Alternative, not as in the genre of music but as in unconventional with regard to lyrics, production and/or style. These are fifteen of the most outstanding nonconformist songs released by Nigerian artistes in 2015. You will be delighted.
1. Johnny Drille — Awww (Di’Ja Cover)
Producer and singer-songwriter John Ighodaro started 2015 with this show-stealing refix of Awww—the Don Jazzy-produced radio hit by Mavin Records singer Di’Ja—and hasn’t looked back since. Come for his voice, stay for the instrumental.
2. Brymo — Duro
We’ve given up on finding a male Nigerian vocalist more consistently impressive than Brymo. Duro, a piano-driven ballad anchored by a Yoruba chorus, further proves just how much of a rarity the former Chocolate City vocalist is.
3. Gidi Mob — Hate (Feat. Peter Clarke) [EXPLICIT]
Mother Teresa and expletives don’t usually go together but they thrive side by side on Gidi Mob’s Hate, a fierce song that addresses xenophobia and other social prejudices via Peter Clarke’s equal parts relevant and irreverent lyricism. This one hit a little too close to home.
4. Dtone Martins — Stay With Me (Yoruba Version)
How do you stage a comeback to music after a four-year hiatus? Underappreciated singer Dtone Martins answers the question with a sublime Yoruba version of the Sam Smith ballad, Stay With Me.
5. David Onuoha — Party Girls (Part II)
Channeling The Weeknd with confidence and an unmistakable vocal maturity, Abuja-based newcomer David Onuoha is Nigeria’s best kept music secret of 2015. Any song from his excellent debut mixtape, Guns And Roses, will be at home on this list, but we’ll go with the atmospheric, imploring Party Girls (Part II).
6. Muyiwà – Rara (Feat. Tofa)
Shivers, goosebumps and tingles are natural physical reactions to Muyiwà’s Rara—a moody, folk-inspired ballad that thrives on the up-and-coming singer’s potent voice, a near-perfect brass accompaniment and Nonso Amadi’s brilliant production. Although the inevitable Asa and Brymo comparisons are welcome compliments, they can never tell the whole story: Muyiwà is in a class of his own.
7. Aybee Omari — Kuzikan
As much a profession of his (Christian) faith as it is an exercise in clever wordplay, Philadelphia-based Lagos export Aybee Omari’s Kuzikan is a reminder that Nigeria’s best rap talents are nowhere near the spotlight. And that’s a shame.
8. Maleek Berry — Saucin’ (White Iverson Freestyle)
Maleek Berry doesn’t need to prove his production chops to anyone, but singing isn’t something he’s known for. Maybe not for much longer: the London native managed to flip Post Malone’s White Iverson into a politically-correct love song and sound good while doing it. Label. Shrugged. Off.
9. Johnny Drille — Wait For Me
Johnny Drille struck gold a second time this year with Wait For Me, an emotive folk song that won’t be out of place on a Mumford & Sons album. Like we needed further convincing that he’s the real deal.
10. Giniz — The Promise
A lot of good music came out of Abuja this year and two of our favourites are professionally-trained singer Giniz’s inspiring alternative rock releases, The Promise and Too Weak. We picked the former over the latter just because it came first. We were that torn.
11. Chyn — Made Of Black
UK-based rapper Chyn impressed with his 2014 mixtape, The Graduate. In 2015, he joined forces with the voguish Falz for a yet-to-be-released project and dropped a gem along the way. Made Of Black samples DJ Clock and Beatenberg’s house hit, Pluto (Remember You).
12. Kollydee — Hotline Bling
Released in the middle of a mad rush to cover Adele’s Hello, Kollydee’s brilliant stripped-down version of the ubiquitous Drake track, Hotline Bling, almost fell through the cracks. It turned out to be our favourite cover by a Nigerian artiste this year and we’re excited to see where the talented R&B singer goes from here.
13. Preye — Mortia
More goodness from Nigeria’s capital, Preye’s debut is a hauntingly-beautiful song that puts her lilting vocals front and center. We’re still smitten.
14. Blackmagic — Levelz
We maintain that Blackmagic is grossly undervalued. But maybe that’s his charm—being a singing and rapping music contrarian who will never fit into the mainstream. Case in point: Levelz, the Kid Konnect-produced quirky club jam that took us by surprise in May. A one-word hook has never been so catchy.
15. Password — Amaghimo
Soaring vocals knitted closely with a rich instrumental, Password is at his best on Amaghimo, the self-produced single that precedes his 2016 EP announcement. Sunday worship will never be the same again.
And one bonus track:
Nonso Amadi — Tonight
With talent and an ear for music on the level of Cobhams Asuquo, UK-based singer-songwriter and producer Nonso Amadi is only beginning to come into his own. On Tonight, he’s a slick-voiced and nimble-fingered agent provocateur who makes the slow-burning R&B track impossible to resist. If this is the future of Nigerian music, we’ll be alright.