Here's a list of 10 prolific beatsmiths to look out for in 2022.
Abuja native and Apex Village lieutenant, Max’s work goes far beyond the duties of a producer/beatmaker. His role in the furtherization of AV’s general brand and sonics over the past five years has seen him wear many hats. Participating in everything from A&Ring to the annals management, his unique point of view has informed his beat-making process significantly. Yet, his fervour and dedication as a beatsmith never left and eventually, he returned to music production about two years ago. Working primarily with his label mates over the time period, he has begun the work of branching out even beyond their affiliates. With reports of records with other leading Nigerian hip-hop acts in the works, 2022 looks to be the year his production efforts bear fruits.
Another Apex Village stalwart, Kidd fits the bill perfectly for who’s next up. Versatile, well-rounded artistry and a strong persona are all tools that have gotten him this far, the next phase is for the beats. Already featured on a number of Apex Village records from 2017 to date, he has a lot more to offer the Nigerian hip-hop scene. One-third of the Pop Boys, a production-based collective out of Abuja, his imprint has already laid beats for some of the biggest acts coming out of Nigeria in recent times. After recently clearing his Instagram, he released a cryptic video with an eponymous project being teased, possibly slated for 2022.
In what can be considered his break out year, 2021 provided Meduaa’s springboard for which he plans to approach 2022. His work appeared on Rexxie’a A True Champion last year and with significant work put in across multiple varieties of the Afrobeats soundscape last year, perhaps a compilation tape of sorts is due. Instagram videos of Meduaa and WANI in the studio helped create anticipation for his impending projects this year.
Tobay is a rare kind of producer, partly due to where he’s from and mostly due to what he makes. Preferring to refer to his beats as soundscapes, a few listens to his work grant a seal of approval. Dithering between early 2010s James Blake and late 2000s Maxwell, the eclectic blends of live instrumentation, impeccably placed synths and quiet half-spaces creates an inimitable mood that you can only attribute to his work. Forevatired’s Before You Kill Us All (2019) and THOSE KIDS NEXT DOOR (2020) provide some of the best sample areas to immerse oneself in golddrum’s work. Earlier this week, confirmation of his involvement on Santi’s recently announced follow-up to 2019’s Mandy & the Jungle could potentially see his stock rise further. Fingers crossed.
Potentially one of Nigeria’s biggest sleeper hits in a decade, Fave’s "Baby Riddim" achieved the rare feat of invisible popularity. Barely anyone could put a face to her name, fewer even knew what her name was. “My baby bad, my baby good, my baby all the things I need” became more recognizable than the artist, so did that guitar loop. The other person responsible for the smash hit is a producer named Damie Damie. Specializing in R&Besque records, he also appears on Riddim 5, the accompanying EP for the single.
Responsible for the production of some of Nigeria’s new crop of Afrobeat stars, Steph (beat tags “Wallahi Steph, you’re too good”, “more fire music”) looks set to explode in 2022. Specifically, his work on WANI and Buju’s tapes from last year ("GBTC" for the former and "Never Stopped" for the latter) and the Buju and Zlatan hit, "Alubarika", credits him for production. He has wasted no time getting into his groove this year already linking up with Psycho YP, Loti and Laime for their latest effort titled "One Man Load".
Easily the most prolific production collective out of Nigeria right now, 44DB only make this list by the virtue of their achievements last year and what that spells for 2022. Effectively producing the majority of Nigeria’s alternative scene in 2021, all members of the collective made major contributions to everyone from Prettyboy D-O to Azanti and Kida Kudz, it’s safe to say 44DB has established itself as the go-to team for Nigerian hip-hop. This year, the collective plans to go another route and develop hits for themselves instead of just collaborators. Reports of a 44DB album in the works raises not only fan anticipation but the group’s stock, as individuals and as a unit.
One of Nigeria’s more elusive acts, Blue Flame’s persona exists in great contrast to his music. This contrast is more apparent in his production work, mainly comprised of gritty 808s and ominous keys, the class of artists his work has found a home with are some of the more energetic acts out of Africa. Bianca, Straffiti, Patrickxxxlee and more recently Ice Prince have all unleashed some of their most potent bars over his work. His solo efforts also maintain the energy with the added benefit of allowing him display his versatility. Some of the promo material for his upcoming mixtape shows just that, with rap-rock cuts and some trap and b-esque records some of the new work being promised.
Recently featured on BBC One’s SoundSystem Watchlist for 2022, we’re not the only ones that think Smyley is primed to blow. Contributing to multiple genres of music in Nigeria’s growing music scene is no easy feat, yet it is one the producer has approached with fervour and in the process, securing hits for acts such as YCee, Laycon and Blaqbonez. With a new view on penning and recording some of his own music, he put together an EP early this year that suggests he might have been saving his best beats for himself. Void of overwhelming collaborations, something producer helmed EPs are notorious for, the R&B tinged production is stripped down and allows his vocal technique shine through. In what can only be described as the best form of promotion, Love Sex and Magic might be just what Smyley needs to be regarded as not just a force in production, but a rare triple threat.
Perhaps one of the people whose presence on this list doesn’t do them justice is Ransom Beatz, however, his considering some of his exploits over the past year and half. Taking the opportunity to always highlight terrific African talent succeeding without conforming or taking well-known routes is important. Matching his knowledge of the internet and blending it with his incredible work ethic, Ransom took the term type beat to a whole new stratosphere. Popularizing Afrobeat “type beats” on YouTube, Beatstars and his own website (which he made as well), he went from obscure online production to a household name in less than 18 months. So here are a few of his accomplishments so far; crossing one million user downloads on Beatstars, creating the beat for Tekashi69’s YAYA and reaching 70,000 subscribers on YouTube.