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10 songs to hold your hand through the Nigerian breakfast experience

10 songs to hold your hand through the Nigerian breakfast experience

By: Esther Omoye

From heartbroken Afrobeats singers to soul rockers ready to burn love to the ground, these are some of the best Nigerian breakfast songs ever written.

Were you dumped or did you do the dumping? Do you want them back or do you never want to see them again? Are you happy, sad, or you’re just caught in between? It doesn’t matter; there’s a song for you.

Nigerian breakup songs don’t fit one simple pattern because breakups don’t fit one simple pattern. (Okay, maybe they fit three or four patterns.) Breakup anthems are complicated things that run the full gambit of emotions. Sadness and grief are certainly the classic ones. But some are righteous cries of joy that signal the end of a bad relationship. Others are thoughtful meditations on human connection. And others… well, frankly, they’re a little toxic, songs about burning the very concept of love to the ground, forcing passionate screams so loud that your landlord threatens to evict you.

The best breakup songs distil raw, universal human emotions. On this list, you’ll find wounded Afrobeats singers, singing unbowed from the ashes of bad relationships. They are indignant and full of para. Simi is lurking in the shadows of her ex’s place, Nkem Owoh reminiscences about Susana’s betrayal, and Ric Hassani is asking Ogun to strike his ex and her friends down.

Among these ten breakup songs, you’re certain to find something to relate to. And if it’s all too bleak, well, I’ve got a list of pick-me-up songs to help kickstart the healing phase. 

1. Last Last by Burna Boy

This is literally the Nigerian Gen-Z GOAT breakup anthem. Since it hit the radio, it’s been the go-to anthem of many post-breakup situations. It’s the breakup anthem you listen to after being served a proper, unexpected Nigerian breakfast in bed. And as you reel over the leftovers, you completely come to agree with Burna that indeed, “last, last, na everybody go chop breakfast”, because you’ve been served too.

One of the song’s highlights is the way Burna perfectly captures the raw intensity of his emotions.

Why you say I did nothing for you? /When, I for do anything you want me to do /Maybe another time, maybe another life /You would be my wife and we’d get it right’.

One can easily tell dat Burna was ready to even klimb Olumo rock for this love. He was ready to do alabaru every single day. He was very ready to turn her from a sisi eko to his iyawo, and even go through 14 lives like an abiku, but e don cast, and it’s even more expensive to cry over spilt milk with how expensive everything is now.

The verse ‘She manipulate my love, oh, hmm, I no holy and I no denge pose, Like Baba Fryo‘ is relatable, reflecting the universal experience of vulnerability, and also showing that Burna isn’t a smooth criminal in this thriller: they’re both painted in atarodo red.

2. Susana by Nkem Owoh

Nkem Owoh’s personality naturally lends Susana its own hilarious spark and flow. Opening on a line, “Oh, Susana, shey you no love me again, money go, woman go.” This anthem plays around the idea of a woman who had promised her lover forever while chopping life with him, but as sapa show faze, propa sabi girl pak her love for Ghana-must-go run follow where go favour her next. And as Nkem Owoh sings in the bridge: “and you say you will love me forever, but as money don finish nau wahala.”

Susana is an anthem for those going through a breakup, realising their partner was just there for the benefits: the amala at Mama Kasara9, suya at 8:00 pm, the shopping spree at Yaba market, and the extra beefed double sausage shawarma. That always comes two minutes before hugging goodbye at her junction while the street patiently observes you two.

3. Thunder Fire You by Ric Hassani

From the opening notes, it’s clear that “Thunder Fire You” is a deeply personal and emotional track. Ric Hassani’s soulful vocals deliver lyrics that are equal parts heartbroken and angry-like-someone-who-has-just-had-his-heart-pickpocketed-in-Oshodi, as he sings about a lover who has betrayed him and left him in pain.

The song’s chorus, which features the catchy refrain, “Thunder fire you, for all the lies you told me /Thunder fire you, for when you cheated on me /Thunder fire you”, is a standout moment that perfectly captures the song’s mix of raw emotion and serious para. You just have to know that the thunder Ric is sending is the one from Ogun and not from the welder shop where he and his cheating ex used to block.

4. Understand by Omah Lay

This is a serious jam for all my understanding girlfriends and boyfriends. Omah Lay basically writes tear-soaked breakup ballads, and his catalogue plays out like the stages of a typical Nigerian breakup: anger, the endless calls, the endless messages, the questions, and finally, the Nigerian para that struggles with admitting say e don burst. 

Understand, however, is Omah Lay at his most defeated and desperate as the singer’s attempt at reconnecting with a lost love meets the hard wall of Isale Eko underbridge. The lyrics express feelings of betrayal, confusion, and frustration. He emphasises the sacrifices he made for the relationship, such as giving his “umbrella” like Rihanna to be in the rain, and spending his “last card” only for the babe to still fall his hand baje baje like naira.

The repetition of the phrase “I under, under, I no fit under, under, under” suggests a struggle to comprehend the situation and the emotional palava it has caused. Understand stands out for its relatability and heartfelt delivery.

5. Angelina by Simi

Simi’s era-shaping 2017 single, Angelina, was in some sense a declaration of independence from a cheetah. The song treats the end of a once-cherished relationship with bittersweet maturity, strength and a striking lack of tatashe. ‘Angelina you can have him oh Angelina /Wetin you do me with Angelina /I no want see am again.’ This is a song about being realistic about the end – a sentiment that captures the tongue-tied desperation between being delulu and acceptance.

The song begins with a sense of urgency and frustration as the singer questions the whereabouts of their wakawaka partner. As the story unfolds, they learn that their partner has been involved with another woman, referred to as Angelina and knows right then and there that, no matter how much she cares for him, e don burst finally.

The catchy chorus, “Cause I don’t want another Angelina, I remember you with Angelina,” reinforces the singer’s resolve to move on and not tolerate further potorpotor stains on her white.

6. Toh Bad by Niyola

Where lots of break-up songs cover the feelings of knowing something is completely over, Niyola dives into the grey area of a relationship: the back-and-forth of an on-again-off-again love like Eko Electricity Distribution Company.

It’s the ache of wanting to be with someone and knowing it’s not totally right in a single song. ‘The more I try, the worse situation is getting /I’m trying to say goodbye, but I can’t let go’ — you can tell sista has to urgently send this non-commital Yoruba demon off like Naija’s problems in an ABCD bus without goodbye. But she’s already too attached like okra to the pot.

The chorus, “Toh bad o, I say bobo you bad o, you bad o, But I love you,” further expresses her frustration, implying that despite the challenges and the heartbreak, her love go still dey kampe.

7. Damages by Tems

For anyone who’s ever dragged out a doomed relationship’s last breaths, you’ll recognise its mood in Tems Damages‘But you still wanna get back with me /You tryna to be the one to deal with /Don’t call my phone, you’re not a mad man /You missed the way.’ You can tell Tems is done with giving tems and konditions in this relationship and no longer cares if they get breached or not, as long as she is not collateral damage: His rent is due, and he keeps calling her, running past Yaba left to Ojulegba underbridge to call for help to put out the fire, but Tems doesn’t care enough anymore.

Tems reflects on the past and asserts her independence like a true Naija 1960 babe, making it clear that she is no longer willing to endure the pain caused by her partner’s actions, ‘Cause I’m done with it now /No more damages, no-no (No more damage).’

The lyrics ‘So tell me what you need from me now, I’m not what you need to be now’ evoke a sense of empowerment and self-respect, as she takes control of her own happiness and refuses to further allow herself to keep drinking panadol extra for one kain headache. One of the standout aspects of “Damages” is its ability to connect with empowering listeners to prioritise their well-being and leave behind anybodi dat knacks dem akpako.

8. Ego by Djinee

Ego is a classic that ruled airwaves in the late 2000s — and, in its simplicity of kponkpon and catchiness of refrain, remains timeless for unrequited love.

When someone you love doesn’t reciprocate your feelings for them, leave it to Djinee to perfect that kpo-kpoing more than a decade before Omah Lay was doing it in teropi secxxion.

The lyrics: ‘If I die now, I go happy say /Say when I dey this world, I don fall in love /Which one you dey? /Wey you dey treat me so? /I don beg, I don do everything /But you tell me say you need time /And you no fit dey with me.” 

If it looks like it’s not going to happen and talks and walks like it’s not going to happen, then it just might not happen; Heartbreaklogy 111. You can tell Djinee has been to church, but not to experience the love of his life walking down the aisle but to pray that she at least even goes on a first date with him.

The chorus, ‘Na so I bad? Anyway I dey go,’ also expresses a sense of self-respect and the decision to leave the feelings behind, seeking a fresh start.

But with the chorus, you can tell Djinne just served us a chilled glass of Fresh Yo instead, ‘Ewo! If you help me see Ego, make you tell am I don go.” While this feels like the singer is trying to leave his feelings behind and find happiness elsewhere, you can still hear the sirens go off in his voice like a proper Nigerian politician who has just lost the elections but will still run until eternity for the same position, while making it seem like it’s the country they love and not their stomach.

9. Out of Love by Chike

Off his correct album, Boo of the Booless, comes this popular anthem. Cheese factor aside, it is hard not to envision an overwrought heartbreak scene in some Netflix Naija rom-com movie as Chike’s voice blasts through this emotional motion sickness.

Over a swelling, slow and deliberate melody like the drag of Lagos holdup, Chike calmly and painfully recounts the end of his relationship in this anthem. The song x-rays the breakfast-rating union as told from his perspective. He has just realised that his efforts alone can’t save a relationship that’s gone with the bar beach waters. ‘Oh Chike oh, this is hard for me to say /But I’m gonna say it anyway /I’ve fallen out of love with you’ belts out at the end.

Chike’s vocal delivery is heartfelt, perfectly conveying the pain associated with such a revelation like the free fall of Naira. His soulful and expressive voice brings raw emotion to the forefront, like Aboniki balm to a sore, allowing listeners to empathise with the conflicting emotions present in the narrative.

Out of Love” captures the anguish and confusion experienced when one person’s love diminishes like naira while the other remains committed like the exchange rate. The repetition of the question “Did you even notice?” highlights the pain of feeling neglected and unimportant in a relationship.

Chike masterfully captures the essence of heartbreak, addressing the realisation of falling out of love head-on, even though it is difficult to accept that you’ve been asked to go hug transformer in that polite-unpolished-swavy-breakfast-language.

10. Bibanke by Asa

I am very sure that most Nigerians would deservedly link Asa’s mastery to her in Kirikiri blue, behind a jail cell, singing to Mr Jailer. But Asa’s catalogue has aged finely through the years like pami that Bibanke brings nothing less than totori down your body.

Bibanke is a powerful and emotionally charged song that showcases Asa’s rip-your-lover’s-heart-out-and-spit-on-it storytelling and vocal abilities.

The opening lines, ‘I wake up, I see you as you leave, I feel it, I see it as you leave,’ express the double wahala of waking up and watching someone leave, feeling their absence deeply.

The song also touches upon the concept of putting up iro n’ buba to maintain appearances even when the relationship is no longer giving pepper dem.

One of the most captivating aspects of Bibanke is Asa’s exceptional performance in effortlessly creating a jagolova between gentle moments of reflection and powerful expressions of heartache.

Esther Omoye is a graduate of the University of Benin. Her works have been previously published in Vanguard, Green Black Tales, Lickety Split, Pink Plastic Journal, My Woven Poetry, and others. She can be found on Twitter @OmoalukheOmoye.

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8 months ago

This is an incredible piece of writing. My lord!!

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