10 hottest Nigerian rappers of 2021: Wizkid, Davido, Omah Lay and more

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More importantly, strategy is now beginning to help Nigerian artists make inroads into the foreign market.


Customarily, #PulsePicks is our year-end medium to celebrate excellence across different aspects of Nigeria. The fourth installment on the music segment #PulsePicks follows this criteria;


  1. Commercial success

  2. Impact within desired demographic

  3. Body of work as an added advantage.

  4. Year in review: Works must be released between November 30, 2020 and November 30, 2021.

  5. We only judge the impact and success of releases in/within Nigeria alone.


Singles: ‘KPK,’ ‘Feel Good,’



While Mohbad basically only released two smash hits as singles during the year in review, and the junit of Naira Marley’s ‘Coming and ‘Koleyewon’ might be bigger than the unit of ‘KPK’ and ‘Feel Good,’ ‘KPK’ is the biggest of all four tracks. Mohbad also released Light EP, an actual rap project, filled with rhythm and poetry.


As for LadiPoe, his EP was good, but it didn’t have album cuts like ‘Sorry,’ a sleeper hit like the street anthem ‘Omokomo’ or a hit like the street anthem, ‘Ponmo.’


Singles: ‘Tonongo’ and ‘Monalisa’



First off, his EP is one of the top bodies of work this year. Secondly, Monalisa is the song of the year to many. The songs on his EP were not just properly received, it’s been Nigeria’s surprise package of 2021.


Singles: ‘Away,’ ‘DTR,’ ‘Bloody Samaritan’



Ayra Starr might be a one-year old in the Nigerian music industry, but she has produced at a beautiful level over the past 10 months. She has released two impressive bodies of work and backed them with singles like ‘Away,’ ‘DTR’ and ‘Bloody Samaritan.’


Despite the success of ‘Bloody Samaritan,’ many will still feel like ‘Fashion Killa’ and ‘Beggie Beggie’ would have been better singles and rightly so.


Moreover, ‘19 and Dangerous’ is Pulse Nigeria’s album of the year.


Singles: ‘Show Me,’ ‘Door,’ ‘Alcohol’


Let’s be honest, Joeboy’s album might have performed amazingly well on digital platforms, but it wasn’t a groundbreaker offline. Nonetheless, the album was successful enough to warrant some respect and acclaim. Songs from it might have been the biggest hits of the year, but they also did well.


When it’s all said and done, ‘Alcohol’ also has a genuine claim to song of the year conversations.


Singles: ‘One Shirt,’ ‘Ruger,’ ‘Bounce,’ ‘Dior’



For many, Ruger’s performance would have sailed under the radar this year. However, when you break the units down to parts, you would realize that he’s had quite the amazing year. While ‘One Shirt’ didn’t really do much and ‘Ruger’ had mixed reception from the larger market, ‘Abu Dhabi’ and ‘Bounce’ were major successes from ‘Pandemic EP.’


His sophomore project has also produced ‘Dior.’ For some, ‘Bounce’ is the song of the year.


Singles: ‘It Is What It Is,’ ‘Sinner,’ ‘High’



While Adekunle Gold’s success all year might not be as pronounced, his first two singles of the year have found their way into the hearts and minds of many – especially ‘Sinner.’


Then ‘High’ has just taken the country by storm. The success of his singles at different points of the year land him on this list.


Singles: ‘Jowo,’ ‘The Best,’ ‘La La’ featuring Ckay, ‘Ke Star (Remix),’ ‘High’ by Adekunle Gold and ‘Champion Sound’



Davido’s success this year has also sailed under the radar. While A Better Time was released last year – just 17 days outside the year in review – its success really took place during the year in review. Songs like ‘Jowo,’ ‘The Best’ and ‘La La’ did not have sustained success, but at the time those songs got music videos, they did have an impact on the mainstream.


More importantly, Davido had monster features with ‘Ke Star (Remix)’ and ‘High.’ The African success of ‘Ke Star’ was due to Davido’s co-sign – simple.


Singles: ‘Ginger,’ ‘Essence’



Wizkid Made In Lagos on October 30, 2021, just one month before the year in review. But its impact really did start in January 2021. While the buzz of ‘Ginger’ was short lived and not exactly groundbreaking, it did something for its time. Equally, ‘Essence’ might not be as big a Nigerian hit as ‘Bounce,’ ‘Monalisa’ or ‘High,’ but it was still big enough to do things.


More importantly, imagine what could have happened if Wizkid had been diligent enough to shoot videos for ‘Anoti’ and ‘Mood’? Those songs would have gone nuclear. Without videos, they are still mega records – especially ‘Mood.’


Album: Sorry For The Wait


Singles: ‘Outside,’ ‘Testimony,’ ‘Feeling,’ ‘Cold Outside,’ ‘Confident,’ ‘Alubarika,’ ‘Never Stopped’




Purely on the strength of his comeback story and the virality of his success in 2021, Buju is Nigeria’s MVP of 2021 – well, just behind the overused Amapiano log drums. Just look at the success of Buju’s features. Just look at it…


Singles: ‘Godly,’ ‘Pronto,’ ‘Forever’ with Gyakie, ‘Understand,’



Omah Lay released his sophomore EP, What Have We Done just 11 days outside the year in review. This means that the success of that EP and especially its lead single, ‘Godly’ came during the year in review. Three singles from that era, which became some of the biggest songs of 2021 are ‘Godly,’ ‘Highway’ and ‘KPK.’


He then featured on Ajebo Hustlers’ ‘Pronto,’ while he was the major propellant, for the crossover success of Gyakie’s ‘Forever.’ While his latest single looks like an overall horrible idea, ‘Understand’ is one of the big songs of 2021.

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