In Nigeria, some very talented musicians are not as famous as others. Even though they may not be well-known worldwide, their music is special and deserves attention. In this article, we will introduce you to seven of these lesser-known Nigerian musicians. They have unique voices and write great songs that you might not have heard of yet.
MohBad, whose real name is Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, was a rising star in the Nigerian music industry known for his captivating melodies and street-inspired lyrics. Born on June 8, 1996, in Lagos, MohBad brought a unique flavor to the music scene. He was a self-proclaimed “bad boy,” and his music often reflected his rebellious spirit.
Having started his music career by sharing freestyle videos on social media, MohBad caught the attention of music enthusiasts with his impressive talent. His breakthrough came when he signed with Marlian Records in December 2019, alongside other talented artists like Zinoleesky, CBlack, and Fabian Blu.
While with Marlian Records, MohBad released several hit singles, including “Ponmo Sweet” featuring Naira Marley and Lil Kesh, “Feel Good,” and “Weekend.” These tracks showcased his versatility and garnered significant attention in the industry.
However, in October 2022, MohBad decided to part ways with Marlian Records due to a reported disagreement with the label’s management. He sought more creative control over his music, which led to his departure.
Despite facing challenges such as the loss of a prominent platform, and team, and some negative publicity following his departure, MohBad continued to pursue his musical career as an independent artist. He released singles like “Peace” and “Ronaldo,” showcasing his determination to thrive in the Nigerian music scene.
Tragically, on September 12, 2023, MohBad was reported to have passed away, leaving behind a legacy of captivating music and unfulfilled potential. His contributions to Nigerian music continue to be celebrated by fans and fellow artists alike, and his memory lives on through his music.
6. Barry Jay
Barry Jay, born Oluwakayode Balogun, is a hidden gem in the Nigerian music scene, often overshadowed by more prominent names. His musical lineage is impressive; he is the son of the late Fuji legend, Ayinde Barrister, and he has used this heritage to create a unique musical fusion. Barry Jay burst onto the music scene in 2018 with his infectious hit single ‘Aiye,’ capturing the attention of listeners with his distinct blend of Afrobeats and rich Yoruba native music.
What sets Barry Jay apart is his commitment to infusing his music with profound Yoruba world ideologies and wisdom, aiming to educate and uplift his fans. His discography boasts a range of tracks, including notable singles such as ‘Ori,’ ‘Olodo,’ and ‘Japa,’ each carrying a deeper message within its catchy melodies.
Despite his undeniable talent and meaningful contributions to Nigerian music, Barry Jay remains underrated. He earned recognition with two well-deserved Nigerian music awards in 2018 and 2019, including the City People Music Awards Best New Act of the Year (2018) and The Readies Rookie of the Year (2019). However, his music still hasn’t garnered the widespread fandom it truly deserves.
As listeners continue to explore the rich tapestry of Nigerian music, Barry Jay’s unique blend of Afrobeats and Yoruba tradition should not be overlooked, for he represents a fresh and authentic voice in the industry, capable of making a lasting impact when given the recognition he merits.
5. Johnny Drille
Johnny Drille, whose real name is John Ighodaro, is an underrated gem in the Nigerian music industry. His journey in music started in his father’s church, where he sang and honed his musical talents. As a student, he not only learned to play the guitar but also began writing his songs, showcasing his multifaceted musical skills.
Despite a modest start, Johnny Drille’s big break came in 2015 when he recorded a cover of Di’ja’s “Awww” song, which caught the attention of Don Jazzy, the music maestro behind Mavin Records. This led to his entry into the mainstream music scene.
Johnny Drille’s music is a unique blend of alternative rock and folk, setting him apart from the crowd. His soulful and emotive voice, combined with heartfelt lyrics, resonates deeply with listeners. Notable tracks like “Love Don’t Lie,” “Wait for Me,” and “Start All Over” featuring Niniola, showcased his versatility.
In 2017, he officially signed with Mavin Records, a testament to his growing influence. His debut album, “Before We Fall Asleep,” released in 2021, further solidified his position in the industry. Collaborating with esteemed Nigerian artists like Ladipoe, Ayra Starr, and Don Jazzy, Johnny Drille’s album showcased his evolution as an artist.
Despite his remarkable talent and critical acclaim, Johnny Drille remains underappreciated by many Nigerian music enthusiasts. His soothing melodies and introspective lyrics deserve wider recognition, making him a hidden treasure in Nigeria’s music scene. As he continues to produce soul-stirring music, the hope is that more music lovers will discover and celebrate his unique artistry.
4. Nonso Amadi
Nonso Amadi is an exceptionally talented but underrated Nigerian musician who has been making waves in the music industry since 2012. His journey began while he was still a student at Covenant University, where he honed his skills as a self-taught producer, singer, and songwriter.
In 2015, Nonso Amadi released his first EP, ‘Alone,’ marking the beginning of his musical exploration. It was the same year that he dropped the iconic single ‘Tonight,’ which swiftly gained worldwide recognition and catapulted him into the spotlight.
One of the significant milestones in his career came in 2017 when he collaborated with Odunsi the Engine to release the captivating joint EP ‘WAR.’ By the end of that year, Nonso took his talent back home to Nigeria, hosting his first homecoming concert, demonstrating his commitment to connecting with his Nigerian roots.
In 2019, Nonso Amadi showcased his versatility with the release of the solo EP ‘Free,’ featuring notable artists such as Simi and Mr. Eazi. Throughout these years, he also collaborated with big names like Maleek Berry and Banky W, showcasing his ability to seamlessly blend his unique style with different genres.
Despite his undeniable talent and a growing list of accomplishments, Nonso Amadi took a break from music for three years, making a triumphant return in 2022 with two stellar singles: ‘Foreigner‘ and ‘Different.’ The latter featured the renowned Canadian musician Majid Jordan, highlighting Nonso’s international appeal.
Nonso Amadi remains a hidden gem in the Nigerian music scene, deserving of more recognition for his remarkable musical prowess. His ability to craft soulful, emotionally charged tracks and effortlessly collaborate with artists from around the world makes him a force to be reckoned with in the industry, and we can only anticipate more outstanding work from him in the future.
Brymo, born Olawale Oloforo, is an artistic powerhouse in the Nigerian music industry, yet he remains one of its most underrated gems. His journey in music began as early as 1999, while still in secondary school, and since then, he has continually pushed the boundaries of musical expression.
In 2007, Brymo unveiled his debut album, ‘Brymstone,’ marking the inception of his musical odyssey. Subsequently, in 2012, he blessed the world with ‘The Son of a Kapenta’ album, showcasing his prowess not only as a singer but also as a songwriter. What sets Brymo apart is his willingness to experiment with a myriad of genres, effortlessly blending R&B, Rock, Afrobeat, Pop, and even Fuji into his music. This fearless creativity has allowed him to craft a sound that is uniquely his own, a sound that deserves far more recognition than it currently receives.
Beyond his musical talents, Brymo is a man of many artistic facets. He has authored three books, further demonstrating his literary prowess, and his foray into acting has seen him grace the silver screen in prominent Nigerian movies.
In a music industry often dominated by the mainstream, Brymo’s remarkable creativity and versatility deserve to be celebrated on a much larger scale. He is, without a doubt, one of Nigeria’s most underrated musical treasures, a true artist who continues to push the boundaries of his craft.
Niniola, a quietly celebrated Nigerian artist, is a hidden gem in the music industry. Despite her immense talent and achievements, she remains relatively underrated, overshadowed at times by her equally famous sibling, Teni the Entertainer. Her journey in music began with her participation in the 2013 MTN Project Fame West Africa, a platform where her star began to shine.
In 2014, Niniola released her debut single, ‘Ibadi,’ setting the stage for a remarkable career. Between 2017 and 2021, she launched four albums that showcased her exceptional artistry and musical prowess. One of her standout tracks, ‘Maradona’ from 2017, gained immense popularity, especially in South Africa. It dominated South Africa’s Metro FM music chart for an impressive 13 weeks and held the number 1 spot for six consecutive weeks.
Niniola’s influence extends far beyond Nigeria’s borders. She made significant contributions to Beyoncé’s soundtrack album, ‘The Lion King: The Gift,’ a remarkable achievement that earned her two Grammy nomination certificates in 2020 and 2021. Such recognition led to her induction into the prestigious Grammy Recording Academy Class of 2021.
Despite her international acclaim and remarkable achievements, Niniola remains underrated in her home country, Nigeria. Her exceptional talent and contributions to the global music scene undoubtedly warrant greater recognition and appreciation on the homefront.
Asa, born Bukola Elemide, is a remarkably talented yet underrated Nigerian musician who has made a significant impact on the global music scene. With a captivating blend of soulful melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, and a unique ability to effortlessly switch between Yoruba and English, she stands out in an industry dominated by more commercial sounds.
Her musical journey began in 2004 when she released her self-titled debut album ‘Asa,’ produced by the renowned Cobhams Asuquo. Despite her initial success with singles like ‘Eye Adaba,‘ Asa decided to pursue her passion for music further by studying at the IMFP School of Jazz Music in France. Her teachers recognized her immense talent and encouraged her to pursue a career as a recording artist.
Upon returning to Nigeria, Asa signed with Naive Records, and with the collaboration of talents like Cobhams Asuquo, Benjamin Constant, and Christophe Dupuoy, her debut album achieved platinum status. Her music resonated not only in Nigeria but also across Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Her second album, ‘Beautiful Imperfection,’ further solidified her status as a musical force to be reckoned with. Hits like ‘Be My Man,’ ‘Jailer,’ ‘Fire on the Mountain,’ and ‘Ba Mi Dele’ showcased her versatility and lyrical depth.
Despite her undeniable talent and international acclaim, Asa remains underrated in her home country, Nigeria. Her music, a refreshing departure from mainstream trends, deserves more recognition and admiration from Nigerian music fans. Asa’s ability to touch the soul with her music makes her a true gem in the Nigerian music industry.
Nigeria has a lot of musical talent, and not all of it gets the recognition it deserves. These seven underrated Nigerian musicians have their own styles and stories to tell through their music. While some Nigerian artists are very popular globally, these musicians bring diversity and depth to the music scene. It’s important to appreciate and support them as they work towards becoming better known in the music world.