This continues Pulse's annual tradition of ranking rappers for the year.
In June 2019, Pulse created a list of the 10 hottest Nigerian rappers of 2019 (so far). The list started with, “This article will probably annoy you and that’s okay.” That energy has not changed. But then, this writer harbours an unintentional hope that trouble doesn’t ensue.
ALSO READ: Top 10 rappers of 2019 (so far)
While the final line of the previous character remains a pipe dream, rap has evolved. But due to being primarily fueled by black culture as an instrument of authentic expression, it fuses with personalities. For that reason, people’s psyche becomes part of rap music and they become more invested in the music than in any other genre.
The result is ego - a primary ingredient of rap music through people emote and create. This ego then awakens competition - this rapper wants to be better than that rapper. On this premise, rap beefs, quality albums and rap battles are built. It’s a culture and a tradition - it is also part of Hip-Hop’s DNA.
To continue that tradition, Pulse ranks the 10 hottest Nigerian rappers of 2019. Some rappers have been better than others and others have simply fallen flat in the face of demands. While some rappers made the July 2019 list, a lot has happened since then. Some of those people have fallen off and been eclipsed.
The second half of 2019 also saw the crystallization of a rap beef that had been brewing for nine years. Without ado, here are the 10 hottest Nigerian rappers of 2019.
Who are the hottest rappers in Nigeria right now?
The Pulse list below is a reflection of the hottest rappers ruling the country. They belong to an upper class of wordsmiths who are doing three things;
- Pushing rap music further into mainstream consciousness.
- Further integrating street culture into rap music, an element that our Hip-Hop DNA is still short of.
- And the upholding of core rap values of brilliant penmanship and super lyricism.
What are the criteria for this selection?
In coming up with this list, we used mainstream appeal and impact, critical acclaim and the ability to brilliantly use progressive rap elements as factors. Albums are an added advantage.
It’s 2019 and iLLBliss remains the most relevant rapper of his generation. His staying power and ability to still garner a loyal response for his projects is amazing. The man is a veteran who has morphed into the prime grown rapper. His topics have evolved and so has the quality of his music - they evolve to match demands.
This year, he released two excellent projects; iLLZilla with producer, TeckZilla and Illosophy.
The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey)
With Alternate Ending, the group consisting of ace rappers, Paybac and Boogey released not just one of the best rap albums of 2019, but one of the best albums of 2019.
Known for their lyricism, The Lost and Found evolved into premium storytellers and concept creators with their latest body of work.
Hopefully, The Lost and Found will bless us with another gem like Alternate Ending in 2020.
In 2019, AQ was named Lyricist on the Roll at the Headies. However, it was for a 2018 song. What he has been able to do in 2019 is have two hot rap verses on the Martell Cyphers and release some impressive loosies - chief of which is the monstrous ‘Eunice,’ which follows his ‘beef’ with Fresh L.
The song was preceded by a confrontation between Fresh L and AQ. The latter rapper had dissed the alte demographic on a song titled, 'Hmmm.' 'Distractions 2,' his diss to Vector was the last act in the MI Abaga vs. Vector tha Viper beef. His verse on the first Martell Cypher was arguably Nigeria's best of first quarter 2019.
On the July 2019 list, Blaqbonez was missing. The reason was simple, he was rolling on social media hype without the presence of music. His re-up was a continuation of a 2018 album and substance was missing.
Even though it seems ‘cooked and half done,’ he was involved in much-publicised rap beef with Vader, TenTik and Payper Corleone after he declared himself the ‘best rapper in Africa.’ This directly led to his label boss, AQ pulling him out of a PGM Club session with Douglas Jekan after nemesis, Vader was spotted in attendance.
As the year wound down, he released a thoroughly impressive video for single, ‘Shut Up,’ and a stylistically experimental and excellent project, Mr. Boombastic. He ends the year by getting a Best Hip-Hop nod at the SoundCity MVP.
Somewhere during the year, he dropped some fire on 'Define Rap 2' by VJ Adams. That was one hot verse. The rapper also made appearances on both Martell Cyphers.
The man is one of the top three logical contenders for the greatest Nigerian rapper ever. Over the past 10 years, he has released eight studio projects and produced hits at a level which only a few can hit. He has won awards and he has made music hit otherworldly levels.
However, 2019 has finally shown chinks in his armour. As he prepares to hit veteran status, it seems he is finally slowing down. Throughout the year, he has released a total of six singles. None of have hit the usual level of an ‘Olamide hit,’ but he still relevant. His singles, ‘Oil and Gas’ and ‘Pawon’ struggle to be hits, but they still make parties jump.
7.) Show Dem Camp
Only a few rap acts have the consistency of Show Dem Camp. These guys are not just incredible at what they do, Ghost and Tec have no bad albums - they have eight.
In January 2019, they dropped the ‘love-rap’ for what Hip-Hop heads would call, ‘real rap.’ The project is the Headies-nominated Clone Wars IV. The album wasn’t just excellent, it became one of Nigeria’s flagship rap albums of 2019. Ghost with the baritone vocals and Tec with the more methodical lines, the didn’t stop.
At the 2019 Headies, they both got nominated for Lyricist on the Roll. In December 2019, they released their second project of the year, The Palmwine Express. When Palmwine Fest holds later this month, it will be packed.
Like Olamide, Phyno slowed down in 2019. Unlike Olamide, he didn’t have genuine contenders for a hit. But what he did was be strategic about it - the singles didn’t tank. He stopped being the, “East coast n**** banging in the west,” but he still didn’t tank. Singles like ‘Agu,’ and ‘The Bag’ didn’t blow in the west, but the numbers were not disappointing.
Other singles like ‘Ke Ife O,’ ‘Ojimo’ and ‘Vibe’ didn’t crack it, but ‘Ride For You’ did better than all other Phyno singles in 2019. Unlike most of the others rappers, he ended the year with an impressive album.
At the start of 2019, Vector was obscure and his loosies made no impact on Hip-Hop culture. However, he caught some words on the first Martell Cypher. When the Hennessy Cyphers rolled around, he traded words with his rival, MI Abaga - trouble was brewing. Hip-Hop lovers were rubbing their palms at the prospect of a major rap beef.
When MI Abaga released the second Martell Cypher, he rapped, “When you’re ready, it will be a seismic event…” Trouble ensued and Vector released ‘The Purge.’ He followed it up with ‘Tetracycling.’ When MI Abaga replied with the viral ‘The Viper,’ Vector won what is up there with Nigeria’s greatest rap beefs with ‘Judas, The Rat.’
He released ‘Comfort’ featuring Davido and capped off the year with VIBES Before T.E.S.L.I.M, his best project yet. Even if it’s for that beef alone, he deserves to be on this list. ‘Alaye Jor Jor Jor’ has since become a cultural moment - Seun Kuti deserves a cheque for his part.
ALSO READ: A brief history of Vector vs. MI Abaga
4. MI Abaga
Ladies and gentlemen, calm yourselves - or not. MI Abaga trumps Vector because he had the first half of 2019. Martell Cypher I was a moment in Nigerian Hip-Hop and it trended on the go.
The second Martell Cypher equally performed well. Then came with beef with Vector. His track ‘The Viper’ was so good that it almost handed victory MI Abaga. Sadly, MI Abaga lost, and he didn’t release the anticipated EP, Tribe of Judah, but he had a #NoSnakes moment that birthed merch. He also embarked on a #NoSnakes tour of North America.
Let’s be guided, Zlatan and Naira Marley are rappers - this content is for an article which could be a spin-off to this list. He capped off 2018 with a monstrous verse on Burna Boy’s ‘Killin Dem’ and claimed ownership of Nigeria’s current viral dance craze. As 2019 climbed month on month, he became the go-to-guy for ‘street cred’ in Nigerian music.
He delivered for acts like Tiwa Savage, DJ Cuppy, Naira Marley and other acts - even Buju. As the year wound down, he struggled for his hits, but had a street anthem in IVD’s ‘Bolanle.’ His album ZANKU was terrible, but his notoriety in Nigerian music throughout the year lands him on this list.
When he was arrested alongside Naira Marley, Rahman Jago and Guccy Branch, it was national news. ‘4 Days In Okotie Eboh,’ his freestyle upon release went viral on social media.
Falz is the man who hacked it. The UK-trained lawyer raps like a local Yoruba man with his alter ego, Brother Taju from Ilawe-Ekiti. The man merges Hip-Hop endorsement and Shepeteri appeal. He creates rap in his lingo, accent and with his style. In that regard, he merges humour with substance and his definition of bars. People want to listen to him and his music sells itself.
While he is not the top dog in any demography, he is loved by all. When Pulse spoke with rapper, Teeto Ceemos earlier in the year, he named Falz as one of the best rappers in Nigeria - he was right.
At the 2019 Headies, Moral Instruction was named Album of the Year. One line on his single, 'Talk' caused an uproar for days on end.
Falz appropriately sampled the music of the late Fela Kuti to address the ills of contemporary Nigeria. While most of his peers are lost in abstract bars and excessive glorification of street decadence, Falz has proven that he is above his peers by blending humour with ingenuity and conscious lyrics.
No wonder he is a darling of corporate Nigeria. Aside from that, the man went on a J. Cole-esque quest to kill one feature after another in 2019. While his singles since Moral Instruction have failed to track it, he joined BOJ and Ajebutter22 for the excellent Make E No Cause Fight 2.
On the album, Falz and Ajebutter told the most impeccable stories in the most impressive ways albeit with unorthodox styles. If rap will ever have a foothold in Nigeria, rappers like Falz, Ajebutter and Naira Marley will be important.
1.) Naira Marley
Ladies and gentlemen, this might be an unpopular choice but what is a good list without a forward -thinking choice.
Coming off the high of ‘Issa Goal’ in the World Cup year, Naira Marley entered 2019 slowly until... his comments about internet fraud gained him more notoriety than fame. Channeling the controversy around him, Naira Marley blessed his cult fan base ‘Marlians’ with the witty ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’.
No one should mistake Naira Marley for a 'lyricist' in the real sense of the word,, but his witty wordplay and smooth rhymes have helped establish him as a street rapper who has embraced the ugly underbelly of street life in Lagos.
While in incarceration, Naira Marley dropped the raunchy tune ‘Opotoyi,’ proving that he can weave his slurry, seemingly drugged out voice and flow over a Zanku beat again and again. Using his infamous status to pen undeniable bangers, Marley has become a household name. His controversial single, 'Soapy' is Nigeria’s song of the year.
Naira Marley is not for the purists, he is for the streets. His controversial and explicitly worded songs, 'Am I a Yahoo Boy?' and 'Opotoyi' hit more than one million views in one week and two weeks respectively.
‘Pxta’ was an incredible single with a powerful run, but ‘Mafo’ ran the streets. On December 17, 2019, he released his EP, Lord of Lamba (LOL) he is a strong contender for Nigeria’s artist of the year and MarlianFest will turn Lagos inside out. The man is in his element, creating substantial rap by his own rules. He is not a rapper? That’s your problem, but we cannot all be ignorant.