In music, 'a sophomore slump' simply refers to a situation where an artist's second album fails to match or surpass the heights of the same artist's first/debut album. The opposite of a sophomore slump is a 'sophomore triumph.' Sophomore slumps are not unpopular in music.
In fact, we have more cases of sophomore slumps than sophomore triumphs in the Nigerian music industry. A clear case of a sophomore slump would be Burna Boy or Wande Coal.
That said, a sophomore slump does not necessarily mean a terrible sophomore album. While a sophomore album might still be good, something as basic as a lack of impact - on a similar scale as the debut - could make it a sophomore slump; as in the case of Wizkid.
That said, there are also situations where certain artists like Simi or DaGrin have subpar or under-the-radar debut albums only to then have immense sophomore albums. Those acts cannot be said to have a sophomore triumph. A sophomore triumph can only happen after a groundbreaking debut with two or all of critical acclaim, commercial success and impact.
Smack in the middle are artists who simply have neither a case of sophomore slump or a sophomore triumph because both their debut and sophomore projects are bad nor excellent in the case of Davido. There also acts who simply don’t fit any of the descriptions that we’ve laid out - they are just there.
With all that being said, we are here to celebrate the acts who managed to avoid a sophomore slump and engineer a sophomore. They are listed thus;
Debut: On his 2004 debut album They Album Come, 'Ruggedman was the troublemaker who dissed Rasqie, Eedris, The Remedies, Maintain and more ‘Ehen’. On 'Big Bros,' he took aim at Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye of Kennis Music. With this album, Ruggedman made it cool to rap in pidgin and native tongue at a time of incredible obsession with American Hip-Hop and ebonics. It also earned him an enemy in Mode9ine.
Ruggedman decided to change his approach from ebonics to pidgin after he got a piece of advice from Paul Play Dairo who told him to mix his mother tongue and pidgin for effective Nigerian rap music.
Sophomore: Three years later, Ruggedman released his 21-track sophomore album, Ruggedy Baba. The album was a cross-section of Hip-Hop experimentation that actually worked. Asides being an incredible body of work, it produced the smash title track which placed 9ice firmly in a conversation he’d never been before.
Debut: Before No Guts, No Glory dropped in 2004, it disrupted the soundscape with its own brand of commercial rap. Phyno was the producer-turned-swashbuckiling Igbo-speaking rapper who produced five banging rap - not pop - singles from one album.
Those singles were ‘Obago,’ ‘Ghost Mode,’ ‘Parcel,’ ‘Kush Music’ and, ‘Alobam. If MI Abaga visibly merged rap with pop music, Phyno blurred the lines. This was a proper rap album with hits, critical acclaim and awards. ‘Parcel’ was rightly named Best Rap Single at the 2014 Headies.
Sophomore: While this album might not be a better album than No Guts, No Glory, it catapulted Phyno into superstar status. ‘Connect’ and ‘Fada’ Fada’ were smash hit singles that ran this country with an iron fist. The album also produced good and popular songs like ‘Pino Pino,’ ‘Ezege,’ ‘Financial Woman’ and ‘Abulo.’ It also birthed the Oliver De Coque version of Phyno.
Debut: In pop culture, the average person thinks 9ice had a subpar first album but that’s not true. Little Money was an impressive album that produced one hit, ‘Little Money’ and another ‘Smash Hit in 'Ganga Man.' Asides that, it’s as enjoyable as any album. Its production is fresh and songs like ‘Make Dem Talk’ are still amazing.
Sophomore: Guys, we’re talking about Gongo Aso, the ancestor who ran so that Mushin To Mo’Hits could fly. The album on which a former rapper’s Hip-Hop roots shone like a million stars. The album produced one hit after another from R&B songs to pop songs. Asides that, Gongo Aso is also a lesson on album sequencing. Most people don’t realize Reminisce was featured on this album.
Debut: Contrary to popular belief amongst Olamide’s stans, 2011’s Rapsodi was not a groundbreaking album. However, it was good enough to have a replay value and produce one of the greatest careers in modern Nigerian music. It also produced hits like ‘Eni Duro’ and ‘Omo To Shan.’
Sophomore: Guys, Olamide didn’t just smash Rapsodi out the park with YBNL, he ate Rapsodi and then consumed the carcass like a vulture. Till this day, the only reason any sensible person will say Baddest Guy Ever Liveth is a better album than YBNL is because the former had a supernatural impact both musically, critically and culturally. Nonetheless, Olamide then left YBNL in the dark and produced an amazing third album and then a great fourth. Madness.
Debut: Asa’s self-titled album - also spelled Asha - is the Simisola of its time. It was not filled with archetypal Afro-pop songs, but it managed to produce popular songs that might have been hits. Even ‘Jailer,’ ‘Bibanke’ and ‘Fire On The Mountain’ were not hits, they are some of the most timeless songs Nigerian music has seen. Aside from that, the album created a new awareness in Nigerian music and the video for ‘Jailer’ was the first video many Nigerians watched on Trace.
Sophomore: If Asha shifted culture, Beautiful Imperfection is Asa’s magnus opus. The album is a ‘Beautiful Perfection’ - the irony of its title. It did not produce one hit, but Beautiful Imperfection is one of the few classics that Nigerian music has seen over the past 15 years.
Debut: In 2007, Timaya released his 11-track debut, True Story. The album was one the album that shouldn’t have even seen the light of day, but managed to become a sensation of Afro-pop. Alongside Gongo Aso and Mushin To Mo’Hits, True Story is a progeny of modern Nigerian pop.
Sophomore: Gift and Grace was released a year later. Some Nigerians will argue that Gift and Grace isn’t as huge or as successful as True Story. That might be arguable, but it’s not valid. By the time Gift and Grace dropped, Timaya had become a star and had lost his underdog status with a face for the struggle. Thus, the perception for Gift and Grace is flawed.
In reality, Gift and Grace produced four hits, ‘I Don Blow,’ ‘God Abeg,’ ‘Yankuliya’ and ‘If To Say.’ Asides the forgettable ‘Iyawo Mi,’ Gift and Grace is every inch as good as True Story.
4) P Square
Debut: In 2002, P Square released their debut album, Last Nite on Timbuk2 Music. It might not have been as big as their other albums, but it was still big and it spurned hits like, ‘Igbedu’ and ‘Senorita’ while the title track was also a huge song.
Sophomore: What came next is the 13-track sophomore album, Get Squared in 2004. Listening to the refined music from Get Squared while watching the video is the ethereal equivalent of watching Lilian Bach strut before a teenage boy. In other words, the album was perfect in every way.
Some people will argue that the album had two million hits. While it does look like that, Get Squared only had two in ‘Bizzy Body’ and ‘Temptation.’ However, the remaining seven songs were equally popular songs.
3) MI Abaga
Debut: As former Senior Editor of Pulse Nigeria puts it, "The three greatest Nigerian rappers are Modenine, M.I, and Olamide. While Modenine is the bar for lyricism and Olamide is the greatest Nigerian rapper to impact pop culture, M.I has the strongest discography."
MI Abaga was an English-speaking Nigerian rapper who transcended realms into hits and pop culture relevance. If Ruggedman took the power from English rap, MI Abaga reinstalled it. He also won awards that pop stars were winning.
Sophomore: Guys, MI2 is arguably the most anticipated album in the history of Nigerian music. The night that album dropped the entirety of Twitter NG was awake and on social media. The moment it landed, Nigerian music blogs went into overdrive. MI2 is regarded to be MI Abaga’s opus and the moment his legend was sealed - it’s difficult to argue it.
2) Eedris Abdulkareem
Debut: In 2002, legendary Nigerian rapper, Eedris Abdulkareem released his 12-track debut album, PASS. The album was his first upon his separation from The Remedies. The album was as impressive as it was successful. It also produced four hits, ‘Oko Ashewo,’ ‘Oko Omoge,’ ‘Player Meji,’ ‘Wackawickee MCs.’
Sophomore: In the same year - 2002, Abdulkareem then released his groundbreaking 8-track sophomore album, Mr Lecturer. The album contained the smash hit and timeless song about sexual exploitation in Nigerian universities. It’s titled, ‘Mr. Lecturer.’ Abdulkareem then went ahead and released another smashing third album, Jaga Jaga in 2004.
1) Tubaba Idibia
Debut: Pre-release pf Face2Face, the pressure was so immense that it becomes a compliment to 2Face that he pulled off a classic. He didn't just pull it off, he created a blueprint for Nigerian pop. Alongside Timaya's True Story, 9ice's Gongo Aso and Wande Coal's debut, Mushin To Mo'Hits, it is the fourth progeny of contemporary Nigerian pop.
While the album was mostly based on Hip-Hop and R&B elements with slight cuts of alternative, the album represented the Hip-Hop orient of its time while foreseeing a future. It didn't quite pull it off, but it did enough to get itself into the conversation. More importantly, it foreshadowed what is arguably the greatest career in contemporary Nigeria music.
When it's all said and done, this album produced 'African Queen.' Nuff said.
- Culled from Pulse Nigeria
Sophomore: When 2Face returned for his sophomore album, Grass2Grace, he rewrote his own legacy. The album was an even better album than Face2Face. But for African Queen, it might have been a bigger album. Grass2Grace was an album made with the Nigerian volkgeist and it spoke a similar language to Lagbaja’s WE/ME moment in 2000.
But for its wack rep for visuals, Grass2Grace is the perfect album in terms of production, thematic and topical conversation and delivery. It was also 2face Idibia’s finest album as a Nigerian artist - that’s a lot of compliment because he’s had many.