In several respects, 2018 has been one of the drabber years in the Nigerian pop music imagination for the past two decades. The moment audiences realized that ‘Assurance’ was intended as Davido’s major single for 2018, on the back of the gargantuan credentials of ‘If’ and ‘Fall’ through the preceding couple of years, the feel of an uninspiring season in music cropped in. As early as June 2018, conclusions had been reached as the trending ‘ShakuShaku’ style raved on but promised to fade away as quickly as it came.
Following media liberalization in Nigeria over the past two decades, a review of the Nigerian pop music scene reveals rather starkly that once 2face and D’banj caught on the turn of local music ‘lu-creativity’ in 2004, it’s been a monotonous tale of two two-horse races ever since. No one would dispute that since 2face’s and D’banj’s ‘ascension’, having dominated the scene between 2004 and 2011, both have been seamlessly replaced by Wizkid and Davido – two acts who have dominated for the past seven years. With the rather underwhelming records put out by both recently, it may be safe to assume that the seven year rule of music domination has caught up with the duo; in which case, the question arises: who next? Or better yet, which two is the duo to lead the scene through 2025?
It would seem that an artiste for which 2018 has served as a year of maturating and of becoming; having enhanced her understanding of the Nigerian music industry is Teni. Following decent singles in 2017, Teni in 2018, particularly through ‘Askamaya’ makes a strong statement of intent as to the manner through which she’d exploit her unique position/contribution in the big pot of Nigerian pop. While ‘Fake Jersey’ was somewhat difficult to take coming from the pleasant Teni, there is no doubt that ‘Askamaya’ and its crooner were highlights of an otherwise musically drab year. Yet, there is the persistent prod to comment on what the core of Teni’s ‘unique contribution’ is: Whereas Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Niniola, and Chidinma each add flavor to the corpus of pop music in Nigeria presently, the truth is that these names only crop up when ‘female artists’ are being sought. There hasn’t really been a female king of Nigerian pop since 2004, at least.
Yemi Alade’s attempt at a ‘king of queens’ soon morphed into a skewed ‘mama Africa’ who was engaged insisting on a Ferrari and a salary from her male lover! If there is a sector in Nigeria where patriarchy as traditionally known is being actively encouraged and where feminism is criminally quiet if not outright inverted, it is in the music scene (see the ultra-submissive texts in recent works by Savage and Alade). One is suggesting that Teni has the potential to become a ‘king of kings’ as a leading Nigerian pop star rather than a top Nigerian ‘female act’. A key strength of the Teni persona is to be found in a certain gender detachment, hence an untainted quest at the throne.
Meanwhile, one name that has continued to reside at the margins of the Nigerian pop music throne since he surfaced in the spotlight is Burna Boy. He is supposedly one of the few who can challenge Teni, thus, maintain the male-dominated status quo, or better yet, instigate a shared balance of numerical gender equality at the Nigerian pop music summit. His capacity to define a style that entextualizes Fela has done him much good. The attention that has followed his ‘Ye’ coincidence is equally pleasant. The fact that his recent single ‘Gbona’ ranks among the best-produced songs in Nigeria through 2018 raises curiosity on him. In terms of well-produced songs through 2018, Olamide’s ‘Motigbana’ and King Perry’s ‘Man on Duty’ deserve special mention.
And this takes one to the ‘small matter’ of the album featuring Duncan Mighty through 2018. In this album, precisely because Duncan Mighty is both the lowest common multiple and the highest common factor, making a choice of song favorites would boil down to the better-produced songs from an album featuring Duncan Mighty! It is perhaps early yet to speak in conclusive terms, for the -ember months are not immune to being release dates of genuine hits in the past. Surely time would tell. In the meantime, congratulations are due to everyone who contributed in bringing musical color to 2018; particularly to each producer on that album featuring Duncan Mighty…