DJ, keep that record playing to the top Afrobeats hits of 2022!

By Dami Ajayi, Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
Posted on Thursday, 29 December 2022 12:22

Asake performs in Chicago, US. (photo: @asakemusik)

It has been another year of wins for Afrobeats, both in the dancehalls and on the international scene. We count down the top 15 hits from 2022...

The meteoric rise of Ololade Asake this year from the backwaters of obscurity is like Tems’ rise last year. This year, Tems rendered her take on Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’ on the original soundtrack of Marvel Film Wakanda Forever and she is not the only Afrobeats musician to contribute to this high-profile project.

Sold-out international concerts are now a regular fare and newcomer Asake already sold out the 5,000-capacity 02 in Brixton for three nights in December. The Headies committee (Nigeria’s equivalent of the Recording Academy) already has a dilemma on their hands: how would a certain nominee in the Best New Artist category be in contention for Artist of the Year?

Away from firmly rooted new arrivals, Burna Boy has clinched another Grammy nomination without Sean Combs’ support as executive producer.

The Afrobeats scene is in fine health and Amapiano drums are an obsession yet to wane. Here are 15 songs that stand out.

15. Oxlade: ‘Ku Lo Sa’ (Nigeria) 

On “Ku Lo Sa”, Oxlade’s falsetto pushes the weight of conviction (read seduction) to an aloof love interest. His plea to “come closer” betrays his Yorùbá heritage.

In his attempt to woo, he ironically inspires parodies of love for TikTok users which has helped the popularity of this tune.

14. Pheelz & BNXN (fka Buju): ‘Finesse’ (Nigeria)

If the Lagos urban youth had an anthem that doubles as an aspirational tune and bop ‘Finesse’ plays both fields. The deft lyricism, including football reference, by hooksmith BNXN and the dreamy production of Pheelz’s understudy, Miichkel, brings the title track’s true meaning to life.

With an excess of risible phrases for captions on social media, Pheelz not only created a pop culture moment, but he also finessed a crooning career.

13. Ayra Starr: ‘Rush’ (Nigeria)

Fast-rising chanteuse tops her 19 & Dangerous debut LP album with this crisp single, ‘Rush’, an ode to her zeal for success and divine thanksgiving for blessing her hustle. It is a modern incarnation of braggadocio, praise-giving, and dance.

With it, Ayra Starr has added another year of wins to her claim to longevity.

12. Victony & Tempoe: ‘Soweto’ (Nigeria)

Victony lends his silky falsetto to the lush Tempoe production on ‘Soweto’. The South African township historically associated with black strife and optimism is deployed to serenade a lady’s luscious body and a promise of expensive gifts and an expense account.

Call it a modern mating dance tune with a flurry of metaphors and you will be correct.

11. Kelvyn Boy: ‘Down Flat’ (Ghana)

Three years have passed since the Assin Fosu-born vocalist predicted his rise to stardom with millions rocking to his “Afrobeats” on the eponymous song. ‘Down Flat’, the revelation of that prophecy, is a mellifluous lovers’ anthem that presents a modern interpretation of Roman poet Virgil’s love epithet.

For Kelvyn Boy, when love knocks you down, you must fall flat and quiver to its rhythm.

10. Asake: ‘Terminator’ (Nigeria) 

Off his impressive catalogue of singles released in 2022, ‘Terminator’ arguably stands out as Asake’s best; a subversive love song, tender yet fierce.

Enhanced by choral singing popularised by Asake in lieu of the regular call and response found in Fuji, he drags out his vowels in a fashion like the great Apala icon, Ayinla Omowura, who incidentally also took his mother’s name for the stage like Asake. ‘Terminator’ is about promises and transactions and moving affection.

9. Kizz Daniel & Tekno: ‘Buga (Lo Lo Lo)’ (Nigeria) 

For every man (or woman) caught in the Sisyphean cycle of the toils of labour and short-lived pleasures of the hustle, ‘Buga’ soundtracks their experience. Both Kizz Daniel and Tekno’s lyrics evoke reliability in the struggle of the common person in a consumerist world where progress is measured by indices derived from social media consensus.

8. Black Sherif: ‘Soja’ (Ghana)

Black Sherif’s socio-political commentary elevates his cultural relevance above his peers. With his level of introspection comes bouts of depression and self-doubt, yet the hip hop griot doesn’t shy away, especially on the pensive ‘Soja‘.

Black Sherif addresses the trauma that afflicts many whose lives have become substrate to pernicious aspirations of success.

7. Ruger: ‘Girlfriend’ (Nigeria)

Fast-rising crooner with a slew of memorable hits in tow, Ruger, styled with a star-shaped eye patch, coasts on this fast-paced dancehall tune narrating a moral dilemma about infidelity.

Bringing a narrative to a genre known for frenzied dance is not new to Afrobeats if we consider Patoranking’s ‘Abule’ but Ruger brings granular details to a universal experience while exploring the ethics (or lack thereof) of his carnal choices.

6. K.O featuring Young Stunna & Blxckie: ‘SETE’ (South Africa)

With borrowed vocal styling from West Africa’s rising Afropop scene, lyrics referencing late Noughties American R&B, and the subtle use of dancehall drums, South African rapper, K.O., assisted by Young Stunna and Blxckie, reproduced a winning template. In hindsight, it was a blessing that Ruger had other options when K.O. approached him with the beat.

5. Burna Boy: ‘Last Last’ (Nigeria) 

The overwhelming success of sleeper hit ‘Essence’ last summer has taught Afrobeats practitioners a trick about international recognition. Commissioning producer Chopstix to sample vocal powerhouse Toni Braxton’s Grammy-nominated Noughties hit, ‘He Wasn’t Man Enough’, shows a deliberateness that has now paid off.

Burna Boy’s take has surpassed the original in YouTube views and the album for which it stands as the lead single has earned him another Grammy nomination.

4. Rema: ‘Calm Down’ (Nigeria) 

The standout single of his debut LP album, Raves and Roses, Rema’s ‘Calm Down’ hardly improves his aesthetic and vocal styling: the reedy nasal falsetto repeats phonemes incessantly for a light hypnotic effect enhanced by hard-hitting percussive rhythms courtesy of Andrevibez and London.

The ambience suggests this song is urgently happening on a dancehall with an alleyway leading straight to the bedroom. Rema asks his love interest to calm down even though he means the opposite of what he is saying.

3. Camidoh featuring Mayorkun, King Promise & Darkoo: ‘Sugarcane (Remix)’ (Ghana)

Nominated for the Best Afrobeats Song at the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards, this song features an all-star ensemble – Camidoh, King Promise, DARKOO and Mayorkun – representing both Ghana and Nigeria, the two giant Afrobeats hubs.

It is a love song about longing with a melodious ring, and a confluence of English and West African languages coasting on the understated but immaculate production from Phantom.

2. Doja Cat: ‘Woman’ (Diaspora)

The opening track of her third album, Planet Her, ‘Woman’ is an up-tempo tribute to femininity and Doja Cat’s gambit to showcase her myriad of talents and vocal dexterity in the recording booth. Co-written with Jidenna, ‘Woman’ is a praise song for women folk and its main sonic influence is Afrobeats which is a triumph as it has received three Grammy nominations including the coveted Record of the Year.

1. Asake featuring Burna Boy: ‘Sungba (Remix)’ (Nigeria) 

Asake’s Fujipiano experimentation approached its zenith on the Burna Boy-assisted “Sungba” consolidating his claim as the best new artiste this year.

Sungba’s suggestive lyrics layered on the up-tempo production offer dalliance between romance and dance while flirting with that subtext in the room: mating.

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