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Afrocritik’s Top 30 African Songs in the First Half of 2024

Afrocritik’s Top 30 African Songs in the First Half of 2024

Afrocritik's top 30 African songs in the first half of 2024.

As the year continues to dazzle us with its infectious grooves, the Afrocritik Editorial Board proudly presents Africa’s top 30 songs of the first half of 2024.

By Afrocritik’s Editorial Board

African music, so far in 2024, has seen novel sparkles of ingenuity, remarkable ceiling raisers, and unmistakable versatility. From sprawling Hip-Hop tunes in Morocco, Amapiano mashups in South Africa, to soulful melodies from Uganda and East Africa, one can mark the first half of 2024 as pivotal for diversity and sonic quality appreciation across the continent. 

With sultry vocals from Joshua Baraka, Tems’ outstanding soulful exposé, Ayra Starr’s rhythmic Afro-Pop staples, Olivetheboy’s diverse palette iterations, Xeniah Manasseh’s R&B gems, interspersed with tenably the most skilled rap cyphers released in a moment, this year has not been a let down in any case. 

As the year continues to dazzle us with its infectious grooves, the Afrocritik Editorial Board proudly presents Africa’s top 30 songs of the first half of 2024. This list covers tunes from African creatives released between January and June 2024. 

A showing of all-round artistic brilliance, we hope this invites you to the sonic adeptness the continent holds. 

  1. Keys The Prince – “Left Right”

The West London-raised rapper finally got the world’s attention with the sample and interpolation of Yinka Ayefele’s early 2000s record “Ti Ota E Mole” on this new tune, “Left Right”. Combining his skills as a rapper and producer, the multitalented artiste exudes feel-good vibes with a seamless blend of smooth rap verses. This song showcases his versatility and musical prowess, leaving listeners spellbound. “Left Right” possibly cements him as an artiste to watch out for in the second half of 2024.

 

The track combines horns, snares, and drums with Keys The Prince’s velvety vocals slowly easing the listeners into his world. The combination of Yoruba and English makes the song relatable. 

  1. Kizz Daniel – “Showa”

Kizz Daniel always has the street and the industry on lock. At one point, he had so much fun that he named one of his albums No Bad Songs. Perhaps he wasn’t far from the truth. His songs often draw from personal experiences. Take, for instance, “Showa”, which sounds like a tribute to his wife.

 

“Showa” is more than just a track; it’s a series of questions you’d ask a potential girlfriend or wife-to-be. The song’s foundation is its enchanting percussion, which becomes even more captivating when the talking drum kicks in at the two-minute, fifty-five-second mark, transporting you to another realm.

  1. Bella Shmurda – “Oghene” (feat. Zlatan & Jeriq)

“Oghene” is an Isoko and Urhobo word meaning ‘supreme being’. The trio of Bella Shmurda, Jeriq, and Zlatan Ibile join forces to seek God’s favour as they navigate the murky waters of life.

In the first verse, Bella details his struggles. Zlatan, in his part, takes listeners through his exploration of the challenges he faced while trying to succeed. Jeriq adds a distinct Igbo flavor to the rap, sealing the moment.

  1. Xenia Manasseh – “Phases”

Kenyan superstar and soul music artiste, Xenia Manasseh, explores the downside of love in her song, “Phases”. An unfocused muse meets an emotional Xenia, and she keeps asking questions: “Do you really stick around just ’cause of pride? (Pride)/ Do you really think you couldn’t love me right?”.

 

The soul element embedded in this song makes it even more beautiful, along with the bright guitar that serves as the song’s foundation. “Phases” resonates with anyone who has ever been in an undefined relationship

  1. Magixx – “Okay

Alexander Adelabu, better known as Magixx, released “Okay”, his first single in 2024, which details his struggles with acceptance, stardom, and family issues. In a recent interview, he mentioned that sixty percent of the song was inspired by his mother’s health challenges, but the song resonates with everyone trying to make it.

 

In the first verse, he sings about using weed to ease his mind: “Never see clear when me sober/ So, I must to roll one”. Magixx might be speaking for many people about his struggles; for once, he speaks out.

  1. King Promise – “Permission Granted” (feat. Fave)

On the third track of his new album True To Self, Nigerian star, King Promise teams up with Fave to create “Permission Granted”, a potential hit for 2024. The song fuses R&B and Afrobeats, showcasing the strengths of both artistes.

 

Fave’s captivating intro grabs your attention before you fully grasp her lyrics. Their collaboration is still an enjoyable experience for these former emPawa Africa signees. When two great artistes come together, it’s always exciting to hear what they produce.

  1. Nandy – “Dah!” (feat. Alikiba)

At thirty-one years old, Tanzania-raised singer and songwriter Nandy makes a dashing return with her R&B-inflected tune, “Dah!” In this song, she passionately sings about her admiration and love for her partner.

 

The mid-tempo production effortlessly enhances the track’s appeal. By the end of the two-minute, fifty-nine-second song, it’s evident why she is revered in her country of birth. Nandy creates music from her soul; she sings straight from the heart.

  1. Olamide – “Uptown Disco” (feat. Fireboy DML & Asake)

Olamide, one of the most prominent figures in Nigeria’s music scene, teams up with his label signees Fireboy and Asake on “Uptown Disco” from his recent project, Ikigai. This track exemplifies why YBNL holds a powerful grip on the mainstream zeitgeist.

While Fireboy delivers with fiery intensity, Olamide offers hard-hitting lyrics, and Asake closes with his signature calm, street-savvy lyrics. With frenetic production by Semzi and Eskeez, “Uptown Disco” emerges as a club-ready hit and one of Afro-Pop’s most explosive songs of 2024.

  1. Kemuel – “Polo”

Fast-rising Nigerian artiste, Kemuel, has proven that he’s impossible to overlook. Fans who have been ardent since his feature with Olamide on DJ Spinall’s hit, “Bunda”, might say they saw this coming when the tune’s melody took over the internet in 2023.

On “Polo”, off his 7-track project, Clouds, the 25-year-old artiste expresses his hedonistic desire with a love interest. The music delivery is equal parts energetic and enthralling, with the call-and-response hook, “Kumbaye (Kumbaye) Kumbaya (Kumbaya)”, bringing the track to a peak. Kemuel’s flow is catchy and unending—gliding smoothly over pacy log drums and soft piano chords to create one of the groovy tunes that rate high on melody this year. 

  1. Joshua Baraka – “Alone” (feat. Nkosazana Daughter)

Joshua Baraka, a rising star in the Ugandan music scene, and Nkosazana Daughter, a South African singer, unite in the groundbreaking Amapiano track, “Alone”. 

 

The log drums and the high-energy flow of the song might cause one to overlook the lyrics like such as, “Could not believe what I was hearing, You’re gone, never to return”, which mourns the loss of a loved one. Baraka’s chorus, combined with Nkosazana Daughter’s emotive vocals and production by Axon and Baraka himself, blend seamlessly to create one of the most classic-sounding songs released this year.

  1. Wizard Chan – “High Power”⁠ (feat. Bona Nime)

Regarded as one of the most inventive artistes with mystical branding in the Nigerian Afro-pop scene, Wizard Chan—born Maxwell James Fuayefika— waltzed into the mainstream consciousness with the Reggae-inspired track “Earth Song” in 2023. In April this year, he set himself up impressively with his project, The Messenger. 

The track, “Higher Power” from the project, featuring Bona Nime, emerges as a genuine spiritual sensation in the second quarter of the year. The chants, Wizard Chan’s conscious lyricism, and his artistic approach draw listeners into deep introspection, encapsulated in the line: “Sometimes you break your heart just to save your soul.”

  1. Meddy and Adrien – “Niyo Ndirimbo⁠”

Medard Ngabo Jobert and Adrien Misigaro, better known to Rwandans by their stage names Meddy and Adrien, respectively, are prominent figures in the Rwandan Gospel music scene. On their spiritually-themed song, “Niyo Ndirimbo”, they collaborate to deliver a heartfelt piece that deeply resonates with listeners. The song opens with a splice of guitar riff on a slow tempo beat, instantly setting a reflective and serene mood. Sung in the indigenous language of Kinyarwanda, their calm delivery complements the soulful message conveyed by their rich vocals.

 

The lyrics, “Uko urushaho kunyigisha niko nanjye njyenda nkubahisha nasanze ariryo banga ryo kugendera mu nzira zawe Eeh”, express an intense journey of spiritual growth and reverence. As the song progresses, the duo sings about the peace and happiness that arise from aligning with divine will. Towards the end, the beat fades, replaced by the sound of clapping, adding a raw emotional layer that perfectly captures the song’s themes of worship and devotion.

  1. Tyla – “ART”

After scoring one of the biggest songs in 2023 and winning her first-ever Grammy award for ‘Best African Music Performance’ earlier this year, she released an eponymous album, TYLA, to cement her global pop ascendancy. Compared with the cadence and log drums that form the DNA of her sensual global smash hit — “Water”, the tenth track, “ART”, off the TYLA album, is plucked from a similar formulaic sound. 

Tyla’s evocative vocals and pristine songwriting meet the sharp log drums and the warm piano chords, and she compares herself to a work of art. “I’m your centrepiece; make the canvas speak when you draw me in. Look at what you started”, she sings, capturing the listener with her powerful imagery.

  1. Tiwa Savage – “Water and Garri” (feat. Richard Bona & The Cavemen)

Tiwa Savage’s debut full-length feature film, “Water and Garri,” may have been deficient in its fragmented storytelling, but the accompanying soundtrack album makes up for it with its addictive melodies. “Water and Garri”, the titular track and one of the album’s standout collaborative efforts, features Cameroon-born American artiste, Richard Bona, and the modern highlife duo, The Cavemen. The song shines for its fusion of African root compositions and impeccable chemistry. Produced by Cyprus with additional touches by Micheal Segun Ajayi, the track skillfully blends highlife, Afrobeats, and jazz, each genre enhancing the other seamlessly.

Beyond the playful repetition of the chant, “Water and garri make Eba for your wedding day,” the song captures the duality of life, mixing moments of pain and ecstasy in the metaphorical line, “Water and Garri”.

  1. Stormy – “Popo”

At the forefront of Morocco’s hip-hop scene, Stormy reigns supreme. His viral hit “Popo,” from his Iceberg album, exemplifies his influence. Not only has this track garnered massive numbers, but it has also dominated the charts.

Beyond its infectious Brazilian funk-inspired sound, “Popo” reveals a raw and fearless Stormy who is unafraid to speak his truth, especially to the police: “Yeah, fuck la popo, popo, mn gelbi kangolha,” he sings in his distinct Moroccan Darina dialect. His gruff melody is complemented by the Nay flute and driven by unrelenting rhythmic drums, making the song compelling and impactful. 

  1. Tyla – “Jump” (feat. Gunna, & Skillibeng)

On the dancehall-inspired track “Jump”, Tyla collaborates with Gunna and Skillibeng for a noteworthy performance. With this record, Tyla reaffirms her status as one of South Africa’s superstars, delivering lines like, “They never had a pretty girl from Joburg see me now that’s what they prefer”. The thumping bassline adds an extra kick, making each lyric pack a punch.

Tyla’s confident delivery and charismatic presence shine throughout the track, while Gunna and Skillibeng’s contributions add depth and variety, making “Jump” an exciting listen. The song’s visuals also reflect its energetic lyricism, featuring vibrant dance moves and lively video vixens. 

  1. Ayra Starr – “Last Heartbreak Song” (feat. Giveon)

In her sophomore project, The Year I Turned 21, Ayra Starr delves into themes of love, loss, heartbreak, and resilience. To further emphasise the heartbreak narrative, Ayra Starr collaborated with American artiste Giveon on “Last Heartbreak Song”. On the R&B record, both artistes bid farewell to lovers who don’t reciprocate their affections. 

The song is an auditory pleasure, showcasing the chemistry between the artistes and their vocals, which merge beautifully to bring their emotions to the surface. The song’s production is rich and perfectly complements its lyrical content.

  1. Dai Verse – “Salt⁠”

Dai Verse’s 2024 song, “Salt”, is a standout Afro-adura track elevated by the artiste’s warm vocals and relatable lyrics. The singer reflects on his past and expresses his determination to achieve his goals while surrendering to God’s will. Adding to the song’s emotional depth is a voice recording of his mother offering prayers, which makes the track even more vulnerable and heartfelt. 

This personal touch not only underscores the artiste’s emotional side but also highlights the importance of familial support and blessings in his music. “Salt” is a testament to Dai Verse’s ability to connect with his audience on a profound level, making it a memorable and impactful record. 

  1. Sarz & Lojay – “Bilions”

Since his emergence in the music scene, Lojay has consistently demonstrated a penchant for delivering ear-catching songs. From his debut EP, LVN ATTN, to his sophomore project, Gangsta Romantic, listeners are guaranteed a good time whenever a Lojay record comes on. With his latest track, “Billions,” Lojay doesn’t disappoint. On the Sarz-produced record, Lojay delivers a song centred around affluence. The track begins with Lojay’s vocals accompanied only by piano keys, but by the second verse, it transitions into an uptempo number featuring log drums. 

“Billions” showcases Sarz’s impressive production range and Lojay’s exquisite penmanship. The synergy between these creatives elevates the track beyond being just a good song, serving as a testament to their artistic chemistry. The song expresses Lojay’s longing for comfort and the finer things in life, all wrapped up in a danceable tune.

  1. ⁠Olivetheboy – “Asylum”

“Asylum,” released in the first half of 2024, stands out as one of the year’s best tracks. Impressively tackling the theme of heartbreak, it initially presents itself as a love song but gradually reveals a bittersweet love story from the perspective of an unhappy lover. Olivetheboy delivers this complex narrative effortlessly.

With heartwarming melodies and a memorable chorus, “Asylum” propels Olivetheboy to the forefront of the Ghanaian music scene. The song not only showcases his talent but also highlights his versatility as an artist capable of creating deeply meaningful music.

  1. Victony – ”Stubborn⁠” (feat. Asake)

Victony’s “Stubborn” begins with the line, “Solo, solo, you know I’ve been riding solo before my tori get promo, now they dey call me idolo,” depicting his resilient attitude and the battles he has had to overcome on his journey to success. Like many tracks on his debut album, Stubborn, Victony crafts a narrative that explores determination and resilience. 

On this mid-tempo track, Asake echoes Victony’s stance by sharing his own hustle story. “Stubborn” blends Victony’s melodies with Asake’s distinct flow, making for a fitting collaboration. The song’s music video further expands on the theme, tying the record to the overall concept of the album.

  1. ⁠Tems – “Wickedest”

Tems reveals a braggadocious and artistically brilliant side of herself in “Wickedest,” a track that creatively samples Magic System’s 2000 hit song, “1er Gaou”. “Wickedest” evokes nostalgia and sees Tems confidently affirming that she is a superstar gangsta. In this record, GuiltyBeatz creates a backdrop that pulls listeners into words of affirmation.

The way Tems glides over the beat and her choice of words are reminiscent of her delivery on “Try Me.” On “Try Me,” she is brash and dares anyone to oppose her. On this new record, Tems displays the same bold personality. The production quality and Tems’ delivery make “Wickedest” one of the standout tracks on her album.

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  1. Ruger & BNXN – “Romeo Must Die”

The lead single from their joint project, RnB, Ruger and BNXN’s “Romeo Must Die,” is a brilliantly executed record that showcases their thrilling versatility. The writing is fun, and the production is sleek. On the record, both artistes sing about their supremacy and take shots at naysayers who underestimate their abilities.

Famed for their ability to craft melodies and memorable lyrics, BNXN and Ruger deliver on “Romeo Must Die,” making bold declarations over the Kukbeatz-produced track. While the record primarily focuses on their musical achievements, they also incorporate themes of abundance and debauchery, enhancing the song’s appeal.

  1. Zouhair Bahaoui – “Magdar”

Moroccan singer, and songwriter, Zouhair Bahaoui, has always been revered as a connoisseur of the finest music out of the North African region. On “Magdar”, Bahaoui delivers a ballad of love and longing to a love interest, meshed with Med Cherif’s seamless production that fuses traditional Moroccan sonic elements with contemporary pop.

With an accompanying music video that succinctly explores the lyrical undertones, “Magdar” is a testament to Bahaoui’s artistry and ability to create music that resonates with a global audience. 

  1. ⁠Ayra Starr – “Orun”

“Orun” is one of the deep cuts from the Nigerian artiste, Ayra Starr’s 2024 sophomore album, The Year I Turned 21. On the Highlife-infused record, powered by groovy lead and bass guitar strings, the singer reflects on her life as a global pop star and seeks forgiveness and blessings from the divine. It stands as a quiet, reflective moment on the album, as she embarks on a soul-searching journey.

Produced by Louddaaa, “Orun” showcases masterful sonic craftsmanship, blending Ayra’s heartfelt vocals with polished production that echoes the best of Highlife music from the region. Its authenticity and emotional depth make it a strong candidate for inclusion in West African locally-themed events.

  1. Joshua Baraka – “Dalilah II” (feat. Simi, Qing Madi & Axon)

Ugandan singer, recording artiste, and producer, Joshua Baraka has a penchant for weaving intricate stories into melodious music, and on “Dalilah II”, he doesn’t fall short. This time, however, he taps the assistance from Nigerian acts, Simi and Qing Madi, who complement him on an emotional rollercoaster about falling in and out of love.

Baraka opens with the introspective line, “This love was real till it wasn’t real”, setting the tone for a narrative of disillusionment. Simi and Qing Madi each bring a unique perspective to the song: while Simi reflects on personal growth after moving on, Qing Madi grapples with the challenge of letting go. Through its honest and compelling musicality, “Dalilah II” emerges as one of the continent’s standout offerings. 

  1. Ayra Starr – “Bad Vibes” (feat. Seyi Vibez)

On “Bad Vibes”, Ayra Starr offers a chest-beating, energetic anthem of resilience and positivity. The line from the chorus, “Igi gogoro magun mi l’oju, mi o fọ” is a Yoruba proverb, which roughly means, “A tall tree does not poke me in the eye, I am not afraid”. Her braggadocio throughout the track is captivating as she maintains her resolve to remain unaffected by detractors while focusing on chasing success.

Street-Hop star, Seyi Vibez, joins her on the record, blending personal reflections with a commitment to spirituality and perseverance. Together, they present “Bad Vibes” as one of the standout songs from the continent.

  1. Blaqbonez, A-Q, Loose Kaynon, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz, & M.I Abaga – “⁠Chocolate City Cypher”

In celebration of Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary and Chocolate City record label’s 20 years in existence, the “Chocolate City Cypher” stands as a remarkable testament to its legacy and impact on the Nigerian and African rap scene. Featuring past and current lyricists under the imprint—M.I Abaga, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, A-Q, Loose Kaynon, and Blaqbonez—the cypher treats audiences to some of the finest rap verses in recent memory.

Blaqbonez’s quips, A-Q’s hard-hitting lyrical punches, Loose Kaynon’s confident declarations, Ice Prince’s straightforward yet effective lines, Jesse Jagz’s witty bars, and M.I’s razor-sharp wordplays combine to create an outstanding showcase of talent. This collaboration not only celebrates the label’s enduring influence but also positions the cypher as arguably the best Hip-Hop record of the year.

  1. Tems – “You in My Face”

“You in My Face” from Tem’s debut album, Born in the Wild, is a hauntingly beautiful song that borders on self-reflection and resilience. The Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and producer, over the last four years, has drawn the world to her unique blend of soulful music, introspective lyricism, and sultry deliveries. All of these components come together seamlessly in this track, which is lauded as one of the best songs on her album.

She engages in an internal dialogue, seeking strength and holding onto it as an anchor to navigate the tumultuous waters of superstardom and fame. Her soothing vocals, accompanied by delicate guitar plucks, make “You in My Face” a standout track and one of the continent’s finest musical outputs.

  1. TitoM & Yuppe – “Tshwala Bam” (feat. S.N.E & EeQue)

“Tshwala Bam” by TitoM & Yuppe is an intoxicating, vibrant, and energetic Amapiano offering that has captivated the world by storm, sparking numerous viral dance challenges across social media platforms. This irresistible hit has rightfully claimed our top spot. However, beyond its immediate popularity, the song serves as a gateway to South African street culture which has, in recent years, made an incursion on global music.

Sung primarily in isiZulu – South Africa’s most widely spoken language – “Tshwala Bam” intricately weaves a narrative around the allure of indulgence, particularly with alcohol. Its soft piano chords, mild shakers, and traditional Amapiano log drums breathe life into the lyrics in an immersive manner. Undoubtedly, this record solidifies its place as a global pop phenomenon.

 

Honourable Mentions

  • Tems – “Free Fall” (feat J. Cole)
  • Tzy Panchak – “God is Love” (feat. Raizy)
  • ⁠Kabza De Small – “Kabza Chant” (feat. Young Stunna, Nkosazana Daughter, Mthunzi, Nokwazi, Anzo, Mashudu, Marumba Pitch & Tman Xpress)
  • Taves – “Folake”
  • Joeboy – “Adenuga” (feat. Qing Madi)
  • Tiphe & Niphkeys – “Tension”
  • ⁠ShineTTW – “Karashika”
  • ⁠Clay – “Bother Nobody”
  • ⁠Toyé – “Quarter Life Crisis”
  • ⁠Adekunle Gold – “Rodo”
  • ⁠Qing Madi – “Vision Remix” (feat. Chloe Bailey)
  • ⁠Mayhem BLK – “Burner Boy”
  • ⁠Kaycee Brown – “Miles”
  • Didi B, Khaligraph Jones, Ladipoe, Maglera Doe Boy, Sarkodie, Young Lunya – “Hennessy Cypher 2024”

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on X, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

 

Listed twice by “Black Pride Magazine” as one of the top 5 Music Journalists in Nigeria, Emmanuel Daraloye has over 600 album reviews in his archive.

 

Hope Ibiale is a writer and journalist. She has a keen interest in music, film, and literature. You can connect with Hope on X @hopeibiale and via email: hopeibiale@afrocritik.com

 

Abioye Damilare is a music journalist and culture writer focused on the African entertainment Industry. Reading new publications and listening to music are two of his favourite pastimes when he is not writing. Connect with him on Twitter and IG: @Dreyschronicle

 

Frank Njugi is a Kenyan Writer, Culture journalist and Critic who has written on the Kenyan and East African culture scene for platforms such as Debunk Media, Republic Journal, Sinema Focus, Culture Africa, Wakilisha Africa, The Moveee, Africa in Dialogue, Afrocritik and others. He tweets as @franknjugi.

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