As 2018 boils with new content, here’s looking at 2017’s musical gems! While Togo’s Ozane released a strong debut album titled “Lucky”, Mi Casa shot us with their third soulful house album: “Familia”. Nigeria delivered “This is Me” – Niniola’s anticipated debut album, Olamide’s seventh album in seven years: “Lagos Nawa!” and Falz’s surprise album “27” out celebrate his birthday. With the drop of their debut self-titled album, two of Kenya’s respected rappers: Bobby Mapesa and Calvo Mistari launched their new group BC. Here are my 10 greatest African albums from 2017 coming in no particular order:
1. Highly Flavoured – Busiswa
In 2017 South African singer Busiswa announced that she was expecting a baby and also dropped her debut album in which she reigns supreme, thanks to her clever mix of genres from South African House, Dance and Kwaito. Tracks like “Uthando Lwakho” and “Drop and ReWhine” are groovy and certified R&B bangers fused in Caribbean vibes with DJ Maphorisa singing in the later. You know this doesn’t happen often. In “Bad Galz” Busiswa teams up with South African bad girl, Moozlie, who completely delivers on her bars, to produce a certified club banger! Of all the album’s 13 tracks, the rhythmic “Ingqondo” is my stand out track—you can’t really point out which country it would come from. Busiswa’s debut album is an African masterpiece. I love it!
2. First Wave EP – Ycee
Tinny Entertainment signee—Ycee is not your ordinary Nigerian music act or rapper. He’s been making waves in Nigeria and beyond right from his 2015 “Jagaban” hit, that birthed even a bigger remix featuring Olamide. From there on, the stage was set for Ycee to either own or drop his crown. Ycee’s debut EP: First Wave has fed fans and pundits multiple genres cutting across Afrobeats, Rap and Trap. “Kill Nobody” featuring Calibrii, “Juice” featuring Maleek Berry and “Link Up” with Reekabo Banks are all banging tracks with the last two having enjoyed airplay on Pan African charts. “Bubbly” with Falz is an interesting sound about the fancy lifestyles Nigerians so love. From the lyrics to the delivery, Ycee is seductively bragging in the Maleek Berry produced “Don’t Need Bae”. In “Need To Know”, Ycee teams up with Nigerian songbird Seyi Shay to deliver an R&B anthem for the lovers. All its 8 tracks are replay material. Ycee is flaunting his artistry producing EP that transcends styles and genres.
3. Biology – Eddy Kenzo
Since Eddy Kenzo’s “Sitya Loss” fame and BET win, he’s been on a mission to prove to the world that he’s not a one hit wonder. While showing he’s prolific, and musical—his 27-track fourth album proves just this! In Biology, Kenzo enlists big names across Africa, featuring South Africa’s Mi Casa and Heavy K in groovy Dance and House tracks in “Movie Star” and “Ya Solo”, respectively. Others include legendary Congolese singer Werrason in Lingala track “Malembe” and the gospel-inspired “Barua” featuring Kenyan singer Bahati. My personal favourites are “Jubilation” and “Yele”—certified feel-good tracks. You know you’ve made it when mothers of your fans are also fans! My mum actually really loves “Palalawe”—she called me once and asked me to send her the song. Another time she asked me to tell Kenzo that she loves the song. It’s a dope album but too long Eddy. Also – thanks for the dope Biology bomber jacket 🙂
4. Unlimited LP – Masterkraft
It’s a scramble of sorts for artistes when Africa’s biggest music producers are morphing themselves into artistes and producing their own hit records. The 17-track LP is the true definition of a star-studded effort with Masterkraft pulling all his famous friends in African music; from Tekno, Mi Casa, Flavour, Sarkodie, Reekado Banks, Davido to Olamide. My album favourites are “Me and You” featuring Cameroonian star Locko and Kenyan songstress Dela, recorded in Nairobi during their Coke Studio stint, and “Master” in which Mastekraft reintroduces us to Tamba Hali – the Liberian born American footballer who raps in the track. From Afro Beats, Rap, Dance and House, Unlimited LP flaunts Masterkraft as a jack of all trades but a master of none but his craft.
5. Stella Mwangi EP – Stella Mwangi
Stella Mwangi’s eponymous hit Hollywood EP has ruled for two years straight elevating her in 2017 to become one of the most popular African female artistes in Hollywood sync music. In the EP project, Stella enlists her long-term Norwegian music producers to deliver a fusion of high-energy electronic songs. With her clever fusion of Swahili and English and distinct hip-hop flow uniting fans across the globe while her, the Kenyan Norwegian rapper has created a diverse sound while remaining authentic to her African origin and style. While “Big Girl” flaunts bravado, “Work” is a certified hit with a fierce message, Stella raps: “Unataka pesa ngapi? Amka ufanye kazi!” Even though 2018 is here and Stella is onto different sounds and releases, her 2017 EP will continue to spark dance floors – globally.
6. Ona Sasa – Mandela
The former lead singer of Kenya’s acclaimed live performing band: Sarabi took an expected turn in 2017, leaving the group and launching his solo career. Mandela teamed up with Humphrey Ndomboka (Tanzanian based Zimbabwean producer) at Wanene Studios in Dar es Salaam to produce his debut solo music project. The 6-tracked Ona Sasa EP is a beautiful and strong composition of Afro Pop meets World Music. All songs of the live-recorded album touch on topical themes like self-love and self-realization. My favourites are “Fantastic Love” and “Hakuna Matata” –an urban afro-pop track on a vagabond theme setting us off to embrace peace and no worries or complications. “Accident” is my best because of its delicate juxtaposition of the implication of a calamity. You might think a small mistake only hurts you but it can easily translate into the masses.
7. Blackboy Music Presents Gqom – DJ Maphorisa
This album follows DJ Maphorisa’s successful 2016 EP that had an interesting production flow and genres cutting across rap/hip hip. We wrote about it here. In the new album, DJ Maphorisa simply goes back to the roots of South African House music exclusively featuring South African acts including DJ Buckz, Kwesta, Bucie and Busiswa in the 14-track dance fest. DJ Maphorisa has delivered some of Africa’s biggest global hits today having co-produced “One Dance” by Drake and Wizkid and Major Lazer’s “Particula”. Beyond setting the next trend in music, time is nigh for this acclaimed South African DJ and music producer to have the biggest African tune as his own. And by the look of it, his album’s “Midnight Starring” could be well on its way. With good PR and distribution, “Makhe” with Moonlight Sanelly also has the potential of taking over Africa.
8. Black Magic album and Mama Afrique EP – Yemi Alade
Yemi Alade has got so much grit, soul and sass all at once! Most people and fans can’t seem to pick what exactly it is about her fast rising star power. For that reason the title of her latest album Black Magic –comes as a good proposal as to her driving force. Songs like “Mr. Stamina”, “You”, “Heartrobber”, “Mo Lo” and “Bum Bum” are Yemi’s new classics. My absolute favourites is the groovy and traditionally fused “Knack Am” and “Go Down” which features in the deluxe edition of the album set for release in 2018.
Mama Afrique EP is just a face off of Yemi recent bangers in different versions sang in French, Swahili and Portuguese. “Charliee”, and “Nakupenda” with Nyashinski are the EPs gems. If all the artistes in Africa were half as hardworking as Queen of Afro Pop Yemi Alade – our entertainment scene would be on the next level already! Congrats Mama Africa – keep shining!
9. 20 – Mafikizolo
20 years in the game is no joke! Congrats to award-winning South African duo Mafikizolo for celebrating two decades in the business. I am sure it wasn’t easy and I applaud the duo comprising of Theo and Nhlanhla for always keeping it classy and super stylish. Featuring Tanzanian singer Harmonize, Zimbabwe’s Jah Prayzah and Yemi Alade, among other African stars—20 is a monumental album with beloved new-age Mafikizolo hits like the DJ Maphorisa produced “Love Potion” and “Catching Feelings” featuring Zingah.
10. Tokoos – Fally Ipupa
When I wrote on social media that I just heard my first Lingala full album after jamming to Tookos, a Congolese music lover quickly corrected me that Fally’s new album does not represent original Congolese Lingala or Sokous music. It’s heavily influenced by Afro Beats and Pop sounds. However, I love all of its 18 tracks with “Kiname” featuring Booba and “Nidja” featuring R Kelly as some of my favourites. My stand out song of the album is “Yakuza” featuring Wizkid. If you listen to Fally’s vocal runs and sexy intonations over and over again – you will get pregnant. This is probably the sexiest man in person and in a song – in all measures.
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