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 2020 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.
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.
Here are our picks for the top Nigerian rappers of 2020;
In 2020, Reminisce became a Nigerian on his fourth wave of Nigerian stardom. He has seen it all, he has done it all, but he’s still here, making a song with Fireboy and signing a deal with OneRPM.
He doesn’t want to quit and he doesn’t want to slow down. He makes Triller videos, joins trending topics and comments on socio-political topics - as he did on ‘Jogodo.’
He might have been quiet for most of the year, but ‘Ogaranya’ was a major song and his EP, Vibes and Insha Allah was commendable - albeit short.
9.) Naira Marley
In 2020, many thought Naira Marley slowed down? Maybe he did, but those claims are certainly overrated. After he released Lord of Lamba in December 2019, ‘Mafo’ became the song of the season.
By January 2019, he released some singles which followed his avant-garde brand and admittedly, they didn’t work.
However, he remains a beast on YouTube. He might not be as viral, with the notoriety of 2019, but he still had mainstream hits like ‘Aye,’ ‘Idi Oremi’ and the impressive, ‘As E Dey Go.’
In 2020, many argued that Zanku was dead and that Zlatan was struggling. In a nutshell, those claims are about as true as tears of the boy who cried wolf. Let's forget the numbers for a minute, Zlatan remains one of the most loved Nigerian artists in the Nigerian mainstream.
This year, international features also came calling in the form of Kuami Eugene, Stonebwoy and Sarkodie.
His artist, Jamopyper also made his first steps into garnering genuine attention. He was also part of the smash hits, ‘Of Lala,’ ‘Cash App,’ and ‘Lagos Anthem.’ His other singles like, ‘The Matter’ and ‘Shomo’ also made minimal impact, but could not exactly break through.
7.) Psycho YP
In 2020, Psycho YP was one of Nigeria’s most featured artists. As a fast-rising artist, he already has his market, fan base and allure. His brand is already on solid ground and as the Twitter account of Osagie Alonge’s A Music In Time noted some weeks ago, he’s one ‘Kini Big Deal’ away from genuinely breaking through.
He wrapped up the year with his first Headies nomination for Best Rap Album. His album, YPSZN2 got a nod in that category. He also released two EPs this year.
Paybac deserves the recognition his music is currently getting. Earlier in the year, he released CULT!, one of Nigeria’s best albums of the year. He followed it up with Flat 14:2 with producer, Sean Stan. He also dropped some impressive verses on quality records for Barzini, Rik Artsenz and others.
He capped off the year with yet another Headies nomination for Best Rap Album.
As we await the release of T.E.S.L.I.M, Vector has continued to wax strong at his craft. He opened the year with announcement of his deal to Def Jam Africa, he then became a face of Hennessy Artistry 2020, as he spearheaded ‘The Conversation’ and the cyphers with former nemesis, MI Abaga.
He also released one EP, Crossroads with Mastaa, another EP filled with socio-politically charged VOEMs and released two smashing videos.
In 2020, AQ released two of the most critically acclaimed Nigerian bodies of work; God’s Engineering and The Live Report. He also stood at the helm of the viral social media freestyle conversation, The Monster Verse. He then dropped verses for some of Nigeria’s most-promising rappers.
At the 2020 Headies, he looks set to win his second consecutive Lyricist on The Roll gong with ‘Eunice.’ He’s also nominated for Best Rap Album for God’s Engineering.
In 2020, Falz didn’t exactly have the best year. Nonetheless, ‘Bop Daddy’ became a hit on TikTok and Triller. It also aided Ms. Banks cause toward the Nigerian mainstream. His other singles didn’t exactly work, but his work during the EndSARS protests stands him in great stead, as young Nigerians fought a larger battle.
He became one of the faces of a global movement and dropped a belated video for, ‘Johhny.’
2.) MI Abaga
Like AQ, Abaga released two critically acclaimed bodies of work throughout the year. He also participated in the monster verse, but his Manchester United line leaves much to be desired. Nonetheless, he’s still MI Abaga, the kingmaker. Like Vector, he was at the centre of Hennessy Artistry 2020’s ‘The Conversation’ and ‘The Cypher.’
At the 2020 Headies, he’s nominated for Lyricist on The Roll. He also delivered some killers verses for Dark Poet and Larry Gaaga during the year in review.
He’s quite simply Baddo and in 2020, he dropped 999 EP and Carpe Diem. The greatest is sealed, but more keeps building…