Not all of them—can’t possibly write out all of them—but most of what I’m listening to right now, the songs I’ve played the most, alphabetically.
“Africa,” Karl Wolf, feat. Culture
I can’t remember where I first heard this song but it completely stole my heart. Before now, the last time I listened to it was at the end of 2016. But weeks ago, I stumbled on a Rolling Stone article about the band Weezer covering the original song by Toto. I’d never heard the original but I loved Karl Wolf’s version with the rap interpolation. I can’t wait to blast it from speakers at a party.
And after I got Wolf’s version and listened to Weezer’s cover, curiosity led me to the original song, a hit back in 1982. At first I didn’t want to have two versions of one song in my phone so I pondered which to discard and, eventually, couldn’t decide. I just might prefer this to all other versions, including Wolf’s. The buildup is swooping, swaggering, and catches you like a wind.
“Beautiful People,” Chike
Heard his song at an event and asked the DJ. I was pleasantly surprised to learn it’s by Chike, whose run on The Voice Nigeria in 2016 hooked me: I still haven’t forgotten him singing Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The lyrics, about choosing the people you love and choosing from among those who say they’d stick by you, are brilliant. The chorus is that perfect mix of melody and meaning: For me I hold, for me I hold my baby/ Na why I hold, na why I hold my baby o. I don’t know if it has a video yet but I can see a concept and scenes in my head already, something visually alluring to match the sound. This might end up being my favourite song of 2018.
“Colombia Heights,” Wale, feat. J. Balvin
One of two other songs that might become my favourite of 2018. The first time I heard this song, I was at Odenigwe, a student community bordering the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I was standing in front of a shop where I was to print something. It came from a barbing salon down the road, and in that hot afternoon, the sun clear as clear, was a balm in my ears. It was the beats, the rap in Spanish. I asked the barber. He told me. I was surprised the song had not been a hit, an all-over-the-charts thing—I’m often surprised the world doesn’t pick up songs I love.
“Hola Hola,” Sugarboy
The moment I remember was in 2016 when a friend, who was not yet a friend then, played this song and I asked whose it is. In some ways, this is one of my personal celebration songs. I play and let myself roll off into imagined futures—particularly in the seconds between 2:06 and 2:26. It has replaced Lil Kesh’s “Shoki” (the remix with Davido and Olamide) as the one song that is permanently resident in my phone. I haven’t felt the slightest trace of boredom with it.
“Leave the Light On,” Tom Walker
The day I first heard this song, on TV, I was preparing to go to an evening arts event, which I ended up skipping what I was afterwards told was its main segment so I could take a brief walk so I could listen more to this song. I find that the sound reinforces the lyrics, about his refusal “to lose another friend to drugs” and depression.
“Let Me,” August Chuks
I heard it the same day I heard “Leave the Light On,” some three hours later. I watched the singer perform it, mightily impressed by his voice. It was on replay the morning after, before I deleted it, afraid I would get fed up too soon. It’s been in my phone ever since.
My appreciation of XXXTentacion’s music was unlikely. He’d just been shot, receiving both sympathy and accusations of domestic violence and homophobia, deservedly so. I’d never been interested in the new rappers, the mumble rappers, these young guys with plaited hair and tattooed faces that an acquaintance calls “Spotify Rappers.” But one weekend I was in my hometown, I just looked up XXX. I read most of what I found on his music and legacy. I thought: Why not try this? So I went on YouTube and watched compilations of his songs. When I heard “Moonlight,” I thought: This is weird like I like weird. Spotlight, moonlight/ nigga why you trippin’ get your mood right: It’s my ringtone. But before “Moonlight,” I had his “Changes” and “Sad!” and couldn’t connect to “Sad!” I didn’t even think it was interesting. But “Changes” was undeniably beautiful.
“Red Alert,” DJ Bobbi x Nyanda
I have been to Lagos three times—the first for a visit, the second quite unintended, the third when I heard this song, in a taxi in Ikoyi, and brought out my phone and turned on my Shazam. Nyanda is one half of Brick & Lace, whose song “Love is Wicked” was a favourite nearly ten years ago.
“Timmy Turner,” Desiigner
The first time “Timmy Turner” sang in my ears, I couldn’t pin it down, whether it was stimulating enough. As I sat working on my laptop, waiting impatiently for it to finish, that bridge kicked in: that step-down of beats, that moderated groove, and suddenly I found the mumbled lyrics intriguing. It was my version of music magic. I fell into it. I didn’t know what the lyrics were, not with the words mumbled and murmured, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to—a few times I looked up lyrics of beloved songs only for them to lose that meaning when said lyrics turned out flat, ordinary. But I looked up these and the infatuation was complete: Timmy, Timmy, Timmy Turner/ he be wishin’ for a burner/ to kill everybody walkin’. It is songs like this that make me a fan of a musician. This even when I didn’t—and still don’t—like the man’s “Panda” which was quite the hit.
“Wait,” DJ Neptune, feat. Kizz Daniel
I have a liking for DJ Neptune’s sound, enough to want to do a post on his collaborations with Mr Eazi (“Mia Mia”), Runtown (“Why”), and of course this one with Kizz Daniel—and I still might. The first 50 seconds used to make me feel this jolliness of the mind.