It is hard to write a blurb for this piece because the world is in flux, and it’s not the good kind. We are all doing our best to trudge on, find little moments of happiness that illuminate us; to do that, we often have to turn to friends, colleagues, and – at least for me – music. The role of music cannot be understated right now, and to annotate the months that we have already gone through this year, I hit one of the music writers I admire the most, Emmanuel Esomnofu, to talk about what has gone before us in 2020.
This is what we come up with. Be well, we will see sunny days!
BEST SONG OF 2020
Jake Doe – Books
My undoubted song of the year has to be Books by Jake Doe. I got put on to his project, To A Bedroom Devoid Of Love, by a friend who wanted to see what I thought about the music – it is pretty amazing – and I was blown away by the immersive emotions on that track in particular. How he makes books such a resonant, powerful metaphor for the turmoil in a relationship is all the motivation I need to become a more descriptive writer and lover; I’ve spent entire nights just trying to understand the strange alchemy at play here, in fact, I’m going to play it again now. Jake Doe’s hybrid of soul and R&B is such a fucking delight, I hope he blows up. WO
Jay Electronica – A.P.I.D.T.A
It’s really hard to have a “best song,” or even favorite – I’ve been listening to a lot of things. The song I’ve returned to the most, however, would be Jay Electronica’s “A.P.I.D.T.A.” It’s easy to say that I was influenced by the many years of waiting (for his project) and the obvious personality on record, but I hadn’t gotten into the record in my first few listens. But then my aunt died. And I’ve been returning to it and like a refreshing cup of water, it fills me up, emotionally and otherwise, as I’m often moved to write something each time I hear the poignant lyricism and vulnerability on display. EE
BEST ALBUM OF 2020
Paybac iBoro – CULT!
CULT!, PayBac iBoro’s sophomore album. I’ve been following the artist a long time and knew about his experimental tendencies, but CULT! Blew me away. If you crave being revolutionary while in quarantine, play Nigeria Suk My Dik at a high volume and let yourself be carried by its joyful angst. EE
Brymo – Yellow
I must admit that I was skeptical when I was about to click play on the album and I saw pop as the album descriptor on Apple Music, scratch that I wasn’t skeptical, I was aghast: I wanted to play in the mystic darkness of Oṣó for a bit a little more. But Yellow is the little crack of light at 6 a.m. when your eyes are just getting accustomed to the light, the medium-paced post-bacchanal reportage energy that Brymo aims for suits me just fine. WO
ARTISTE WHO HAS SURPRISED YOU THE MOST
They’re quite a lot. The Cavemen, a Nigerian band, are bringing vintage Highlife flavor back with a contemporary touch. I finally listened to Soul Soup, an EP by Timi Kei, a Port Harcourt based rapper and Illgod – it was everything many people think Nigerian Hip Hop isn’t, and Kei is an enormous talent. Then there’s American rapper D Smoke, a top lyricist. Prior to his excellent 2020 album Black Habits, I’d never listened to him. I’m also impressed by Emosé – who I discovered through the Native Mag’s excellent series (For The Girls) on artists who are female – and her song, Goliath, has been a favorite ever since. EE
Jake Doe, Jake Doe, Jake Doe… I can’t talk about him enough, but at the same time, I want to keep him in the secret room of my consciousness where his TBDL lives untainted. There’s also Superboy Cheque too, he was featured on Olamide’s E.P, 999, I loved his flow on Warlords. I’ve known him since I was a student at O.A.U. so it wasn’t particularly surprising he pulled that off, it was just a nice moment of confirmation that he belongs in the big leagues. WO
MOST DISAPPOINTING ARTISTE
Naira Marley. I’m not even a big fan of his, I just enjoy a good underdog story, but the man has been bleeding own goals since the turn of the new year and there has not even been the usual saving grace of good old lamba. He has, intentionally and unintentionally, inserted himself in a number of narratives this year and his reputation has mostly come off badly dented. He should have just shut up and done a remix of Soapy with Olamide; tough times for the No Belt Gang. WO
Kendrick Lamar. Give us that album, Gaddemit! EE
PROJECT(S) YOU’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO
Wizkid’s Made in Lagos (if it exists) is definitely top. I don’t think Tems has gotten to album stage just yet, but I’d give many listening hours to whatever project she puts out. New Show Dem Camp is always welcome. And yeah, throw in that Fireboy DML album, and Joeboy, and definitely Johnny Drille – loved that Area refix with Sound Sultan, by the way. EE
I’d like to listen to a cohesive Buju project, he sounds like what I think divinity should sound like with those nice coos of his; let’s see him on a project. Earlier in the year, I did an interview with Ladipoe, I’m really looking forward to what he’s putting out – if he puts anything out – Talk About Poe feels like a lifetime ago considering what we have been through since then. Let’s do a dissertation on Poe now. WO
MUSIC YOU’RE LISTENING TO DURING THE CORONAVIRUS
My music taste doesn’t change drastically with the pandemic, I’m not sure anyone’s does, lol. So yeah, I’ve been listening to a lot of rappity hip-hop – Royce da 5’9; Jay-Z; A-Q; Alternative – FKA Twigs, Sia, Hozier, stuff like that. There’s a classic reggae mix on Audiomack I’m in love with (by DJ Mampi). With the need for melancholy, I visit ‘Indie Folk Central’ on Sound Cloud, which playlists great folk songs – I’ve discovered a lot of great artists and their music through this channel. It’s the only reason why I still have the SoundCloud app on my phone, really. Then sometimes, I’m free from the shackles of capitalism and all, and Nigerian Pop is my happy place. And I’ll listen to just every artist when I’m that happy, but my favorites are Wizkid, Peruzzi, Burna Boy, Wande Coal (Again has been a favorite for a while now), and definitely classic stuff from the 2face era. EE
I’m listening obsessively to Brymo’s Yellow, it is such great hypnotic music: sometimes I find myself just whispering “smart monkey don’t monkey around in another monkey’s banana.” Fuck, Brymo is so deep. There have been a few plays of Vibes before Teslim: The Journey to Self-Discovery by Vector but apart from that, it’s been the standard tentative dips into projects as they drop trying to keep abreast with the cycle and new stuff. WO