Despite a world fractured by coronavirus, the recent deluge of album releases from Nigerian artists is quite remarkable. From Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall to Tiwa Savage’s upcoming Celia slated for a late-August release, we seem to be in for a treat. It’s also a week of big projects coming out, and we bring you the best of the churn.
1. DJ Cuppy – Original Cuppy
DJ Cuppy is a complicated figure in the music industry, rigged up as a punching bag for internet trolls to demonize for being a billionaire heiress and leaving the music intelligentsia divided over whether she’s got any talent. Having released a trail of arguably decent songs, including the legitimate hit Gelato, she must step out of her halo of privilege and do the grunt work for her just-released album Original Cuppy.
Perhaps not stepping out completely, as she reportedly had to undergo voice training with her accessible resources. This is evident in the Darkoo-assisted Cold Heart, where she sounds demure but with sinister notes and closing track Labalaba featuring Seyi Shay, offering controlled R&B vocals.
But Original Cuppy is populated with too many external agents, collaborators like Rema, Efya, Stonebwoy, Teni, Ycee and more. Fireboy DML, the canary reincarnated, overpowers her on her own turf with Feel Good. Altogether, it distorts Cuppy’s original vision, assuming there’s one. Original Cuppy is also a dance album by club standards, a homage to DJ Cuppy’s other endeavour as a disc jockey.
2. Adekunle Gold – Afro Pop Vol. 1
Heralded with singles like AG Baby and Something Different, Adekunle Gold’s third studio project Afro Pop Vol. 1 arrives at a point where Afrobeats is slowly cementing its place in global music conversations, and deservedly too. Afro Pop Vol. 1 is the end cycle of Gold’s metamorphosis from earlier body of works – Gold and About 30 – but with afro-folksy song Kelebe Megbe disappointingly not making the final cut. AG Baby stuck, as a loose moniker, rebirthing Gold with a counter-aesthetic of twisted braids and pastoral register: flowers tucked into his hair, loose pants, cropped jackets open at the chest.
Gold would later look like someone strolling through a Pinterest cottagecore landscape as he drops promotional materials for Afro Pop Vol. 1. His sound, as felt on the album, shapeshifts with a multitude of genres like dancehall (Pretty Girl) and trance (Here for Ya) with producer credits from E Kelly and Pheelz.
3. Fireboy DML – Apollo
On his sophomore album Apollo, Fireboy DML has never sounded more self-possessed. Is it the bewitching chant of Sound, the summery tones of Airplane Mode or the syrupy spell of Tattoo with a video that audaciously veers into soft pornography? Or even Favourite Song, which synthesizes 80’s disco nostalgia, Apollo finds Fireboy self-coronating as the industry’s newest act in breaking popular genre conventions, and molding them in his own image.
Apollo does operate within a slightly different sonic universe from Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, the YNBL artist’s 2019 debut, but still held by the tendon that is Fireboy’s soulful R&B vocals.
4. The Cavemen – Roots
Highlife has reincarnated as Benjamin and Kingsley Okorie, biological brothers who make up The Cavemen, holding up the genre’s torch in a regime that keeps replicating homogenous copies of Afrobeats artists. Their debut album Roots, released earlier than scheduled, accurately represents their vision of the genre, an evolution they call highlife fusion.
Roots is aptly titled, with The Cavemen confidently falling back on rustic instruments, chants, cries, wails and insular echoes, merging robust doses of Igbo with English so mesmerizingly. Closing tracks – Obiageri, Osundu, and Onye Ma Uche – invade the bloodstream with haphazard beauty, rounding off the album as a towering achievement.