12 Of The Most Essential Nigerian Artists Of 2018, Ranked

A couple days ago, we highlighted 10 Nigerian lyrics that, through astutely capturing the zeitgeist or informing it, defined 2018 – ranging from Wizkid’s chant-worthy "Bad energy, stay far away" to Burna Boy’s relatable "I can't come and kill myself".

Wizkid in Skepta's "Energy" music video (Photo: YouTube/Skepta)

Now, with the year only a few hours away from ending, we’ve decided to take stock of the Nigerian artists who utterly owned 2018 – either by dropping outstanding projects, releasing definitive singles or soaring as featured acts.

12. Duncan Mighty

Following his standout work alongside Wizkid on Starboy’s "Fake Love", Duncan Mighty rightfully became the most sought-after featured act of the year. Working with everyone from Davido ("AZA") to Tiwa Savage ("Lova Lova"), the highlife legend made a lot of our favourite 2018 songs better.

11. Olamide

It usually takes Olamide a while to score his hit single for the year, but 2018 was different, as he knocked it out of the park on his first go with "Science Student". He thankfully didn’t settle for just that banger, dropping a bunch of other gems throughout the year, including "Kana" and "Motigbana".

10. Odunsi The Engine

For many, Odunsi is the poster boy for Nigeria’s alternative music scene, and while that might seem like an impossible amount of pressure for anyone to bear, the gifted producer-singer proved up to the task with his game-changing debut album, rare., which remains a 2018 highlight.

9. M.I

2018 was a great year for rap music in Nigeria, and M.I was a massive reason why. Not only did he drop two fantastic rap projects — the star-studded Rendezvous and the introspective Yxng Dxnzl — he also executive produced two more gems, Blaq Bonez’s Bad Boy Blaq and A-Q & Loose Kaynon’s Crown.

8. Mr Eazi

This was the year Nigerians realised that hating on Mr Eazi for periodically siding with Ghana was futile — his music has just become too good to ignore. From dropping back-to-back hits to releasing his best-ever body of work, Mr Eazi finally lived up to all the promise he showed when he first broke out.

7. Kizz Daniel

Following his phenomenal debut album, New Era, Kizz Daniel struck gold yet again with his 2018 sophomore project, the aptly titled No Bad Songz. That unimpeachable body of work, paired with a solid string of features, makes him one of the year’s most undeniable stars.

6. Davido

Save for the LP we never got, Davido still remained very much in the conversation by dropping some fire singles, nabbing a few high-profile international collabs and leading the charge on two DMW bangers. He might not have risen to the heights he achieved in 2017, but the afropop star didn’t slack.

5. Tiwa Savage

Following a stellar 2017 run — which saw her drop her best-ever body of work —Tiwa Savage continued her winning streak with a bunch of impressive videos and singles. It comes as no surprise that she then went on to win 'Best African Act' at the 2018 MTV EMAs, becoming the first woman to do so.

4. Mayorkun

Mayorkun’s debut album, Mayor of Lagos was one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, and the DMW star managed to surpass even our highest expectations with a thoroughly self-assured project that proves he is one of afropop’s most intuitive and essential stars.

3. Teni

After deservedly taking home the trophy for 'Rookie of the Year' at the 2018 Headies, Teni proceeded to make a rock-solid case for winning the coveted 'Next Rated' award next year, dropping a slew of impressive singles — from "Askamaya" to "Case" — which showed off her enviable range.

2. Wizkid

Although Wizkid didn’t drop as many official singles as we would have liked, he still managed to utterly dominate 2018 by delivering some of the best guest work of his career — from his unforgettable chorus on Skepta’s "Energy (Stay Far Away)" to his infectious work on Starboy’s "Soco".

1. Burna Boy

No other Nigerian artist had a more revelatory 2018 than Burna Boy. After dropping his magnum opus, Outside — a masterwork which houses the defining song of his career, "Ye" — the afro-fusion star then proceeded to close out his rollercoaster of a year with two killer loosies, "Gbona" and "On The Low".