On the surface, this is the situation of the things, but when you go deeper and listen in between the notes, you will discover that some songs are snapshots of these contemporary times.
Based off New York Times Magazine‘s ‘The 25 Songs That Matter Right Now‘ list, these are the 10 songs matter presently because they paint a portrait of where we are now.
1) Killing Dem by Burna Boy and Zlatan
Since Burna Boy got out of his own way a year ago, he has been on an astounding run. He has broken the duopoly of Davido and Wizkid by inaugurating himself as a new pop power that should be reckoned with.
Towards the end of 2018, King Burna met with a rising force by the name of Zlatan from the defacto headquarters of Lagos street music, Agege. The two forces creatively collided to come up with the street anthem ‘Killing Dem‘.
In the spirit of the title of the song, Zlatan murders the ‘Shaku Shaku‘ dance step to replace it with his own ‘Zanku‘ dance move, a literal hot stepper combined with an in-the-air kick.
‘Killing Dem’ confirms Burna Boy’s rule of pop music and heralds Zlatan as the new general of the streets with a hot dance move to accompany him. Not only is he a street champion, but he is also the hottest rapper in the game now.
2) Madu by Kizz Daniel
A year ago, Kizz Daniel‘s lyrics on his pop single ‘Yeba‘ opened him up to backlash from a section of Nigerian Twitter. He was accused of promoting sexual harassment on the track.
Consent has been a lightning rod for heated conversations on Twitter NG. For three years, there has been a continuous (and necessary) discussion about consent and sexual harassment.
Certain Nigerian songs have been pointed out rapey lyrics and complicit and promoting the culture of sexual harassment in Nigeria.
After a mild re-christening and tussle with his former label, Kizz Daniel dropped his sophomore album ‘No Bad Songz‘. The hit single from the ambitious LP is ‘Madu‘, which is standard fare from Daniel’s pop arsenal of tricks, intense melody and well-written pop lyrics.
The important thing about ‘Madu’ is that it shows that Kizz Daniel is more enlightened this time around, as he explicitly asks for consent from his lover before lavishing her with money and blessing her with a good time in the bedroom.
In creating his new pop tune, Kizz Daniel colours within the margin of consent to express his lust.
3) Uyo Meyo by Teni
Before scoring hit singles like ‘Askamya‘ and ‘Case‘, Teni showed that she had the gift to pen smash hits.
Although Davido rushed the release of the eternal-jam ‘Like Dat‘ in November 2017, no one can deny that the Teni-penned song is one of his dopest offerings.
After the success of the song that closed off Davido’s unrivaled run in 2017, the onus was on Temi to show and prove. She did this excellently.
‘Askamaya’ sounds like Wande Coal at his prime, and on ‘Case’ she taps into the ride-or-die mentality of an average chick who is down to fight all of her boyfriend’s foes.
Teni’s most emotional moment follows this double dose of hits. ‘Uyo Meyo‘ is a tearjerker that celebrates the often told (but never old) story of the underdog who becomes the top dog.
‘Uyo Meyo’ is a contemporary re-telling of the grass to grace story that we all love.
4) Hypocrite by Falz feat. Demmie Vee
The truth is a scarce commodity in Nigerian music but the rapper Falz dishes it out no matter who it pisses off.
Falz shreds himself of his pop inclinations on ‘Moral Instruction’, his latest LP.
He expertly brings back the spirit of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is expertly through expert samples tucked in the LP. However, for all of Fela’s commanding spirit, it is the voice of the newbie Demmie Vee that is the most haunting.
On the song, ‘Hypocrite‘ Falz demolishes the old concept that Nigeria is only held back by only its leaders.
He shows how we are all hypocrites. Demmie Vee’s voice comes in, hovering on the instrumental like a ghost. It comes off an intimate damning whisper of judgement.
5) Rapid Fire by Santi feat. Shane Eagle and Amaarae
On the opening warped strings of ‘Rapid Fire‘, you can picture Ernest Azuzu cruising down in convertible BMW with Rita Dominic by his side.
This is what Santi has been able to achieve, bring back the aesthetic and feel of the glory years of Nollywood. Since his rebirth from Ozzy B to Santi, the alternative rapper/singer has continuously doubled down on the glorification of Nigerian pop culture of the 90s while curating the essence of alte culture.
The video for his previous single ‘Freaky‘ featuring Bridge and Nonso Amadi, is inspired by the Christian-Horror films of Helen Ukapio infamy.
His latest visual ‘Sparky‘, can be seen as a fashion tribute to the Nollywood queens of the 90s and early 00s.
Santi’s best outing so far is ‘Rapid Fire’, a mellow and bouncy cut. It celebrates the freedom of youth.
Eyebrows might have been raised by the all-black attire in the video, but that is Santi repurposing the past to tell modern stories.
6) Nobody Fine Pass You by T Classic
What does it mean to be a Nigeria man in this era? Nigerian men have been criticized for not being expressive and not showing their emotions.
Newcomer T Classic aims to tackle this stereotype just after the heels of ‘One Ticket‘ by Kizz Daniel and Davido, a song that reveals an uncommon side, Nigerian men dealing with toxic romantic partners.
While the dust has settled on that collaboration, T Classic picks up the mantle by shedding tears all over his fast-rising track. The newbie is in love with a woman who is in lust with the fast life.
It’s a complex relationship. He admires her beauty but can’t stand it when she disappears on him only to come back drunk. Does T Classic leave her? In the video, he does not. He even sticks by her when she has cancer.
7) Sensima by Skiibii feat. Reekado Banks
Skiibii has finally proven to be a reference in Falz’s ‘Soft Work‘ by turning up with the sweet, sticky and syrupy club jam ‘Sensima‘.
The song boats of an updated DNA version of Nigerian pop songs circa 2012 when all one had to do was sprinkle made up words and easy rhymes all over a sick melody wrapped around an enchanting beat to score a hit.
Reekado Banks, a pop singer blessed with vocals that glide over a beat effortlessly proves he does need too many words to land a killer verse. He starts off his verse with ‘Baby shamanama jeka jo’ and ends up slurring his words at the end.
To question how this song was created takes away all the fun. Sensima is to be enjoyed not to be scrutinized. It is pure pleasure with no thought given to how it was conceived.
8) Logan Ti Ode by Tope Alabi feat TY Bello and George
Tope Alabi is a tour de force, a master at what she does. With almost two decades in the business, she has penned hundreds of soundtracks for Yoruba movies.
There was a time that it was almost inconceivable for you to watch a Yoruba home video without Tope Alabi.
Her main calling is, however, a Gospel singer. Without frills and thrills, Alabi is one of the biggest acts in Nigeria with millions listening to her spirituals.
One of her latest offerings is ‘Logan Ti Ode‘. It is a sparse, bare bone track showcases the emotional strength of Tope Alabi’s voice. It is commanding, uplifting and goose-pimple inducing.
These days you can rarely see a master at work. Tope Alabi is not one of them. No one does Gospel music like her.
9) Oyi by 2Baba featuring HI-Idibia
The grand old man of contemporary Nigerian pop music, 2face Idibia seems to never tire. He is the Ryan Giggs of music, producing scene-stealing moments when his contemporaries have retired.
After scoring the smash ‘Amaka‘, the pop veteran slows things down on ‘Oyi‘. He sounds supremely confident on the mellow song. With a blend of pidgin and his native Idoma language proves that he can write a pop tune with his own style.
Notably, the Idibia brothers reunite on the chilled cut, years after dropping ‘Keep on Rocking‘ in 2004.
Once in a while, we need that old good love.
10) Surrender by Mr Eazi feat. Simi
On Mr Eazi‘s hit single, the Nigerian singer attests to the fact that he has fallen head over heels to his lover because of her waist bead.
A popular adornment waist beads are often deemed fetish or immoral by conservative Nigerians. A new generation of Nigerian women, however, does not subscribe to this mindset.
Anklets and waist beads are now common adornments worn by young Nigerian women who are not conforming to society’s idea of how a woman should dress.
Mr Eazi singing about his lover’s waist beads shatters the superstitious belief that many Nigerian men have about the adornment.