1. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80; African Dreams
Off the 2018 Grammy-nominated album titled Black Times, Seun Kuti and Fela’s age-long band known as The Egypt 80 deliver a very strong message on a song titled African Dreams. With the song African Dreams, an afrocentric Seun questions the lifestyle of young Africans and the entire black community in this age of evolution.
The Afrobeat frontman particularly laments the future of Africa in the hands of “yummy youth” who only care about “designer clothes and shoes/designer bags and jewelries” and refuse to live or “dream for Africa”. Seun questions this extravagant lifestyle lived by Africans at the expense of the growth and development of Africa.
Seun is against a lot of things on this song. He condemns the society’s focus on growing religious venues to the detriments of “homeless” children, “victims of oppression”, ‘dying children” and the almajiris. The practice of chasing foreign artefacts is also condemned. Seun likens these young Africans to the old and gullible leaders who only care about embezzlement of public funds — to Seun, the youth are not different from the aged politicians they fight against.
The singer wonders if Africa would be inhabitable to every African alive today if the likes of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Fela Anikulapo Kuti, had lived the same dreamless life. Seun’s argument is simple, young Africans should concentrate on things that will move Africa forward and move the continent above the level the aforementioned African revolutionists left it.
2. Patoranking; Black
Off Wilmer, Patoranking’s second studio album, xenophobia amongst African nations is ridiculed in favor of pan-Africanism or oneness of Africans. Black was released in 2019, a time when some South Africans launched xenophobic attacks on many industrious brothers from other African nations. Perhaps, this is what Patoranking means when he states that “black kills black,” “black deports black,” “black hates black” etc.
Xenophobia itself is not specific to South Africa alone. Both Nigeria and Ghana too were guilty of something similar in relation to Patoranking’s line of “black deports black”. In 1969, Ghana authorities had deported many aliens from their country, majorly Nigerians. In 1983 too, Nigeria did something similar to “illegal immigrants” living in the country by expelling approximately 2 million Africans from the country. These were mostly Ghanaians. This is the story that brought about the name given to the traveling bag known as “Ghana Must GO”.
These cases of xenophobia and other threats to the oneness of Africans, even in this modern day, as perpetrated by South Africa in 2019, form the background for Patoranking’s clamor for “freedom” and the spirit of pan-Africanism as displayed by African leaders like Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Augustino Neto of Angola and many other nationalists who unitedly fought for the freedom of their lands trapped in the clutches of colonial domination.
3. Brymo; There is A Place
There is A Place, a song taken off Harmattan and Winter, the second part of Brymo’s 9 album, captures a society rotten in every aspect of its existence. This society is plagued by “wars and bombings everywhere”. There are “preachers” preaching what they themselves do not practice. There is “chaos”, “pains” and complaints of “I see no changes”. This society is “a lost cause” according to Brymo.
Rather than facilitate change, the leaders, especially the religious leaders and the political leaders, continue to sell “hope” to citizens for the latter’s “survival”. However, the second verse of the song initiates a bit of relief as Brymo sells more ideas of hedonism hinging it on “a perfect world, pleasure for all, and squabbles don’t belong”. To him, pleasure seekers are “the dreamers of the years to come/We live everywhere you turn/In villages and towns and cities/Without us they’d be gone”.
More interestingly, Brymo gets more literary as he brings the song to a total halt, clearing his throat and allowing his own voice to metaphorically capture the tyranny that is evident in a particular government unmentioned. The character in this illustration is symbolically named “Bonehead”. This is to show how brainless the political leaders of this society are. Bonehead is so full of himself that he has no “respect” for anyone, with his “infamously golden rules”.
Bonehead invades the privacy of Brymo, the narrator, and he is not spared as the latter smashes the former’s head with a shotgun—hence “Bonehead is gone/And now the boys can play freely and think on their own/Tyranny is dead/Long lives freedom”. This is pure Literature on this song. Brymo’s assumption of the role of a griot and the illustration itself only point to a particular direction—that he, Brymo, is more than a singer.
Bonehead is used to represent the aged politicians who have never shown any signs of retiring from the politics of Nigeria, therefore when Bonehead dies and Brymo says “now the boys can play and think freely on their own,” he is talking about the younger generation that consists of people who will take up the responsibility of governing their country.
4. Falz; This is Nigeria
A single recorded on the instrumentals of Childish Gambino’s This is America, This is Nigeria is a complete satire that ridicules the rot in the socio-political reality of Nigeria. This song is first powerful not because of its focus alone — Falz makes it dramatic with the direction it takes and the infusion of a prologue at the beginning, an interlude at the middle and an epilogue at the end.
“Extremely Poor. The medical facilities are poor. We operate a predatory, neocolonial capitalist system, which is founded on fraud and exploitation and therefore you are bound to have corruption. Many criminal cases are settled in police station.” This is Falz’s opening speech on the song.
Falz goes on to mock the joblessness of some youth, the insecurity faced by the entire nation, exploitation of people carried out by religious leaders and a certain “madam Philomena,” the personnel at JAMB who claimed millions of Naira was swallowed by a snake in her office.
The song gets dramatic when Falz imitates the deliverance sessions organized by churches and the assault and harassment of citizens by members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Nigeria’s practice of democracy is questioned with worrying occurrences like herdsmen killings, internet fraud and others. In the epilogue, Falz claims “it happens everyday because our system has allowed it.”
This is Nigeria becomes more powerful when the NBC puts it on censorship because a part of the chorus sings “everybody be criminal”. Reacting to the video, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the leader of Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) charged Falz to court for using the hijab to dance “shaku shaku”. Falz followed up the charges only for the Muslim leader to be found wanting at the court. Falz would later call him out on his next single titled Talk.
5. Kizz Daniel; Skin
Skin is the last track on Kizz Daniel’s fourth studio project titled Barnabas. The song Skin addresses a global issue that has continued to affect the black race everywhere outside Africa. Even after the abolishment of Slave Trade, the freedom of Africans and the eradication of colonialism, black people abroad still continue to experience all forms of racist abuse in the hands of their white counterparts who do not fail to claim superiority at any slight opportunity.
In a world plagued by a global epidemic that never discriminates, racially, America spent 2020 tending to the murder case of George Floyd, a black racially brutalized to death by some members of the US police. This particular case of racism had given rise to the clamor for freedom as many people from different parts of the world, irrespective of tribe, kickstarted the movement known as Black Lives Matter. Footballers, especially the blacks who have particularly have a larger share of these abuses, were to be later seen taking the knee in solidarity against racial prejudice.
These occurrences were the spur for Kizz Daniel’s Skin. Skin is a discouragement of racism, body shaming and bleaching as the case may be. While lines like “see me for me, and not the colour of my skin”; “what type of colour is the colour of your skin”; “let the whole world know when you look at me… That looks don’t matter”; “I got a black (white) skin and I like it like that” are a message fashioned against racial discrimination, lines like “your lips… looks don’t matter” discourage the low self-esteem that causes Africans to bleach their skin to look white.
6. Simi: Woman
With the song Woman, Simi joins the long list of female activists and feminists Nigeria has had so far; Olaoluwa Abagun, Oyinkansola Abayomi, Nwando Achebe, Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, Ire Aderinokun, Roseline Adewuyi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Sandra Aguebor, Ifi Amadiume, Judith Amaechi, Nana Asmaʼu, Joy Isi Bewaji, Bunmi Dipo Salami, Shulamite Ezechi, Feminist Coalition, Ayesha Imam, Yejide Kilanko, Muma Gee, Iheoma Obibi, Molara Ogundipe, Osai Ojigho, Julie Okoh, Ayodele Olofintuade, Funmi Olonisakin, Chioma Opara, Oyeronke Oyewumi, Florence Ozor, Funmilayo Ransome-Kut, Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, Adanna Steinacker, Molara Wood, Bilkisu Yusuf etc.
Known online for her push for freedom for women, in 2021, Simi kickstarted some activism against the derogation, degradation and disparagement of women by the seemingly patriarchal society and a totally stereotypical community of women themselves. She tagged the movement Nobody Like Woman.
Several women had sent in pictures of them bearing texts of derogatory remarks targeted at them by the society. Bukunmi, a Yoruba Nollywood actress and her counterpart in the Igbo Nollywood, Tonto Dike were part of the movement.
Woman, released in the later half of 2021, is Simi’s first and only single of the just concluded year. The song continues the same movement for the female gender she has been championing on Instagram. For the first time, Simi uses her music as a weapon to fight the course of feminism. At a point on the song, one is hit by Simi’s feministic inquisition.
This is noticeable in lines like “na so so submission, shey we get assignment?” as the Highlife singer questions the logic behind the submission of a woman in a marriage as postulated by the Christian Bible and many African traditions. She would later go on to praise women claiming “nobody be like woman”.
Away from the controversial theme of the song, Woman is an Afrobeat, adjacent to Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s genre of music, more like it than the now global Afrobeats, that which many African artistes are known for recently.
This isn’t only because Simi sampled Fela on Woman, it is basically because of the tempo of the song, the excessive use of Saxophone, the drumbeats, the Adekunle Gold male adlib of “I never talk am finish”, and the all female Fela-type of backup singers.
And speaking of sampling, this is the third time Simi would be sampling a legend song. She did it with Joromi where she sampled the now late Victor Uwaifo. She did it on Aimasiko, sampling Chief Ebenezer Obey. She has done it the third time on Woman, sampling three different songs of Fela where the late singer sings “water e no get enemy”, “suffer suffer for world” and “e no finish”.
7. Burna Boy; 20 10 20
20 10 20, released immediately the grotesque incident of late 2020 occurred, is a dirge that mourns the lives lost in the protest at the Lekki Toll Gate. 20 10 20 is significantly titled after the date of the killings in Lagos. Burna Boy literally laments the death of fellow compatriots subjected to unlawful killings in the nationwide protest mobilised against the police sect, Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The notoriety of the SARS in harassing and assaulting citizens occasioned the EndSARS movement that later turned bloody for both the civilians and the members of the Nigeria Police Force. Though the authority continues to deny the killings, the youth have never for once agreed to their denial.
This occurrence would later give birth to a serious social unrest that brewed arson, thuggery and looting. Rumour had it that these were politicized by the political leaders to increminate the protesters and then discredit the movement as a peaceful one.
While Burna Boy literally recounts what went down in Lagos that night, he also highlights the failures of the government that awakened the lion in the citizens to protest before October, 2020. In all honesty, the police brutality later fought against in 2020 had gone on for more than two years before the civilians’ rebellion against it.
A distraught Burna Boy is heard cursing “all of you”, invoking the spirits of the dead patroits against the perpetrators of the evil that went down on Ozumba Mbadiwe. 20 10 20 is a proper documentation of this sad occurrence, and as such, is a powerful song that idolizes the lives lost in the massacre. Sadly, at the end of the Afrobeats dirge, listeners are made to relive the traumatic experience with the recording of the gunfire targeted at unarmed citizens at Lekki.
8. Vector; Family Meeting
Family Meeting is Vector’s way of mocking the claim by the government that no life was lost at the protest, with their calls at the families of the “supposed” deceased to show their faces as proofs that the tragic event happened.
However, when Vector says “family meeting upon family meeting”, one’s attention is drawn to the several fruitless meetings held between the youths’ representatives and the government.
There are references to “off light” to suggest how cameras were removed and lights turned down few hours before the event. Family Meeting is a Hip Hop tune which can be perfectly likened to “a candle night” dirge.
The song which was released on 20th October, 2021, a year after the unlawful killings at Lekki, is a remembrance for the rapper, by the way, as the events are unforgettable.
9. Brymo; Harmattan and Winter
Harmattan and Winter, named after the second part of Brymo’s 9 album, maps the juncture where one strongly begins to contemplate Brymo’s reasoning. On some instrumentals built on xylophonic sounds and some minimal traditional percussions, Brymo recounts the “story of my life”. This story is significant!
This is because it captures Brymo’s ideas about life, and directly plays down on religious beliefs. Brymo sings “when I was in hell, I worked for the devil/And heaven was for zombies who feel”. Zombies are portrayed by the American movie industry known as Hollywood as the walking dead who feel no pain or pleasure. Heaven itself has been described as a place without pain but pleasure. But can there be pleasure without pain?
Brymo continues to play down on this age-long religious belief when he sings in the third and fourth line of the first verse of the song again—”on the way to Nirvana, I poured me a double”. Nirvana, as believed by the humans practicing Buddhism, is a place where there is no pain but pleasure. This is the same place Christians call “Heaven”. Brymo pouring himself “a double” is him “drinking alcohol” or seeking pleasure on his way to Nirvana. Something that is considered a sin in some religions.
As beautiful as the idea of a place without pain feels, it may not be idealistic for Brymo because “heaven was for zombies”. It however “took a while to find I’m the key”—to find my goal is more important than that of a religion established by man. Brymo once “fall for a picture”—he fell victim to the idea of heaven as described by the religious. No wonder this is “the story of my life”.
Brymo had shown his hedonistic attributes on Yellow some two years ago, and this part of him reflects again on Harmattan and Winter. Brymo is a pleasure-seeker, and this is why he fell for the idea of heaven in the first place. However, in the second verse of the song, Brymo states categorically that he never regrets seeking pleasure—”on my way to pleasure, I find no evil/The energies they fill and they feed me”.
Harmattan and Winter themselves are two similar seasons peculiar to two different places of the world—Harmattan is a season of dry wind in West Africa while Winter is a season of snowfall in some parts of Europe, America and Asia. Though, both are characterized by cold (pleasure), one (seeking pleasure on earth) is native (African) to Brymo, the other (the idea of heaven) is alien or foreign to him.
The video of the song itself shows a man running shirtless and barefooted from a long distance with the hope that he would finally find his woman—the man could be described as seeking pleasure. When he finally gets to see his woman, two guys, a black man (Harmattan) and a white man (Winter) seize the man.
The black takes the man away and orders his white compatriot to shoot the woman. The woman is killed and the man is taken away. This representation as seen in this video lends a strong support to the fact that life is futile. The man runs all the way from a very long distance to catch up with his happiness, all for the happiness (the pleasure he seeks) to be snatched away from him before his eyes by the evils of life.
10. Burna Boy; Monsters You Made
Monsters You Made is a song taken off Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall album. Burna Boy seizes the piece as a moment to lament the almost irredeemable situations Nigeria as a country wallows in. With references to kidnapping, underdevelopment, marginalization, injustice, rebellion, nationwide insecurity, suffering, hate, poverty, modern slavery, colonialism, Burna Boy’s outburst is justified.
The visuals for Monsters You Made is a clear warning to the government — constant oppression of the civilians will only lead to one thing — anarchy. This rebellion is manifested in the video of the song as the people, mobilised by Burna Boy, turn violent and militant in a bid to protest and overthrow the oppressive government of their nation state.
The first verse starts with a bit of control for Burna Boy, emotionally. Chris Martin too is supportive of this calmness in his chorus. Sadly, like a warhead would explode and damage a work of a million years, this calmness is short-lived. The opposite of first-verse Burna Boy is what is heard on verse two.
The whole of the second verse is delivered in anger. Burna Boy’s anger and frustrations are felt at 2:20 on the song. 2 minutes 20 seconds of the song is where Burna Boy furiously and impatiently pronounces “go through” as “go too”. In your head, you literally picture him spitting into the studio mic. The anger originally begins at 1:59 where Burna Boy daringly uses the F-words to ridicule the colonial masters and Mungo Park, the explorer who allegedly discovered River Niger.
11. Adekunle Gold; There is a God
With the growing popularity of atheism and several theories and arguments that disregard the existence of a creator, Adekunle Gold felt the need to point out the existence of God through several inferences. With the London Community Gospel Choir (LCGC) serving as a featured backup, a melody is certainly up for listening, regardless of what message is disseminated lyrically.
A Soul song accompanied with the acoustic guitar, taken off Adekunle Gold’s About 30 album, the singer uses natural phenomenon such as the rise and setting of the sun, the fall of the rain and the entire beauty the world epitomizes to prove the existence of the creator. Moving further in his argument, AG uses cases of mysterious events such as a woman conceiving without a womb and the sick getting healed without treatment as undisputable points.
Adekunle Gold’s argument is very logical and one is particularly pleased with how he does not follow the convention of quoting the verses of religious books to prove the existence of God. Nature, mysterious occurrences and “looking down at the world from 25 000 feet” are all enough to prove that “somebody made the world and everything beautiful”.
This is a simple logic. This world is too organized and beautiful to have existed on its own by chance. However, at the point the piano is introduced at the bridge of the song, Adekunle Gold gets religiously sentimental by singing “there is a God/he lives in the heavens” — the religious belief that God lives in heaven makes it a more difficult argument. Adekunle Gold will need more than a religious book to physically prove this claim of God’s residence to an atheist.
The LCGC are left with nothing much energetic to do until at the bridge of the song where they all combine to vocalize a soulful delivery, giving Adekunle Gold the freedom to take on the ad-libs to the end.
12. Dagrin; Democracy
The embracement of corruption by the lot of Nigerian political leaders is strongly ridiculed on Democracy by Dagrin. While the late rapper disputes the system of government in Nigeria as a democracy, he lyrically captures the poor standard of living of the masses and the clear underdevelopment that the country continues to exist in. Dagrin released this song in 2010, but even in 2022, everything he lamented twelve years ago continues to be a sad reality.
Though Dagrin gets offensive with his lyrics, the mention of recession, secession, police brutality, bribery, poor educational system, unemployment, poor salary structure, inflation, poverty, crime, frustration, unfulfilled manifestoes, embezzlement of public funds, poor social amenities and the negativities that continue to hit the country cannot be overlooked.
To Dagrin, what is practiced in Nigeria is not democracy and such system is not worth honoring if it has not done any good to improve the lives of the citizens. For this, an apathetic Dagrin proscribes political participation. The only thing not mentioned on this song is currently Nigeria’s fiercest problem — insecurity.
13. Davido; Intro
A song written by Yonda, a former member of DMW, Davido’s record label, Intro thematically revolves around two different topics. One is major, the other is minor. Intro is the first track off Davido’s A Good Time album released in 2018, and according to Yonda, the song was the cause of the just settled feud between Burna Boy and Davido, a claim Burna Boy disputed instantly.
The inadequacies of Nigerian political parties are challenged by Davido on Intro, using the flaws of APC and PDP, the leading political parties in the country, as a case study. Davido blames the poor state of the country on these two parties who have enjoyed power for about two decades combined without improving the country in every sector of its existence. The “propaganda” of these political leaders is mocked lyrically.
Davido also throws several shots at his “Instagram” and “Twitter” enemies on the first verse. To him, their “hypocrisy” will never get to him. Whatever attack is targeted at him is rendered impotent because “Jah be my saviour,” Davido sings. Kiddominant’s production works are appreciated better with the adoption of saxophone at the closure of the song.
14. Wizkid; Joy
A Reggae song off Wizkid’s 2014 album titled Ayo, Joy is a representation of the fulfillment that comes with success as experienced by Wizkid himself. The singer did not immediately achieve this fulfillment. The motivation behind this achievement came directly from his mother during his childhood — “when I was a little boy, mama told me,” Wizkid sings.
The mother urged the young boy to believe in the “chase (of) your dreams”. There are moments the mother prayed for him lyrically captured on the first verse. Sticking to this piece of advice, Wizkid today, is fulfilled and successful in the chase of his dreams (music).
“Love will set you free” is a line that proclaims the importance of love. In the end, a grateful Wizkid acknowledges the support of his wonderful fans who are now nominally known as FC Wizkid or simply FC everywhere on the internet.