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2023 So Far, So Good: A Mid-Year Recap

The first half of 2023 is gone and it has been an exhilarating ride, to say the least. It is this writer’s very strong opinion that the first half of 2023 was much better than the first half of last year’s, in terms of the amount of quality projects that dropped. Last year was a great year in retrospect, but majority of the albums, especially the premier releases from the country’s biggest stars, came in the second half of the year. This year, we’ve gotten a couple of premier releases already and a handful of gems also.

In February, veteran producer turned popstar, Pheelz dropped his sophomore EP, Pheelz Good. The lead singles, Electricity ft. Davido and Finesse ft. BNXN remain the biggest moments on the project, but the project produced some of the most soulful R&B cuts we’ve gotten so far this year in Stand By You and Pheelz Like Summer. King Perryy also dropped his sophomore project, Continental Playlist. It was an Afrofusion extended play that blended dancehall, reggae with Afrobeats. The highlight of the project is Tight Condition ft. Victony, which is easily one of the best dancehall songs out of the country, this year.

Lojay released his sophomore EP, Gangster Romantic in March and unlike the traditional sonic format of most EP’s out of the country, where the EP is just a collection of potential hit singles, Lojay curated a cohesive project that was quite impressive and arguably the best EP, this year so far. From the jaded emotions on Ova to the treading of sexual debauchery shenanigans on Availabu and the emotional vulnerability of Moto it was a triumph on a thematic and sonic level.

March 31st came and with it, one of the anticipated Afrobeats album of all time in Davido’s Timeless. Asides the fact that it had been 3 long years, since the superstar’s last album, there was an unspoken general consensus that Davido had a point to prove regarding his capacity to release a great body of work. For most people, that notion has been debunked and the album is largely revered and loved already. Some already calling it a classic. This writer though would be more conservative with such declarations and would rather let time take its course.

Timeless dominated the entirety of April and had the industry in a chokehold, so when May rolled around with the prospect of new releases, it was refreshing. Wande Coal released his full length third LP, Legend Or No Legend on the 18th of April to very mixed to negative reviews. One thing was sure though, the approach and execution of the album was alarmingly lacklustre and showed a lack of adequate strategy and planning. It had some decent songs, but it wasn’t a cohesive project and is easily one of the most forgettable albums of the year.

Joeboy’s Body & Soul dropped on the 19th of May to very positive reviews and critical acclaim. This writer believes the LP was a solid improvement on his debut album and that the singer is one of the select few that triumphed over the sophomore slump, even though his debut didn’t set that much of a brilliant standard. The album hasn’t gotten the sort of mainstream acceptance that the singer would have wished for and it definitely needs a big moment in the form of a hit single. Omah Lay’s Boy Alone was in a similar sleeping giant position last year, until Soso changed everything and now it’s an accepted classic.

After 7 years since his breakthrough moment, Nonso Amadi finally released his debut album, When It Blooms on the 26th of May and my word, what an album experience it turned out to be. Based on the metrics of sheer quality alone, it is definitely album of the year. Nonso crafted a grand cinematic experience with seamless transitions, immersive production and exceptional songwriting and narratives. There was even infusion of poetry that serviced the project further. It’s one of the best Afro-R&B albums to ever come out of the country and it’s a shame to see the general public sleeping on it.

BOJ opened up June with Gbagada Express Vol. 2: Moving Mad a sequel to his much acclaimed 2022 Lp, Gbagada Express. It didn’t generate as much buzz or excitement as the prior release and that might be down to the fact that the predecessor is simply much better or the minimal promotion for the album. Nonetheless, it could have done much better, especially as the follow up to a much loved niche classic.

On the 16th of June, Asake released his sophomore album, Work Of Art only 9 months after his debut album that’s now accepted as a classic. It received positive to mild mixed reviews, with majority loving it and a handful having reservations for it treading the same sonic environment of its predecessor. Work Of Art indeed got some unfair criticism and erroneous accusations of it being monotonous. Asake only doubled down on the best elements of Mr. Money With The Vibe and managed to be even more dynamic with his delivery on the album. It is a great LP that will stand the test of time, once the initial noise settles and that seems to be happening already.


A week after, Seyi Vibez dropped his second album in weeks, Thy Kingdom Come and the Asake comparisons heightened like never before. There was chatter about the artist’s lack of strategy, or rather his strategy to saturate the market with multiple releases but the music indeed found appreciation and an home in the heart of faithfuls.

With the likes of Zinoleesky, BNXN, Ruger, Oxlade, Tems, Adekunle Gold primed to drop albums in the second half of the year, 2023 is nowhere near done in serving us with gems. Even OG’s like Olamide aren’t exempted, with his 10th solo album slated for release next month. Burna Boy and Wizkid have also teased new albums, although it remains to be seen if they’ll be releasing them anytime soon. Whatever happens though, we’re in for one hell of a ride.

This mid-year recap is written by T.J. Martins.

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