If we’re being honest ranking the best African rappers isn’t the easiest thing to do. There’s just so much to contend with and ultimately bias and individual preferences come into play. I already shared my thoughts on this subject and you can read about it here.
We consume music differently and the creators, when releasing music, take into consideration their cultural history, public acceptance, and rhythms, and may not necessarily be releasing music for a wider audience. An artist that chooses to rap in his traditional dialect will not be received the same way as one that chooses to rap in English. Should they be left out of discussions or do we find other ways to include them in conversations?
To strike a balance for my Top 50 African Rappers Of 2021 list, I focused on overall output; the number of songs, freestyles, LPs, and EPs released. Basically, the more consistent you are with your music releases and overall output, the higher your ranking. Past achievements and accolades are irrelevant.
In 2021 we received major song releases and projects from OGs like Sarkodie, notebook rappers like Priddy Ugly and YoungstaCPT, as well as newcomers like Blxckie and Dee Koala. All of the aforementioned artists make an appearance on our Top 50 African Rappers of 2021 list.
Editor’s note: Like our previous lists, the Top 50 mostly consist of artists we’ve either featured or followed on our website.
50. Dip Doundou Guiss (Senegal)
49. Sinzu (Nigeria)
Nigerian rapper SinZu followed up 2020’s No Promo project with the second entry in the series. The 7-track project contains guest appearances from Kwesi Arthur, Terry Apala, Bils and Scarface Lomo.
48. Rosa Ree (Tanzania)
47. Phillip Mweemba (Zambia)
Zambian newcomer, Phillip Mweemba is an exciting prospect. If you follow him on Instagram then I’m sure you’ve come across some of his contributions to some popular rap challenges. In addition to featuring on the Zamrock Cypher alongside Holstar and a few others, Phillip also dropped his new mixtape titled “Dude It’s The Sequel.” Stacked at 14-tracks, the project combines his love for alternative hip hop, Jazz, trap and orchestral-infused boom bap. His progression is one to keep an eye on.
46. Lyrical Joe (Ghana)
45. Blixxack (Uganda)
In 2021 Blixxack released The BARista EP exclusively on his website. For some unknown reason, the project wasn’t made available on streaming platforms and is almost nowhere to be found, which is a bummer because it’s one of the best EPs you’ll never hear. Until his music becomes saturated, I fear he’s going to remain one of Uganda and Africa’s best-kept secret.
44. Big Zulu (South Africa)
43. Dee Koala (South Africa)
This year was an important one for Dee Koala who needed to build on the success of previous years.
After bursting onto the scene in 2019 with her breakthrough single “Whuzet?,” the witty, humorous newcomer continued to mark herself as a force to be reckoned with, eventually delivering the blistering “Spazz” featuring Blxckie and K. Keed. She also landed a spot on MTV Base’s hottest South African MCs of 2021.
42. Askia (Cameroon)
Askia is one of the most consistent Cameroonian rappers out now. In 2021 she ate up controversies and clapped back at her critics on songs like Contraband Freestyle.
41. Tucker HD (Uganda)
2021 wasn’t Tucker HD’s most prolific in terms of high-profile releases, but he still did enough to land a spot in our Top 50 for this year.
40. AKA (South Africa)
AKA wasn’t his usual self earlier in the year, for obvious reasons. However, he returned to form towards the latter stages, releasing a handful of singles with Costa Titch, as well as a collaborative effort.
Heading 2 ( H2 Tag )
39. Dominant-1 (Malawi)
When he wants to rap, only a certain few on the continent can rival Dominant-1’s pen game. Luckily for them, and unfortunately for him, he doesn’t rap enough. In 2021 D1 dropped a few freestyles, but his biggest musical contribution was his collaborative effort with Holstar, African Diamond. His position might upset him, but it’s a fair representation of his output.
38. Omar Sterling (Ghana)
Omar Sterling finally released his long-awaited debut album, “Same Earth Different Worlds” in 2021.
37. Flvme (South Africa)
Flvme lived up to his name in 2021. Dropping fire verses on too many songs to name.
36. ByLwansta (South Africa)
ByLwansta is a freakishly talented and creative artist. His overall aesthetic reminds me so much of Tyler, The Creator.
35. K.O (South Africa)
Many thought K.O slowed down in 2020 and maybe he did. In 2021 the rapper put every doubt to rest with the release of K.Hova, which is one of the songs of the year. In November, he introduced the world to his Skhandaworld roster with the release of the label’s debut compilation, Welcome To The Planet.
Skhandaworld roster consists of K.O. Ma-E, Loki, Roii, DJ MR X, and Just Bheki.
34. M.I Abaga (Nigeria)
During the year in review, M.I. delivered some killer verses, most noticeably for the likes of Vector and Loose Kaynon. The veteran rapper closed out the year with the Lamb 3.0 Cypher and the INCREDIBLE Music Festival. We expect him to be higher in the rankings when he releases his new album next year.
33. Khuli Chana (South Africa)
32. E.L (Ghana)
In 2021 E.L continued his Bar exam with the 6th installment. This series used to mean a lot, but no longer carries the same potency as earlier iterations. Regardless, “Bar 6” is a worthy entry in the now popular series.
31. Bombshell Grenade (Zambia)
Bombshell Grenade is a name that surprisingly doesn’t get mentioned a lot in discussions. The newly crowned Afrimma best female rapper in Africa is a name I have followed keenly since 2016, and I can say she’s been very consistent with her brand promotion and music. She released several songs this year leading to the release of her new album Mfumu Kadzi.
30. Nasty C (South Africa)
Another rapper made the list solely on the strength of features. Nasty C had a helluva year in 2020 and is allowed a year off.
29. Shane Eagle (South Africa)
28. Vector (Nigeria)
He may have been quiet for most of 2021, but Crown Of Clay remains one of the biggest hip-hop releases of the year.
27. Wordz (South Africa)
Wordz is the product of a praying mother. The Pretorian uses 12-tracks to Reflect on his upbringing and the teachings of his mother. The rapper has previously delivered two mixtapes L3 (Long Lost Letters) in 2018 & Death B4 Dishonor in 2019.
26. L-Tido (South Africa)
L-Tido returned this year with Pressure, his first project since 2018’s 16. The South African went all out for the four-track EP tapping the likes of AKA and Stogie T. However, it felt rushed, unpolished, and mildly disappointing.
25. Rouge (South Africa)
Rouge just keeps getting better every year. Confidence is sky high, and I feel like she moved up several strides this year. In 2021 Mrs. popular bagged a verse from Sarkodie and used the moment to inform us of her status change. “We’re not in the same WhatsApp group.”
24. Lucasraps (South Africa)
Durban-born rapper Lucasraps capped off a near-perfect year for him by landing a spot on Snoop Dogg’s Algorithm: Global Edition album. If you get recognized by Snoop Dogg it means you’re doing something right.
23. Maglera Doe Boy (South Africa)
Everything Maglera Doe Boy was doing in the past was building up to this moment. Using a unique style called “Strata” Doe Boy has been able to create a lane for himself by rapping about his lived experiences in the gang-infested townships. In 2021 he finally released his debut album 2 Player.
22. Loose Kaynon (Nigeria)
Loose Kaynon’s last memorable hip hop contribution was on the Choc Boi Nation compilation, and that was in 2015. Fast forward to 2021, Loose returned with a new album titled Survivor’s Remorse. Like M.I Abaga, he also participated in the Lamb 3.0 cypher
21. Kwesta (South Africa)
20. Khaligraph Jones (Kenya)
19. M.anifest (Ghana)
18. Gigi Lamayne (South Africa)
Gigi Lamayne started 2021 on a mission by dropping a handful of freestyles on social media, which she eventually followed with the release of her album Mermaids And Stuff.
17. Holstar (Zambia)
During a previous interview with Creative-HipHop, Holstar admitted that he often feels left out of the modern-day genre. Since then he has been doing so many things right and has decided to experiment more with his music. This year he released two albums and also participated in the Zamrock cypher.
16. Psycho YP (Nigeria)
Abuja-based rapper, Psycho YP continues to make a name for himself as he climbs the ranks of Nigerian hip-hop music with his airtight wordplay and melodious sing-song flow. In 2021 YP released a nine-track album, Euphoria, with features from Alpha P, PatrickxxLee, and J Molley.
15. PdotO (South Africa)
Listen to “Cold Waters: Low Tides And Lost Tapes” to find out why PdotO earned a spot on our Top 50 list. The explosive MC lets his fans know how he’s coming right off the bat, with clever wordplay and crafty metaphors.
14. Nata (Sierra Leone)
“The best-kept secret has now spoken.” – US-based Sierra Leone rapper Nata reminds me so much of Rapsody. Not just because of her delivery and looks but her cadence as well. In 2021 she released her album ‘Rookie Of The Year’ to great acclaim and was also nominated in 3 categories at the 2021 Afrima awards including Best African Rapper/Lyricist and Best African Act In Diaspora (Female).
13. Emtee (South Africa)
Emtee has grown up in the industry and has evolved as an artist. The rapper has expanded his style to express his new love for fatherhood. His 2021 endeavors and the release of Logan fully conceptualize his growth.
12. The Big Hash (South Africa)
Back in January, The Big Hash released “Peace Of Mind” as his first single of 2021. Unfortunately, the song was removed from streaming platforms amid his legal battle with his former label, Innanetwav. However, he persisted with his mission to release new music by releasing “Heavy Is The Crown”, featuring Blxckie and YoungstaCPT, on Soundcloud. Fast forward to November, The Big Hash released his first independent album titled “ARIES: A Precursor To Heartbreak Hotel”.
The project came in two parts, with a total of eleven songs with features from the likes of Rowlene, Blxckie, YoungstaCpt, Flvme, and Ayanda Jiya. The Big Hash isn’t stopping, and already has a new album scheduled to arrive in 2022.
11. Kwesi Arthur (Ghana)
As we await the release of Son Of Jacob, Kwesi Arthur continues to wax strong. In addition to collaborating with Sarkodie, the Tema native also scored a collaboration with Chicago-based rapper Vic Mensa.
10. Cassper Nyovest (South Africa)
This has been an insane year for Cassper Nyovest, who is unarguably the most talked about African hip-hop artist. He gave birth to his son in September of 2020, and that commenced a series of winning streaks for him.
In 2021, Refiloe secured endorsements, achieved his first ever number one record, and won a boxing fight. More will be said about him in subsequent articles because there’s a lot to be said. Cas is also nominated for hustler of the year at the 2021 Creative Africa Hip Hop Awards.
9. A-Q (Nigeria)
8. A-Reece (South Africa)
A-Reece was everywhere in 2021. His project, Today’s Tragedy, Tomorrow’s Memory is also regarded as one of the best tapes of the year
7. 25K (South Africa)
25K delivered one of the most well-received efforts of 2021 in Pheli Makaveli, filled to the brim with tales of hood life and how it shaped him. From the Emtee-assisted “Self Made” to the anthemic “Hustler’s Prayer” with A-Reece. 25K stayed in rotation and made sure his presence was felt in 2021.
6. Ladipoe (Nigeria)
In 2021 Ladipoe built on the success of 2020 and reaffirmed his status as the leader of the revival with the release of “Feeling” featuring buzzing Nigerian singer Buju. The song was a massive hit across Nigeria and parts of Africa due to its celebratory nature and feel-good element. He also dropped his new EP, Providence, in November with features from Rema, Fireboy DML and Amaarae.
5. Priddy Ugly (South Africa)
Priddy Ugly chose violence this year. His “April 2nd freestyle” and “Handful Of Dust” are good examples of what he was about in 2021. As a purveyor of violence, I’m not mad at it. He helped keep bars in rotation and wasn’t afraid to press the necks of his peers. He also delivered one of the coldest albums in “Soil.”
4. Sarkodie (Ghana)
Sarkodie remains calm under pressure. With nothing left to prove, the veteran rapper embraces the lavish lifestyle in his ninth studio album. He also dropped quality guest verses and inked major deals. What else needs to be said about Sarkodie?
3. Blxckie (South Africa)
Blxckie was touted as the next up in South African hip hop and he took it in stride.
The Durban rapper technically started his breakout campaign in 2020 with the release of “Big Time Sh’lappa” featuring Lucasraps. Blxckie built on the song’s success and is now regarded as one of the most in-demand rappers in Africa.
In 2021 Blxckie released his debut album with features from Nasty C, Licasraps and Flvme. “David” from the album is nominated in the rap song of the year category at this year’s Creative Africa Hip Hop Awards
2. Blaqbonez (Nigeria)
You can argue Blaqbonez should be number one and I won’t be mad at it. After carving out one of rap’s most loyal fan bases, Blaqbonez unleashed his debut album “Sex Over Love” to a public that was more than ready to receive it.
His unorthodox approach and humorous rapping style resonated with the younger generation. In a short time, Emeka received co-signs from the likes of Wizkid and Burna Boy, which added to his allure.
Following the nationwide success of “Sex Over Love,” Blaqbonez followed it up with a deluxe edition with new features from Bella Shmurda, Tellaman, and Kwesi Arthur. Blaqbonez has forced himself into the conversation and can no longer be ignored. His competition should be very much afraid of his next moves.
1. YoungstaCPT (South Africa)
At this moment in his career, YonsgtaCPT is operating with a chip on his shoulder. The Cape Townian, for the last three years, has been on an insane run that doesn’t get talked about. In 2021 Youngsta continued this insane run on records with the likes of Shane Eagle and Priddy Ugly. Though he hasn’t released an album since 2018’s award-winning 3T, Youngsta is still one of the most outspoken South African rappers of his generation.