Editors Pick

The PGM Club’s Best 20 Songs In 2019

2019 in retrospect was quite a good year as far as the Nigerian music industry is concerned. Over the past 364 days, Afrobeats, Nigeria’s major music export, got more visibility on the world stage, we experienced so many exciting releases and bespoke rollouts. But most of all, we witnessed an influx of a range of young, vibrant and talented artists that dominated the airwaves such that people started to speak of a change of guard in the industry that up until recently was dominated by a duopoly. Amidst a tidal wave of releases this year, we at the PGM Club have come to put out a list of our top 20 records that believe dominated the year. 

Tems – Try Me

A follow up to her year-opening stunner, ‘Looku Looku‘, ‘Try Me’ is a breakout anthem for the oppressed, underrated and understated who have been suppressed from use and abuse. Over a simple and laidback beat, a spirited Tems is on a mission to set herself free as she continuously asks why her subjugator keeps pushing her to the wall.

With a powerful sing-along-hook, this song is so infectious that’d get you in the zone right from your first listen. If there was ever any doubt about Tems skill as a dazzling vocalist and songwriter, ‘Try Me‘ puts that to rest. The record has gained much traction on the airwaves and its video has racked up over a million views on YouTube.

Lady Donli x The Cavemen – Cash

Cash’ is the lead single off Lady Donli’s well-received debut album, “Enjoy Your Life” that got blessed with a Davido-assisted remix. The original single which Lady Donli revealed was recorded at a time when she was broke and frustrated soundtracks our unending hustle and bustle for money. The song has one simple message; this life is one so enjoy it as much as you can. 

Teni- Billionaire

The lead single Teni’s her 6-track EP of the same title, ‘Billionaire’ is that anthem that reaffirmed Teni’s position as a hitmaker after near-misses released earlier in the year.  Produced by Pheelz, ‘Billionaire’ is an up-tempo record, rich in instrumentation and overflows with ambition, providing a perfect blend of a stunning dance record with declarative and prayerful lyrics. Proudly weaving together Yoruba and English over ‘alujo‘-laced percussion, Teni sings of her lofty dreams of being a billionaire as well as the luxury and excess that comes with being one. She also backed this record with a brilliant TG Omori-directed video.

Mojo ft Prettyboy DO – Chop Life Crew

A highly enjoyable record, ‘Chop Life Crew’ as its title suggests is a not-so-subtle reminder that life is short and it is to be enjoyed to the fullest. Both D-O and MOJO deliver energetic verses that drive the message home over a slick production with rolling hi-hats and hard-hitting kicks. The Ronchi-produced record also houses a catchy-hook that gets you bobbing your head and whistling along upon every listen.

Rema – Dumebi

A standout cut off his 4-track self-titled debut EP “Rema“, ‘Dumebi’ is that monster hit that speedily propelled the freshly unveiled Mavins act to stardom.  A very catchy and danceable Afropop record, ‘Dumebi‘ alongside its accompanying video undoubtedly dominated the airwaves throughout 2019 making Rema a household name in no time.  

Reekado Banks – Rora

After a brief self-imposed hiatus, Reekado Banks came back with a King Tuzi-produced bang titled ‘Rora’. Undoubtedly, Reekado Bank took the doubts out of our minds and hushed naysayers with this sleeper hit. Over the mid-tempo Afropop record, Reekado Banks is in full woman-worship mode as he adulates his love interest begging her to ‘calm down’.

Joeboy – Baby

Very early into the year, Joeboy eased himself into the hearts of many with his Afropop love record, ‘Baby’. Over the soft but sparkling instrumental, the young singer openly declares love for his sweetheart, gifting us one of the best sing-along hooks of 2019. And ever since the release of this chart-topping smash, the Empawa has been on a joy ride to stardom and mainstream success. Proving he was no fad, the young singer also followed up with equally beautiful songs, ‘Beginning‘ and ‘Don’t Call Me Back‘ and an impressive 5-track EP, “Love & Light.”

Sarz & WurlD – Mad

Sarz and WurlD finally treated us to their much-teased “I Love Girls With Trobul” EP this year, and one of the standouts off the tape is ‘Mad’. Across the infectious record, WurlD’s artistic strengths are on full display as the song is well written and delivered with a solid vocal performance. He gives us a peek into his “trobul’d” relationship with Sade, one that isn’t exactly going through the best of times. Sarz’s production on the record is so thrilling that the song immediately ensnares you upon its first listen.

Santi – Sparky

A single off his debut album “Mandy and the Jungle,” ‘Sparky’ finds Santi crooning over a soft and minimalist production which leaves enough room for the dominance of the vocals and polished delivery of the dreadlocked singer. Just like the visuals for ‘Freaky’, the accompanying visuals for ‘Sparky’ appears to be highly inspired by the 90s Nollywood culture which others have subjected to ridicule. 

Johnny Drille – Papa

Released in celebration of Father’s Day, ‘Papa’ finds the Mavin Records alternative-folk singer appreciating his dad and crooning about his spirituality spurred and serviced by his father. Backed mainly by stifling strings and solemn keys, Johnny Drille opens the record by recounting the fatherly advice he was given when he was much younger to have his life guided and guarded by faith and prayers. He then describes how his father keeps in touch with him regularly and reminds him not to let go of his spirituality in the strange land he currently finds himself.

 Boj x Kwesi Arthur, Darko Vibes – Awolowo

Over the record produced by the acclaimed ‘alte playmaker’, GMK, BOJ recruits a team of Ghana’s finest; Kwesi Arthur, Darko Vibes and Joey B. The song also features additional vocals by Zamir and guitar by friend-of-the-family, Tomi Thomas.

Across the record, BOJ delivers a chilling hook with his gruff voice over the simplistic but dazzling GMK-production. Kwesi Arthur, Joey B and Darko Vibes also didn’t disappoint, coming through with impressive 16s woven in English, pidgin and their native tongues. This record also has a Naija remix that features Ycee, Fresh L and Falz.

Odunsi – Tipsy

A striking step-forward from last year’s debut album ‘rare.’, ‘Tipsy’ finds Odunsi (The Engine) pushing his music into darker territory, with elements of R&B, soul and pop part of his global-facing, Afro-fusion sound. His vocal interplay with RAYE is the perfect fit, with both artists possessing the character and star quality to naturally complement each other’s talent. This striking record helped to introduce the alte frontman to a wider international audience. 

Buju X Zlatan – Spiritual

One of the amazing talents that 2019 introduced to us is Buju. The young singer is no doubt one of the most talented singers on the rise and is looking to an even more promising 2020. One of the songs that thrust him into the public eye is his August release, ‘Spiritual’ featuring Zlatan. Over the ad-lib laced zanku anthem, Buju’s vocals shine through, dazzling the uninitiated as he croons about his lover over the chilledSteph production. Zlatan also came through on the record with one of his most thrilling verses of the year. 

Davido x Popcaan – Risky

On this Popcaan-assisted record, Davido crafted a beautiful hook from the disjointed, grating and hilarious Hot 97 freestyle. Just a few hours before its release, Davido gave us a fair warning on Twitter “What you all laughed at!! You will dance to!!” and he couldn’t have been more accurate.

Produced by Speroach Beatz, ‘Risky‘ helped reignite the anticipation for his long-awaited sophomore album “A Good Time.”

AYLØ – Paris

AYLØ gave us the first taste of the material he had been working on in silence “Dnt’ Dlt” with the record titled ‘Paris’. On the song centred around fiding beauty, AYLØ delievers a soothing and melodious record over a simplistic and minimalist production. With his emotive vocals on full display, he croons about how he is helplessly in love with his sweetheart. “We are all damaged …” he resigns. This song is co-produced by Le Mav and Odunsi The Engine.

Naira Marley – Opotoyi

Naira Marley isn’t exactly a PGM-type artist, but his influence and dominance this year cannot be understated. Throughout the year, he was surrounded with self-inflicted controversy that kept his name circling in the media and also had a string of hits to his name that made it very difficult for him to be ignored. On ‘Opotoyi’, Naira Marley hops on a catchy and fast-paced Rexxie-produced Zanku beat, ravelling in woman worship and street banter. 

Prettyboy D-O – Dey Go Hear Wehh

For his first post-“Everything Pretty” release, Prettyboy D-O came through with the high energy dancehall-influenced record, ‘Dey Go Hear Wehh’ and its Seyi Akinlade-directed cinematic video.  On the record, D-O delivers frisky verses over the hard-hitting instrumental before coming through with the highly infectious hook cut from a popular Nigerian pidgin dictum. He comes for non-believers and detractors, assuring us that they will soon be shocked beyond measure.

Tiwa Savage – 49-99

For her UMG debut, Tiwa Savage links up with YBNL producer, Pheelz to release ‘49-99‘, a mid-tempo afro-pop record with Afrobeat elements, particularly rich in instrumentation with scintillating underlying strings.

On the record, Tiwa Savage expresses her desire for the good things of life amidst the rife and turmoil in a country some are quick to refer to as a failed state. She is focused on securing the bag to afford herself the luxury designers and fast cars, “Mo fe ra Versace, Mo fe ra Bugatti” she croons.

Burna Boy – Anybody

In the future, when Burna Boy looks back at how much he achieved in 2019, he’d find much to be grateful for. Despite opening the year with a brief fall from grace following his infamous “African Giant” Instagram rant, the Atlantic act managed to turn things around swiftly, weaving it into his best yet – musically. One of the standout cuts and fan-favourite off his “African Giant” album is the percussive gbese anthem, ‘Anybody’. Burna basks in his full feel-good mode,  advocating the cutting off of any bad energy that seeks to kill the vibe. This record was one of the records he performed the most on his amazing post-“African Giant” press run.

Davido x Chris Brown – Blow My Mind 

One of the recurrent pitfalls of international collaborations in these parts is that it sometimes feels forced as most local acts sacrifice chemistry for star power but Davido’s ‘Blow My Mind’ is an exception. A lead single off his highly anticipated sophomore album “A Good Time,” Davido and Chris Brown’s chemistry radiated across the Shizzy-produced number. The sweet-singing Chris Brown seamlessly razzled across the track with a casual air that blessed the soothing and melodious love number with a scene-stealing feature. It was smooth and seamless that they also teamed up again on Chris Brown’s ‘Lower Body’ off his “Indigo” extension.

 

Notable Mentions

Alpha Ojini ft Ycee – One Knee (Chvmeleon)

SDC ft Buju – Do Me Nice (Palmwine Express)

SDC ft Tomi Thomas – Vibration (Palmwine Express)

Amaarae – Like It 

Crayon – Gock Am (Cray Cray)

Gigi Atlantis ft Fasina – Wahala On The Rocks

Ckay – Way (CKay The First) 

Dice Ailes ft Falz -Alakori 

Bris B ft Santi – Supa sigh 

Dami Oniru – Alive (Bri’s Lounge)

Blaqbonez – Shut Up (Mr Boombastic)

 

Remember to check out all these records and keep supporting good music. Cheers!

Burna Boy’s ‘Money Play’ Is A Fitting Cap To A Tremendous Year

In the future, when Burna Boy looks back at how much he achieved in 2019, he’d find much to be grateful for. Despite opening the year with a brief fall from grace following his infamous “African Giant” Instagram rant, the Atlantic-signed act managed to turn things around swiftly, weaving it into his best yet – musically.

Over the past 11 months, Burna Boy performed at the World’s biggest music festival, Coachella; clinched his first BET Best International Act Award — where Mama Burna delivered her now-celebrated speech –; won the Best African Act category at the  MTV Europe Music Awards; featured on Beyonce‘s “Lion King” album and released his culturally and commercially successful “African Giant” album.

This hit-laden project was accompanied by an impressive press run that strategically placed Burna Boy as the poster boy for the globetrotting Afrobeats sound. This is why it wasn’t much of a surprise when his Grammy nomination came through; an announcement that threw everyone into an orgy of celebration.

Enough said, it is simply undeniable that it was in 2019 that Burna Boy eased himself into the primus inter pares position as far as Nigerian music is concerned.

And in the spirit of Christmas, the grammy-nominated act released a new single, ‘Money Play‘ earlier today without warning, to crown the amazing year and decade. This record is one for the festive season as it is a tune you can show-off your updated zanku moves to.

Across the dance-prompting beat, Burna seems to be just having fun, stringing rhymes together and reminding everyone of the essentiality of money.

Enjoy this early present from Santa Burna below.

 

The 5 Best Nigerian Diss Tracks of 2019

Over the past few months, Nigerian hip-hop has been at war with itself. What started as a playful but audacious ‘Best Rapper In Africa’ brag spiralled the entire scene into a Royal Rumble-type frenzy that found rappers aiming for each other’s heads. From Blaqbonez to Payper Corleone to Davolee, everyone was churning out tracks laced with not-so-subliminal shots and outright name-drops. Even the OGs were not spared; a video surfaced online of A-Q and Ghost (of SDC) engaging in a presumably heated debate about who the superior wordsmith was.

This eventually snowballed into an M.I Abaga vs Vector The Viper showdown. This beef which had been brewing for quite some time finally found the perfect climate for a face-off. In what will go down in history as one of the spiciest Nigerian hip-hop beefs, their back-and-forth resulted in a total of four diss tracks in just three weeks. Climaxing with M.I’s ‘The Viper‘ and Vector’s ‘Judas The Rat‘ as well as its bordering antics, hip-hop which had been playing second fiddle to Afrobeats in recent years was — howbeit briefly — restored to mainstream consciousness.

But now that the dust seems to have settled, Let’s look back at some of the hottest diss tracks off this 2019 Nigerian rap civil-war.

5. Davolee – Give Away

This might not be as polished or popular as some of the other songs on this list, but it’s one of the hottest on the streets. Disgusted by Blaqbonez’s audacity to crown himself the best rapper in Africa without the credentials to back such claim, indigenous rapper Davolee attempted to devour the 100 Crowns rapper. The abrasive rapper aims with a submachine gun flow, with enough rounds for whoever is lurking as he also had choice words for M.I Abaga, Loose Kaynon, A-Q, Dremo, Falz, and Ycee. In fact, ‘Give Away‘ also led to a quick back-and-forth with the DMW rapper, Dremo.

4. Blaqbonez – Best Rapper In Africa

After declaring himself the Best Rapper In Africa in a scorching freestyle, many came out to counter his claim as to many he just wasn’t worthy to crown himself with such title. Several rappers released diss tracks to that effect, including Tentik and Payper Corleone. In his combined reply, ‘Best Rapper in Africa‘, Blaq reaffirms his claim as he tears apart his adversaries. He also came through with his ‘Control‘-moment, teasing and calling out his peers for a face-off.

3. Vector – Judas The Rat

When M.I Abaga dropped ‘The Viper‘, everyone thought it was over. The question on everyone’s lips was “how is Vector going to come back from this?” But Vector did the impossible and pulled a comeback reminiscent of 2005’s magic of Istanbul. With ‘Judas The Rat‘, Vector digs up more personal dirt on M.I, particularly pointing at his strained relationship with his brother, Jesse Jagz. He also highlighted some of M.I’s antics, painting him as a rat who favours only himself. The ripple effect from this diss was so strong that it provoked M.I’s fall from grace, reopening sores inspiring many to share some of their bummers with the former Chocolate City boss.

2.  M.I Abaga – The Viper

After quick successive jabs from Vector with ‘The Purge‘ and ‘Tetracycline‘, M.I just had to respond. And when he finally did, the self-acclaimed rap messiah did not disappoint as he delivered perhaps the best song off the entire pack. Over a gloomy and ominous self-produced beat, an assertive and gruff-voiced M.I comes through with witty rebuttals for Vector’s previous jabs. He further paints the Lafiaji rapper as a snake who has been envious of his success from the jump.

M.I turned things up a notch just a few days later at the 2019 Big Brother Naija finale.  Sporting a black shirt with a bold “No Snakes” imprint, M.I performed his brief set metaphorically stomping over a viper image projected on the stage.

1. A-Q – Distractions 2

A-Q has been having quite a good year. After years of churning out critically acclaimed personal projects including “Rose” and ”Blessed Forever”, A-Q came to many’s radars this year off the strength of his stellar verses on the Martell Cyphers. Also this year, he finally picked up the coveted Lyricist on the roll award at the 13th Headies which eluded him for years despite picking up nominations. 

Of all the diss tracks released this year, A-Q’s heinous Vector-aimed ‘Distractions 2‘ takes the cake. The belligerent rapper who had built a name for himself as a war-ready gladiator fit himself right into the Vector-M.I beef and came through with the most brutish diss track in the pack. On ‘Distractions 2’ the 100 Crowns boss brought a grenade to a knife fight, coming for Vector for with a swift jab-cross-left uppercut-cross combo that gave him the knockout in less than five minutes.  It’s a joy to know that his recent status as a label president hasn’t robbed him of his viciousness on the mic.

Ilaye’s ‘Barbecue’ Is A Must Listen

The Tiwa Dara-produced ‘Barbecue‘ is, no doubt, a perfect opener to an emotive and beautifully crafted 6-track opus that has drawn adulation from several corners. Over an acoustic guitar loop and scintillating lead guitar riff, Ilaye delivers a soothing and melodic ode to her teenage love. Over the years, they have grown apart, moved on and probably even totally lost contact, but whatever they shared is still alive and relived in distant but charming memories. With a heartfelt reflection, she details some of the memories and lofty dreams they shared as kids. And just like on the remaining songs on the  “Pneuma” EP, she employs remarkable songwriting that projects a soulful realness in her artistry.  

This song could be a soundtrack to our young and naive romances filled with pipe dreams and wide-eyed promises, motivated by a childlike optimism that things will always go according to plan if we simply stay true. A time when we sincerely believed in “happily ever after.” But over time, we tend to shed this innocence and enthusiasm as we are repeatedly reminded of the uncertainty and dubious nature of the world as we grow through life. But in the second verse, Ilaye reminds us alongside her “special barbecue,” not to get caught up in the frenzy and try to hold on to our enthusiasm as much as we can – for ourselves and for those we claim to love.

Barbecuecomes highly recommended from us at the PGM Club. Listen, enjoy and share.

Erigga’s “The Erigma II” Is An Equivocal Celebration Of His Beloved City

Erigga is a true son of the soil. And much like its predecessors, his latest offering, “The Erigma II” is a fitting testament to that fact. Released right in the eye of the buzzing Nigerian hip-hop civil war, this long-overdue sequel to his 2012 stunner “The Erigma” is a celebration of Warri, a city he has come to own.  

You don’t need a Google search to know where Erigga comes from. All it takes is to just hit play on any of his tracks and you’d most likely find out in the first four bars. The rapper has over the years proven himself a fitting mascot of Warri; the South-South oil-rich city, famed and celebrated for its pidgin, candour and fabled machismo. If you know Erigga or his music well, you’d know this is what he represents. 

Nigerian hip-hop has greatly suffered from the absence of a supportive local culture for a while now. In the futile quest for ‘purity’, Nigerian rappers, particularly English-centric ones isolated themselves from the local audience. The people simply don’t find them relatable or accessible, so the music doesn’t connect.  But that is one thing Erigga and some of the indigenous rappers have found a way around, earning them an expansive and loyal fanbase. 

Technically, Erigga might not be the most skilled or most gifted. But he stands as what hip-hop should represent. He has an unfiltered connection to his community and through him, their voices are amplified. The street at every point wants its story told, and over time, Erigga has proven himself a willing and worthy griot. That’s probably why his bars hit home and resonate the most.

See, you don’t need a 140-point IQ or Genius annotations to decode Erigga’s punchlines. You simply need to be a Nigerian. And if by chance you are quite proficient in pidgin or come from the South-South, that’s a bonus.  When you hear lines like “Who wahala naked follow no dey use English pray” or “Fuck the world even if na me prick go pain” you’d probably pause the track and ask yourself, “na who born this guy??”

Erigga

Erigga

But this regional dominance has a downside. Warri just isn’t Lagos. As Nigeria’s financial capital, Lagos sits as the heartbeat of the local music industry. You can’t exactly be seen as fully “blown” if you haven’t conquered Gidi. And despite flashes of crossover successes — most recently with ‘Motivation’ which introduced many to the talents of Victor AD — Erigga has been long stuck on the brink of mainstream success. He has remained, for the most part, a local hero catering to a niche audience whose loyalty has never been questioned.

That’s why on this new album he delivers a heartfelt tribute to this cult-following on ‘Next Track’. Here, he acknowledges that although the bulk of his fan base might not be as active on social media, they are ever-present right when he needs them. “Assuming say my fans get Instagram page, Followers go dey cry/ You don see me for stage?” he mutters before going on to list some of the events he recently shut down – reminiscent of Olamide’s legendary brag on ‘Eyan Mayweather’.

A Warri boy to the core, his verses, delivery, vocal tonality is usually in its rawest form. His stories are sculpted in unrefined rap verses and a delivery that might need some polishing — some might even say he has a monotonous flow. Erigga’s biggest strength is in painting a vivid picture delivered in its crudest form. Listening to Erigga is like gulping shots of vodka- it’s harsh at first gulp but intoxicating right after.  On the same ‘Next Track’, the unapologetic rapper dishing out some words for detractors who condemn him for the vulgarity of his lyrics. “Wetin I wan talk wey snoop never talk before?” he asks.

The “Erigma II” is at its best when Erigga is in his element; playing the elder statesman, recounting area tales and doling out priceless survival tips.

With clear-eyed reflection, he paints a rough portrait of the gritty world he grew up in on the album opener, ‘Welcome To Warri’. A world where you are exposed to gruesome violence even before you learn how to lace your shoes. A world some of us only see in Spike Lee-type hood movies. A world where your survival depends on how vicious you are or how fast your legs can carry you at the drop of a hat. He continues this story in ‘Victims’ where he describes a life where many of us were shielded from. A life where you do your best to stay out of the way of hood fiends and the police. A world where you look around and find that most of your friends are either dead, in jail, or halfway way there.

Erigga

Erigga

Assisted by Graham D and Vector, ‘Oyo‘ soundtracks some of the hardships we face in the poverty capital in the world whilst also doling out street knowledge. His verses on this track are perhaps the most heartfelt throughout this tape.  “Hunger dey slap man face for where him wife dey/ him las hope na Merrybet na where him life dey”. When he raps “My mama wey retire, government never pay her shishi/ You for see the responsibility them pack give me” “My text message na family account full am….” many of us can relate down to the last letter. In what is often called the ‘black man’s tax’, many of us have had to step up and take responsibility for the family as soon as you can you find yourself on your feet. 

When he raps “Who them shoot na him luck/ Wetin police hate pass: tattoo and dreadlock” it rings bells of several youths being harassed daily by the police simply because of their fashion choices. Although Erigga largely doesn’t concern himself with the vanity project of proving superlatives across this tape, on ‘Street Motivation‘ he is self-assured and aware of the threat he poses to his colleagues. 

Erigga and Victor AD, two of the city’s most successful acts at the moment have their I-made-it moment on ‘Area To The World’. This is a bare victory lap where Erigga recounts some aches he experienced as an artist on the rise, appreciating how far he has come since his ‘Mo Street Gan’ days. 

On the final track,’Goodbye From Warri‘, we catch a glimpse of the old Erigga, as he reads off the rap sheet of his fabled “senior bros”: a threat to the entire hood but who upon realizing his imminent death advises a young Erigga to choose a different path. Sadly, this closer not only marks the end of this album, but also the end to Erigga’s efforts at recreating the past for our entertainment. In the final seconds of the record, he reveals frankly that, “this na the last time I go rap about my past mhen, make we face front.” 

All good things come to an end; sometimes to give way to something even better. Artists evolve. And as fans and listeners, we must learn to morph with them. Up until “The Erigma II,” Erigga has relieved his past for our entertainment but one cannot dwell in that forever. It was fun while it lasted but it’s now time to move on. 

Over the years, Erigga has quietly established himself as one of the key voices of his generation, raking up enough credentials to earn his place in the Naija hip-hop pantheon. And right now, we are even more excited to find out what the South-South rapper is shaping himself up to be.

Zlatan and Rexxie Have A Lot To Thank ‘Able God’ For

In September 2018, Chinko Ekun finally scored his long-sought hit. The Dek-Niyor rapper fielded a team of Lil Kesh and Zlatan Ibile over a scintillating Rexxie production and released ‘Able God’ to the warm embrace of the streets. Over hard-hitting percussions, the three rappers call on to God for goodwill and blessings while running slang-laced commentaries on street hustles. Its accompanying church-themed video featured a new dance routine that entailed repeated rhythmic hopping, occasionally punctuated with a faux jump kick. ‘Able God’ became an instant street hit and before long, the record found its way to the clubs, dominated the airwaves and attained mainstream dominance. Chinko Ekun had finally scored that hit. 

The single which recently picked up the Street Hop award at the 2019 Headies was such an enormous success that ushered in the Zanku dance as the successor of the globetrotting shaku-shaku. For Chinko, it was the much-needed hit single that had eluded him since his YBNL days. But over time, the biggest winners of the hit record has been Zlatan and Rexxie the producer for whom the club banger served as a launchpad to stardom. 

Yes, Chinko Ekun had a hit to his name, he was now included in conversations he never existed before. He also had a good run of bookings and stage performances in the last quarter of 2018. It even got him his first Headies award. But he has since struggled to replicate the success of ‘Able God’ or even present something even close. His last two singles, ‘Calling‘ and ‘Mafo‘ have been met with middling success – and that’s being generous. 

But for Zlatan, ‘Able God’ was the beginning of something way more massive.

Before its release, Zlatan was a balmy indigenous rapper seeking to thrust himself into mainstream consciousness. He had had a couple of hot street tunes but nothing strong enough to propel him to stardom. But with the release of the smash, Zlatan whom many never knew existed just a year ago grew into a household name. His scene-stealing verse on the record was the first of his run of killer-features that is still on at the moment. It was on that record many of us first heard his tongue-twisting mantra, ‘kapaichumarimarichopaco’ that left us probing for its meaning till the year’s end. Along with his heralded Zanku dance being the dominant step in the country for almost a year now, Zlatan has simply moved from obscurity to stardom in the space of just a year.

It’s almost irrefutable that Zlatan is the hottest rapper right now -perhaps rivalled only by his friend and frequent collaborator, Naira Marley. Both are gradually unseating Olamide as the go-to guy for street anthems, haunting verses, candied ad-libs and pop slangs. As it stands, they both could even give Burna Boy a run for his money as the hottest Nigeria act in 2019.

And just like the YBNL general, the coloured-hair rapper has comfortably positioned himself as a staple for both the gritty corners of Agege and the wavy waters of Lekki. He has been on a spree of killer-features, laying the Midas touch to almost every single he blesses particularly with his infectious ad-libs.  Even our biggest superstars — scrambling to get a slice of the Zanku pie — have continued to tap him for assists. Zlatan has now teamed up with Davido, Tekno and even Burna, in their award-winning duet ‘Killin Dem’ which is still one of Naija’s biggest songs at the moment.

The other winner is Rexxie who has now moved from a producer seeking validation to a certified hitmaker. Ever since ‘Able God‘, Rexxie has crossed some things off his bucket list, having worked with some of Nigeria’s biggest acts like Davido and Tiwa this past year. He has also been on a streak of bangers especially on his team-ups with Naira Marley. Even his bio on Twitter says it all: “Hits Only”. Now when you hear his ‘Yo Rexxie pon dis one‘ tag on any song, you know that you’re in for a treat. 

The young producer has been behind smash hits like Naira Marley’s ‘Soapy‘, ‘Am I a Yahoo Boy‘ as well as the most recent DMW‘s ‘On God‘ with Dremo, Mayourkun and label boss, Davido. 

Able God’ is more than just another hit. It was the ignition that propelled several acts into the mainstream consciousness after years of underground dominance. This doesn’t imply that it is single-handedly responsible for their present successes. No, but it gave them the visibility that Zlatan and Rexxie particularly have since leveraged upon to take their careers to the next level.

On Davido’s Laudable Pro-Songwriters Crusade

In a private listening session for his long-overdue sophomore album “Good Time,” Davido had a few choice words for his colleagues: “Give your songwriters credit“.  Barely ten days after, on Saturday, Septemeber 16, the singer appreciated  Adekunle Gold on Twitter who he revealed co-wrote one of his (Davido) favourite songs off the coming album. 

This wouldn’t be the first time Davido publicly admits to employing the use of songwriters or even going further to appreciate them. In fact, he is fast becoming one of the key voices in the advocacy for the proper treatment and remuneration of songwriters. In recent times, the singer who is one of Nigeria’s biggest acts and music exports is often praised in industry circles as exemplary for paying songwriters their due and openly giving them credit.  

And despite all the backlash he often receives for his continuous use of songwriters, the DMW boss has emerged bolder and even more resolute. When a fan responded to his Saturday tweet, suggesting that Davido needs to learn to write his songs, the singer simply replied, “Maybe more artist[s] should learn to tell the truth.”

Except you’re in denial, it’s now common knowledge that many of our biggest superstars are guilty as charged. Most of them purchase songs from songwriters but refuse to credit them openly – and in some cases even pay them. Davido is just the most vocal in a long list of creatives that employ the use of songwriters. 

However, the bulk of the Nigerian audience hasn’t come to terms with the fact that singers adopt the use of songwriters. For all our fervent demands for depth and poetically rich lyrics, it’s quite unfair that Nigerians remain highly critical of the patronage of songwriters.  Many see it as a sign of laziness, a dearth of ‘real’ talent or a symptom of the absence of originality or authenticity.

Nigerians’ resentment toward the embrace of songwriters is probably matched by the American hip-hop community’s hostility to using ‘ghostwriters’.  ‘Real’ rappers simply can’t have their verses written by anybody else. And although fans have – in more recent times -grown more accommodating to the use of ghostwriters, it remains one of hip-hop’s most deadly sins. Remember 2015 when Meek Mill claimed he would have taken Drake off ‘R.I.C.O’ if he knew his verse was written by someone else.

In the early years of his career, even Davido was much more discreet about his patronage of songwriters. In 2013, it was reported that Davido had bought his chart-topping smash ‘Gobe‘ from Password for ₦350,000. This was revealed after a mild controversy when an impostor accused Davido of jacking his single which had been released earlier. 

Three years after, Davido allegedly acquired the lead single for his “Son of Mercy” EP, ‘Gbagbe Oshi‘,  from General Pype to the tune of a million Naira. 

Most recently, Teni – a burgeoning act at the time – came under fire when she excitedly disclosed that she was the brain behind Davido’s 2017 closer, ‘Like Dat‘. Describing her stint with Davido as a bitter-sweet experience in an interview with Notjustok TV, Teni revealed that “In the first place, I wasn’t even doing it for praise. I was just excited that in my lifetime, I have been able to do something that has challenged me and that has made me grow which is writing for one of the greatest artists in Africa. It was a big deal for me and it was something I was very proud of myself for, so I tweeted it and some people took it badly and some people took it wrong but nevertheless.

Nigerian industry, we still have a long way to go in terms of writers and us being able to come out and say this is what we have done and I feel like we will get there someday. I feel like most artistes because of the mentality of the people, they think if you have a songwriter then that means you are not good but that’s not true because I have read books that have four authors. Two heads are better than one.”

In the Nigerian music industry that strictly operates on the mechanism of natural selection where anything goes, where copyright laws aren’t respected, songwriters are easily exploited and are often on the losing end. Stories of cheated songwriters pop up on blogs from time to time, but we simply move on to the juiciest stories. And when they complain or demand credit, Nigerians are quick to shut them up, tagging them as “ungrateful”. “You no even dey thank God say him even use your song” you’d hear. 

Many of these songwriters are recording artists themselves who are okay with taking the backseat so long as they are paid and credited for their work. Some have even grown so successful at it that over time, they abandon their quest for the spotlight to fully make a career out of helping other artists in crafting records for a fee. Others have used their songwriting stint as a launchpad to further their careers as recording and performing acts.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with using songwriters. It’s standard practise all over the world. The only time a problem arises is when they aren’t paid for their services or given due credit. One good thing, however, is that the awareness about the salient role songwriters play in the recording process and how well they should be compensated is growing. But there is still so much to be done. 

Davido is no doubt doing the Lord’s work, using his platform to shed light on the abuse of these songwriters that contribute a tangible quota to the industry. His message is simple – give them credit for their work. Over the years, he has benefitted enormously from their services and it’s fair and admirable that he is looking out for their interest. And since it’s not coming from songwriter, a critic or a fan but a musician – a very successful one at that- maybe they’d listen. Songwriters are grossly cheated, underpaid, and often bullied into silence. It’s high time we put an end to that.

Cameey: A Dream Chaser Denied By Death

“One of the most amazing people you’d ever come across. First of all, he has an infectious energy. He is the kind of person that would enter a place and everybody almost immediately likes him. Very playful. He plays a lot. Very energetic guy. We used to call him the energy god. During his performances, he jumps, flys off stages. The guy’s energy is next level. Extremely loyal, super guy.” – Nonso (Cameey’s Manager)

On Wednesday, August 21, Cameey‘s team desperately called out for help. They revealed that burgeoning rapper was battling liver cancer, and needed $100,000 (N35,000,000) for a transplant. In the flyer shared across social media, the usually vibrant and energetic singer is seen bare-chested with a bloated stomach, lying helplessly on a hospital bed. Many were so shocked and moved that the picture started to make rounds on the internet, echoing the call for support and donations. 

Barely 19 hours later, Cameey was pronounced dead. “Breaking News We Lost Cameey…R.I.P Please Stop All Donations Right Now!!!” read the latest post on his Instagram page, confirming rumblings and suspicions. Immediately, tributes and condolence messages started pouring in all over, particularly from industry insiders. 

Born Joel Essoumam, Cameey had always wanted to be an entertainer. Being a Cameroonian, he greatly admired the Lagos music scene from afar, which was mainly dominated at the time by the dual forces of 2face and D’banj, and all he wanted was to be a part of that space. 

In 2009, Cameey and two other friends packed their bags and left the warmth and comfort of their home country for Lagos, Nigeria; a place where they practically knew no one. They had no friends or relations in the country but that wasn’t enough to stop them. 

Upon arrival, Cameey started to perform on stage as a backup dancer for local celebrities; but he wanted to so much more. He wanted to be a superstar and he knew dance wasn’t going to get him the kind of success he craved. After much deliberation, he made the switch and decided to fully invest his time and effort in his music career.

He and his friends joined forces to form their SK Boys crew. But the road to stardom wasn’t as smooth as they thought. They found Lagos to be a very tough city; one very unkind to indigent migrants. The crew had to keep hopping from place to place and catch bits of sleep outside people’s homes.

After five years of incessant struggles and a continuously dimming hope of success, the exhausted group dissolved. One member had had enough and decided to return to Cameroon. But Cameey wasn’t one to give up that easily as he then focused on pursuing a solo career.

A highly energetic Cameey performing on stage

A highly energetic Cameey performing on stage (Instagram/Cameeygram)

In 2015, he finally caught a break at a Surulere gig where he came to the attention of Nonso Odigboh who later became his manager.  Right from that night, Nonso began to seek ways to help this young talent whose energy was so infectious. “So I saw Cameey perform, we exchanged numbers. I now said I’d see what I can do to help you. And we started helping him get gigs and shows to perform.

“Then he was staying with a producer Jaybeatz, somewhere in Aguda. So basically, I was just coming in the capacity of assistance like recording, paid for recordings, all that stuff. Lifestyle generally, feeding, helped with clothes when I could. Just in my small capacity, I was assisting.” Nonso tells me over the phone. 

Barely a year after, Nonso partnered with an investor to set up A1 Muzic, an imprint which was then used to push Cameey’s career. In a couple of months, he released his official debut single, ‘Better Days‘. This was a gloomy story-so-far record, beaming with the hope of imminent success whose accompanying visuals pulled quite impressive numbers across streaming platforms. This was followed-up ‘Supernatural’ which currently has almost 100k views on Youtube. Not so bad for an up-and-coming rapper,you’d admit. 

A1 Muzic finally secured an affiliation with Chocolate City to promote Cameey as an artist in 2018. On the PGM Radio Show with Douglas Jekan and City Monstar sometime last year, he confirmed that the label, one of Nigeria’s biggest, was only to help with distribution. It was under this deal he released the Otis-assisted ‘Juice’ alongside its video in June last year.  

Cameey kicked off 2019 with one goal in mind: recording and releasing his debut project. He had already started building a buzz around his 5-track EP originally scheduled for release this week.  It was while in preparation for this release, that he fell ill with what was thought to be a mere fever at the time. 

A couple of weeks ago,  he just started complaining of fever, thinking it was normal malaria or typhoid. So he just used normal drugs and the rest of that. Then he was better.” Nonso recounts.

Even Cameey himself felt that all this was behind him and wanted to immediately get on with the roll-out for the EP. On Tuesday, July 30, he shared the cover art and the title of the project “O.H.S (Only Hit Songs).” “Been a minute guys and I have been working on an EP of 5 songs, the title of the EP is “O.H.S” …… in the process I seriously fell sick but I thank God am back on my feet again 🙏🏼 … this EP will speak for its self and I do this for “YOU” ❤️ my Friends aka my Fans aka my Family ❣️❣️❣️ Art by @uchay_of

EP is coming soon …………” he wrote on Instagram. 

The cover art for Cameey's soon-to-be-released debut EP "O.H.S" (Instagram/Cameeygram)

The cover art for Cameey’s soon-to-be-released debut EP “O.H.S” (Instagram/Cameeygram)

But this lasted only a short while as Cameey fell ill again; this time worse than the last.  The label got him an apartment in Surulere. I barely ever go there anyway, so when he was sick I didn’t even know. One day, I was at the mall and someone bumped into me and went, ‘this guy was really down o’. So I went there, saw him, he was on a drip. I asked what was up and they were like ‘The thing don weigh am down again o’. 

With the drip, he was getting better. They now ran a lab test, that what they were suspecting because his eyes were a bit yellowish was Hepatitis B. Hepatitis generally. So the next day, the lab results came out and they found it was Hepatitis so they started immediately treating. They said the treatment was a load of IVC* to flush out the system and to the best of my knowledge, he was getting better real quick.“  

Again, everyone thought it was all behind them until Saturday, August 16,  when things took a turn for the worse and he had to be rushed to Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). By then, he was already losing so much weight and was developing a protruding stomach. After a series of tests, the doctors found out that his liver had been damaged and needed immediate attention. Friends began to make frantic movements to arrange how he could get flown to India for a liver transplant. 

In Nonso’s words, “We tried to get in touch with some hospitals in India to send us feedback on the pricing and all. So we waited on Monday, Tuesday, it didn’t come. By Wednesday, we were already getting frustrated. We agreed that we can’t just keep waiting for these guys to send a mail and this guy is just depreciating. 

So, let’s just start a campaign immediately because they had told us verbally that it should be within the rate of 100 thousand dollars. We were waiting for an official invoice because you know Nigerians are quite sensitive with money. But considering that and the risk of losing someone, I didn’t even care. I was just like let’s start this campaign quickly, let’s start raising money so that hopefully, within a week or two, we should have gotten somewhere really good.

Immediately, his team kicked off a campaign on social media to raise the funds needed for a liver transplant. Nonso was quite shocked at people’s swift response because, by the next morning, they had already raised about 1.2 million Naira. 

But it was perhaps a little too late.

Cameey’s condition continued to worsen. He was in really terrible shape, wallowing in pain and growing hysterical. The fear of the inevitable started to creep in but everyone held on to hope.  Their unspoken fear was soon confirmed when the consultant taking care of Cameey called his friends to side and told them, “guys, let me be straight with you. This guy is not going to make itEven this transplant thing you’re talking about, this thing has gone way beyond it. The guy’s system had packed up.” She then advised calling on family and friends to surround him with love in the little time he has left. This was around noon on Thursday. 

But no one simply gives up on a loved one on a sickbed. Even when the doctors had moved on, convinced that his system had shut down, friends and family clung to hope and giving it everything they could. 

We were just trying to do anything, the pastors were there, they were giving him coconut water, they were giving him lemon. There was a drug we got, it was like a supplement, food and all that in powdered form, anything just to help him and keep him alive. All those things didn’t work o. We just kept trying, so it kind of just dawned on us that what the doctors were just saying was true.”

Slowly, Nonso began to accept the actual state of things. At that point, people were reaching out from Yankee that ‘create a GoFundMe account so we can put in something’. My guys were telling me to create something. But I didn’t know how to tell them that there’s no need. So I just kept stalling. They were so upset. I just said, there’s no point collecting people’s money. At the same time, part of your mind doesn’t want to lose hope. We just didn’t want to believe all the things the doctors were saying. So I was like let me just watch this guy, if I see that he is more stable, I’d ramp up campaign times ten, like go really really hard.”

Sadly, Cameey passed away sometime between 2 and 3 pm. And upon the official announcement, people started to pay their tributes.  A gem had been lost; a dream chaser denied.

 

His family has decided to bury him in his home country, Cameroon where he can rest in peace with family, not in a land where he had spent his youth chasing his dreams of being a superstar. In his quest, he had also created a family here. Not one bonded by blood though, but one of shared struggles, values and experiences.  The money raised was partly used to settle Cameey’s hospital bills and the rest expended to his family.

Nonso assures me that the EP is eventually going to be released although he isn’t exactly sure when. For now, family and friends are all focused on the burial rites. Maybe when that’s over, they’d be able to come to conclusions on the release of the project. Another thing to be decided is the proposed title of the project. Some feel that it should be reworked into something more befitting for Cameey’s legacy, while others maintain that the original title is left exactly the way Cameey wanted it.

But regardless of what is eventually decided, the posthumous EP will always be cherished for what it truly is; Cameey’s last gift to us.

One Year After: Revisiting M.I Abaga’s “Yxng Dxnzl”

In 2018, M.I was on a self-imposed rescue mission. Alongside his labelmates Loose Kaynon, A-Q and Blaqbonez, the famed rap messiah set on a noble quest to force a re-awakening for Nigerian hip-hop; a once-celebrated genre now relegated to the backgrounds.

Probably taking a cue from the Kanye-led 5-album Wyoming releases, these rappers united under the acronym L.A.M.B — coined out from the first letters from their names — to stage a series of back-to-back album releases in August 2018, all executive-produced by M.I. Tagged the LAMB August, albums “Crown“, “Yung Denzl” and “Bad Boy Blaq” were the tools with which these rappers sought to restore and ensure the survival of the waning culture. 

Exactly a year ago today, we got our hands on the long-teased fourth studio album by Mr Incredible, “A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl,” the second offering in the string of the LAMB August rollout. But that was not his only release last year. 

Just a few months earlier, M.I had released a highly collaborative surprise ‘playlist’ titled “Rendezvous,” featuring an all-star cast of AKA, Cassper Nyovest, Wande Coal, Ghost (SDC). It also introduced us to talents like Chillz, Santi, Odunsi, Moelogo and others. This dual release in 2018 was perhaps in celebration of the tenth anniversary of his 2008 classic, “Talk About It,” his highly successful debut album which many claims to have ‘democratized’ Nigerian hip-hop.

A Study On Self Worth: Yxng Dxnzl” would be the first of a said three-album series that would include yet-to-be-released LPs, “A Study of Love” and “A Study of Society”. However, despite the anticipation for the project, the exhilaration surrounding it faded rather quickly for a project of such quality. This could have been as a result of the fact that unlike his last two albums, “Yung Denzl” did not rely on pop or radio-friendly formulas as he explored and experimented new sonic complexities on the album. Also, regardless of the laudable acclaim it got from critics, a huge number of listeners found it a bit too sombre, with some dismissing it as “TED Talk music“. 

The promotion for the album was also rather deficient – perhaps in an effort not to eclipse “Crown” and “Bad Boy Blaq” given his huge star power- such that even a year later, we still haven’t gotten any visuals off the project despite rumours of its existence. 

This, however, takes nothing from the brilliance of the project. A well-timed release, M.I used the tape to lend his voice to the growing awareness about mental health and self-awareness. Across ten songs, the rapper explored several layers of self-doubt, low self-esteem and even more extremely, depression that many youths are battling in silence. And even a year later, this album is still as relevant as ever, still sparking conversations in several corners. It might not seem like much, but the album is doing its bit.

He passed his messages not only through verses and hooks but also with fiery monologues and therapy sessions alongside the music to get his message across. Soundbites from his therapy sessions were prevalent throughout the album often coming at the end of a track, serving as a prelude to another. By putting his vulnerability out there, he shows fans and listeners that it’s okay to seek help when you need it.

For most of “Yung Denzl,” M.I works with a wealth of young talents, shedding the spotlight on these acts and in turn tapping into their talents, sound and raw energy. A number of them like Odunsi, Lady Donli and Tay Iwar have gone on to drop their debut albums over the past year.

“Do you know who you are?” a gruff voice asks, questioning our sense of identity to open the project. Sticking to a simple rhyme scheme, M.I further charges the black man to begin his journey to self-awareness and discovery.

On songs like ‘Last Night I Had A Dream’, ‘Stop Never Second Guess Yourself’ and ‘I Believe In You‘, M.I is concerned about our self-confidence, repeatedly nudging us to let go of our insecurities and self-doubt and find comfort in our skin.

Love Never Fails‘ reflects on missteps taken to check mental health in this part of the world largely as a result of culture and religion-induced ignorance.

Perhaps the most pop-leaning record on the album, ‘+/-‘ finds M.I alongside Odunsi and Lady Donli -new-gen frontliners- ridding themselves of all negativity vibes, focusing solely on the positives. 

In full elder statesman mode, M.I attempts to force a change with ‘You Rappers Should Fix Up’, fuming at the sorry state of the art. And say what you will about this record, it’s inarguable that it defibrillated a pulse back into the Nigerian hip-hop scene howbeit temporal.  

The penultimate track, ‘Self Evaluation Over Yxng Dxzl’ is the perhaps the standout cut off this project. Over a gloomy instrumental,  M.I drowns in darkness, picking up escapist vices to numb the pain. He does a good job taking a first-person narrative on the song putting himself in the shoes of a depressed creative, despite revealing that he actually hasn’t had a personal experience.

Picking up where he left off on ‘Everything’ off “Illegal Music 3“, M.I in ‘Do Not Be a Groupie‘ emphasises the importance of loyalty while decrying the deterioration of the virtue in today’s world, an issue he still touched on in his verse on SDC‘s ‘Respect, Loyalty and Honour‘.

It’s been one year since the “Yung Denzl” dropped and it’s still as relevant as ever. The LAMB August releases might not have saved Nigerian hip-hop but with this album, the legacy-focused veteran did something much more remarkable. In his mature and most refined self, he contributed to the growing awareness about our psychological well-being, a theme that rappers have come to be more open about this past year.  It is therefore needless to say that while Yung Denzl might not be his best or most popular album, it is by far the most important.

Payper Corleone Is One Rapper To Look Out For

Alongside Blaqbonez, one of the big winners in the ‘Best Rapper In Africa‘ conversation is Payper Corleone. His blunt and brutal response to Blaq’s audacious claims on ‘Everybody Dies‘ featuring Raezy Winston, and his knockout-punch, ‘Sacrificial Lamb‘, placed him on the radar of many as a rapper to look out for. And though many were just introduced to his talents these past few weeks, the wordsmith has been around for a minute and he has badges to show for it.

Since his debut mixtape, “BARS 1” released in 2014, Payper has been relentless with his releases, particularly since “Bars 2: Guilty as Charged” released in 2017. In the last three years, the rapper has dropped five stellar projects, the latest of which is his highly collaborative EP titled “Fly Gangsta From The 90s” released in May this year. This project houses ‘Sacrifices’, a standout cut which just had its gloomy video released just two days ago.

The quality of the project earned him a spot in Pulse NG‘s top 10 hottest rappers of 2019 (so far) list, describing the rapper as “one of the fast-rising under lords of street rap in Nigeria.” Ten tracks long, the EP features appearances from some of the most gisted rappers rising through the ranks including Alpha Ojini, Erigga, Paybac, Boogey, Abstraktt, Phlowetry and Eniggy.

Check out the stellar project above and let us know what you think.

Scroll to top