– Titilope Adesanya
2018! 2018! 2018! if you were a Nigerian child, at this point I would be asking you how many times I called your name. It took you long enough to come to an end, and even though you still linger for a few days more, I think I can safely say thank you for the music but now it’s time to go.
This year brought in so much music; the ones we expected, the ones we begged for and the ones we didn’t see coming a mile away. While this is not a chart-like-piece or in-depth reviews of the projects, I think it’s a good place to start taking stock of what musical gifts 2018 dragged in.
So in no precise order, here goes…
About 30 – Adekunle Gold [Nigeria]
First up is this 16 tracked modern Yoruba classic released in May this year by Nigerian singer Adekunle Gold.
About 30 is his sophomore project and dare I say he put so much work into it, it might as well have been his debut.
Despite About 30 being dominated by Western-Nigerian-like production, the project which featured Seun Kuti, Dyo, Flavour, and others, also had a beautiful balance of soul, folk, traditional Eastern Nigerian sounds and certainly some pop.
A lot of thought and precision obviously went to making this body of work, thus ensuring every track is a pleasure to listen to, I, however, am not over the remix of Ire which featured Jacob Banks – a Nigerian-Brit whose debut album Village is certainly worth a couple plays on repeat & who we need an entire piece to properly introduce to you.
A full review of About 30 album is available here from earlier in the year.
Afro Vision – Muzi [South Africa]
Mixing up genres and eras, Muzi‘s vision for his sound and purpose is clear: to show you and me that the new is really just the old. To blend together the futuristic with the vintage in a way that just excites us all is his Afro Vision.
His debut album helped him achieve this and more, and in the space of just about 8 months, Muzi went from being relatively unknown to most people, while quietly working on his skills, making hits for other acts as a producer and laying down alternative vocals which he’d go on to give alternative names, to touring Europe, the USA and more importantly, some of the biggest stages in South Africa like Rocking The Daisies and Afropunk!
This vision of Muzi that has brought him so far is one that we should all share. One that has no room for rigidity and complexity. One that simply enjoys the music and keeps the goal forever in sight.
Here‘s a previous review on this project. Favourite tracks? Zulu Skywalker, Daylight, Sunset KwaZulu, Kini and Channel Blak. Inside secret; there’s an ‘Other_Draft’ of Questions not on the album but released as a separate single that is an absolute jewel.
19 – MHD [Guinea & Senegal]
Mohamed Sylla, AKA MHD is king of Afro-Trap. His sophomore album 19, however, sees him exploring a handful of sounds that cannot be boxed into this mix breed of genres.
Crossing the boundaries from the North to the West of Africa and over, 19 is a fluid joyful collection of rhythms and is a welcome revelation of the rapper MHD, giving his hitherto hardcore personnel, some bounce.
Although I wish I could faultlessly comprehend every word MHD utters, I am content with just feeling the music and understanding this one universal language. From track 1, Intro Mansa which features the forever king of Afropop from Mali; Salif Keita, to Papale and then Bebe alongside Congo’s Dadju, not leaving out Feeling and just for control, Bella featuring Wizkid, the 19 tracked full-length project is at the very least, passionately formed and diversely beautiful in the productions.
Here’s a beautifully in-depth written review on Pitch Fork just for you.
Bad Boy Blaq – Blaqbonez [Nigeria]
This guy has been my favourite discovery of the year. His sleek, smooth and terribly sarcastic personality made him an easy one to love.
Blaqbonez has been deep underground for a little while but 2018 dragged him right out, and with him came the most successful and influential debut album of a fresh hip-hop act in Africa in 2018, currently sitting at just over half a million streams across digital platforms.
Bad Boy Blaq is a seamless transition of sounds that take you from being the kid doing the subtle dab to the belly dancer and then oh so swiftly to the one banging out the punchlines word for word.
Featuring Oxlade (to watch for in 2019), A-Q, Loose Kaynon, Alpha and Terry Apala, Bad Boy Blaq is is lowkey the best trappy, rappy and singy type ish you’ll hear today and again every other time after that.
137 Avenue Kaniama – Baloji [the Democratic Republic of Congo]
Another body of work I completely love without organically understanding 90% of what is being said, is 137 Avenue Kaniama. Sure, I pick up the occasional French word I remember from my basic level classes and just listening intently to the rhythm of every good-looking French-speaking human I come in contact with, but I am still mostly clueless.
Baloji is a Congolese artist I found during my radio days with the song ‘Soleil de volt‘. He currently lives in Belgium and is a creative with no restraints. A key point overly emphasised in a piece on Bella Union. (here)
Also on Bella Union, Baloji explains the album’s title saying: “My mother’s house was originally on Avenue Kaniama in the Katuba neighbourhood of Lubumbashi. When I tried to meet her after 25 years, I couldn’t find her house number. The street just got smaller and smaller, until it couldn’t even be reached by car, so we thought it was dead-end. But then I got out and started walking, and in the end, I found her.”
The energy in the 14 tracked album, 137 Avenue Kaniama is so varied. For instance, tracks like Bipolaire & Peau de Chagrin – Bleu de Nuit I could definitely play for my mum without reinforcing her belief that we all just listen to rubbish loud music these days. Spotlight, on the other hand, hits me as the track for a crazy drive with the gang bouncing on the seats and the volume at max.
Tracks like Tanganyika dissolve any thoughts I had of finding a genre to fit this album, as alternative doesn’t cut it honestly. This 11mins long track closes off the album and even though there are tracks earlier in the project that are blends of sounds and feels, Tanganyika is itself a melting pot of art. mixing poetry, dance/electro and even opera.
Take the journey to 137 Avenue Kaniama. You never know what you might find.
Limpopo Champions League – Sho Madjozi [South Africa]
This was a literal drag in as it came right at the end of the year, and while I am tempted to move it to worthy mentions, I feel like we need to brag about this album a little.
A genuinely conscious Tsonga & Swahili speaking style icon for a rapper, who’s got the moves like no other, a writer who occasionally makes dry jokes and takes rad selfies. Her name? Maya Wegerif! but let’s call her Sho Madjozi like everyone else does.
Limpopo Champions League, LCL for short is a Sho Madjozi’s debut album featuring some traditional South African Kwaito, Electro Shangan, Gqom, Afrobeats, some East African bongo flava, techno, house and certainly some good old pop! I even caught a whiff of soukous in I Mean That. This black Cinderella as she likes to call herself worked with a host of acts on the project including YCee, Kwesta, Marioo & Aubrey Qwana.
I know for a fact that she loves everything about MHD and then more. In an interview with Africori, she said his career would be the one she would most like hers to resemble and bringing a bit of this to life, she samples his ‘Afro-Trap Part.7 (La Puissance) in her title track Limpopo Champions League.
The cultural and socio-political statement constantly being made with her entire self and now her debut album is one that I believe we’ve not all grabbed in its entirety and that’s okay for the moment, provided we take in what you can as you go.
New North – Classiq [Nigeria]
Classiq 100% reps the North of Nigeria and even though there have been and are still others who have tried & occasionally with a hit or two succeeded to put the North on a talkable commercial level in the Nigerian industry, none, in my opinion, has in the most current times, come as close as Classiq to making the sounds in itself commercial.
It’s probably a combination of all the years of work behind the scene, his team and the works, but it’s also most definitely due to his ability to balance out the modern wave with the intrinsic Hausa vibe.
In New North, Classiq doesn’t just rap in his mother tongue on greatly produced hip-hop beats, he was careful to include traditional Hausa instruments that contribute greatly to the lending the entire project a very wholesome and fresh feel Northern Nigerian feel. The album features Ckay, Ice Prince and M.I Abaga.
If one really thinks about it, this album is lowkey one of the most important projects to come out of Nigeria this year where culture is concerned. The New North arrived. Let’s hope they stay.
Africa To The World – Sun EL Musician [South Africa]
Forget taking Africa to the rest of the world, let’s talk about showcasing Africa to herself.
Sun EL Musician‘s 13 tracks of beautiful rhythms, is the first full house album ever saved to my offline for months without eventually having to make space for a new one and this makes me feel super musically grown.
Though featuring one of the top songs in 2017 across our borders; Akanamali with Samthing Soweto, Africa To The World is packed with treasures like Sengimoja, Life We Live, Random and the Sun-El Musician remix of Yere Faga by Mali’s Oumou Sangare. Also, by majority consensus, tracks like Sonini ft. Simmy and Bamthatile ft Mlindo The Vocalist are top tier from the project.
Illusions – Leriq & Tomi Thomas [Nigeria]
This collaborative project, I did not see coming. Nonetheless, it was a gift from 2018 that I accept it with arms and ears wide open.
Nigerian Producer Leriq who has been in the game farther back than the early days of Burna Boy’s Like To Party, teams up with Tomi Thomas, whom I first heard on M.I Abaga‘s playlist type project Rendezvous and who though somewhat still underground, is certainly on a right path, and word on the street is that he’ll be working with Runtown’s new set up Sound God.
The beauty of this joint project is the illusion that you are listening to one person as Tomi is on the vocals and Leriq on the beat, but in essence, you are listening to the creative child of two geniuses.
Illusions is all loved themed. The 6 tracked EP is essentially a sexy and prolonged monologue of Breaking it Off, after having walked Tru The Fire and sacrificing so much All For Love. The mellow yet muscle twisting melodies make for an easy listen you’ll lose track how many times it’s looped.
Outside – Burna Boy [Nigeria]
Get with the programme, you’ll need a drink on ice to get with this groove.
2018 was the year of Burna Boy undeniably. For a little while after Soke and still around the time of Pree Me, it seemed almost as if he was standing outside trying to decide on entrance song. Eventually, he came in and boy was it a grand entrance!
As a project, Outside is referred to as an Afrofusion of sounds and even though I find that term is increasingly used all too loosely, I can’t fight it in this instance. Showcasing dancehall, highlife, Afrobeats and some hip-hop, there’s something for almost everyone outside. As written in a review on Pitch Fork, this body of work dishes out tips on mixing and matching genres without making mud.
Featuring hard hitters like Ye, Rock Your Body, Heavens Gate ft Lily Allen and Sekkle Down ft. J Hus, Outside saw Burna Boy sell out the London 02 Academy for one night only, carry out an extensive US and Europe tour and feature as YouTube’s Artiste on The Rise in November 2018 and finally go ham for his show live in Lagos.
MACINA – Elzo Jamdong [Senegal]
Asides Akon and now partly MHD, I have never really known that many Senegalese acts to commercially make music for the Afro-urban population. Other huge exports from this former French colony include Baaba Maal and Youssou N’Dour who both make predominantly traditional Senegalese style music and whose works have now been categorized into the very loose phrase ‘World Music’.
Rapping mostly in Wolof, while occasionally switching between English and French, Elzo Jamdong‘s delivery of the 7 tracked project MACINA is balanced with some hard-hitting rap, Afro-trap and just enough melody to have you swinging with a red cup in hand and maybe even doing the head vosho!
Speaking to Africori, the rapper explains that MACINA which was a nickname for his grandfather and then later passed on to him was a form for him to “share the most sincere thoughts about my career and my personal life. I could call it “war with myself”.
Rendezvous – M.I Abaga [Nigeria]
M.I Abaga did a double lap in 2018. Releasing 2 extraordinary projects and again, setting a new benchmark for the Nigerian hip-hop industry.
The first, a 15 tracked project he termed a playlist and not an album/EP is called ‘Rendezvous‘ and is a story of a typical night in Lagos; getting home from work, chilling with the gang, having your girl come through, figuring out the plan for the night, showing up and showing off at the right spots, and eventually getting home just as the sun rises.
The process that led to this project was clearly one of extreme unlearning and relearning for the living African hip-hop legend. He worked with & featured madly creative minds like Tay Iwar, Odunsi The Engine, Santi, Tomi Thomas, Ckay, Moelogo, Chillz, Straffitti, Terry Apala, Trigga Madtonic and more.
For the best listening experience, play this collection in the manner it was arranged. I would list out a few top tracks for you but that would be a terrible disservice.
Palm Wine Music 2 – Show Dem Camp (Nigeria)
Umqhele – Sjava (South Africa)
Rare – Odunsi The Engine (Nigeria)
Testimony 1990 – Khaligrapgh Jones (Kenya)
A Boy from Tandale – Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania)
Bottom Baby 2 – Yung Swiss (South Africa & Cameroon)
Lagos To London – Mr Eazi (Nigeria)
Tugela Fairy – Simmy (South Africa)