Top 10 Nigerian albums of 2021: Ayra Starr, Lojay, Tiwa Savage and more


While it was tough to rank certain EPs ahead of full length albums, some EPs made powerful cases for inclusion. In 2020, all the big six Nigerian artists released full-length albums, and it inspired full-length album releases from all angles. This year, album releases have been sparse. We’ve seen more EPs.

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

  1. Critical acclaim

  2. Commercial success (as an added advantage)

  3. Impact within desired demographic.

  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: ‘Julie,’ ‘Rock’

Olamide released two albums within eight months of each other. Carpe Diem was such a mega success, that ‘UY Scuti’ created a buzz with its announcement. It’s Olamide’s most cohesive album, and it produced two singles. The album was on a midtempo energy, with experimental Caribbean sounds in Dancehall, R&B and Bashment.

Singles: ‘Breathe’ featuring Chike

In terms of purity and execution, this is the best Nigerian album of 2021. It even produced a slightly commercial record in ‘Breathe’ featuring Chike. God’s Engineering might be AQ’s best album, but GOLDEN is his best. The album dealt with social issues, death, success and struggles with clarity, purpose and occasional necessary gusto.

8.) Tiwa Savage – Water and Gaari EP

Singles: ‘Somebody’s Son’ and ‘Tales By Moonlight’

Tiwa Savage’s Celia wasn’t exactly a great project. It was driven by an excessive need for commercialism, and it fell on its face. But ‘Water and Gaari’ was everything that ‘Celia’ wasn’t or could have been. It witnessed the earliest forays of Savage into her graceful years. She discussed love with incredible immersive vulnerability, and desire.

‘Somebody’s Son’ then became an anthem for women.

7.) Blaqbonez – Sex > Love

Singles: ‘Bling,’ ‘Okwaraji,’ ‘Fendi’

To most people, this would just be an expression of the dangerous topic of sex, but it’s deeper. Blaqbonez uses sex as an umbrella expression of love, sheltered insecurities and his newfound high-calibre success.

Aside from sticking to a central theme, the album also had marked commercial success with ‘Bling’ and ‘Okwaraji.’

Singles: ‘Lakiriboto,’ ‘Melo’

This is possibly Nigeria’s most underrated project this year. From sound engineering, to technique and vocal dexterity, Liya outdid herself on her debut body of work. While her lyrics might not have been the greatest, Liya produced an immersive sonic experience. With the right promo, this EP could have outlasted itself.

Shout-out to Zaki Amujei, K-Dream and Alpha Ojini for their work on this EP. ‘Alari EP’ might just be the best engineered Nigerian project this year.

CKay had a year that most people can only dream of, but it all started with this impressive EP. These days, CKay is creating his own brand of Afro-pop, even though Emo-Afrobeat is a bit of an incongruous genre tag. His music is unique, eclectic and psychedelic. His vocal experimentations and tendency to find a choral pocket and stick to it, elevates his artform.

4.) Ajebo Hustlers – Kpos Lifestyle

Singles: ‘Pronto,’ ‘Sophisticated Iyawo,’ ‘Barawo,’ ‘Symbiosis,’ ‘Yafun Yafun’

After Liya’s ‘Alari,’ Kpos Lifestyle Vol. 1 is the second most slept-on Nigerian album of 2021. Across 10 tracks, Piego and Knowledge produced a blend of Hip-Hop and Afro-pop aboard seductive production, backed by relatable socio-political chatter. They are a new age version of prospective Nigerian rap and Ajegunle music. 10 tracks, no skips.

In Pulse’s review, this writer wrote that, “Superstars are also impeccable at make-believe. Jonzing/Sony impeccably chose ‘renegade brand’ for Ruger, complete with the pirate-esque eye-patch, now they must find better singles. They have proved that Ruger is a top talent, a hit single must now back it up.”

That hit single turned out to be ‘Bounce,’ which to many is the song of the year. But then, other songs like ‘Abu Dhabi,’ ‘Yekpa’ and more.

2.) Lojay and Sarz – LV N ATTN

Singles: ‘Tonongo,’ ‘Monalisa’

Across five tracks, Lojay adorns the female body like a temple and savours every sexual experience with delicately crafted lyrics, albeit with a lot of profanity. He might sing about ass cheeks, panties, coca bodies and park inside backs, but around each of those moments is a moment that preaches love.

1.) Ayra Starr – 19 and Dangerous

Singles: ‘Bloody Samaritan’

While the album reveals some of Ayra Starr’s evolutionary shortcomings, it was Nigeria’s best full length body of work this year. The weirdest part: ‘Bloody Samaritan,’ it’s biggest song, is its least great song.

Coming off her debut EP, Starr continued on her path of searing R&B music, propelled by impressive songwriting and impressive production. As a successful and excellent album experience which propelled a career, this is Nigeria’s No. 1 album of 2021.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here