We would always have ‘I do’ and ‘Strong Man’ though.
8.) iLLBliss - IllyChapoX
IllyChapoX is iLLBliss 10th album. It’s an apotheosis of Nigeria’s master-connoisseur of Adult Contemporary Hip-Hop. The album is iLLBliss’s complex, introspective and intellectual take on family, love, country, business and wealth. On it are only important topics.
In the middle of it all, he even discussed Igbo Landing while he discussed the close bond he shares with his daughter, Sochikaima. The music is not an acquired taste, but a certain level of calmness is required to digest and understand everything that iLLBliss was talking about.
At Headies 2020, iLLBliss was nominated for Best Rap Album, Lyricist on The Roll and Best Rap Single for ‘IllyChapoX.’ That’s not bad for a Thoroughbred in his OG days. His legend is sealed and he has nothing to prove, still he goes like a horse in his prime - destined to be Hidalgo.
7.) Dara Alamutu - Easy To Love Me Now
This album is up there with Basketmouth’s Yabasi as Nigeria’s surprise package of 2020. Till date, it still doesn’t have a lot of streams on Soundcloud, but its quality is too pronounced to be swept under the rug.
Dara Alamutu is one of Nigeria’s smoothest, most talented rappers and his music deserves more love and appreciation. For a Nigerian with a day job, this isn’t a bad side hustle. His flows are pristine and his British accent effortlessly aids his more Nigerian side for balance.
He cuts through with hints about his journey, chatter about his fears, love, need for success and other emotional subjects with chilling introspect and easily digestible lyrics. What a rapper, what an album.
6.) MI Abaga - Judah EP
This project was meant to drop just after MI Abaga’s legendary beef with Vector tha Viper. While Vector released his EP, Abaga held on to his own. Earlier in 2020, Abaga dropped this project - a recovery plan with lots of venom. At the root of it was Abaga’s genius-level music acumen with a beautiful selection of beats.
He positioned himself as a king and a father, with ‘The Trinity’ featuring AQ standing at the centre of that concept. He used the EP to address intimate subjects; both the painful and the casual. He delivered riposte to his former protege, Milli while he addressed certain responses to familial ties.
He recognized his fanbase, the loyal Tribe of Judah and went out as a ‘Warrior.’ Abaga’s greatest is sealed as arguably Nigeria’s greatest rapper of all time, but one still expects nothing but an excellent project anytime he steps close to a microphone. His proficiency is measured and his love for the game is sacrosanct.
5.) Remy Baggins - AMATERASU
“N*iggas trying to put me in a motherf****ng box, I told you I’m a motherf******* god…” is one of the things Remy Baggins says on ‘Trap Memo,’ the opening track to this EP.
Remy Baggins is a lot of things to different people. That versatility is the scariest thing about his talent. After releasing three R&B and avant-pop projects before this Amaterasu, he dabbled in trap - a subgenre of Rap music and it absolutely bangs.
Marred by life’s more unsavory experiences, AMATERASU feels like a cry for help disguised as a battle cry for superiority. Baggins uses the project to discuss the pressure of being Remy Baggins while he also merges all his influences and styles into one unit for an enjoyable album.
4.) AQ and MI Abaga - The Live Report
In terms of content and balance, The Live Report is one of Nigeria’s most powerful, introspective and resonant projects in recent years. Topic addressed on the project includes religion, responsibility, death, toxic masculinity, bravery and more. At times, ‘The Live Report’ felt like a collection of conspiracy to many - it was that deep and dense.
It was the coronation of AQ in a year that saw him release his third project in as many years. After incessant pressure for Abaga, the project was made within a couple of days and Abaga followed up ‘Judah EP’ with yet another special project.
Again, Abaga’s legend is sealed but it was amazing to see what friendly competition can do to a legend - he went a step further. Indeed, the project was a “Litness of high vibration…”
What a time to be alive…
3.) Paybac - CULT!
Paybac is finally getting his roses and we are here for it. Solely on the grounds of quality and replay value, CULT! and AQ’s God’s Engineering are Nigeria’s best rap albums of 2020. What ‘CULT!’ lacks is the commercial success to truly rise up the list.
In terms of musicianship, this was an amazing effort by Paybac. He has always made quality albums, but this one had a balance of execution and a beauty in experience.
With the aid of carefully selected features, Paybac delivered a roving middle finger to the Nigerian political elite. Sometimes, he even reaches back into history for figures like Aguiyi Ironsi to hammer his point home.
It gets to a point where one has to stop and consider how these thoughts came from one person’s mind. Like how? At the 2020 Headies, Paybac was rewarded with his first Best Rap Album nomination.
2.) AQ - God’s Engineering
AQ has been Nigeria’s most relatable rap story in the last 10 years. At the start of the last decade, he released his debut album, Past, Present and Future to mixed acceptance from the industry due to his divisive personality. Nonetheless, he sold 5,000 copies of the album.
By the end of the decade, he was named Lyricist on The Roll at the 2019 Headies. God’s Engineering is yet another impressive album from AQ who keeps improving in his veteran days. When lists of the greatest Nigerian rappers are being made, AQ’s name will definitely be considered by fair, informed curators.
With a title inspired by a Jay Z line, God’s Engineering is billed to be AQ’s last album. On it, he got honest with vivid truths on its opener, ‘Intro-vert,’ highlighted his greatest on ‘NEPA,’ spoke about women on ‘Zodiac Sign’ and discussed his careers on ‘No Pensions.’
He then went more surgical on ‘Men Slept, Jesus Wept.’ The album also got a nomination for Best Rap Album at the 2020 Headies.
Culled from Pulse Nigeria.
1.) Olamide - Carpe Diem
In January 2020, Olamide released 999 EP, which wasn’t a good body of work. When he announced his deal with label services company, EMPIRE, he announced new albums for both him and Fireboy.
He released ‘Eru’ and ‘Green Light’ and then another album, Carpe Diem. While the album was released during an uncertain patch for the Nigerian legend, he swiftly destroyed any doubts after people listened to the immensely curated, well-sequenced and properly produced album.
An OG of Nigerian media called it “The Lagos Nawa’ that worked.” On it, Olamide is laid back as he creates by his own rules. His lines are substantial and his topics are resonant. He is both open and honest about sensitive topics. His cosign also went some way for rookies like Bella Shmurda and Bad Boy Timz.
At the end of the year, ‘Loading’ looks set to be a smash hit.