January 20, 2021

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Here are the 10 essential Nigerian artists to watch out for in 2021 [ARTICLE]

6 min read

This year, their list features rising stars like 24KGldn, Alewya, Alaina Castillo, Baby Keem, Odeal, Pa Salieu, Park Hye Jin and more. You can check the full list on NME’s website.

In the same spirit and as inspired by NME, Pulse Nigeria returns with its list of the 10 essential new acts to watch out for in 2021. Please forgive us for getting inspired by NME. It’s so early in the year and inspiration had to come from somewhere. Thank you as you read.

It’s that time of the year again when we get nostalgic and create cliche content that aim to inform, but end up falling flat in the face of reason by December. In these articles, music writers talk they have a crystal ball and cogent knowledge of what will happen. So, we create lists of what to expect and what not to expect.

Sometimes, we are lucky and our predictions come off. But most times, our predictions join Dr. Dre‘s Detox in the land of things that never happened. However, our 2020 list, which you can check on Pulse Nigeria’s website was pretty accurate.

In the spirit of indulgence, please allow this music writer to continue this tradition of cliche content and publish a list of the 10 essential upcoming Nigerian artists to watch out for in 2021.

Honourable Mentions


Sounds like: OFWGKTA with a Brockhampton twist and borrowed pulse from The Internet

For fans of: Wavy The Creator, Brockhampton, Odunsi

Key track: Stew


Sounds like: Mulatto/Fleurie from J-Pop

For fans of: Sal Ly, Deto Black, Shalom Dubas

Key track: Koshi Kuro


Sounds like: Jeremiah Gyang

For fans of: Nosa

Key track: Rayuwata


Sounds like: Naira Marley

For fans of: Naira Marley, Burna Boy

Key track: Aye


Sounds like: Burna Boy, Blackmagic

For fans of: Ajebutter

Key track: Hollup

Bad Boy Timz

Sounds like: Fireboy from Isale-Eko, inspired by Saheed Osupa

For fans of: Crayon, Slimcase, Kizz Daniel

USP: He shares similar vocals with Fuji artists, but his delivery shows that he grew up around a blend of sounds. He has an incredible way with hooks and he’s adaptable to incredible sonic changes.

Why you’re going to love them: His music is usually delivered in Yoruba, English and Pidgin, so there’s something for everybody. He effortlessly blends inner-city Nigerian realities with the posh allure of an Afro-pop star.

Key track: MJ (but e be like ‘Loading’ wan dey surpass o)

Body of Work: Time EP


Sounds like: Qdot, without the Celestial Church effects

For fans of: Bad Boy Timz, Crayon, Qdot

USP: On ‘Of La La‘ earlier in 2020, he sounded like a Fuji artists, intoxicating corrupt politicians with high praise at a Lagos high society party, so they would come and spray money. But by ‘If No Be You,’ he sounded like a retired R&B artist trying his hands at imaginative Afro-pop. See, I don’t even understand again…

Why you’re going to love them: The point is ‘Jamo’ is super-talented and only his village people can prevent his ‘blow up’ phase. He has a unique voice type and he knows and when to flex it. He’s also young, which means he has a pot of influences to draw from. But then, he must work with Mansaa Jabulani more.

Key track: If No Be You

Body of Work: O


Sounds like: Naira Marley with Akamu bars

For fans of: Naira Marley, Small Doctor

USP: In December 2019, Mohbad was one of five artists that Naira Marley unveiled at Marlian Fest. These days, Marlian Music is winning without streets and his 2020 EP, Light was super-impressive. The scary thing is that he shares excessive similarities with his label boss and he follows a similar MO, that needs to reduce.

Why you’re going to love them: He can make music. As proved by ‘Ko Ma Je N Sun’ and ‘Ko Por Ke,‘ his babalawo knows the right concoction to use. It also looks like he has found a formula. Can somebody shout ‘imole!’?

Key track: Ko Por Ke

Body of work: Light EP

Bella Shmurda

Sounds like: If Oritse Femi and Qdot had a lovechild

For fans of: Terry Apala, Oritse Femi

USP: Generally, Shmurda is for everybody. But you see, IJGB kids from particularly wealthy background like forming ‘bad guy’ with his music. His music has evocative and laced with substance, yet it’s so clear that he seldom writes his lyrics down. As a young man, he also learns fast and listens to advise.

Why you’re going to love them: His voice type is cut from the depths of Nigerian folk genres like Ijala, Fuji, Apala and Church Music. His voice is also built like that of a Yoruba praise singer in an Oba’s palace. He also works hard to consistently produce great music.

Key track: Sho Ni CC? You get it now?

Body of Work: High Tension EP


Sounds like: Nobody

For fans of: Psycho YP, Drayko, Kuddi Is Dead

USP: Already, he’s released two impressive bodies of work and shone like a million stars on Odunsi‘s impressive Everything You Heard Is True, but he’s still obscure in Nigeria. He has a unique flow scheme, laced with brazen statements. Nonetheless, with lines like “Feds on my a**,” we hope he doesn’t get rounded up in 2021.

Why you’re going to love them: His music is tailor-made for Gen Z rage and moshpits. His beats also have psychedelic melodies that will grow on any listener. With the right guidance, his time will inevitable come. It’s just a shame that the big four record labels in Africa have little to no interest in our Trap/Drill talent.

Key track: Dirty Fanta Featuring Odunsi

Bodies of work: Turnpike, Maseworld

Deto Black

Sounds like: Saweetie in Eve’s body

For fans of: Mulatto, Saweetie,

USP: She is built for contemporary femcee stereotype, complete with the brazen sexual explicitness that major labels have come to love. She says and does anything, she is tailor-made for one-half of the fourth wave of feminism that believes women should do anything they want to do.

Why you’re going to love them: She can actually rap and wield words together, she just needs to release content with more consistency.

Key track: Body Count [by Odunsi]

Body of work: 0

Ajebo Hustlers

Sounds like: Double Blackmagic/Ajebutter with broken bottle injury scars, that says, ‘Ah bobi!’

For fans of: Burna Boy, Ajebutter, Blackmagic

USP: These boys might be Nigeria’s best kept secret of 2020. Their music is usually resonant with doses of the right melodies and the right amount of allure. Their music is also like a Quentin Tarrantino movie – a slow-burn.

Why you’re going to love them: First off, they are rappers who know how to tell incredible stories with music. They are also very Nigerian with their topical conversations, references and even idiosyncracies.

Key track: Barawo

Body of work: 0

Jaido P

Sounds like: If Stormzy grew up in Agege and measured under 6’0.

For fans of: Olamide

USP: He can rap – like actually rap. But more importantly, he’s adaptable to switching circumstances as the need arises.

Why you’re going to love them: He can make quality music.

Key track: Tesinapot

Body of work: 0


Sounds like: Product of a three-way between Simi, Tiwa Savage and T-Pain

For fans of: Simi, Seyi Shay

USP: She’s gorgeous, sensual and sexy. She also has a fabulous on-camera personality.

Why you’re going to love them: She sounds like she has hits in the locker.

Key track: Melo

Body of work: 0

A new MAVIN artist

Unknown. (Pxhere)

Unknown. (Pxhere)

Sounds like: We don’t know

For fans of: Simi, Seyi Shay

USP: It’s been two years since MAVIN unveiled any artist. History says MAVIN will unveil a new artist this year.

Why you’re going to love them: We don’t know.

Key track: Melo

Body of work: 0

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