2018 has been a good year for music. A lot of artists released various, exciting body of works and top singles. Whereas some big name artists continued to make an impression both locally and international in their quest to push their brand, the young emerging acts kept the heat on by releasing some of the best works within the year.
Below are the best 15 albums/mixtapes/EP, we at Culartblog enjoyed listening to within the year. The ranking is in no particular order. (Note: Album selection is based on the ones we truly listened to.)
Quayba – Nkuro: GH To The World
One of the best vocalists from this side of town, Quayba finally released a 6 track EP to showcase her talent in its pure form. ‘Nkuro’ is a collection of childhood memories, faith and hope; soothed by traditional and afropop rhythms; her voice berating across the sounds to perfection. The EP offers a different feel that is missing from most of today’s albums or songs.
E.L – BAR V
To think EL has been consistently releasing his Best African Rapper (BAR) Mixtape for five years sound ridiculous. Over the years, the mixtape has broached different directions. This fifth mixtape doesn’t deviate from the ethos of previous mixtapes. If there’s one remarkable thing EL has done across the years with his BAR mixtapes, it is giving young, talented artists spots on it.
This year, the list included Bryan The Mensah, Akan, FU, Jean Ferier among other young voices. BAR V (or “BVR” for short) didn’t exhilarate as I expected. (”Work” reprised for the third time seem to be people’s favourite). However, the production on the mixtape can’t be faulted, likewise the young talents who made it on the tape.
Nana Benyin – Happy Place
Nana Benyin (formerly Rumor) is one of the very cerebral rappers around who pulled a ‘Dave Chapelle’ in 2012 when many expected him to take a great career leap. Five years down the line, the rapper made a return with a new album and, a new name. And told us how he is in a ”Happy Place“. The lyricism that won him fans years ago is still evident, his knack for thought provoking themes ring across the album. As his entry back into the game, Nana Benyin didn’t disappoint.
Bryan The Mensah- Wildlife
Sophomore albums are mostly a tricky endeavour, especially when your previous album was highly acclaimed. The “sophomore curse”, as it is called, has affected- and ended careers of some artists because they couldn’t surpass or measure up to their previous release. Bryan The Mensah survived the ‘curse’, dropping an excellent body of work that’s “Wildlife”. Features aside, Bryan’s album ticks- beats, lyrics and features. Bryan’s work ethic aside, his music always reflect his philosophy about life and vision for the future. He keeps his eyes on the ball.
BiQo – As We Blossom & Wither
In an era where afropop songs seem to be the path taken by many young artists, especial those who have the desire to breaking out fast, it’s heartwarming to hear an EP from someone young who build a project on jazz and soul influences. BiQo’s 6-track is a fusion between jazz and soul elements with songs heavy on personal tales. ”As We Blossom And Wither’‘ is a testament to BiQo’s bravery and love for sound experimentation.
IFKR – U Hxve Nx Idxv
You certainly have no idea until you press play on this 10 track EP from DJ duo Eff The DJ and DJ K3V. From the opening track which features levixist Akotowaa, who set the EP’s title in context to the closing song are non-stop jams. The project was crafted to mirror the personalities of Eff and K3V: joyous and adventurous. UHNI is afro-EDM/House centred; with guest acts like Odunsi (The Engine), Teephlow and new comers Hama, $pacely, Ayat and Zepora showing off their musical qualities.
A.I. – Headstrong
“Headstrong” is surprisingly the first body of work that sensational act, A.I. has ever put out. (Sounds surprising huh?). With a musical talent that everyone respects and acknowledges, “Headstrong” met expectations, even though many thought he could have stepped it up. Across the 10 songs, A.I entertains, paints scenario and doesn’t hold back talking about pot smoking. It must be stated that, A.I. is one singer who packs too much words in a verse – like a rapper would- yet doesn’t sound exhausting listening to it. Now, we wait for the album, hopefully he won’t keep us waiting for long.
Tulenkey – 1/1
For what was meant to be a snippet of a song to be entered into Mr. Eazi’s #EmPawa initiative became a viral sensation, giving Tulenkey the needed fuel to spark his career. “Proud Fvck Boys” is now an anthem for many. Tulenkey has, prior to ”PFB”, was enjoying relatively good attention of his single “Child Abuse”. The attention off ”PFB” (partly) resulted in the release of his EP, 1/1; an enjoyable project that also showcased the rapping ability of Tulenkey. Tuley is riding the wave like he should. The goodwill from people is strong. It’s up to Tuley to build upon the attention he is receiving for personal or career advancement.
Kxng Joey x Copta x Moor Sound – ICYMI
Moor Sound, with input from Foreign Local masterminded one of the best trap albums I’ve heard this year. The soundscape is sharp and riveting. Whereas Kxng Joey spread his melodic rap verses across songs, Copta bared his rappity rap soul on the album. If there’s one area ICYMI hit high scores, it is with the features. Ankwanda, Magnom and Slim Drumz came along to add a layer of flavour in our ears.
La Meme Gang – Linksters
The Twitter stormed kicked by Nxwrth, resident producer for the music collective, La Meme Gang, was the perfect attention-to-self (or group) strategy. Days after, ”Linksters”, the collective’s second studio album was released. The 20 track album is pegged in two genres – trap and afrobeats. ”Linksters” brim with energy that has become the trademark of La Meme Gang but, the best songs on the album are the mid and low tempo tunes.
Kuvie – Gruvie
‘‘Gruvie” is truly groovy. The music is unskippable from the opening track, ”Groovy” to the last song ‘What U Need’. The beats are infectious, the melodies stick in your head and the features couldn’t have been better. As a producer, one of the qualities you must possess is the ability to judge what artist would fit on a track, which he got right. The assemblage of mostly new school artists – wild, hungry and eccentric acts fit the overall vision of Kuvie for ”Gruvie”- to serve refreshing afropop songs that fit all demographics.
Ebo Taylor – Yen Ara
Numbers, they say don’t lie. For an octogenarian like the legendary Ebo Taylor to continue making music, touring the world and earning 8 Million streams on Spotify is insane. It demonstrate how music fans would gravitate towards a body of work they find incredible. “Yen Ara” is undoubtedly an excellent output. Ebo Taylor laces afrobeat, jazz, highlife sounds into an album that is richly composed, steep in traditional Ghanaian storytelling and of course, didactic in theme. “Heaven” might be considered his most notable album. But, “Yen Ara” is a collage of all his musical ideals.
Ria Boss – ThankGodItsRia
Ria Boss would look at 2018 with a big grin of satisfaction. From being featured on CNN’s “African Voices” to hosting pop-up events and finally releasing a total of 40 songs (yes, 40 songs) across 10- four track EP-(BORNDAY, THECOOKOUT, OPENWOUND, UNDERWATER, SAMPLEPLATE, LUCKYONES, BLOODBATH, LONECAT, WILDWOMAN, LOVEFLUX) -points to her work ethic and tenacity. With Flower Papi as the art director, Ria Boss creatively presented her EPs as chapters of a bigger story about love, womanhood, belief, life. The projects are a guide to self-discovery and living a happy and content life. The breezy, soulful singing of Ria coupled with, sometimes sensually pinned couplets and her focus on women empowerment is what the game needs. In an era where the feminist movement is advocating for equality, Ria Boss encouraging women to ”find your free” is explicably ear-candy.
Mr Eazi – Life’s Eazi- Lagos To London Vol. 2
Way before the album was released, Mr. Eazi had begun work on promoting it. The lead single, “London Town” featuring Giggs and subsequently other songs like ”Property”, ”Keys To The City” that elicited the desired attention. The album is an exciting listen thanks to Mr. Eazi’s catchy melodies, simple lyrics and features that complemented his own deliveries. Whereas the Nigerian side is dominantly afropop, the London side infuses afropop with UK grime without losing its quality.
Maayaa – Chapter Red
Maayaa can sing. That’s not in doubt. And that was in full exhibition on her EP. The reaction to “Ride” was overwhelming. What many didn’t see coming was that, the Worlasi featured song was the lead single off “Chapter Red”, an EP heavily influenced by jazz, blues and soul. Aside her soothing voice, Maayaa’s lucid writing radiates across songs like ”San”, ”Perfect” and ”Ride”. Great things they say come in small doses. Maayaa confirmed this on ‘Chapter Red’.