When looking back at 2017, we can declare it as a great and memorable year for music. Amazing new artists released their debut album/mixtape/EP as freshmen in the music industry, while veteran artists added to their legendary discography. Artists (and producers) released hit singles which may be regarded as classics as time goes on, and will solidify their place in the industry.
*Disclaimer: the projects listed below are not just afrobeats projects, but are rather a variety of genres from African artists.*
Our criteria for ranking:
- Quality – having high production and songwriting value; having excellence (being of outstanding distinction and/or of extreme merit)
- Impact – strong influence or effect on the people, in Africa and/or Africans in the Diaspora
- Popularity(Numbers) – being admired or supported by many fans, especially in parts of Africa and Africa as a whole along with Africans in the Diaspora in regards to views, streams, sales, concerts etc.
We argued. We offended. We fought. Eventually, we came up with our top 25 projects from African artists in 2017 that we believe you should listen to (if you haven’t already). From the motherland to the diaspora, we support our fellow brothers and sisters as artists and musicians. If your favorite project or artist is not here or is not ranked as high as you would prefer, no vex o abeg. So lets start!
25. DREAMS by DJ Spinall
You know DJ Khaled isn’t the only DJ that makes albums right? DJ Spinall released a cross-genre album featuring some of the biggest names in Nigerian music. He is a big-time hustler and has whatever sound you need: Afrobeats, house with the African flavor, calypso, and more! But just know this album is a party from beginning to end. Your work has not gone unnoticed DJ Spinall, well done!
24. Jinmi of Lagos by Jinmi Abduls
The six-track EP gives a new school highlife-like sound. You will appreciate that the beats/instrumentals on this project are remarkable and uncommon. The 20-year-old artist deserves applause for his EP as he uses melody, traditional influences, and smooth vocals to capture new fans and make a favorite of the year.
23. The African Gentleman by Ric Hassani
Press play and listen to the first song if you haven’t heard it already and thank me later. The single “Gentleman” gave Ric Hassani a lot of well due attention. This album, with its audience being lovers, is centered around love and romance. You’ll appreciate his vocals and acoustic guitar for sure.
22. Magic by BOJ
We all love Boj and what he does on the microphone (I hope you got the joke). Magic is his follow-up project since #BOTM. Boj’s voice is an instrument on its own and makes the beat take a backseat to him. Unlike others, Boj’s music, including this album, is simple in regards to lyrics and concepts.His vocals, however, suffice as not everyone is capable of achieving Boj’s vocal range. This album is indeed magic to the ears.
21. HighStar by Yung6ix
If you haven’t listened to this album, its okay since it was released just last month. Yung6ix’s hunger for success is almost embedded in his voice; you can hear it over his melodies and bars. Versatile flows and confident/boastful rap, all on various beats from a young and energetic rapper, makes a great album. Yung6ix may not be as popular as your favorite artist, but this is quality music.
20. Seasons by Nezi Momodu
The 27-track album is a tour into the world of Nezi Momodu. The authenticity of this hip-hop/rap project is unquestionable as you hear diary-like stories, testimonies, and messages through BARS. She confidently stands strong on her cultivated talent and voice with her “I’ll do it myself” attitude. This album is a place you’ll travel to by pressing play every now and then.
19. Lagos Nawa! (Wobey Sound) by Olamide
As expected, Baddo dropped his yearly album for the streets, the fans, and the world. This album was initially met with a lot of complaints as Olamide cultivates the “Wobey Sound” with more singing and dancing, and fewer bars and raps. However, before you question how this album made this Top 25 of 2017, re-listen to the project and know that the album charted on Billboard for World Albums at #6. “Wo” on this album was also one of the top songs of the year.
18. Timeless by Omawumi
You may not know Omawumi and if you do, her album Timeless is not the Omawumi you are accustomed to. Omawumi has journeyed into afro-jazz and highlife. The album is very introspective; her vocals and range were arguably unrivaled. You may not like the different sound, but you will respect it.
17. Ijele The Traveler by Flavour
This album may not have been given its due credit. Yes, 2017 will be remembered as filled with great music, but this album should not be forgotten. Flavour gives us an album with very high replay quality and unexpectedly he gives us a reggae-like duet song “Iheneme (feat. Chidinma)” and classic slow songs like “Virtuous Woman”, an Igbo-trap-soul-like “Body Calling (feat. Terry Akpala). His core fans and listeners will tell you, Flavour did a job well done.
16. Highest by Sarkodie
Ghana’s very own Sarkodie, gave us an album as he is undoubtedly reigning as Ghana’s King of Rap. Every song gives you a different feel with a variety of features and producers, but the interludes from Suli Breaks help the album flow freely. King Sarkodie gives a very balanced and commercial album saying “I am the best at what I do where I’m from.”
15. 27 by Falz
Despite your opinion of how old he looks, Falz says he is indeed 27. So on his birthday in October, he released 27, his surprise gift to us. We love the different vernacular Falz gives us and, now, we can add French to his arsenal as he injects his album with it. This album is an evidential growth from years of improving his craft. 27 is another gem in 2017 and in Falz’s discography.
14. Thuto by Cassper Nyovest
Thuto is (Arguably) the best hip-hop/rap album out of all of Africa released in 2017. Cassper Nyovest opened himself wide and gave a very soulful album that resonated with so many. Many fans and critics will call Thuto his best album yet. Not convinced? Cassper Nyovest swept the South African Hip Hop Awards with 6 awards and won an AFRIMMA for Best Male Southern Africa all after releasing this album. Give credit to who credit is due. When you think of classic 2017 music you should think of Thuto.
13. The Autobiography by Vic Mensa
Another underrated project. Victor Kwesi Mensah aka Vic Mensa finally released his debut album and, to our rap fans, you know it didn’t disappoint. Bars upon bars upon bars, Vic showcased his writing ability, as well as delivering some of the cleanest singing vocals he’s ever produced on tracks like “Rolling like a stoner” and “Gorgeous”. This album had a cohesive storyline, chronicling his come-up in Chicago and delving into specific personal stories like his infidelity on “Homewrecker” and getting robbed on “Card Cracker”.
12. Sugarcane by Tiwa Savage
An EP hopefully prefacing an album in 2018 is Sugarcane. Tiwa’s voice is amazing and so are the instrumentals. The EP made the excellent choice of keeping features to a minimum, focusing instead on a sexier, fresher Tiwa who is fully in her own lane. This short EP is loved by many. Sometimes less is more. “Ma Lo” was also one of the top songs that came out this year.
11. The War by Odunsi (The Engine) & Nonso Amadi
Another fan favorite project of 2017 was The War. Odunsi (The Engine) & Nonso Amadi came together to give a short but hot EP of 4 songs all about love. Great vocals. Great production. Hot instrumentals. A combination of R&B and Soul over synth sounds with African vibes. There’s nothing to hate on this project, except how short it is.
10. The Chief by Jidenna
After “Classic Man” blew up, we all left wondering, where’s the album? A year later, in February of this year, he did not disappoint. The Chief, as an album, had skits by Chief Obi, interludes, hit songs, telling his story as a Nigerian growing up in his homeland and in the diaspora. Songs like “Bully of the earth”, “Helicopters”, “Chief don’t run” are prime examples of Jidenna’s lyrical prowess. “Bambi” was one of the better songs on his album and even had a star-studded cast on the remix with his Igbo brother Quavochukwu, Sarkodie, and Maleek Berry
9. Sounds From The Other Side by Wizkid
The album to open the door of the Western market and the rest of the world for Wizkid is a favorite for the year. We all love what Wizkid represents and with this album Wizkid’s versatility is unquestioned. Although Afrobeats was not the stamp of this album, reggaeton vibes and dancehall are no issue for Wizkid. Whether you did or did not like this album, Wizkid did not downplay his African heritage and Yoruba language throughout the project. The album’s controversy was brief as the world enjoyed seeing Wizkid on the global stage. Wizkid leads the way in best international collaborations with this album.
8. Leap of Faith by Juls
If 2017 was the year of afrobeats quickening ascension towards global “mainstream” recognition, Juls’ Leap of Faith should be viewed as a marker of that present progress and future possibility. The British-Ghanaian producer/DJ uses his debut to deliver music that pulls together various sounds from throughout the diaspora, with assistance from some of the most exciting up and coming acts out. All of this comes together to create something that would sound as fitting as the soundtrack to a chill House party in Lagos as it would at a kickback in LA or Brixton.
7. What Happens In Lagos by Ajebutter22
They say sophomore albums are usually worse than an artist’s first album. This is not true for Ajebutter22. Ajebutter22’s second album, What Happens in Lagos is his portrait of modern Lagos, the good, the bad, the ugly, and of course the truth. The truth will never go out of style. Ajebutter22 presents the truth in catchy hooks and heartfelt raps and melodies. Somewhat of a part by part story, What Happens in Lagos is arguably the most conscious album out of Nigeria’s mainstream market.
6. Palmwine Music by ShowDemCamp (SDC)
“Have you heard the album Palmwine Music?” is the question I’ve heard from so many people which made me give the album a listen. Whether it’s called Palmwine Music or Highlife, everyone loves the tradition, Africa from the instrumentals. ShowDemCamp (SDC) dropped a classic 7 song album. Again, less is more. You should definitelycheck this album out as it is a favorite of the people.
OTM Intermission: By this time, almost everyone was irritated. It got a little bit personal, and even now we are trying to save our friendships. Deciding on how to order our Top 5 was a whole new battle. So far, 2017 had a lot of outstanding projects, right? Okay, let’s finish this up.
5. Flower Boy by Tyler The Creator
Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy is a testament to growth. Not the forced brand of change that we typically see with artists grasping for relevancy but the clearheaded expression of an artist who is sure of the sound that first grabbed attention, while not being afraid to both experiment and explore deepening levels of vulnerability. We also hear Tyler pushing himself as a producer, moving from hazy melodic songs like “911” and “Glitter” to frantic, speaker knocking tracks like “I Ain’t Got Time” and “Who Dat Boy” with ease. All of this makes Flower Boy a clear contender for one of the best projects of 2017.
4. Life is Eazi, Vol 1. – Accra to Lagos by Mr. Eazi
Following his successful smash singles, Mr. Eazi stated that this is a mixtape and not an album, but regardless this body of work propelled him to the world stage with all eyes on him. From performing at the TIDAL Benefit Concert with A-List artists such as Jay-Z, Chris Brown, DJ Khaled and others, to the very successful Life is Eazi World Tour and to his Apple Music Up Next feature. His self-proclaimed “banku music” pleased the world with this nicely packaged “mixtape”. This project included “Leg over“, “Tilapia“, “Detty Yaself“.
3. Gang Signs & Prayer by Stormzy
This album was hard af. From the U.K., Stormzy tells his life story and we all enjoyed his sincerity and truth. With this album, he puts so much of his personality into his songs, whether the song is grime, hip-hop or him singing, you’ll think you know him personally. A classic for many, Stormzy made Ghana and the UK proud with this. “21 Gun Salute” and “Bad Boys” are some the album’s underrated records.
2. Simisola by Simi
In a male-dominated music industry, Simi pushed her mates aside and finally released her long-awaited self-titled album. The album was filled with lessons, love and personal truths, which was overall extremely soulful. Different sounds of Afropop, live instruments, pianos and instrumentals fast and slow told many stories to tell THE story of Simi. With 14 songs by herself and only 1 feature with Adekunle Gold, Simi stood alone to add more credibility to her name. Simi won the 2017 AFRIMA Songwriter of the Year Award and she deserved it as her album Simisola is high if not arguably the highest quality in songwriting. This arguably was the best album out of Nigeria in 2017, a lot of us truly believe that. Sleeper of the year.
1. Common Sense by J Hus
As Number 1 we have…Common Sense! Congratulations to J Hus! J Hus’ charismatic debut is a masterful representation of the UK’s own brand of afrobeats. Streetwise tales, J Hus’ hypnotic voice, and Jae 5’s identifiable sound mesh together to create an album that you’ll find yourself gravitating towards time and time again. From “Bouf Daddy“, “Leave me alone“, “Goodies“, to “Did You See“, this project has the highest replay value out of every album on this list.
Kingmaker by Harrysong, Shine by Wale, No Data by Daye Jack, First Wave by Ycee, King Don Come by D’banj, Odysseus by Jessy Jagz, Belloved by Korede Bello, Mama Afrique by Yemi Alade, This Is Me by Ninola, Process by Sampha, Take Me Apart by Kelela.
I hear very frequently, “Africans don’t make albums” or “African artists don’t make quality albums.” Personally, I disagree with both of those statements. I believe African artists definitely make quality albums, and with an open mind, you WILL find music you like if not love. We, as Africans, should be encouraged to listen to albums/mixtapes/EPs of our own people and support each other more.