In 2020, Nigerian pop was defined by the rampant COVID-19 pandemic, vibrant activism and big releases.
Nigeria, which is home to well-known musicians such as Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Davidoand Burna Boy, among others, has grappled with the unprecedented pandemic and protests against police brutality. Despite these obstacles, the local music industry showed vigour, resilience and ingenuity with an unbroken streak of steller releases that tackled major social issues, while catering to the dance scene. The year also saw artists share music and connect with fans through new platforms like virtual concerts.
The country’s reputation as a cultural powerhouse remains untarnished with a plethora of new albums, which unfold with messages that delve into strong political innuendo and activism. While Nigerians hope for a rapid return to normalcy in 2021, this year will be marked as one of the most iconic periods in history, with the music simultaneously inspiring tears and smiles of relief.
In no particular order, here is Africa’s list of top Nigerian albums of 2020:
Made In Lagos by Wizkid
Wizkid’s fourth LP Made in Lagos relates his journey around the world, while emphasising his connection to his home country. The album has already received ubiquitous acclaim, including being named one of the Guardian UK’s 50 best albums of 2020. The project, oozing with sax, sex and smiles, reinforced its author’s value as an Afrobeats royal.
Twice As Tall by Burna Boy
With his new collection Twice As Tall, Burna Boy expanded his sound and global reach, and secured his second Grammy nomination in the process. Produced by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Bosede Ogulu and Burna Boy himself, Twice As Tall boasts features from Youssou N’Dour (Mali), Sauti Sol(Kenya), Naughty By Nature (US), Stormzy (UK) and Coldplay’s Chris Martin (UK), as well as contributions from Timbaland (US), Anderson .Paak (US) and Mike Dean (US).
Celia by Tiwa Savage
Tiwa Savage’s third album Celia shines with her time-honoured vocal power and immersive melodies. Released on 28 August, the 13-track masterpiece was listed among Time Magazine’s top 10 albums of 2020. It features fellow Nigerian artists Fireboy DML, Naira Marley, Dice Ailes and Adekunle Gold, as well as the UK’s Stefflon Don and Sam Smith. The project includes big tracks such as ‘Park Well’, ‘Koroba’, ‘Temptation’ and ‘Save My Life’.
A Better Time by Davido
Davido’s A Better Time delivered just that. It is replete with instant hits and collaborators including international hip hop stars Nicki Minaj, Nas, Young Thug and Hit-Boy, as well as Tiwa Savage (Nigeria), Mayorkun (Nigeria), Sauti Sol(Kenya) and Sho Madjozi (South Africa). The project swiftly made it onto two Billboard charts simultaneously, debuting on the World Album Chart at number 4 and number 170 on the Billboard 200 Chart. A Better Time surpassed 213 million streams across major digital platforms a month after its release.
Afro Pop Vol. 1 by Adekunle Gold
Adekunle Gold issued a masterclass in Afro Pop Vol. 1, reiterating his sonic flair and baring new dimensions in contemporary African sounds.
Warriors by 2Baba
2Baba cements his legacy with the release of his seventh album Warriors. The 13-track offering was released in celebration of his 20th anniversary in the music industry, and boasts features from the likes of Burna Boy, Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Peruzzi.
Apollo by Fireboy DML
This year saw Fireboy DML issue his sophomore LP Apollo, which received widespread acclaim. The highly soulful and diaristic album draws from the music spectrums of R&B, folk, pop and Afrobeats. For his effort on the project, the singer was nominated for multiple awards at the 2020 Headies.
Three by Patoranking
For his third album Three, Afropop and dancehall act Patoranking dwells on the themes of kindness, joy, growth, love and happiness. It also finds him whip up a toothsome blend of sonic experimentations – the result an array of hit songs starting with ‘Abule’.
Everybody Get Agenda by BANTU
Fiercely political, BANTU’s Everybody Get Agendadecries the Nigeria’s many woes, which come down to a lack of accountable leadership. The group’s singular style of prompting social reflection situates it as “one of Africa’s most politically driven bands.” Though founded on Afrobeat, the LP also draws from the western influences of hip hop and R&B.
Lagos Pepper Soup by Michael Olatuja
Like its title suggests, bassist Michael Olatuja’s new project presents a potpourri that honours the Afrobeat, fuji and juju sounds of his native country, as well as gospel and jazz. Lagos Pepper Soupcelebrates life, hope and daily miracles, and guests Grammy-winning musician Angélique Kidjo and Dianne Reeves, as well as Laura Mvula, Regina Carter, Lionel Loueke, Joe Lovano, Becca Stevens and Robert Mitchell, among others.
Carpe Diem by Olamide
Carpe Diem is rapper Olamide’s his 11th project and first with US-based label and distribution platform Empire. Accomplished both as a rapper and a pop merchant, the musician continues his reign with this album. Featured artists include Fireboy DML, Bella Shumrda, Omah Lay, Peruzzi and Phyno, among others.
Yabasi by Basketmouth
Although a comedian, Basketmouth has always felt a connection to music. This year, he brought his long-held desire to fruition, releasing what is arguably the most remarkable compilation album to come out of Nigeria recently. The richly layered project also serves as the soundtrack for the Papa Benji web series. Yabasi consists of 10 tracks, with a number of collaborators such as Oxlade, Show Dem Camp, Waje, Ladipoe, Duncan Nighty, Flash, BOJ, Ice Prince, Flavour, Phyno, Chike, Zoro, Umu Obiligbo and Peruzzi making an appearance. Production was led by Duktor Sett, with Tee-Y Mix in charge of mixing and mastering.
Satisfied by Mercy Chinwo
‘Chinedum’ hitmaker Mercy Chinwo’s sophomore album Satisfied is thick with spiritual hymns and uplifting anthems. The former Nigerian Idol winner is not only renowned for charming lyricism but also a powerful, searing voice. Satisfied was released on EeZee Conceptz Global, and is among the most streamed Nigerian albums for the year. The project also catapulted her to the second-most streamed female musician on Boomplay in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020.