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Here are the 10 best Nigerian debut Hip-Hop albums since 1999

Posted By Kenneth nwakauba | In Music | Jul 10, 2022, 6:11 pm

The list includes MI Abaga, Phyno, Modenine and more.

In music, some people argue debut albums are the easiest to make. Be that as it may, we are not here for philosophical arguments. Debut albums are still albums and albums are hard to make.

In 2010, I was watching a documentary of St. Louis rapper, Nelly. While speaking about his diamond-selling debut album, Country Grammar, he said something along the lines of, ‘You have your whole life to make your debut album, that’s why sophomore albums make artists nervous.’

Whatever the case might be, quality debut albums need appreciation – especially in Nigerian Hip-Hop. Here are our choices of the 10 best debut albums in Nigerian Hip-Hop since 1999.

10) Album: Pirated Copy

2Shotz - Pirated Copy. (Trybe Records)
2Shotz – Pirated Copy. (Trybe Records)

Artist: 2Shotz

Year of release: 2004

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs, 01:18:14

Hits: 1 – Carry Am Go

Label: Trybes Records

Features: 2 – Big Lo, Del

Producers: eLDee

High point: Everything.

Sounds like: The story of your life.

Thoughts: This is a socio-politically charged body of work with the soul of classic Hip-Hop. It might not be 2Shotz‘s best album, but it’s good enough.

9) Album: African American

Sinzu - African American. (Amazon)
Sinzu – African American. (Amazon)

Artist: Sinzu (Sauce Kid)

Year of release: 2010

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs, 01:18:14

Hits: 1 – ‘Under G’

Label: Ostrakon Records

Features: 8 – 9ice, Don Jazzy, Lynnx, Meaku, Banky W, Iceberg Slim, Ghetto P

Producers: Don Jazzy, Sossick, eLDee, Knighthouse, IKON

High point: ‘Airplane Mode’

Sounds like: IJGB that likes lamba

Thoughts: Coming off ‘Money Long,’ Nigerian Hip-Hop heads were not convinced by Sauce Kid. In fact, a lot of Hip-Hop heads will still argue that African American was an average album – it was not. The first half of the album is made up of pop records and the second half is made up of grimy Hip-Hop beats that the Nigerian Hip-Hop community could not relate with.

READ ALSO: Dear Nigerian artist, here is why your album needs a properly sequenced tracklist [Explainer]

Nonetheless, it gave Sinzu the confidence to be Nigeria’s best rapper in 2011 and parts of 2012.

8.) Album: Everybody Loves Ice Prince

Ice Prince - Everybody Loves Ice Prince. (Genius)
Ice Prince – Everybody Loves Ice Prince. (Genius)

Artist: Ice Prince

Year of release: 2011

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs, 01:16:03

Hits: 2 – ‘Oleku’ featuring Brymo, ‘Superstar’

Label: Ostrakon Records

Features: 8 – Yung L, J-Milla, Wizkid, 2Baba, Brymo, Wizboyy, Sean Tero and Samklef

Producers: Jesse Jagz, Samklef, MI Abaga, Chopstix, E Kelly and Wizboyy.

High point: ‘Oleku’ featuring Brymo

Sounds like: Chocolate City wanted to make money

Thoughts: In 2012, this album was named Best Rap Album at the Headies. But guys, when it dropped Ice Prince got a bloodbath from Hip-Hop head son Twitter NG. They hated his rap technique and delivery. They failed to understand that there are different ways to make rap music. These Hip-Hop heads particularly hated the commercial drive of Everybody Loves Ice Prince.

But here’s the truth; this is an amazing album that’s aging like fine wine. It also put Ice Prince on the front foot for an amazing five-year run.

7.) Album: Free At Last

Freestyle - Free At Last. (West Side Music)
Freestyle – Free At Last. (West Side Music)

Artist: Freestyle

Year of release: 2007

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs, 01:16:03

Hits: 1 – Sip Easy’ featuring 2Baba Idibia

Label: West Music

Features: Robert Peters, Niyola, 2Baba, Maideena, C-Mion, Sasha, Blaise, Mr. Emmanuel, Sound Sultan, Kage

Producers: Freestyle

High point: ‘Sip Easy’ featuring 2Baba and ‘OK?’

Sounds like: A lot of lyricism

Thoughts: In 2008, this album was named Best Rap Album at the Headies over Son of The Soil by Ikechukwu. Some people still consider it an upset and it probably is, but this album will forever be amazing for its incorporation of the Shady/Aftermath sound into Nigerian Hip-Hop.

6.) Album: Malcolm IX (Lost Sessions)

Modenine - Malcolm IX. (Ostrakon)
Modenine – Malcolm IX. (Ostrakon)

Artist: Modenine

Year of release: 2004

Tracks/Duration: 20 Songs

Hits: 0

Label: Ostrakon Records

Features: 4 – Callen, Blast, Sanchez, OD, LD Da Don,

Producers: Freestyle, Modenine, G-Lynx, Baron, Eldee, Mr Seth,

High point: Elbow Room

Sounds like: A lot bars you will continue deciphering for the next 20 years – sorry.

Thoughts: Guys, Modenine already had the Ghana Must Go of written content at Okokomaiko at this point. Coming off a radio gig, nobody in Hip-Hop was shocked by what this album produced. If you hadn’t heard about Modenine at this point, you were probably sleeping.

5.) Album: Pain Plus Work

Gino - Pain Plus Work. (MOBB)
Gino – Pain Plus Work. (MOBB)

Artist: Gino

Year of release: 2006

Tracks/Duration: 17 songs • 01:10:44

Hits: 0

Label: MOBB/Obaino

Features: 5 – Sossick, M.Speech, Shank, C-Mion, Studd, Ghetto P, Word Play, Jeff, Slutter

Producers: Sossick

High point: Farabale

Sounds like: Modenine with a dash of Benin

Thoughts: Lagos-bred Benin rapper, Gino was the delight of Nigerian Hip-Hop when this album dropped. Guys,his brother was a student at Yaba College of Technology when this album was made. Word on the street is that Gino and his brothers were the first to have a home studio amongst the underground rappers in Lagos.

This album was not special for just its bars, it was about the production of a young Sossick. Who at the time was a rapper-turned-producer.

4.) Album: Thy Album Come

Ruggedman - Thy Album Come.
Ruggedman – Thy Album Come.

Artist: Ruggedman

Year of release: 2004

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs, 01:16:03

Hits: 2 – ‘Ehen,’ and ‘Baraje’

Label: Silver Tone Records

Features: 5 – Nomoreloss, Jafaar, Abounce, C-Mion, Josh Of Tatu Clan


High point: ‘Ehen’ featuring Nomoreloss

Sounds like: A mix of mainstream lamba and Hip-Hop

Thoughts: Guys, ‘Ruggedman was the troublemaker of his time. On ‘Ehen,’ his dissed Rasqie, Eedris, The Remedies, Maintain and more. On ‘Big Bros,’ he took aim at Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye of Kennis Music. This came after he got a piece of advise from Paul Play Dairo who told him to mix his mother tongue and pidgin for effective Nigerian rap music.

Ruggedman added his own twist and floored everybody with commercial music which earned criticism from Nigerian Hip-Hop circles. They felt he ‘sold out.’ In truth, this was a turning point for Nigerian Hip-Hop. This was a man who fearlessly went against the Hip-Hop stereotype to facilitate relatable Hip-Hop records for everybody and got acclaim and awards for it.

In the same vein, it also earned him a ‘Death Blow.’

3.) Album: U Know My P

Naeto C - U Know My P. (Storm)
Naeto C – U Know My P. (Storm)

Artist: Naeto C

Year of release: 2008

Tracks/Duration: 13 Tracks, 56:30

Hits: 1 – Kini Big Deal

Label: World Famous Akademy, Storm Records

Features: 4 – Ikechukwu, Wande Coal, Saro Wiwa, Morell

Producers: TY-Mix, VC Perez, Don Jazzy

High point: Kini Big Deal featuring Ikechukwu

Sounds like: Posh music from ‘frosh’ struggling to be like mere mortals

Thoughts: Word on the street is that U Know My P was done and nothing was left but a single. So, Obi Asika ordered for a single for this album – he felt the album needed one. When ‘Kini Big Deal’ was done, Naeto C and Ikechukwu went to South Africa and the rest was history. When this album hit stores, it was a ray of light in a burgeoning Hip-Hop culture in the early parts of its golden era.

Till this day, some people feel U Know My P deserved Best Rap Album at the 2009 Headies over MI Abaga‘s Talk About It.

2.) Album: No Guts, No Glory

'No Guts, No Glory' by Phyno. (Amazon)
‘No Guts, No Glory’ by Phyno. (Amazon)

Artist: Phyno

Year of release: 2014

Tracks/Duration: 20 songs/01:16:53

Hits: 5 (‘Alobam,’ ‘Man of The Year,’ ‘Parcel,’ ‘Ghost Mode,’ ‘O Set’)

Label: Penthauze/Goretti Company

Features: 3 – P Square, Omawumi, Olamide, Efa, Runtown, Flavour,Ice Prince, MI Abaga, Timaya, Mr Raw Nwanne, iLLBliss

Producers: Major Banggz, Phyno, Wizzypro, JSTUNT

High point: ‘Parcel’

Sounds like: Hard Hip-Hop bangers, Major Banggz and Igbo drip

Thoughts: Before this album dropped, it disrupted the soundscape with its own brand of commercial rap. At helm of affairs was Major Banggz while Phyno was spat fireIf Nigeria will ever have its own brand of rap music, we have to go back to that sound or go a little forward to Young Jon’s serial madness on ‘Awon Goons Mi’ and ‘Cause Trouble.’

Phyno was the producer-turned-swashbuckiling Igbo-speaking rapper with an avant-garde appearance. On ‘Obago’ he rapped, “East coast n**a banging in the west” and it was a fact. ‘Ghost Mode,’ ‘Obago,’ ‘Parcel’ and ‘Kush Music’ were mega-hits before his album dropped. When the album dropped, ‘Alobam’ became a cultural moment.

Phyno was the cool kid with the cool fashion sense. ‘Alobam’ birthed merchandize and street culture. If MI Abaga visibly merged rap with pop music, Phyno blurred the lines. This was a proper rap album with hits, critical acclaim and awards. ‘Parcel’ was rightly named Best Rap Single at the 2014 single.

The only reason this album didn’t win Album of the Year was probably because Baddest Guy Ever Liveth was in the same category.

– Culled from Pulse Nigeria

1.) Album: Talk About It

MI Abaga - Talk About It. (Chocolate City)
MI Abaga – Talk About It. (Chocolate City)

Artist: MI Abaga

Year of release: 2008

Tracks/Duration: 18 songs/01:04:15

Hits: 2 (‘Safe’ and ‘Anoti’)

Label: Chocolate City

Features: Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Gabriel, Pype, Leony, Djinee, Blaize, YQ, Wizkid, Eben, Lindsay, Uche

High point: ‘Safe’ featuring Djinee

Sounds like:A potpourri of risky tunes and a dash of vodka

Producers: E-Kelly, Masterkraft, Jay Sleek, Samklef, DJ Klem,

Thoughts: What makes MI Abaga special? A lot of people tend to ask that question. Well, as former Senior Editor of Pulse Nigeria puts it, “The three greatest Nigerian rappers are Modenine, M.I, and Olamide. While Modenine is the bar for lyricism and Olamide is the greatest Nigerian rapper to impact pop culture, M.I has the strongest discography.”

MI Abaga was an English-speaking Nigerian rapper who transcended realms into hits and pop culture relevance. He also won awards that pop stars were winning. This album was an important moment that proved to Nigerian rappers that you can do it if you understand how to work with sound.

– Culled from Pulse Nigeria

Honourable Mentions

Sasha – First Lady

Trybesmen – LAG Style

Knighthouse – Street Scriptures Vol 1



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