Just like in any sport, there is a ranking to elevate the elite and present a snapshot of contemporary trends and stylings in a bid to document history for posterity sake.
Some would say Nigerian rap is in the early stages of a renaissance, a view that we see as elitist because it discounts the contribution of indigenous rap music when Nigerian pop music had a virtual monopoly.
However, for the first time in a long time, other sub-sects of rap are pulling their weight with regards to igniting social media conversations, embracing Nigerian pop culture and adjusting to modern trends in contemporary rap music.
Who are the hottest rappers in Nigeria right now?
The Pulse list below is a reflection of the hottest rappers ruling the country. They belong to an upper class of wordsmiths who are doing three things;
- Pushing rap music further into mainstream consciousness.
- Further integrating street culture into rap music, an element that our Hip-Hop DNA is still short of.
- And the upholding of core rap values of brilliant penmanship and super lyricism.
What is the criteria for this selection?
In coming up with this list, we used mainstream appeal and impact, critical acclaim and the ability to brilliantly use progressive rap elements as factors. Also, we only considered rappers who have dropped singles or projects in 2019 for this list. we did not consider re-releases as a new body of work
Before we dive into the list, we have two honourable mentions, a salute to two rap acts who have done great things for the promotion of rap music and Hip-Hop culture in Nigeria. Far from there last days, these two acts are still influential to rap music and conversations in the country.
Modenine: This year Nigeria’s greatest lyricist has released two commendable bodies of work in The Monument – released in January – and Esoteric Mellow with Teck Zilla – released in June, 2019. They are both quality projects that promote the never-changing sound of boom bap music. Modenine is still doing it for the purists.
Terry Tha Rapman and Pherowshuz: 10 years after dropping their classic single ‘Sample’ featuring Stereoman, Terry Tha Rapman and Pherowshuz fulfilled the wet dreams of rap nerds by dropping their For The Culture collabo album.
Pherowshuz doubles down on his skill as a rap producer to rate and a mean lyricist. T.R continues to roll back the years as he balances top-notch lyricism with mainstream sensibilities.
Ayomide O. Tayo, Senior Editor, Content, Pulse Nigeria
10. Payper Corleone
The reclusive Nigerian rapper might not be popular, but he has been gathering a slew of fans and momentum with his boundless energy, releasing mixtapes and freestyles of Naija pop hits. In 2019 he dropped his body of work Fly Gangsta from the 90s.’
The body of work is a brutal and unrepentant ode to the grimy streets of Lagos. The South-South act is undeniably one of the fast rising underlords of street rap in Nigeria.
The South-South has never been short of mean rappers. Payper Corleone is the latest from the creeks of the Niger-Delta.
Based off his critically acclaimed collabo album, Crown with Loose Kaynon, in 2018, Pulse ranked A-Q as the second hottest Nigerian rapper after Ghost of SDC. The album featured a string of beastly performances from the Mainland lyricist.
While he has been relatively quiet in 2019, his verse on the Martell Cypher opposite Blaqbonez, M.I. Abaga and Loose Kaynon is the best Nigerian rap verse so far in 2019. That verse alone championed Twitter conversations for days. #
He has dropped other loosies like ‘God’s Work‘ and ‘Don’t Let The Devil Use You,’ but the rap verse stands out as an effort that rivals the best efforts in 2019. His album, God’s Engineering is expected to drop later this year.
8. Teeto Ceemos
In 2019, Nigerian rapper, Teeto Ceemos finally obliged his fans with a rap project. Many thought he had moved on, but he gladdened the heart of many Nigerian rap heads with his debut project, Lataaro with his ‘brother’ Rae Slick.
The album boasts of unbridled lyricism, hard body bars and excellent penmanship.
Earlier in the year, veteran Nigerian rapper, iLLBliss released a project IllyZilla alongside producer, Teck Zilla. The project features patent Illbliss larger-than-life lyrics backed by exceptional production. While Illbliss is a Hip-Hop statesman, his music is far from dated. He still resonates with the contemporary rap audience.
Illy will forever be more commercially appealing than most rappers in his class. Aside from that, he released ‘Nkali,‘ produced by his friend and longtime collaborator, Big Foot. It is a concrete cracking song.
Badoo is approaching veteran status and he is still steady dropping hits for his core audience- the streets like he is a hungry rookie.
His singles, ‘Woske‘ and ‘Oil and Gas‘ are rap hit singles on the Nigerian streets. While there are many street generals popping out, Olamide still remains the king.
5. The Lost and Found (Paybac and Boogey)
With Alternate Ending, the group consisting of ace rappers, Paybac and Boogey released not just one of the best rap albums of 2019, but one of the best albums of 2019.
Known for their lyricism, The Lost and Found have evolved into premium storytellers and concept creators with their latest body of work.
Hopefully, The Lost and Found will bless us with another gem like Alternate Ending in 2020.
4. SDC (Ghost and Tec)
With Clone Wars Vol. IV: These Buhari Times,’ the duo boasts of yet another excellent body of work.
After taking a detour with the saccharine Palm Wine Music projects, Ghost and Tec were back to murder every beat on their installment mixtape series. Weaving their bars around a socio-political theme, Show Dem Camp’s stock continues to rise within Nigeria’s rap circles.
At this point, we can have a conversation that are the most consistent Nigerian rap group of all time.
3. Naira Marley
Ladies and gentlemen, this might be an unpopular choice but what is a good list without a forward thinking choice.
Coming off the high of ‘Issa Goal’ in the World Cup year, Naira Marley entered 2019 slowly until… his comments about Internet fraud gained him more notoriety than fame. Channeling the controversy around him, Naira Marley blessed his cult fan base ‘Marlians’ with the witty ‘Am I A Yahoo Boy’.
No one should mistake Naira Marley for a lyricist, but his witty wordplay and smooth rhymes have helped establish him as a street rapper who has embraced the ugly underbelly of street life in Lagos.
ALSO READ: A case dies on bail as Naira Marley’s stock rises
While in incarceration, Naira Marley dropped the raunchy tune ‘Opotoyi,’ proving that he can weave his slurry, seemingly drugged out voice and flow over a Zanku beat again and again. Using his infamous status to pen undeniable bangers, Marley has become a household name. As we write, his controversial single, ‘Soapy’ sits atop the Appple Music charts.
Naira Marley is not for the purists, he is for the streets. His controversial and explicitly worded songs, ‘Am I a Yahoo Boy?’ and ‘Opotoyi’ hit more than one million views in one week and two weeks respectively.
What does this mean? No one knows but it gets the people going. It gets the crowd going!
Zlatan has not only invented a new term but he killed the Shaku Shaku dance craze and replaced it with ‘Zanku’ which stands for ‘Zlatan Abeg No Kill Us.’
Teaming up with the hottest pop artist out now Burna Boy, he unleashed the Zanku anthem ‘Killing Dem’ which remains the hottest song of 2019 – though released in the final days of 2018.
While some might bash him for not having enough solo hits to his name, his impressive bars on the aforementioned collabo and ‘Am I a Yahoo Boy’ has made him the hottest commodity on the streets.
If Quavo is the American king of adlibs, Zlatan has owned that niche in Nigerian Hip-Hop. Je’on mo! In 2019, he also has also made a habit of killing features, second only to the guy at No. one.
Coming out from detention, he hit the studio to address the controversy on ‘4 Days (Nights) in Okotie-Eboh’, proving he can channel his pain into music. Zlatan is a new school street and indigenous rapper that has the game locked.
The man who hacked it. The UK-trained lawyer who raps like a local Yoruba man with his alter ego, Brother Taju from Ilawe-Ekiti. The man merges, Hip-Hop endorsement and shepeteri appeal.
While he is not the top dog in any of those demographics, he is loved by them all. When Pulse spoke with rapper, Teeto Ceemos earlier in the year, he named Falz as one of the best rappers in Nigeria – he was right.
ALSO READ: Falz is the hottest Nigerian rapper of 2019
His album, Moral Instruction might yet be the best Nigerian album – across all genres – of 2019. One line on his single, ‘Talk’ caused an uproar for days on end.
Falz appropriately sampled the music of the late Fela Kuti to address the ills of contemporary Nigeria. While most of his peers are lost in abstract bars and excessive glorification of street decadence, Falz has proven that he is above his peers by blending humour with ingenuity and conscious lyrics.
No wonder he is a darling of corporate Nigeria. Aside from that, the man has been on a J. Cole-esque quest to kill one feature after another in 2019.
There have been five features that Falz has absolutely killed with ease of menacing lyricism. The five features are, ‘Mind Your Bizness’ by Simi, ‘Feel Good’ by Ice Prince also featuring Phyno, ‘Daz How Star Do‘ by Skiibi also featuring Teni, ‘Proud Fvck Boys Remix (Naija Version)’ by Tulenkey also featuring Ice Prince and ‘Alakori’ by Dice Ailes.
Other impressive verses include, ‘Ehua’ by EL featuring Joey B, ‘If To Say I Be Girl Ehn’ by Magnito and ‘Chop Life,’ by Chillz.
Most of those songs range from sleeper hits to genuine hits. It’s amazing how people argue this obvious point.
Rema deceived us into thinking he is an Afropop prodigy while in fact he is an emo, progressive rapper. Looking beyond ‘Dumebi,’ a song like ‘Why’ and his Rema freestyle EP shows that Rema is a rapper, a fact he recently disclosed in his Pitchfork interview.
If the Mavin act keeps his impressive debut up, he might just be the poster child for progressive Nigerian rap music.
Not since Wizkid has any Nigerian artist created as much buzz from his first released song. His stock has risen so high that Oliver El-Khatib, Drake’s manager sent him an OVO sweatshirt.
Circa 2010, Timi Kei was set to be the next big thing out of the vibrant Hip-Hop scene of Port Harcourt on the South of Nigeria.
One thing led to another, and that never quite happened. But through his days in intentional obscurity, the light-skinned MCee reignited his dwindling Christian fire.
A few months later, he made a comeback and some years after his billing, he never missed a step. In fact, he’s gotten better. With a combination of deft lyricism, intricate flows, well-crafted bars and outrageous use of symbolism, he complimented Port Harcourt brother, Illgod on the album, Soulsoup.
On no other track does Timi Kei’s excellence as a seasoned wordsmith that on ‘Respiration.’
Zeenolesky and Lil Frosh
Social media sensations who used rap to amass a loyal following from Nigerian inner-city. In their style, you see the intricacies of alternative tendencies and avant-gardism.
Their hairs are tinted and on one video, one of them used a pair of padlock for earrings. Usually rapping with the aggression that only inner-city Lagos can birth, they blurt out lyrics on woven cadences and with incredible flows.
Their hunger is as palpable as their talent. The rap is a part of them and in their eyes, you know that they want it.