2023 had a lot to offer musically. From viral moments to smashing hits, it’s a year that produced a little bit of everything. Featuring Amaarae, Davido, Toofan & more, iMullar put together the top 23 projects that made our year.
1. Amaarae – Fountain Baby
Undoubtedly the boldest artist to emerge from Ghana, Amaarae has been blazing her path, going against all the odds and making music that sheds a different light on her country’s creative scene. “Fountain Baby” weaves together Afro-rock, R&B, G-funk, and more. The songs are dynamic, continually shifting the lanes of new-age music. With such a luxurious voice and productions to match, there’s no doubt why Fountain Baby was a fan favorite worldwide.
Coming off a dark year with personal loss, The Nigerian artist was able to pick himself up, deliver an iconic World Cup final performance, and got in the booth to create his fourth album. “Timeless“ is a groovy project, with songs curated for dancing – the use of log drums, an element of Amapiano is felt throughout the album. Across 17 songs, it’s a wondrous mix of Afro-pop music, excellent guest feature curation, and peak Davido bangers.
3. Asake – Work Of Art
Still one of Africa’s fastest growing artists, Asake has had a hell of a run off the back of an incredibly well curated debut, and he harnesses that same energy on “Work Of Art“, an album that traces back to his debut, with songs that amplify Fuji as the new wave. Asake’s music embraces magic hour, sharing tales of self-love and religion, a trait that has made him one of the most exciting conscious artists of our time.
4. Stonebwoy – 5th Dimension
Stonebwoy’s year has been a very resourceful one, On what he called his “most personal” body of work in an interview with naijaloud earlier this year, the Afro-Dancehall artist delivered an album with a collection of warm, intimate Afro-dancehall compositions influenced by roots reggae and Afrobeats. His “rudebwoy” character on “My Sound” featuring Shaggy and calmness on “Far Away” is a wry testament to his work ethic as a diverse artist who can deliver on all fronts.
5. Baaba J – Okay Baby, Let’s Do This
Personally, I love the name of this album, you just know it’s going to be a freefall. And Baaba J delivered. Across seven Afro-pop ballads, she expresses herself with a subtle touch, powered by her native language, yet devoted to all ears. Her freewheeling spirit shines through momentous songs like “Outside” and “Wonderful.” And it all comes easily to her because of how her vocals traverse multiple genres and forms of songwriting.
6. J Hus – Beautiful And Brutal Yard
Vivid storytelling and raw flow have never been this intense. J Hus’ third studio album is a showcase of his impressive skill and perspective as a smooth talker with mean ways. On his most anticipated album to date, he reminded us why he can’t be boxed in. “Militerian” sees him go full Afrobeats with the help of Naira Marley, proving just how diverse he can be.
7. O’Kenneth & Xlimkid – Glory In Pain
Asakaa is one of Ghana’s biggest musical exports. Spearheaded by Kumasi’s hardest rappers Ghanaian Drill was even recognized as a sub-genre by the Grammy’s. So when one of the Asaaka crew’s biggest voices, O’Kenneth collaborated with XlimKid for a joint project it was a sure win. And after a co-sign from none other than Lil Durk, its lead single “Lonely Road” debuted on the Billboard Afrobeats charts.
8. Lojay – Gangster Romantic
The multi-talented singer-songwriter has one of the smoothest pens and vocals in the game. With a slew of superstar features and hits under his belt, Gangster Romantic was expected to be filled with bangers, and it did not disappoint. Records like “Availabu” and “Leader” have endless replay value and speak to Lojay’s craft.
9. Ragz Originale – Bare Sugar
The London-based artist has cemented himself as a visionary artiste/producer. His new album ‘Bare Sugar’ tilts towards alternative R&B . With 32 minutes of brilliant production and show-stealing features, a standout song like ‘Dance Can’t Dun’ holds heavy genre-bending synths and free-flowing experimentation that effortlessly merges into elements of soul and modernized dancehall. It’s this ability to weave together disparate sounds that allowed him to deliver his most honest and authentic work to date.
10. Nonso Amadi – When It Blooms
Nonso’s comeback feels like a smooth ride, steered at his own pace. Fusing Afro-Soul with synth-pop, the album revels in the impermanence of intimacy. Songs like “Foreigner” and “Pieces” which feature Tay Iwar, are a reflection of his heartfelt classics. His understanding of R&B and Afrobeats has allowed him to be innovative, spreading his tenderness throughout a blissful album.
11. Tay Iwar – Summer Breeze
Just like the title, you’d expect a very sheeny project, and that’s exactly what Tay offered here. There’s a buzz to the way his words connect and flow into each other when he’s just searching for a way to figuratively express himself on Summer Breeze. As calm as he sounds, his emotions occasionally trips him up, but his collaborators are there to balance things, and this gels into something tactile with an accompanying production. He pulls both sides of his personal love triangle into one commingled shield.
12. Uncle Waffles – Solace
Known to be one of Amapiano’s finest exports, Uncle Waffles has effortlessly propelled herself to global status. Since her breakout in 2021, the DJ/producer has dished out many club hits and headlined festivals all over the world. “Solace” keeps the trend going: Amapiano in its purest form. “Peacock Revisit” and “Waffles Anthem” are especially infectious, with log drums that make you want to move.
13. Odumodublvck – EZIOKWU UNCUT
EZIOKWU which means “truth,” is an expansive album that renders Odumodu’s brusque Abuja life experience and journey fiercely, his style, dubbed “Okporoko Rhythm” blends Grime, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeats, progressive R&B, and Drill music. The deluxe adds more weight to it’s catalogue with a verse of the year status from Black Sherif on “Wotowoto Seasoning” and a fierce verse from Teni on “No Protocol.”
14. Burna Boy – I Told Them
The African Giant sounds accomplished on his new album. It feels like it’s way beyond Afrobeats now, as Burna moves more and more into the world of Hip-hop. The album having a slightly different approach was met with mixed reviews. The features list adds more clarity to it’s connection with classic hip-hop as a theme for the album. From Wu-Tang’s GZA to 21 Savage and J.Cole’s verses, there’s a sense of direction as to where he wants the album, but even with all the heavy presence of Hip-Hop, he still makes time for his mother genre. Records like “Dey Play” and “Giza” allow Burna to build on his hype pop skills with catchy choruses.
15. Xenia Manasseh – LOVE/HATE
For the Kenyan singer, every record is an opportunity to prove just how heartfelt her pen is. Her style is rich and modeled after the waves of pleading vocals and unapologetic crooning. Love/Hate PT 1 is a sonic imagery that paints the perfect picture of both sides of Love, alongside it’s pros and cons inking down her emotions with sheer vulnerability. The level of vulnerability on ‘Late Night Check Up’ is peak, Shalom Duba’s pen adds emotions of frustration to the song, making it one the best on here. During an interview with iMullar, she shared that she cried when they were recording the song in Lagos. Love/Hate is an artistic manifesto that boils down to love and its consequences.
16.DarkoVibes – BUTiFLY
On his second album, Darkovibes guides us through a cohesive collection of drill music to avant-garde R&B, and modernized highlife stemming from the southern parts of Ghana. Alongside a rich guest list, Darkovibes makes it his mission to dissect the many mutations of love. Like on the standout track “Side Chick” – one of the album’s more brutally honest songs – where a catchy hook from Jupiter plays with the thrill of dabbling between multiple partners.
17. Marioo – The Kid You Know (Deluxe Edition)
The Tanzanian singer/producer has held his own in recent times with hits like “Inatosha,” “Raha,” and “Manyaku”. His album’s deluxe edition adds extra clarity and maturity to his growth as an artist. Crooning in Bongo Flava and Kiswahili Amapiano, he provides an undeniable feeling that holds the songs together. Ladipoe and Jorvial’s guest verses on “Still” strike the ear as some of the best collaborations here.
18. Blaqbonez – Emeka Must Shine
Hailed as one of the few artists to adapt to any sonic atmosphere he finds himself in, Emeka Akumefule, known professionally as Blaqbonez, has shaped his career on his terms, thanks to his marketing genius. He uses the same playbook forEMEKA MUST SHINE, an album that holds heavy replay value and serves as a testament to his ability to make a body of work that appeals to all. His playful approach to making music allows him to throw out different sounds in an atmospheric barrage, with a fitting guest lineup that matches specific energies on the songs.
19. 99 PHACES – So We Made A Tape
The concept of music collectives has been a growing ideology in Ghana’s music scene, the latest to emerge is 99 PHACES. Their debut album introduced their craft and incredible chemistry to the world. In-house producers, Mel and Auggie deliver smooth production which is tailor-made for Freddie’s hooks and Cozy’s youthful verses that range from brotherhood to pop-culture references throughout their songs. It’s the perfect debut for a collective with so much to share musically.
20. BNXN – Sincerely, Benson
After delivering countless, memorable guest features, Afropop’s golden voice finally gave his craft all his attention on his debut album. And it’s peak Bnxn: high emotions and honeyed vocals. Sincerely, Benson feels like a fair warning to his peers and a more intimate introduction to his world.
21. Ruger – RU To The World
Ruger’s tour has been one of the most talked about all year. He backed up the controversies with his debut, flexing his status as Afrobeats’ new playboy. The intro, which sees him singing on a drill beat, was one of the most talked about songs on the project, proof he can do it all regardless of the direction of the sound. Afro-pop tunes filled with foggy melodies and shuddering rhythms, this process has resulted in the making of an elusive yet ambient album.
22. Toofan – Stamina
The Togolese group broke out with their 2014 hit “Gweta”, and have amassed a loyal fanbase all over the continent since. Their style fuses African rhythm with elements of traditional Togolese dance music, Afropop, and dancehall. Their third album follows the same thread that has made them popular over the years, with singles like “C pas normal” making Afrofusion and rap synonymous once again.
23. Odartei – Dreamo
Amid all the Afro-isms, emo rap has never left Odartei’s pallete. On Dreamo, he sticks with his sound, properly introducing the world to his raging emo-rap era. A bonafide crooner warping the edges of rap with 80’s-inspired distortion, Odartei co-produced all 13 songs.
Listen to selections from this list on our Spotify playlist and Apple Music playlist.