The 10 Best Nigerian Albums of 2022 So Far
From hotly anticipated albums by superstars Asa and Burna Boy to long-awaited debuts by Rema and Omah Lay, we present the Best Nigerian Albums of 2022 So Far in descending order.
Simi ‘TBH (To Be Honest)’
Simi plays it safe—perhaps too safe—on TBH (To Be Honest), her sixth studio record. The album opens, confessional style with the mom of one retracing her journey to fame and fortune. With assists from hubby, Adekunle Gold, and last year’s breakout Fave, Simi keeps the sound contained to what has worked before but without any of the dynamism that characterized her magnum opus, Simisola. Still, TBH is a capable 11-track project that highlights Simi’s ear for melodies and her sonorous voice. Read our interview with Simi around TBH here.
WurlD ‘My WorlD With U’
If there is a finer male vocalist working today, I haven’t heard them. WurlD was born to croon the love songs and he knows it. While he dabbled in alté spaces with earlier projects, he has also proven to be capable of playing in the mainstream, making collaborative records with the likes of Sarz and Davido. With My WorlD With U, the velvety-voiced singer appears to be on a search for self and a suitable contemporary sound. Nineteen tracks is a bit much, of course, but when he gets it right as he does on tracks like “Make It Snow” and “Sweet n Fine” he is peerless.
Burna Boy ‘Love, Damini’
The most anticipated record of the year so far, Love, Damini, is the follow up to Burna Boy’s game changing, Grammy-winning Twice as Tall album. Burna Boy, now entering his thirties is reflective of his place in the grander design. Lyrically, Love, Damini is Burna Boy at his most vulnerable. Sonically it is quite a retread of stuff he has done more convincingly elsewhere. Burna can still spin a good yarn but 19 tracks of semi-profound meditation, on heartbreak bops and braggadocio material with some social commentary thrown in can be both over and under whelming at the same time. Read our review of Burna Boy’s Love, Damini here.
Adekunle Gold ‘Catch Me If You Can’
The jury is still out on the effectiveness of Adekunle Gold’s AG Baby experiment but when he appears to be having the time of his life, it is hard to begrudge him this right to reinvention. Catch Me If You Can follows from Afropop Vol. 1 with Gold doubling down on the auto-tune, the locks, the manufactured beats and the pop hits. Catch Me If You Can is certainly hip to what is trending on the radio, clubs and on Tiktok but Gold is also quite restrained, letting the engineers and the production team support his vocals and songwriting heavily.
21-year-old scene stealer Victony executed one of the most victorious comebacks in afrobeats history with the release of Outlaw, his first major body of work since surviving a ghastly motor accident. Victony gives the seven song EP all the attention and precision of an artist putting out their debut album. Outlaw dances on the edge as Victony traces the relationship between sexual release and sorrow and finds a way to link both to organized religion. On anyone else, some of Outlaw’s most memorable lines would be silly, But Victony makes it clear he’s earned the right. Read our review of Victony’s Outlaw here.
Rema ‘Rave & Roses’
Rema’s long-awaited debut is a sprawling feel good affair that serves as a reminder that pop music can be obsessively produced, messy, and yet remain joyously fun. Masterminded by producer London, Rave & Roses has Rema holding his own against impressively detailed beats that feel like they were whipped up particularly for him to flex his vocals. The record spans proper afrobeats, synthpop, dancehall and amapiano. No longer the kid who seduced with the innocent nonsense of “Dumebi,” Rema has a lot of things on his mind, but he is never quite as confident as when he is detailing his debauchery.
Omah Lay ‘Boy Alone’
The breakout star of the pandemic era, Omah Lay delivers his debut LP, a fine collection of sounds that comment significantly on his growing pains as he navigates the fame monster and all the repercussions. Lay doesn’t go it alone though as the record elicits support from producers P.Priime and Niphkeys alongside guest appearances from Justin Bieber and Tay Iwar. The songs on Boy Alone highlight Lay’s impressive penmanship and his moody reflections on loneliness and heartbreak coexist with sexually adventurous lyrics.
L.A.M.B ‘Behold the Lamb’
This joint record is from a supergroup comprising Loose Kaynon, A-Q, M.I. Abaga and Blaqbonez, four of the most influential English-speaking rappers in the game. Each MC brings forward their distinct personalities as well as the camaraderie garnered from years of working together on cyphers and side projects. Perhaps the most commercial project they have recorded as a group, the gentlemen are looser and confident in their skill and individual journeys. Behold the Lamb is not a record that is burdened by the expectations of pleasing the rap purists and as such finds a delicious middle ground where sizzling wordplay can exist alongside jaunty, polished production and pop friendly beats.
Folk/soul icon Aṣa executes a startling mid-career pivot with her fifth studio record V. Nothing to worry about though as V is an instant stunner. Cohesive and impeccably produced, V allows Aṣa to dabble in mainstream afropop. Unable—and unwilling—to do half measures, Aṣa schools the kids on how to make pop music that feels soulful and true to her artistry. V is polished even when Aṣa goes for minimalism and feel-good vibes. Famous for recording her previous albums solo, Aṣa accommodates guest stars (Wizkid, The Cavemen, Amaarae) for the first time in her career to pleasant, addictive results.
Obongjayar ‘Some Nights I Dream of Doors’
Based in the United Kingdom, Obongjayar has lived several lives in one, and in some ways, he is just starting out. From streaming his early work on SoundCloud to working with superstar producer Sarz on a joint EP, he has been a peripheral fixture this past half decade. His incredibly imaginative debut LP is reflective of this diversity of sounds and influences is about to make him a central figure. Rich and intricate with nods to a variety of influences from Lagbaja to Fela, Obongjayar is in raw, pristine form. Some Nights I Dream of Doors is hyper kinetic and self-aware and across its 12 stunning songs, Obongjayar allows himself to be vulnerable, angry, defiant, and perhaps even hopeful. If there is only one album that this list makes you seek out, make it this one.