Damini ‘Burna Boy’ Ogulu (27)
After spending 4 years as Nigeria’s musical enfant terrible, Damini Ogulu, otherwise known as Burna Boy surprised everyone and no one, when he locked himself up in the studio and cooked up what many insiders agree is the undisputedly the album of the year. Outside, the project Burna Boy recorded and released in 2018 was his clearest expression of the genre he calls Afrofusion, mashing multiple genres and infusing them with an earnest honesty only Ogulu can conjure. Collaborations with Lily Allen helped spruce things up and ‘Ye’, the album’s opus resonated so strongly with millennial Nigerians, it is called Nigeria’s alternative national anthem.
Ogulu has closed out the year with sold out concerts all across Europe and Nigeria and a left of field partnership with dance legends Major Lazer, out which came the song ‘All My Life’. Damini Ogulu has proven that nothing can stand in the way of undeniable talent and he is taking what has always belonged to him, the hearts of Nigerians everywhere.
Simisola Bolatito Ogunleye (30)
No one has been quite as inspiring for young women looking to break into music this year in her own quirky way than Simisola Ogunleye, known to you as Simi. Her brand is unconventional, a spunky digital media presence, self-curated and filled with suggested romantic triangles and liaisons and a sound that has grown consistently introspective as Simi has transitioned from relatively unknown producer to recording artist in her own right. But what is so fascinating about Simi isn’t her great voice or her superior production skills (she produced the critically received Adekunle Gold’s debut and sophomore albums, it’s the fact that Simi is Nigeria’s first organic GarageBand artist to go mainstream.
Simi released her sophomore album “Simisola” in late 2017 to critical acclaim after years to tweaking her sound to suit her new persona as an independent artist straddling the lines between pop and deeply introspective songwriting. It is incredibly hard to write an album that appeals to people of several age demographics but Simi manages just that with her album. She was recently awarded the Songwriter of the year award at the 2017 Afrimma awards.
Simisola has continued her reign with awards for sound engineer of the year at the 2018 Beatz Africa Awards and highly lauded collaborations with Adekunle Gold and Falz and Johnny Drille. She also released the songs Stainless and I Dun Care to critical acclaim and continues to gain a reputation as a stellar performance artist.
Niniola Apata (31)
It really is Niniola Apata’s time and nobody can tell her nothing. In 2018, Niniola’s song Maradona got a second lease on life after a spectacular run on African radio and television when it was chosen and remixed by celebrated international DJ, DJ Snake. The remix introduced Niniola’s unique brand of sexually driven electronic dance music to an international audience starving for Afrohouse. She also collaborated with South African legend Busiswa on a remix of Magun, the final single off her critically acclaimed debut album, This Is Me and Bana, an independent single released to penetrate the notoriously exclusionary South African music market.
But Niniola need not sell herself to anyone, she is already Africa’s darling, Winning female artist of the year at the Ghana Music Awards and being nominated for album of the year at the South African Music Awards and a global recognition from Apple Music when she was made their Artist of the Month.
All of Niniola’s singles have topped several charts and become critical and commercial hits with all her videos on Youtube amassing a collective 11.4 million views. She has 1.8 million streams on Spotify and continues to reach new audiences as global House fans cotton on to her music. On 7th August 2018, Niniola became the first female Nigerian artist to cross 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Folarin Falz Falana (28)
Folarin ‘Falz’ Falana drew a line in the sand earlier in 2018 when he released ‘This Is Nigeria’, a scathing critique of the current state of his home country. The song was a cover of the American Donald Glover’s This Is America, which carried similar themes and set a whole nation talking. Falz, however, got the world talking with his cover, earning co-signs from Swizzbeats, Naomi Campbell and media mogul P.Diddy. Even the Nigerian Broadcasting Company got in on the action, banning the song for attempting to ‘sabotage’ our fragile democracy.
There are few musicians who can attempt this level of activism and get away with it. There are even fewer musicians who can tread an activism path and still manage to create a totally different, more accessible persona creating concurrently and gaining acceptance from the fans. His viral media campaign for his post ‘This is America’ single ‘Sweet Boys Association’ created language canon and started a gender-based feud that lasted for weeks after and inadvertently highlighted the inherent sexism that exists in the music industry.
A multi-talented firestarter. Folarin Falana is easily one of the country’s most intriguing musicians.
Adekunle Gold (30)
When Adekunle Gold started the promotional drive for his sophomore album About 30, he did so with a sense of apprehension. The Nigerian musical audience is quick to pigeonhole artist into niches and quick to punish artists who choose to grow and experiment with new ideas. But Adekunle Gold felt led to follow this new position and mine his personal life and experiences for an album he could really devote the next year of his life to. After Ire¸ the album’s debut single gained critical mass, Adekunle took the risk and put out the best album of his career.
A year later, About 30 is still dominating conversations about music on the continent and has allowed Gold tour the continent and the world, selling out theatres in the UK and bringing his unique sounds like a bridge to connect the diaspora to the culture back home. Adekunle Gold has been honoured for his spectacular work with nominations across the board and the respect of the entire Nigerian music industry.
Adewale ‘Mayorkun’ Mayowa Emmanuel (24)
Adewale Emmanuel was discovered through a video he uploaded on Twitter covering a Davido song, a most serendipitous beginning for an artist that would soon come to represent the ethos of lagos’s enterprising spiriting. Emmanuel signed with Davido’s DMW Entertainment label and quickly released his first single, ‘Eleko’ which became a critical and commercial success. Before long, Mayorkun was receiving top performance billing at major concerts and a loyal following on social media. He rewarded his followers for their patience in November with ‘The Mayor Of Lagos’ his debut album that showed the range of growth since his debut single and his ambitions to become the most popular musician to find their footing in the centre of excellence.
Mayorkun is executing his plan to become a critically respected performing artist with pulse on the present.