The albums are picked and ranked based on commercial success, impact, critical acclaim, shelf life, hits and awards (an added advantage).
Over the past five years, albums have become less important in Nigerian music. People now have a choice of whether to release or not to release music.
Davido is one of Nigeria’s biggest stars. As a 10-year veteran, he only released his sophomore album in his tenth year of excellence. The reason is simple; albums have become less-integral to success. Some who still understand the sanctity and the place of albums in posterity drop them, but most people couldn’t care if care became their best food.
Nonetheless, Nigerian music has seen an obscene amount of quality albums over the past decade (2010 - 2019). To close the last decade, Nigerian hip-hop witnessed a golden era. The earlier parts of the decade witnessed an evolution of pop. Championed by Asa and Brymo, the middle of the decade played purveyor for substantiated music with meticulous production.
Indegenous rappers became stars and afrobeats took a concord jet and crossed borders. Nonetheless, we only have space for 10 albums. With a keen contest, here is the criteria for the albums picked and ranked; commercial success, impact, critical acclaim, shelf life, hits and awards (an added advantage).
Please note, staff of Pulse Nigeria kindly request that their heads remain in their designated places when this list drops.
Sidenote: ‘Beautiful Imperfection’ by Asa and ‘Merchants, Dealers and Slaves’ by Brymo were considered, but were ultimately dropped for albums that ticked more boxes. The album that was closest to the top 10 was ‘Turning Point’ by Dr. Sid.
Here are the albums of the decade;
10. African Giant by Burna Boy
Yes, we know. It was only released in 2019. Yes, we also know, the journey that African Giant crowned started on Outside. All those factors were considered. But recently, African Giant surpassed 100 million streams on Spotify alone. A significant chunk of those streams are not from Nigeria or Nigerians.
To begin with, Spotify isn’t even operational in Nigeria. Even if it were, the percentage of paid music listenership in Nigeria is dire. For many reasons, African Giant is the flagship album of ‘Afrobeats to the world,’ a premier movement of this decade. That is also besides its ridiculous quality and the number of hits it has churned out. It is also thoroughly impactful.
Of the Nigerian albums to have dropped over the past three years, African Giant and Simisola are likely to be named classics.
9. Unstoppable International Edition by 2baba
The original Unstoppable album came in the thick of immense negative PR for then-2Face Idibia. He had to withstand the storm of being called “irresponsible” - he had just fathered his fifth child from three women. Some people also heavily criticized his stagecraft and the quality of his videos.
Inevitably, the album tanked. Even worse, its lead single, ‘Enter The Place’ was then banned by Nigerian Broadcasting Commission for unknown reasons. Thus, for a lot of reasons, Unstoppable (International Edition) was some sort of ‘comeback.’ 2baba made sure it wasn’t cheap - the album was priced at a whopping N2,000 when other albums sold for N100.
First, the Jay Sleek-produced ‘Implication’ dropped in 2010 and it became a smash hit. Then came other cult favourites like ‘Rain Drops’ ‘Take It Back’ and ‘Be There.’ But the key moment came off the highly resonant single, ‘Only Me.’ Nigerians could relate to its wordings and the song blew off rumours that it was directed at footballer, John Obi Mikel.
2baba’s comeback was complete when the album was named Album of the Year at the 2011 Headies - ahead of Turning Point by Dr. Sid. 2baba was also named Best Male and won Artist of the Year at the 2010 MTV Africa Music Awards.
8. New Era by Kizz Daniel
People don’t get this album. Not only did it churn out seven hits, it was named Album of the Year at the 2016 Headies. By 2013, ‘Woju’ was the Nigerian national anthem. ‘Laye’ followed with a similar arrangement, but it also 'entered.'
In the long history of incredible debut albums, this album will be forgotten for reasons of how Kizz Daniel has not become ‘Wizkid-big,’ but the album is wonderful.
7. Simisola by Simi
In 2008, Simi released her first album, Ogaju. It was filled with gospel-tinged music and from it came the church-hit, ‘Ara Ile.’ She was away for a few years after that. When she came back with ‘Tiff,’ ‘Jamb Question’ and ‘Open and Close,’ people took attention. When she jumped on Chemistry, a collaborative album with Falz, people began to take notice.
But what was to come, nobody could have predicted. In a country caught in the riptide of lamba obsession, Simi basically made afro-folk and loves songs become hits. ‘Joromi,’ ‘Remind’ and ‘Smile For Me’ are not dance songs. Even ‘Owambe’ that has a vibe isn’t the atypical pop music.
When award season rode in, music lovers basically stormed Eko Hotels and Suites for the 2018 Headies bearing weapons under their cool outfits. These weapons were meant to be used if Simisola was not named Album of the Year - it was and the world has since known peace. On the side of truth, this album has all the markings of a classic.
6. Sean Tizzle - The Journey
A year prior to this album’s release, Sean Tizzle was named Next Rated Artist at the Headies. It was deemed an upset - Burna Boy was also on the list. As Sean Tizzle ran on stage for his memorable speech, Burna Boy stormed out of Oriental Hotels and never returned to the Headies - it was a pivotal moment.
At the time, Burna Boy had released his critically acclaimed album, L.I.F.E. A year later, Sean Tizzle released his debut album, The Journey. Ladies and gentlemen, that album blew minds. It was a 17-track album with no fillers - you couldn’t skip any song. By the time, Burna Boy was about to release his sophomore album, On A Spaceship - his hype had gone down.
The Journey went on to be named Best Pop/R&B Album at the 2014 Headies. Many saw it as a vindication for the upset of the previous year. Time has told another story, but The Journey represents the brilliance of D’Tunes in real time. He cooked, chopped and collaborated with a creative in prime confidence. The album was a moment.
5. MI2 by MI Abaga
This album came in the golden era of Nigerian Hip-Hop. On it, MI created a movie concept and told a story. With every song came a marriage of English rap and a commercial beat. Like him or hate him, MI Abaga is a genius and this album was a moment.
At the 2011 Headies,MI2 was named Best Rap Album. Coming off the equally monumental Talk About It, most people would have dropped the ball. Instead, MI created his own world in which he was an autocrat who created rules and made everyone follow them. He was the actor in an action film where he was hero.
He was a cowboy in the ‘Wild West’ who ate ‘Beef’ for raw dinner. He bought ‘Craze’ for ‘One Naira’ and challenged ‘Anybody’ for his ‘Undisputed’ ‘Number One’ spot.
In Nigerian rap, this album will go down as a turning point. If Nigerian Hip-Hop will ever have a foothold for profitability, more albums like this are needed. This was an album that made the average Nigerian be interested in English-rap.
4. No Guts, No Glory by Phyno
Before this album dropped, it disrupted the soundscape with its own brand of commercial rap. At helm of affairs was Major Banggz while Phyno was spat fire. If Nigeria will ever have its own brand of rap music, we have to go back to that sound or go a little forward to Young Jon’s serial madness on ‘Awon Goons Mi' and 'Cause Trouble.'
Phyno was the producer-turned-swashbuckiling Igbo-speaking rapper with an avant-garde appearance. On ‘Obago’ he rapped, “East coast n**a banging in the west” and it was a fact. ‘Ghost Mode,’ ‘Obago,’ ‘Parcel’ and ‘Kush Music’ were mega-hits before his album dropped. When the album dropped, ‘Alobam’ became a cultural moment.
Phyno was the cool kid with the cool fashion sense. ‘Alobam’ birthed merchandize and street culture. 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 single.
The only reason this album didn’t win Album of the Year was probably because Baddest Guy Ever Liveth was in the same category.
3. P Square - Invasion
Guys, there are no words to quantify both the impact and the quality of this album. At the 2012 Headies, it was named Album of the Year. However, that was the least it deserved. At the time, P Square were undisputed as the biggest acts in Africa. They made strategic music with different markets in mind and matched the music with incredible performances.
On Invasion sat hits like ‘Onyinye,’ ‘Bunieya Enu,’ ‘Chop My Money’ and ‘Do As I Do.’ More importantly, ‘Beautiful Onyinye’ got a remix with the hottest rapper of that year, Rick Ross. But for Game Over, Invasion might be P Square’s best album. Sadly, it was from there that rumours of rift between the legendary duo started swirling.
Nonetheless, their legend is sealed. In some circles are arguments that ‘Onyinye’ started the culture of ‘wedding music’ in Nigeria.
2. Baddest Guy Ever Liveth by Olamide
Baddest Guy Ever Liveth was Olamide’s third studio album after Rapsodi and YBNL. But when you talk about a magnus opus, this is undeniably Olamide’s. Not only did this album catapult ordinary album tracks into the realm of hits, Olamide churned out hit after hit.
He also became a musical scientist who experimented at will. He made rap the subject of mainstream appeal. ‘Esu Pofo’ is cut off Yoruba folk music and ‘Anifowose’ interpolated a classic Kwam 1 hit. The smash hit, ‘Durosoke’ made grandmothers go up and down.
Even though Olamide was a phenom before the album, it helped him make first steps into ‘greatest’ conversations. At the 2014 Headies, it was the second of Olamide’s four Album of the Year wins. As if the mainstream hits were not enough, Olamide also had rap bangers like ‘Rayban Abacha,’ ‘Sitting On The Throne’ and ‘Dope Money’ which united tribes.
This was not an album, it was a moment and it only missed top spot with a split decision. On it, Olamide documented life in the mainstream - the joys, perils and struggles. The album’s cover art also popularized the cultural moment, ‘gunman pose.’ But Olamide didn’t stop there, he was dressed as Julius Caesar while he made his gunman pose. Mad.
1.Superstar by Wizkid
There’s nothing else to say about this album. It was the moment that launched a soon-to-be legendary career. Wizkid probably owns the biggest debut moment in recent Nigerian music. It was almost like a bewitched the Nigerian audience with his baby face and ‘jazzed’ his music. He didn’t, the music was just good.
Every song on this album was a hit - even the ones that were not released as a single. Before the album dropped, Wizkid made a non-archetypal pop song like ‘Holla At Your Boy’ become a continental hit. Then, he found his bearing on ‘Tease Me’ before he owned the mainstream with ‘Pakurumo.’
Producers like Samklef, DJ Klem and Jay Sleek found their bearing. Even an underrated song like ‘For Me’ became a moment that made everyone stand and appreciate. More importantly, the album has aged like fine wine. Everyone song feels like they were released yesterday.
Even though The Invasion by P Square swept its categories at the 2011 Headies, Superstar is a much better album that The Invasion and it posterity will be fairer on it.