AMARI MUSIC / EMPIRE
With a handful of chart-topping singles to his name, Patoranking appears to have mastered the art of hitmaking. However, his efforts in crafting albums have been met with middling success — his debut God Over Everything, and the follow-up that came three years after, Wilmer, were quite underwhelming. But with Three, Patoranking makes an album that supersedes its predecessors in both conceptualization and its execution. Across the 12-track project, Patoranking refuses to be bound by genre as he bends, blends and slips between a wealth of sounds with an unabashed gusto that showcases his artistry’s depth. With an all-star cast of Flavour, Sauti Sol, Tiwa Savage, and King Promise, “Three” helps to reestablish Patoranking as a supremely gifted and adventurous act who can craft a thrilling body of work just as well as his singles. - VA
THE CAP MUSIC
Excellence and consistency are the two major hallmarks that have characterized DJ Spinall’s illustrious career. He released his debut studio album, My Story: The Album, about five years ago, and ever since, he has released an album every year, barring 2019. Grace, his latest body of work, is an adequately curated playlist of some sort. As always, he brings together a consortium of top tier talents from the continent and abroad一 young and old 一 as they all cook up infectious sounds and rhythms ranging from Afropop to Caribbean music. While previous releases only saw Spinall curate and link producers and artists, this time, he produces a bulk of the songs, showcasing his willingness always to evolve and improve his artistry. - ON
MAJESTY MUSIC ENT
My Side of the Story
For Busiswa, experimenting and expanding are key to the music process. Her career is proof of this; from poetry to gqom, hip-hop to kwaito, and now amapiano, this incredible songstress has done it all.
But even more than switching styles, this project was about speaking out about women and the struggles they face, as well as propping them up. In a revolutionary year for African women; with feminists groups leading protests against police brutality in Nigeria, to massive anti-gender based violence demonstrations in Namibia, speaking up was a major feature.
Busiswa followed suit, exploring the nuances of relationships, using her experiences as a base, and tackling social injustice in her country as well. The real magic, however, is that she did all this while serving us fantastic, danceable amapiano bops. A truly generous and versatile queen. - BA
Colours and Sounds
With Colours and Sounds, Niniola reaffirmed her place as one of the country’s most multi-layered artists. From Amapaino to dancehall and hardcore Afro-pop, Niniola created an expansive, joyful piece of work that found exciting ways to snag our hearts. While the album might have faltered slightly on the publicity front, its replay value is not to be questioned. Suffused with Niniola’s signature sensuality and unabashed interaction with her sexuality, as well as a calmer, more playful edge, Colour and Sounds is that album we never knew we needed. And with a year like 2020, it only makes sense to be grateful for musical masterpieces such as this one. - NCJ
I am The King of Amapiano
Kabza De Small
Amapiano truly arrived in 2020. No other sound on the African continent captured public imagination in the year of the pandemic, like the South African-established music style, an inspired fusion of deep house, jazz, and twinkly synths. Despite other stylistic offshoots of Amapiano that have appeared across the continent, South Africa still owns the blueprint; Kabza De Small’s grandiose album, I Am The King of Amapiano: Sweet and Dust proves this point. Kabza’s coronation clocks in at a little over three hours, but the tracks’ airy feel makes them capable of turning a room into a slow-burning dancefloor as the lilting vocals of Nicole Elocin prove on “Sthandwa,” the album opener. Burna Boy and Wizkid fly the Nigerian flag earnestly on “Sponono,” one of the project’s standouts. Elsewhere, Leehleza and Focalistic combine to lethal effect on “Dust,” bringing earthy energy to one of the most culturally-significant releases of the year. - WO