What a year for the Nigerian music industry! If one were to describe how year 2008 was for Nigerian music with just one word, that word would definitely be “fantastic.”

It was indeed a year of one hit song after another. The year witnessed a harvest of well-made albums. If Nollywood is often criticised for churning out a high number of bellow-standard films, the Nigerian music industry has gotten itself rave reviews all over the word. These days, some of the biggest names in the world music find it easy to have collaborations with our homegrown talent. Be it the indomitable R. Kelly who did a song with Tuface Idibia or Wyclef Jean who co-opted Sound Sultan, Faze and Tuface on his proud to be an African single, the music world has taken notice of the talents from Africa’s most populous country.

The year 2008 was undoubtedly the Year of the Album in Nigeria. For millions of Nigerians, music helped them through economic hardship and life’s numerous challenges. Despite the many problems plaguing the Nigerian music industry such as piracy and the endless bickering between the royalty collecting societies, the average music lover is ever willing to buy the CD of his/her favourite artiste. And buy they have. Gone are the days when Disc Jockeys played foreign artistes on radio or at parties. This is the era where an Abolore Akande better known as 9ice beat a global heavyweight like 50 Cent to win the Best Hip-hop Act at the 2008 MTV African Music Award (MAMA).

Thanks to improved song writing, the immense talent of the artistes, good videos, painstaking production and improved sound engineering. Nigerian albums sound good enough even to the most critical of ears. From the little known artistes such as Duncan Mighty and M.I. to the big names such as Styl-Plus, Faze, D’Banj, Sasha, Edrees Abdulkareem, even for the Area Father Charly Boy, 2008 was the year they all chose to release their CDs.

The Entertainer (D’Banj)

The Entertainer is a follow up to D’Banj’s second album Run Down, Funk U Up. This CD was probably the only truly anticipated album in the outgoing year. Ever since the bubbly lead man of Mo’ Hits records hit the scene, his critics have never seized to label him a one hit wonder. They said the Koko Master would not last on the scene, alleging that he did not have talent. D’Banj tried to address his critics with the The Entertainer. The title track is cocky at the same time a funny jibe at those who think to be a successful artiste you have to be a professor of music. With songs like mo gbono feli feli, fall in love, Igwe, Olurun maje and suddenly, D’Banj cemented his name on the plaque of the music greats in Nigeria.

Gongo Aso (9ice)

There are a few people who don’t have a copy of the monster hit album. 9ice’s Gongo Aso is without doubts the number one album of the year. Gongo Aso is the single that put the second CD of this MAMA, MOBO award winner into the hands of music lovers across the globe. For those who have taken time to listen to the full length of this groundbreaking album, will agree it is a masterpiece. Songs like

Photocopy, Street Credibility, Kasa Final and Way I dey live, have made generality of music fans agree that 9ice deserves all the praise and recognition he is getting.

You Know My P (Naeto C)

Abuja-based Naeto Chukwu Chikwe’s You Know My P is probably one of the best rap albums released in the recent times. It is easy to listen to; has a hand full of thought provoking lyrics without being boringly didactic. Yes, we all know the club bangers Kini Big Deal, You Know My P, and Sitting on Top, the revelations however are songs like

Ashewo, devil is a liar and E mara mma, are message filled yet they make you feel good. Naeto C won the Best New Act at the MAMAs

held in Abuja months back and for those who watch the Music channels and compared him to other acts, the Storm Records artiste indeed is the best new kid on the block.

First Lady (Sasha)

Yetunde Alabi as her parents christened her was stuck in jeep that brought her to the Velodrom, National Stadium, and venue of the MAMAs. Despite the fact that the car in which the rapping sister was seated had tinted glasses on a rather dark night, a male fan struggling to gain entrance, into the venue screamed “hey, see Sash P!” as he pointed her out to his friends. The three friends went on to sing the chorus of Sasha’s hit single Adara. This is how much fame the lady who has held on to the music business despites its testosterone filled circumference has attained. If the MAMAs had taken place in 2007, it would have taken a little explanation for the average Abuja guy to recognise this University of Lagos Law undergraduate. Thanks to a well-received CD in 2008, Sasha is now a household name.

Music Business (2shotz)

For those who know the Nigerian music industry well, they will tell you that William Orioha, better known, as 2shotz is no quitter. This guy has rapped about piracy more than any other artiste, yet he has remained in the music business. 2shotz is probably not recognised as he should be because this guy has got plenty of talent. It may come as a surprise to many that Music Business which contains the hit song In case you never know featuring Timaya is 2shotz third album as a solo artiste. This guy who is known for his sincere yet comical presentation of his views and experiences as a young Nigerian and a rapper has two earlier albums to his credit. They include Pirated Copy and Commercial Avenue. For the former member of the Trybesmen group, 2008 is the year his music finally got the attention it deserves.

Originality (Faze)

Originality is Faze’s third album after leaving the Plantashun Boiz. With this album the argument about who is the most hardworking of the members of the Plantashun Boiz is finally laid to rest. It is Faze. When you listen to Chibuzor Orji as his family knows this tall and light brother, you get the feeling he gives his all to make a good album, unlike some of his friends in his former group. Originality was released towards the tail end of 2008. It is therefore too early to make comments about the reception of the album. One thing is however glaring; there is yet no hit single like Faze alone or Kolomental to move this CD off the shelves. However, this album has a number of ballads that will help Faze retain his fans.

SS4 (Sound Sultan)

Sound Sultan is the musician’s musician. Every right thinking artiste would not turn down the chance to work with the Naija Ninja. Tuface, Charley Boy and Pasuma, to mention a few, have worked with this basketball-playing dude. Sound Sultan has so much to offer if only Nigerians would listen. With the song Bushmea which takes a swipe at the country’s corrupt elite in the typical metaphoric style of Sound Sultan SS4 hopefully will take Lanre Fasasi as he is known off stage up the charts where he belongs. Other less “serious songs” like U don’t know me, will make easy listening for those who love the Naija Ninja but at the same time want to be entertained not reminded of their problems.

Ninja Bike (Charly Boy)

After many years of staying away from the recording studios, former National President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) re-entered and brought out a CD worth buying. Ninja Bike as the man who co-presents Zoom Time titled his album must have put in a lot of work to produce a funky and fresh sound. Working with guys the age of his children, his royal punkness sent out a banging ten-tracker album. The lead single Ninja Bike which doubles as the title track is a favourite of night crawlers as it helped sell CB’s latest effort.

The King Is Back (Edrees Abdukareem)

Thanks to his surprised collaboration with one time foe, Rugged Man, the highly controversial former front man for Remedies fared better in 2008 than most of his contemporaries. Truth be told, his song with Rugged Man probably got more airplay and rotation in the clubs than songs from Tuface Idibia’s Enter The Place.

Back and Better (Styl-plus)

A lot has been said about this album made by the Abuja-based group and not many of the comments are positive. If only music lovers would take the time to listen to this album it is not as bad as it is has been made to look. Yes, Styl-Plus has done better in the past but Back and Better is not a CD they should be ashamed to have made.

Shokori Bobo (KC Presh)

2002 was the year this loving duo won the Star Quest nationwide talent hunt. 2008 however was the year they got into the mainstream of Nigerian music. The year was undoubtedly a good one for these guys. They won awards including one they received from Channel O. They had some of the best videos and their album sold like hot cake. Indeed as KC and his partner in music Presh would say in 2008, everything around them was Shemenge.

As artistes and their adoring fans move into 2009, expectations are high. Many are looking forward to seeing if albums like M.I. ‘s Talk About It, Tuface Idibia’s Unstoppable, Timaya’s Gift & Grace, released at the tail end of the year will blow up the charts. But as it is well known, music by its basic nature, loves new beginnings and like in 2008, with newcomers such Duncan Mighty, J-Martins and Kelly Handsome staking their claim in the music industry, there will be new names fighting for airplay. Perhaps, the best thing to happen in 2009 would be seeing more female artistes topping the charts.