Top 10 Best Projects from the Nigerian Scene in 2023 So Far

2023 has been quite the year for music so far. Coming off one of the best years of music in recent history on both the local and global scene – and one in which more of the local became the global –  it appeared too much of a wish to expect a continuum of ‘banger’ releases. And this seemed to be the case in the first two months of the year where we witnessed minimal project releases. However, that quickly changed in the proceeding months; as a steady rise in releases culminated in a saturated May – June that would have satiated even the most voracious music consumers.

But like any seasoned ijéwùrù would tell you, “not all meals are equal”. Certain projects released within the first half of the year have been comfortably clear of the rest; especially in the Nigerian music industry. These projects stand out for a variety of reasons; including but not limited to production quality, songwriting, track sequencing, experimentation, and measurable impact (social media and DSP numbers). They represent the best of the best from the +234 so far and as far as we are concerned, possibly the rest of the year, also. Please note that the list below has been arranged in no particular order. Ready? Here we go!

Criteria for Selection:

  • Projects released between January – June 2023
  • Projects released by artists of Nigerian origin or foreign artists with heavy involvement in the Nigerian music industry

Worthy Mentions:

  • Body & Soul – Joeboy
  • I Know You Miss Me – MOJO AF and Ronehi
  • Soundtrack to the Good Life – Ajebutter 22
  • When It Blooms – Nonso Amadi

West African Goat – Paybac Iboro

When it comes to concept albums in Nigerian music,  no one – absolutely no one- does it better than Paybac Iboro; not MI, not AQ, heck, not even Brymo. And if you disagree, you mustn’t have listened to West African Goat, his 13-track LP released in March.

Like on previous solo LPs, The Biggest Tree (2018), and Cult! (2020), WAG was threaded together by a singular concept; in this case, the journey of a kid through fire to become the GOAT. The intro, Goat Chop Lion, and Talented featuring longtime collaborator, Barzini, Iboro introduced the naive boastful kid using comedic lyricism. 
Paybac then dived into the fire on a 6-track run that blazes through much of the Nigerian experience in explicit, sometimes painful detail. There’s the resilience forged from Lagos living (Sacrifice), corruption and the resulting cycle it creates (Land of the Tiff, Monkey See, Monkey Do), cultism (Look Me Less), and Brother Bartho which is just… Brother Bartho. Paybac shines the brightest on The Story of Hushpuppi, where he raps from the  POV of the infamous Nigerian scammer, Raymond ‘Hushpuppi’ Abass, and Ekere’s Song, a heartwrenching tale of his sister’s death and how he coped. It’s Kendrick Lamar’s Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst but shorter and with all of the pain. At this point, we discover that Iboro has been the kid along, as he soliloquizes on Danfo to Headies, before assuming his GOAT status on Bury Me For Gold, Oloun, and Spirit; all three featuring some of Nigeria’s best spitters in Alpha Ojini, Ozone, Payper Corleone, and Pizzo Da LP.

Eriomala John

Yusful Music – YKB

YKB, formerly known as Yusuf Kanbai, was introduced to the Nigerian airwaves in 2020 through Laycon’s Who is Laycon EP. The fast-rising artiste is quickly gathering his own fan base with his skillful blend of Yoruba and English to birth clever, cute, and catchy lines.

Finito-produced lead single, San Siro, gave him the much-needed confidence to roll out his 5-Track Sophomore Extended Play, and as of now has amassed over a million plays on streaming platforms (his highest streaming song). The EP opens with Pressure, a track that gives listeners an insight into his personal as he laments about not having enough money to come through for his mother and shoulder the responsibilities he is expected to. The next three tracks Bo Card (Things I Need), San Siro, and Komplete Riddim, were tender, sweet, romantic, and funny as he confesses his love to his love interest. An example is on San Siro – ‘the amount of love wey I get, e fit to fill up eleven baskets, e fit to fill up San Siro…’

The closing track of the listening experience is probably my favorite. Titled Traffic, the track perfectly embodies the artistry of YKB, as he beautifully weaves Afropop melodies with smooth threads of indigenous Yoruba, Pidgin, and English. An example is when he said ‘ e te tí lè kegbómi, make e no be like dichotomy, one kele ò lè tómi…’ 

Yusful Music shows how much YKB has grown as an artist in just two years. He and his management have fine-tuned his sound and he is now able to deliver more poised and refined music that appeals to the current soundscape of the industry.

Olokungbemi Gerald

Work of Art – Asake

The best career boost for an Afrobeats artist is to release an ‘all-time’ debut LP project; one that cements your name in the Afrobeat’s project hall of fame like Wande Coal’s Mushin to Mohits, Wizkid’s Superstar and Fireboy’s Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. While it’s a big plus to one’s career, the part often less discussed is the pressure to make the sophomore project even better. Ahmed Ololade, popularly known as Asake, released his second LP project, Work Of Art, 9 months after the famous Mr. Money With the Vibe. Prior to the release, people were speculating about the kind of songs to expect because he has been labeled an artist that tweaks the same beat from the same producer.

A few lead singles from the album like 2:30 and Amapiano established the fact that people still enjoyed his sound and, in fact, conversations on the new album never faded from the internet till its release on June 15, 2023. WOA is a 14-track album filled with melodious tunes that cut across love, fame, self-appraisal, and reassurance. Asake seemed to raise the bar as many music lovers agree that it just might be better than MMWTV. The early favorite tracks were Basquiat, Awodi, and Sunshine before Lonely At The Top and I Believe found their way to the list after several TikTok videos from people that urged guys to check them out. Seeing how captivating his sound is, I don’t think we will ever get enough of beautiful music with a blend of choral harmonies, Afro-fusion, and indigenous lamba.

Peter Adeyemo

Crybully- Maison2500

Writing on art is a fool’s errand, but fooling is my passion. Meet the Crybully, a hideous hybrid of victim and victor. On this album, Maison2500 transports us to the mountains of Siberia with delicate synths and psychedelic vocals straight away on the opening track, Bizarre. What follows truly is nothing short of bizarre, with Maison rapping about the holy trinity of drugs, oral sex, and swag-biters on Slop Top Gurk. The sleek Vint Vice production continues on the tracks that follow, effortlessly combining hard-hitting drums with Crystal Castles synths. He and Maison make a great combo, Kobe and Shaq in tandem, storming through their opps, leaving no foe untouched.

With Maison, you can’t separate the music from the imagery, the songs truly feel like swirls of colours. On this tape, it’s an icy blue: the music is so hostile and yet alluring. Anyone up for a swim in the Arctic? “Try to treat me like the bad guy, only gone make me do worse. I’m the worst.”, Maison raps on Crenshaw X, lending further credence to his image as a Crybully, one who harasses others while still playing the victim. Talk 2 Me feels like an emotional crescendo of sorts. The chords are sombre and reflective, but you listen to the lyrics and Maison is just as hideous as ever. They turn up the braggadocio and sign out in style, firmly imprinting on the listener the beauty in that which is ugly.

Simeon Okojie


It takes a special kind of genius to declare “Give me devotion properly, I don’t need no secret love” on the first few lines of an EP and then just a verse later reveal that the person being spoken to isn’t even your partner yet, but another man’s girl. But that’s exactly the sort of evil genius, Lojay is. 

On GANGSTER ROMANTIC, Lojay, born Lekan Osifeso Junior, explored themes of love, millennial romance, and heartbreak. The 7-track EP kicked off with YAHWEH, Lojay’s vocals – both in the foreground and background- complementing Moon Willis’ soulful production. It then proceeded to LEADER, the lead single for the project, which like subsequent tracks, CANADA (featuring Amapiano fore-runners, Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa, and Herc Cut The Lights) and AVAILABU, another Amapiano banger, hides the complex character traits of his love interests within melodious choruses and incredible one-liners.

On the other three tracks, lover boy Lojay wields exquisite songwriting for three different scenarios; a toxic relationship with a girl who eventually leaves him (MOTO), a search for closure (IYD), and on the outro, OVA, the final moments of a dying relationship. On OVA, Lojay goes through the final stages of grief as he sings  “Now all my feelings you hang on the ceiling, I should have cheated on you”.GANGSTER ROMANTIC is simple yet relatable writing enhanced by production (shoutout to P.Prime for those bagpipes on OVA) that fits Lojay just fine. It’s also one of the most cohesive attempts at a description of modern love, that we’ve seen in recent years.

Eriomala John

Legend or No Legend – Wande Coal

After an eight-year hiatus, Wande Ojosipe finally released his 13-track 3rd studio album. Anyone not conversant with the Twitter NG music space would probably not understand the reason for such a title. In an interview with Dada Boy Ehiz, he revealed that the reason for the title of the album was because of the ongoing conversations on Twitter at the time questioning his ‘legend’ status in the game just before the release of the album. 

Wande’s debut album, Mushin to Mo’hits, one of the greatest and most influential albums to ever come out of Nigeria, imprinted Wande’s extraordinary talent in the minds of Hip-Hop lovers. He effortlessly molded melodies with his unquestionable vocal ability. On Legend or No Legend, The Black Diamond set the tone with a slow-paced blend of Hispanic elements and Afrobeat on Nobody Holy. His versatility came to the fore on Dues where he delivered Trap flawlessly on what was definitely one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album.

The most anticipated song on the album was without a doubt Streets, where listeners finally got to experience what it was like to have Wande Coal and T Pain on a track. They both floated on a largely stringed masterpiece from Kel P. Ebelebe with Wizkid, however, was quite bland.Asides Kpe Paso featuring Olamide, which was one of the lead singles, the remaining tracks were more pedestrian. All through the album, Wande Coal didn’t expressly address his ‘legend’ status in the industry, he rather focused on delivering unbothered masterful cadences. While the album has many good moments, top-notch production, and Wande’s celestial ability, it reminded fans of his overly relaxed approach to music and while this might have worked 14 years ago, music lovers in this current soundscape want more.

Olokungbemi Gerald

Timeless – Davido

Afrobeats in 2023 cannot be discussed without Timeless coming into the conversations. Since he released Stand Strong in May 2022, Davido took a break from music but constantly reassured his fans that a new album was on the way. Between May 2022 and March 2023, he featured on Ckay’s Watawi, Joey’s My Love, a World Cup soundtrack, and a few other songs. The tracklist for Timeless came out on the 29th of March and it sparked conversations and comparisons with his last album, A Better Time, where he featured a lot of A-list musicians on it but it still did not match expectations.

As promised, on the last day of March, Davido dropped Timeless, a 17-track album with guest features from Angelique Kidjo, Cavemen, Asake, Skepta, and two new DMW signees. The intro, Over Dem, is a track where the veteran artiste resounds his resilience even amidst adversaries. Each record, from track 2 onward, exudes artistic brilliance and further cements his legacy in Afropop. He has people screaming their lungs out to beautiful records like Unavailable ft. Musa Keys, Kante ft. Fave, Na Money ft. Cavemen and Angelique Kidjo whenever they come on in concerts. Timeless is truly a TIMELESS record!

Peter Adeyemo

Memory Card- Seyi Vibez

So tinbá gba Grammy. There’s still a lot to achieve”. Let’s set the tone, ladies and gentlemen, Seyi Vibez is the second coming of Christ. I didn’t listen to Seyi for a while after he broke out ‘cause trying new music is just that exhausting. But the more Nigerians slandered him on Twitter, the more I wanted to check him out because you see, Nigerians are very untrustworthy people, and are often wrong. And boy, were they wrong.

I first heard Para Boi in Boluid, as I went to eat my daily rice and spag. The sound filtered to my ears like the call of the muezzin and I went weak in the knees. What is this sorcery? My hands were still trembling as I pulled out my phone to Shazam the track. That night, I brought out my Oraimo FreePods 4 which I only reserve for special occasions. I can’t listen to this on cheap Tecnos. Memory Card was a sonic experience. I mean, I don’t even understand Yoruba, but I just knew it was some real sh*t. Rent was due, the landlord was banging on his door. Na so Anita buzz am say she don get belle. Mama still dey bill am from village, things don too cost. Worst of all, Bayer Leverkusen cut his ticket.

Simeon Okojie

Fountain Baby – Amaarae

What if the best album of 2023 in the Nigerian music scene isn’t by a Nigerian? Sure, the year hasn’t ended yet but what if we already have a winner? That’s a question Amaarae’s sophomore album, Fountain Baby might have already answered in exactly 39 minutes and 40 seconds. 

To begin with, the overall quality of production on the LP was nigh-heavenly. From the violins and harps on the album opener, All My Love (which in typical Amaarae fashion was a pure instrumental) to the bongo/pop fusion on Co-Star, and vocal manipulations on tracks like Disguise and Sex, Violence, Suicide, the entire album sounded exotic (Lord knows how much was paid for that sample at the beginning of Wasted Eyes). There was also a fair deal of genre-bending and experimentations that didn’t feel forced such as on Sociopathic Dance Queen (80s pop) and Come Home To God, which sounded straight out of Edgar Wright’s 2010 classic, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World,

Speaking on experimentation, Sex, Violence, Suicide, is so good it deserves a paragraph of its own. To envision it properly, think of Mac Miller’s Self Care or Queen’s Bohemian Rapsody. It begins as a soft re-assurance seeking ballad but by the 2:32 mark, her character loses it and the record switches to high-octane rock; paired with hysterical lyrics like “I’m running around and breaking sh*t if I don’t get my way”. Combine all of this with her songwriting (Big Steppa, Reckless & Sweet) and overall vocal performance, and you’ll get just why this could be AOTY.  Ring the Grammy bells, people.

Eriomala John

Gbagada Express Vol 2: Moving Mad – Boj

On the 2nd of June, British-Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer Mobolaji Odojukan, better known as BOJ dropped Volume 2 of his 3rd solo LP, Gbagada Express. The album consists of nine beautiful tracks and features stars like Tay Iwar, Mellissa, Knucks, Odumodu Blvck, TSB, Ayra Starr. 

Over the years, the Alte pioneer has morphed from an up-and-coming artiste to one who has secured his status by consistently spawning and delivering cool, beautiful music. Once again, he didn’t disappoint as the album showcases his exceptional artistry, from introspective lyrics to infectious beats, BOJ captivates listeners with his unmistakable vocals and soulful delivery. 

His versatility is on full display as he shifts from the classic jovial and naughty BOJ on the first three tracks; Foreigner, Woodwork, and Brand New to a proud boyfriend in 2 Bad – a song dedicated to his girlfriend – and another love song in Line of Fire featuring Ayra Starr, who did her thing as usual. You know how features with Tay Iwar can never go wrong? The cleansheet continued as BOJ teamed up with Tay and British rapper Knucks to make the breezy Soak Garri. Odumodublvck brought his characteristic energy on No Option as BOJ talked himself up, Olamide was also on the track, his reversed vocals fading out as the track drew to a close. The synergy between BOJ and his collaborators added an extra layer of depth to the album.Way Up, the outro was an especially soulful track, as he documents his come-up to fame and how he wants to make money so he can ‘upgrade’ his mom’s life because she has been a pillar to him.

Olokungbemi Gerald

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