Throwback: Top 5 Nigerian Rap Songs from the Golden Age of 2000s hip-hop

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The hip-hop scene in Nigeria has gone through several revolutions but the 2000s were undeniably a great time for rappers. With this era came Ruggedman, who disrupted the status quo with singles like Big Bros, and Baraje. Other rappers like Modenine, Bouqui, Da Trybe, and Naeto C also left their mark.

Fast forward to 2008 when the short black boy, M.I Abaga popped up with his fire single Safe that got everyone talking. Later that year, he dropped his debut album, Talk About It, one of the most memorable Nigerian rap projects.

While M.I was stealing hearts with his simple, catchy lyrics and flow, another rapper named Da Grin was shaping up to change mainstream Nigerian rap forever. After appearing on DJ Jimmy Jatt’s Jump Off in 2009, it was clear that this young Lagos rapper was set to become a force to be reckoned with. His single Pon Pon Pon and critically acclaimed album C.E.O. signalled the transition from the cool I Just Got Back (IJGB) trend popularised by M.I and Naeto C to the rapping style that incorporated indigenous language we now get from the likes of Olamide and Phyno.

From Ruggedman to Da Grin, here are our top five Nigerian rap songs from the golden age of 2000s hip-hop:

Baraje – Ruggedman (2005)

Move your body make you shake that thing wey you get, let the music enter your head, dancia baraje, omoge bend your waist ooh. I’m sure that was the first line that came to your head when you saw this because that was what I was humming to as soon as I thought about Ruggedman. Released in 2005, from his Thy Album Come project, Baraje was that song that was played in parties and clubs. Although the song was made with vibey tunes, Ruggedman was able to speak his truth when he said: Get crazy when u hear this instrumental, and most definitely, my voice is fundamental. Na the essential ingredient wey dey make my people dem no want 2 see the end. I’m bad more than that…stay forever like culture. You better make a move cos I dey watch u like vulture. It was a real blend of rap and club music from one of Nigeria’s top rap innovators.


Cry – Mode 9 (2007)

After winning the famed Lyricist on the Roll award several times, Mode 9 is arguably the top pioneer of hip-hop music in Nigeria, and Cry was one of the songs that placed him firmly on the A-list.  Released in 2007 from Mode 9’s E’ Pluribus Unum album, the track features soulful vocals of songstress Nnenna and emotional-grabbing lyrics from Mode 9.  It received major critical acclaim and topped charts throughout Africa by bagging three awards at the Channel O music awards hip-hop amidst others. Ten years later, Mode 9’s Cry still remains relevant to the Nigerian hip-hop music scene.


Too Much – DJ Jimmy Jatt ft Blaise, Sasha P, Bouqui, Kemistry (2007)

There are not a lot of female rappers in the music industry, this was what inspired legendary D.J Jimmy Jatt to do a record with the recognized female rappers at the time. In view of social constructs, this song advocated the power of a woman in an industry that was full of so many men. Released in 2007, the track was like an open mic show for female rap artists to embody their talents and lyrical abilities.

Anoti – M.I (2008)

Championed as one of the greatest Nigerian lyricists, M.I Abaga released Anoti off his debut studio album Talk About It in 2008. At a time when rap was mainstream in Nigeria, this song laid the foundation for the rise of other hit songs. Produced by Jesse Jags and M.I, the lyrics showed off the rappers bragging status as a calculated lyricist and his ability to deliver punchlines through systematic rhymes when he said: I got the chrome automatic. So systematic, erratic. Flow so melodic, erotic, Flow in a bar nigga English broken…Lyrically smoking. Nigeria’s hip-hop token. You got to be joking. It was a great combination of nicely put lines and fast-paced instrumentals.

Pon Pon Pon – Dagrin (2009)

Dagrin was one of the people that revolutionized the hip-hop industry in Nigeria by introducing dialect rap in Nigeria. Today, we have the likes of Lil Kesh, Zinoleesky because Dagrin made that move with songs like Pon Pon Pon. Released in 2009 from his CEO album, Pon Pon Pon was nominated for the hottest single category at the 2010 headies award and became a song for street artistry movements.


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