Top 8 Nigerian Artists of The Decade

This was first published months ago on two Nigerian news platforms.

This time last year, Uyo Meyo was climbing up the rubble that is the Nigerian mainstream music industry to become Teni’s second major hit single. It ended up joining the ranks of 9ice’s Congo Aso and Mish’s Akwa Ibom Ayaya, to become a genre-crossing and custom-defying nationwide smash hit. This was just a few months after her first ever hit single filtered into the musicscape. Today, one year after, her bold new effort “Billionaire” carries the ‘hit’ status boldly on its shoulder and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The latter bit of that sentence is the defining characteristic of the artists that have dominated this decade in the music industry.

These artists have influenced music lovers and outsiders alike and also spawned better artists to burn the torch alongside them. They have dictated what Nigerian music is to us and the rest of the world. Some became national flagbearers and ambassadors. Some only had intermittent notable appearances in the scene within the decade. Some are nowhere to be found as we step into a new decade but what matters, most importantly, is their body of work’s influence and impact on the industry, the nation and parts of the world that is still palpably present.

He/She doesn’t necessarily have to be the artist with the biggest hits; numerous local and international features; calm, cool, clean and doesn’t roll with the zanku boys; your favorite artist. If 2010 – 2019 was one year, who were the most resilient soldiers of music worthy of receiving medals of honour?

• TuFace Idibia

Innocent Idibia, a.k.a. TuFace, now officially 2Baba, is one of the few individuals in the world to attain legend status and become a role model to half of the country’s artists before he was 40. Carrying over his streak from the previous decade, 2Baba stumped his giant foot of songs-too-deep-to-touch and lyrics-too-original-to-swallow on the 2010s. Being the classic hitmaker of mainstream Nigeria pop music, 2baba entered this decade as the old man who should let the new kids define the stratosphere. But the ease at which he blend… he didn’t even blend in, he became what the decade wanted. That ended up being an astounding feat for a man who appeared to have his greatest feats behind him. He started the decade with the evergreen “Only Me” and the club-banging “Implication”; then proceeded with effortless Afro-ballads with “Rainbow” and “Raindrops.” In the last few years, songs like Gaga Shuffle and Amaka became undeniable hits amidst the new frenzy of party-scattering and instructional dance accompanied releases. For two decades, 2Baba has made the Nigerian Music Industry revolve around him: not in the science project type of way, but the children playing, singing and dancing in circles type – with him being the most precious son of the land in the middle.

• P Square

Before you protest, try to play the beat of Psquare’s 2009 song “Danger” in your head. Remember the synths? That frog bass baseline? Then mutter the chorus to yourself: “Omo see danger, danger, wahala dey.” That’s the sound of the boyz who created their own genre out of uplifting Igbo melody and uncountable foreign samplings. And just like 2Baba, that was the song, alongside its same-titled album that closed out the 00s for them after a well-deserved domination and led them into a highly successful journey that ended after the split in 2017. Psquare torched the world with their roaring fire and it takes only one look at the energy of the crowd in any of their tour locations in Africa or far Europe to be proud. They pioneered successful foreign collabos. It was something that was strangely refreshing as they remixed already established critical and commercial hits like Chop My Money and Beautiful Onyinye, both 2012, with foreign acts to produce different but equally stunning and chart topping hit songs. The influence of Personally (2013), Ejeajo ft. T.I.(2014), and Bring It On (2015) outpours into another decade and they will forever be missed.


In Nigeria, any music different from the norm or that can’t have the “Afro-” prefix is an alternative song. Asa, Nigerian-French artist wasn’t alternative, she simply just stood out. Her sound was like a foreign object that it was a surprise Be My Man (2010) received critical acclaim and acceptance in Nigeria. Despite the rowdiness, as it appears, Nigerians have the ear to recognize a daughter of the land that has somehow transformed the works of our greats like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade into earthy, well-grounded music that reeks of indelibility. Allmusic summated her sound as warm, reflective, delicate, philosophical and romantic. She’s our Adele but deeper and terrifically nuanced.


You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it. When Holla at your boy (2010) dropped, we all knew that fine kid who couldn’t really pronounce ‘s’ and stood as the poster boy for Banky’s EME label was the future. We knew it. Immediately. The genius which was Holla At Your Boy was only replicated once – his debut album, Superstar (2011) which is hands down the best debut this decade saw. Before he knew Drake and Beyonce, he infected the airwaves with Tease me, Don’t dull, Love my baby, Pakurumo, Oluwaloni. Today, he has helped Drake get his first No. 1 song on the Biillboard Hot 100 with One Dance (2016) and become the face of Nigerian music to the rest of the world. We thought this was a Justin Bieber situation, then it became a Chris Brown situation with him being the ultimate voice for collabs (Iyanya’s Sexy Mama, Kcee’s Pullover) and it suddenly became a Starboy situation.


Davido’s debut was funny. His first hit song Damiduro, which was his only recognizable song at the time, faced-off against Wizkid’s entire Superstar library in 2011. Not many will agree with this but that rivalry, even if it was never publicly acknowledged, contributed immensely to making this singer who could be called “the son of the decade.” Damiduro came out of nowhere and it was everywhere. He was too loud to be denied. His lyrics were criticized. His money-flaunting habit was laughed at (apparently, he was rich before music so his passion didn’t come across as genuine) but his persistence and consistence, which is still ongoing today, is very unsettling. Every Davido song has a hit vibe and that, sometimes, appears pushy but look, he’s number one or two in every list. His sound changed from “Hey, look at me, I can sing. I can sing!!!” to ‘interested hitmaker’ with Gbagbe Oshi in 2016 and between 2017 and 2018, If, Fall and Assurance made their marks as sure songs of the decade. Don’t forget his groovy Aye (2013), head-bopping Gobe and ambitious Skelewu. David Adeleke won’t be forgotten.


First of all, Melo Melo la fe so nipa ti Olamide? Eniduro, 2010, had never been tried before in Nigeria and even Africa. Fast-paced lyrical yoruba rap with an accompanying video that has the most number of outfit changes ever. But that’s just by the way. Let your mind dwell on the impact of Durosoke, Yemi my lover, Ilefo Illuminati, Turn Up, Bobo. Let your heart beat together with Eleda mi o. Then consider how many of today’s rappers sprang up after his bold efforts to rebrand rap as we know it. Olamide became the symbol of lordship in rap that M.I. couldn’t to young rappers. Today, he uses his YBNL label to groom the next set of hitmakers for a year, every year. Pacesetter. Impact maker. He is the Baddest Guy Ever Liveth.

• Tope Alabi

Gospel in Nigeria, like in most parts of the world, is not considered mainstream. Tope Alabi’s sound doesn’t care. The number one Queen of Soundtracks in the world has found her way into every ear in the nation. She’s the boundary-crossing hitmaker of Naija. She’s in your memes, in your gifs, in your movies (over 350 soundtrack credits). She’s in your head right now. Her sound is nerve-calming. Secular people find themselves mouthing it; even non-Yoruba speaking listeners sing along to “Logan ti o de.” She captivated the nation throughout the decade with her music that leaves you choiceless to be enthralled and these days, she’s an internet sensation. The 49-year-old star isn’t even taking pauses.

Tiwa Savage

Her crown as Queen of Nigerian music is always up for discussion on Twitter. But it’s her crown as talented, high-spirited carefree angel that matters. Keys to the Kingdom is arguably the best song (okay, top 3) on Beyonce’s Lion King Album (2019), where she puts all her best skills — Afro, Pop and RnB maestro and Nigerianness – to use and still wraps up with a bag full of tricks. Her debut album Once upon a Time is a fruit of the decade. And while Kele Kele and Love Me is a far cry from the diva that is Tiwa Savage today, they reflected the traits that has kept her head above other females in the industry – lighthearted vulnerability plus charisma and confidence.

Honourable Mentions: Burna Boy, M.I., Brymo, Tekno, Dbanj, 9ice, Omowumi and Flavour.

Okiki Adeduyite

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