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Afrocritik Top 15 African Rap Albums of 2022

Afrocritik Top 15 African Rap Albums of 2022

Afrocritik Top 15 Rap Albums of 2022

By Emmanuel Daraloye, Chinonso Ihekire, Hope Ibiale, Fatiat Saliu, Samson Jikeme, Yinolu Olowofoyeku, and Owanate Max-Harry

Afrocritik Top 15 Rap Albums of 2022
Afrocritik Top 15 Rap Albums of 2022

Afrocritik’s list for top 15 African rap projects of the year 2022 is a montage of the rap genre in its purest artistic form. Thus, certain rap projects which might score high on other Afrocritik lists may not have the same effect in this one. The Afrocritik board considered the fundamentals of the rap genre in curating this list: flow, lyrics, production, innovation and artistry.

2022 saw rappers explore the genre in various forms, from melodic rap to Drill, and outright genre-blending with African traditional sounds. Collaborative works seem to be prevalent this year, as seen in A-Q and Brymo’s Ethos and Behold the Lamb by the trio of A-Q, M.I and Blaqbonez. The Show Dem Camp, Vector and PsychoYP projects are elevated by exhaustive features as well, delivering a potpourri of diverse sounds. The Afrocritik board has thus compiled a list of the most riveting bodies of work highlighting the summit of the rap genre in Africa, this year.

15. Afroto

San Stefano

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With a banging opener in “San Stefano,” a Drill infused anthem, delivered mainly in Arabic, Afroto stakes a claim as one of the Hip Hop greats from Egypt, a region which boasts of other stars like Marwan Moussa and Marwan Pablo. It is worthy of note that the Hip Hop scene in North Africa is gaining acclaim through the use of hard hitting modern sounds. Afroto’s mastery of Drill elements is evident in the entire project.

The Marwan Moussa feature is a strong point that accentuates the direction of the North African rap scene.  Hafantazook uses Arabic flutes, chords and Drill patterns to create a unique mash-up. A truly eclectic but iconic project, San Stefano proves that there are no boundaries to the experimentation of sounds which rap can viably accommodate.

14. Eva Alordiah

Evarything Good

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Since the release of the G.I.G.O E.P, Eva Alordiah’s quality hasn’t deterred one bit in her releases, despite taking a 4-year hiatus between 2016 and 2020. In her eccentric fashion, Eva had released an EP which does not exist on DSPs. That notwithstanding, the six-track EP contains some of her finest tunes, delivering classic Hip Hop bars.

Evarything Good commences with “Keep the Vibe High,” a fitting introduction with confidence-laden lyrics, “….I am light, I come from stars…”

While Eva’s decision not to publish this project on DSPs was met with huge criticism, it does not diminish its quality in any way. Eva shines through as ever before lyrically, even if there is a lot more to be expected from a production standpoint.

13. Psycho YP

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The 24-year-old this year released the third of the YPSZN collection. A blend of Drill, grime, trap, and traditional rap flows, this project shows Psycho YP’s hold of progressive elements of the rap genre. With the James Brown sample in “Drop that Shit,” the Backroad Gee feature, Odumodublvck collabos, Barry Jhay, Zlatan and Ycee link ups, this project is emblematic of the dexterity the rapper possesses. Versatility is loosely thrown around these days, but you would be hard pressed to find a better rap project that possesses this quality.

This project however lacks thematic cohesiveness and thins out production-wise as it progresses. These drawbacks notwithstanding, Psycho YP remains a leader of the new school as far as Nigerian rap is concerned.

12. Sarkodie

Jamz

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Sarkodie, one of Africa’s biggest Hip Hop exports, scarcely needs to prove anything. With over fifteen years of experience under his belt, the rapper seems to be entering a mature and well-eased stage of his career. To prove this new level of maturation, the Ghana-born rapper and songwriter released a ten-track album, Jamz, on November 11, 2022. The last four months have been spent in anticipation of the project which takes the baton from last year’s No Pressure album.

Now seven albums deep, no doubt, Sarkodie has come a long way in the African music scene. After he conquered Ghana, he spread his tentacle to other countries. At the end of the thirty-five minutes of Jamz, you notice that this journey seems to be on a roller coaster, and the stop signs are nonexistent.  On JAMZ, he effortlessly tells his story, make songs for parties, and talks about sex while expertly co-opting other artistes into the task.

Jamz seems more like a collaborative album. With nine features on a ten-track album, there is no doubt that Sarkodie is all out to tap from his fellow creatives, spread his tentacles into other cultures, and more importantly, sustain his name in the minds of people. He mixes the Twi language with Pidgin on this album. For every line you hear said in Twi, he follows it with two in English. Sarkodie also explores other cultures, showing his versatility and artistic range.

As with quite a few other rap projects released this year, the lack of cohesiveness around a theme or more, and the playlist-ness of this record begs the question: at the level of Sarkodie’s artistry, would the audience be amiss to ask for more from said artist?

After years of curating and releasing projects, a more adhesive body of work is what is fundamentally expected from a rap icon. While we look forward to more projects from the Sarkodie, the genre is fast evolving and a lack of cohesiveness may not be excused much sooner into the future.

11. MI

The Guy

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More than 14 years after the release of his groundbreaking debut album, Talk about It, Jude Abaga makes a return with his seventh album, The Guy, his first project in about two years.

MI Abaga has come a long way, from relocating from the city of Jos to conquering Lagos, and then Africa. In the course of this, he solidified his legendary status in the music industry with Pop-inflected album releases, lent a helping hand to underground artistes via his illegal music tapes, while at the same time putting on the likes of Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Brymo, Loose Kaynon, Ruby, E-Kelly, Brymo, Blaqbonez, and others on each project rollout.

MI Abaga collapsed the ethos of his last three solo projects (Rendezvous, Yxng Dxnzl, and Judah) to craft The Guy.  Slices from these projects are scattered here for us to chew. MI Abaga swirls between takes on mental health (on “Crazy,” and “Soldier”), party (“Daddy”), and love (‘The Inside,” ‘The Front Door,” and “The Love Song”). The album wins over some Gen Z fans, as well as gives day one listeners something to dance to and meditate on.

After commencing with the momentous “The Guy,” a fitting intro to this project, the album progresses seamlessly to “Bigger” where Olamide delivers a masterpiece of a hook after which the Hip Hop legend, Nas, complements the track with his vintage flow. With these first few tracks, the listener is amped waiting for a masterpiece to unfold.

However, unlike previous MI projects, The Guy fails to elevate the genre as he is known to do, and it almost feels like a waste of the anticipation built up to the release of the project. The project almost survives on the pedigree of the artiste rather than the expected qualities an MI project should possess.

10. Blaqbonez

Young Preacher

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Chocolate City’s signee, Blaqbonez, joined forces with UK-based JAE5 for “Back in Uni” as lead single to his sophomore LP. While this tune performed what is expected of lead singles, it also set the tone for the entire project heavily laden with sexual innuendos and braggadocio, a Blaqbonez staple.  Touted for his creativity and innovation, Blaqbonez litters this project with crisp samples off Styl-Plus’ “Runaway” in Young Preacher, Asa’s “360” in “I’d be Waiting,” and Paul Play’s “Forever” in “Loyalty.” With incredible visuals for the opening track, Blaqbonez, again, reinstates his penchant for inventiveness and originality in Young Preacher.

It needs be said, however, that for an LP, themes could be expressed through diverse angles and motifs. This was severely lacking in this project, but does not take away from its ingenuity.

9. A-Q, M.I and Blaqbonez

Behold the Lamb

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The last five years have been fraught with ups and downs in the music industry, from “You Rapper Should Fix Up Your Lives,” (October 2017) to the clap back, Vector/MI Abaga beef, Martell Cypher, Hennessey resurgence via Hennessy Artistry, and more. There have been seminal efforts to reawaken Hip-Hop in Nigeria. Chocolate City has been at the forefront of this movement. It started with the release of three Hip-Hop albums in August 2018.  AQ and Loose Kaynon jointly released Crown. MI Abaga churned out Yxng Dxnzl, while the young Blaqbonez ended the trip with Bad Boy Blaq.

After a two-day exclusive premiere on Boomplay, the first collaborative album of L.A.M.B, (Behold the LAMB), was released on July 6, 2022, to all streaming platforms. It serves as the first official christening of the Hip-Hop group. The title is thought-provoking, and the artwork is minimalist.

From the exploration of broad topics, to the timely features, and the pristine production, MI Abaga and his team had everything in check. On Behold the Lamb, Blaqbonez and AQ shine more. MI Abaga supervises like an elder statesman while Loose Kaynon takes the back seat.

8. Show Dem Camp

Palmwine Music 3

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Three years after the release of The Palm Wine Express album, music group and the much-touted best duo after Dbanj and Don Jazzy, Show Dem Camp, made a return with their last in the Palm Wine Music series. They tagged this Palm Wine Music Vol 3. It is a long-spin record that dovetails into love, life, heartbreak, and emotions.

On this album, they trade their philosophical and grand bars for a more reflective flow and cadence. Tec comes off so well, Ghost seems to forget the assignment with his heavy-laden bars.

Radio call-ins spice up this project: from a couple who battles with trust issues, to boys and girls confessing why they left their last lover, to the guy who proposes to an OAP live on air.

The album, as is common with SDC, is quite the lengthy one (a quality which not even the radio break could obliterate), and you might find it difficult to press the “next” button.

On the closer, “No Regrets,” Afrobeats meet Juju as Moelogo mounts the hook. Tec and Ghost talk about their struggle, the journey to stardom, and how they beat all the obstacles to reach where they are. It fills the Gospel spot.

Palm Wine Music 3 is a victory lap for Show Dem Camp. Love remains the dominant topic on the album. No doubt, the world needs love, and Show Dem Camp has doses of that to last till their next non hardcore rap album.

7. A-Reece

The Burning Tree

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Released on 4/20, the unofficial ‘weed’ day, The Burning Tree sees A-Reece consolidating on the success of the Heaven Can Wait  project with his brother Jay Jody. The Pretoria-based rapper has established himself as a household brand, as seen by many of his followers.

The ten-track EP begins with “First Time 4 Everything,” detailing the rapper’s first interaction with marijuana. A-Reece masterfully courses through this body of work using diverse routes to eulogise marijuana. Boy Wonder, Jay Jody and Imp da Don combine with the South African star, waxing lyrically about the plant.

The only drawback this project has is that the listener gets bored with time, as is with most mono-themed albums. This, however, does not relegate the masterful use of symbols and high powered lyrics throughout the project.

6. A-Q, Brymo

Ethos

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Ethos is an album that serves as a bridge between two very distinct artistries. Brymo brings his unique brand of heartfelt soulful alternative sounds, and combines them brilliantly with A-Q’s signature poetic spoken rap style. Together, they reflect soberly on life, love, growth, and loss, with moving personal tales and overarching advisory wisdom.

The album bursts with emotional and poignant storytelling, a forte of both artistes. They wax poetic and spout philosophy on a broad range of topics, weaving cautionary tales on “Ni Temi,” expressing longing on “Do You Ever Miss Me,” addressing the socio-political environs on “Baale House,” and speaking from experience on “Family First.”

Altogether, Ethos is the best of both worlds, and puts exemplary songwriting on full display.

5. Cleo Ice Queen

Leaders of the New School

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With all the full support from her record label, the Cleo Ice Queen picks her own uprising stars from her roots as she finally unzips her project under Def Jam records titled Leaders of the New School.

The 10-track collection features talents from the local Hip Hop scene including The F.A.K.E, Ryan Blaze, Princess Natasha Chansa, Towela Kaira, and Oreo.

The album leads off with “So Cold” which addresses the social ills and pressures that affect young people. “Mix It Up,” featuring Ryan Blaze, showcases Cleo Ice Queen’s game in spitting powerful rhymes.

On My Own” was born when two great queens came together while jamming in the studio. Towela Kaira brought her A game on this track, and the visuals are quite complementary to the track.

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The single has already accumulated more than 100,000 streams on Boomplay, making it the first-ever track in her catalogue to achieve this. Its YouTube video had almost 100,000 views within the first week of its release, also a first for the artiste.

4. Macky2

Olijaba

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Olijaba is the swan song of Zambian entertainment icon, Macky2, who is bowing out of the rap game to set up a record label named Olijaba Entertainment. Regarding the name of the album and the label, he is quoted as saying, “Olijaba is Kopala Street lingo, meaning ‘original.’ Be original. Be Olijaba. People always ask me who my role models are and who I want to be like, and I don’t wanna be like anybody; I wanna be me. I look up to a lot of people, and they have had great influences on me, but I just wanna be me.” Macky2’s delivery on this project is reminiscent of Nigeria’s Dagrin, the catalyst for a lot of contemporary street/indigenous Nigerian rap acts.

As such, Olijaba is delivered from the perspective of a veteran providing guidance and wisdom for the next generation with songs such as “2 By 2” and “Family over Everything.” As a veteran in the industry, Macky2 also has a lot of memorable moments on the album exemplified in songs like “The Man,” “Beautiful Night,” and “Tgdy.” The final dimension of the album comprises the commercial, danceable hits such as the beautiful “Lozing Kontolo” and the uplifting “Teti Ndabe.”

Throughout the album, Macky2 displays his hitmaking experience and leaves us with a well-rounded project to cement his legacy.

3. Vector

Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me

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The Nigerian veteran rapper released a seminal tour de force this year, showing versatility, while maintaining his identity of flows and deep cutting punchlines. Track two begins with a conversation between Vector and his daughter. On Teslim, Vector makes an obvious and poignant attempt at bridging three generations as seen in the album title, ‘Teslim,’ a reference to his father.

How Vector manages to deliver catchy hooks even using his vocals in the entirety of this body of work is intriguing, as it explores the multi-faceted talent pool of the rapper.

Thematically, the album ranges from activism-laced lines in “Insomnia” to “Mercy,” a Gospel-infused/inspirational track where he features Seyi Vibez. Erigga shines on “You don’t know,” a pointer to the fact that Nigerian street rap still retains its potency.

In summary, Teslim: The Energy Still Lives in Me delivers a Nigerian rap masterpiece, a classic, if you will. It remains one of the few rap projects of the year that combine range, versatility, artistic nous, and great lyrical content.

2. Khaligraph Jones

Invisible Currency

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The veteran East African emcee, Khaligraph Jones, dropped a masterpiece this year in Invisible Currency.

The 17-track LP is a tour de force which explores diverse themes, including Swahili-laden hooks and verses as seen in “Ateri Dala,” a consummate love tune where Jones features John Inda. “All I Need” reveals the rapper’s dexterity as Gospel motifs are frequently interspersed throughout this tune, showing Jones’ unquestioned range.

The Khali Chronicles” is arguably the most hardcore track on this record, as the rapper gives a brief revision of his career till date, in heavy hitting lyrics, right after imagery-heavy “Hiroshima” where he mashes up with Dax, delivering one of the purest rap collaborations of the year, “…an African collab they will speak about for centuries…”

Interestingly, Kaligraph never shies away from the Swahili flavour in his lyrics, resonating with his penchant for originality. Invisible Currency raises the bar for various forms of expression in the rap genre, and at a time when various questions regarding the potency of this genre are posed, this sublime piece of art does justice in reinforcing that the genre is as thriving as ever.

1. K.O

SR3

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SR3 sees K.O returning to his “Skhanda Republic” series for the third installment, bringing back Lunatik, the producer responsible for K.O’s 2014 debut.

Reunited, they put together a project that is steeped in Skhanda (South African street rap), while simultaneously infusing various styles and genres to impressive effect. “Moshito” features an undeniable Kwaito bounce. “Sete” is an emotional Afropop love song, and “Fezeka” is propped up by Amapiano elements. There are also numerous tracks that allow K.O put his pure rap abilities on display, such as the boisterous “Skhandaville Freestyle,” and the introspective “The Calling.

Amidst diverse sounds and topics, the unifying throughline of the album is K.O’s undeniable Hip-Hop acumen displayed in his infectious energy, dexterous flows, creative wordplay, and clever writing. K.O’s rhythmic flow, unique to him, distinguishes SR3 from other projects by his contemporaries released this year.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Falz

Bahd

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The seminal rapper and socially conscious activist, Falz, dropped a 12-track LP BAHD, his most sonically diverse one yet. It is actually a strain trying to pick up the rap tunes in this body of work, as only the rap tunes with Chike, Bnxn, LAX and The Cavemen. are the stand-outs.

Erigga

The Lost Boy

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On The Lost Boy, Erigga sermonises about his grass-to-grace journey. The story is raw and undiluted. It’s a tribute to his past while he stays focused on his bright future.

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