Haven examined the music projects released in the first half of 2022, we have shortlisted 10 projects that stand out from the bunch.
The criteria upon which these projects are selected are content & delivery, coherence, execution, and enjoyability. Below are the top 10 music projects for the first half of 2022.
Master guitarist Fiokee has lent his talent to bringing life and beauty to the songs of other artists and with his album ‘Man’ he gets repaid bountifully.
‘Man’ is a beautiful Afrobeats album that touches on multiple soundscapes. Fiokee displayed a deft touch for music arrangement and composition as he assembled a collection of diverse artists whose talent shone greatly.
‘Man’ is a 14-track composition that’s sonically coherent, enjoyable, and rich in content. Fiokee’s master touch be felt all through the album as his strings added immense beauty to the tracks.
‘Man’ is a blueprint for any instrumentalist who wishes to make an album that retains significant elements of originality, offers rich sound and content, and is also commercially appealing.
9. Adekunle Gold – ‘Catch Me If You Can’
The evolution of Adekunle Gold was ushered in by ‘Afro Pop Vol 1’ whose success probably had fans expecting a Vol 2. Instead, Adekunle Gold chose to celebrate his success boldly and ostentatiously with ‘Catch Me If You Can.’
His fourth studio album ‘Catch Me If You Can’ presented an Adekunle Gold who was no longer satisfied with being an Afropop sensation with the deft touch. Haven touched the clouds as AG Baby, he intended to touch the Stars as Bad Boy Deks.
From tapping Davido for the smash hit ‘High’ to linking up with Ty Dolla $ign for ‘One Woman’ to displaying phenomenal songwriting abilities in ‘Sinner’ and sampling Baba Fryo‘s ‘Denge Pose’ in ‘Mercy’ Adekunle aimed for local and international commercial acclaim while still retaining an impressive level of originality.
The 14-track album was able to deliver in terms of a hit record, great content, and enjoyability. It retained the sonic coherence and execution that made ‘Afropop Vol 1’ successful and it also aided Adekunle Gold’s international ambitions.
8. Rema – ‘Raves & Roses’
Debut albums are not easy to make especially if they are coming years after building a reputation as a superstar and invariably raising expectations.
Rema‘s debut album ‘Raves & Roses’ is a bold debut from one of Afrobeats’ most complexly talented artists. The album is packed with all parts of him and it fully explores the lengths of his great talent.
The bold approach to the album almost bothers on a pompous desire for artistic display which might have led to its complex soundscape. However, the album showcased futuristic Afrobeats elements and also provided several appealing singles.
7. Pharaoh The 47 – ‘Top Boy’
There’s currently a division as to the state of hip hop in Nigeria especially as to what can or can’t be considered hip hop. Amidst the definitional and sonic crisis, Pharoah The 47 released one of the best hip hop projects in recent times.
‘Top Boy’ is a pop-rap album that strives on a mesh of drill, trap, and Afrobeats. Pharoah The 47 employed pop culture and sampled classic singles to create a rap project that meets at the intersection of rap and pop.
The album might have gone below the radar, however, its resounding quality built on excellent writing, smooth delivery, and enjoyability have earned it a place on this list.
6. Asake – ‘Ololade’ (EP)
Asake announced himself to the mainstream with his eponymous EP ‘Ololade‘ which served four incredible singles that have made him into an instant success and Afrobeats sensation.
The lead single ‘Omo Ope’ is a faultless song and its massive success can be credited for inspiring the wave of crowd vocals that now appears to be the dominant style.
‘Sungba’ was a massive hit and the Burna Boy remix propelled further push the EP and Asake to greater success.
The purpose of his debut EP was to show the audience what he was capable of and get the attention needed to take his career to the next level. ‘Ololade’ EP delivered exceedingly on this front and it was by all metrics a success.
5. Dice Ailes – ‘Ladies First’ (EP)
Dice Ailes as it and he has never lost it. ‘Ladies First’ EP is a reminder of his talent to all those who might have forgotten what he’s capable of. And the release of his long-overdue debut EP serves as a reminder of Dice Ailes’s pioneering contributions to Afropop.
‘Ladies First’ is an EP inspired by Dice Ailes’s love and admiration for women as well as his many experiences with them. In the EP, Dice displays vulnerability, his ability to accentuate the beat with his distinct melody, and his ability to convey the fragile matters of the heart in a relatable and enjoyable manner.
The track arrangement couldn’t have been better. The first two tracks ‘Leftside’ and ‘Rosalia’ displays Dice’s playboy side. The third and fourth tracks ‘Monica’ and ‘Zombie’ captures his lover boy side. In the fifth track ‘Pray as You Go,’ Dice shows some vulnerability of heartbreak. And he closes the EP with ‘Hold Me,’ with which he reminds himself and the listeners that in spite of it all, he’s still a lady’s man.
The production is calm and subtle, and the beats are perfectly tailored to the singles. The EP’s sound engineering and mixing are also faultless.
‘Ladies First’ is artistic excellence.
4. TI Blaze – ‘The Fresh Prince of Lagos’ (EP)
Some artists have found a way to use their music to chat about their reality and convey their feelings while employing a mesmeric level of melodic infusion. With this type of artist, you get music that provokes honesty, speaks to you, and also greatly entertains you. In Nigeria, we have a couple of those artists amongst which is TI Blaze.
TI Blaze announced himself with his debut EP ‘The Fresh Prince of Lagos’ which contained the smash hit ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Try.’
The six-track EP contains a great selection of songs that displays a level of talent, confidence, and artistic acumen that is not commonly exhibited by young artists.
The EP shines brightly for its impressive songwriting, laced with real-life, relatable scenarios.
TI Blaze’s ability to make his listeners look forward with optimism despite their trials, possibly through his music. As well as his deft use of his vocals, especially to back himself up. His flow scheme, lyrical nuggets, and quotables are impressively displayed.
The EP straddles the realm of street pop music while also retaining an impressive level of artistry with hip-hop and pop infusion.
‘CLRS-EP’ was a reminder of what we all know – Yung L‘s undiluted talent. It takes a special talent to substitute the consuming Caribbean imprint on dancehall with an Afrobeats touch without compromising on originality and quality. This is a talent Yung L possesses in ridiculous quantity.
‘CLRS-EP’ is a five-track masterclass in which he displays his enduring ability to make music look so easy. Yung L plays around different sounds, and with an impeccable delivery that is propelled by dancehall flows, Afrobeats melodic sequence, and performances. In this EP, Yung L keeps it simple, sweet, and short.
As far as ‘CLRS – EP’ goes, there is no flaw. For the production, Yung L, Chopstix, and TUC achieved perfection. The track selection and arrangement capture the easy, laid-back, and appealing idea behind the EP. And for Yung L, there’s no limit to what his talent can deliver.
Some people will feel like ‘Theta’ isn’t as sonically accomplished as some of Brymo’s older albums, but that’s simply because Brymo and his producer curated a sound that fits his mood, themes, and disposition while making the album.
But one thing is definitely different about this album. Barring ‘Market Square,’ which is curated with symbolisms around, the disadvantages of detraction to the detractor, reproach, karma, and bounty, it’s generally symptomatic of Brymo’s simpler brand songwriting, free of the usually amazing figuratively-enabled songwriting, and symbolisms.
For some people, that simplicity will mean a less amazing body of work, because human beings love to elevate layers. But simplicity and clarity can also be amazing.
In ‘Theta,’ Brymo’s celestial talent was again on full display as he reaches artistic realms he and he alone seems capable of reaching.
1. Obong Jayar – ‘Some Nights I Dream of Doors’
‘Sometimes I Dream of Doors’ is a mixed bag of emotions, embedded in an attractive overdose of poetic depth, relatability, and sultry avant-garde production. The result is a musicologist’s dream.
At a time when Nigeria sits at the forefront of the infamous ‘global music’ category at the Grammy Awards, proper marketing could see this album become a favorite for the 2023 edition of the famed award ceremony.
Sometimes I Dream of Doors’ is a warrior’s tale of healing and hope after darker days. By ‘Wind Sailor,’ he is still morose, but he utters the positive words, “I’ll be okay, don’t you worry about me…”
Vocally, Obongjayar uses his vocals to intricately paint the detail of his topics, themes, and intentions. When he is a freedom fighter in ‘Message In A Hammer,’ his voice is hoarse and melodic, similar to Lagbaja’s. But when he is introspective or loving on ‘Wind Sailor’ or ‘I Wish It Was Me,’ he employs a falsetto.
The content, delivery, track arrangement, execution, and enjoyability are simply phenomenal. The album richly and artistically borrows from folk, jazz, rock, and Afrobeat elements and add ObongJayar’s sonic signature to deliver a breathtaking R&B and Soul album.
- BOJ – ‘Gbagada Express’
BOJ‘s ‘Gbagada Express’ is an Afrobeats album that showcases mainstream and pop infusion into Alternative music. The album delivers on multiple sounds which allows listeners to find their go-to singles from a collection of 16 tracks.
Asa is a legend in the game and she’s at a point in her career where she can do whatever she wants. With ‘V,’ Asa took a step away from Alternative and Folk music while she explores Afropop elements.
She was able to bring her phenomenal songwriting and unique style into Afropop in an impressive sound experiment.
- Basketmouth – ‘Horoscope’
With ‘Yabasi,’ Basketmouth announced himself as a master A & R with the ability to make an Album of the Year worthy project. His second try ‘Horoscope,’ further proved his status as a top composer.
‘Horoscope’ was able to deliver a wide palette of quality and satisfying sounds and contents.
From becoming a freestyling viral star, Fave quickly went on to release a couple of singles that made her into one of the fast-rising Afrobeats stars.
Her debut EP ‘Riddim 5’ is a glimpse into her talent and sound. She was able to deliver top singles that displayed her mature writing, impressive vocals, and the easily digestible nature of her music.
- Young Jonn – ‘Love Is Not Enough’ (EP)
Making the transition from producer to artist after many years as a top producer takes confidence and convincing talent both of which Young Jonn possesses.
Young Jonn announced himself to music fans with his debut EP ‘Love Is Not Enough’ and it’s an impressive first try from the award-winning producer.
’32’ sounds like Young Jonn has been singing for years and ‘Dada’ is one hell of a record that deservedly enjoyed great success. ‘Next to You’ is another top single whose delivery and quality stands out.