The core contenders for this accolade have not changed in the past couple of years:  Sarkodie, Shatta Wale, Stonebwoy, and E.L. While the list may be expanded to contain the likes of M.anifest, Edem, Mr Eazi, and perhaps Okyeame Kwame, those four have most entrenched themselves in the highest ranks of  contemporary Ghanaian music.

Without doubt, their exploits from previous years have spilled over into this year, and so have augmented their chances as the most influential acts this musical season. Take Shatta Wale for instance, his decision to inundate us in a lavish assortment of anthems of chart-topping quality has proven handy, so that while he has unleashed major hits as Obodobidi and Kpuu Kpaa this year, it is such songs as Mahama Paper, Hol’ It,  Chop Kiss, and Kakai that still witness the loudest cheers.

That notwithstanding, he remains the top name in the music terrain here –he rides on metaphysical charisma and presence. The launch of his  After The Storm album (April 29, 2016) was witnessed by  a crowd over 50, 000 strong. Held at the Black Star Square in Accra, it is the biggest album launch ever witnessed in Ghana, and the project itself (entirely self-produced), has spawned hits which have withstood tons of other songs of pop value. Also (as usual), he has served us enough headline material  “required” of an entertainer of his stature. Again, Shatta Wale frequents as many shows both locally and internationally as Sarkodie and co.

The biggest testament to his value over the years, is the fact that he is de-facto closing act for any show, period! I’ve witnessed how long people would stay just to catch a glimpse of him, with particular reference to  Starr FM‘s recent S- Concert and colleague Sarkodie’s just -ended #Rapperholic2016 concert…and at the same time what a spectacular act of suicide it could be should he perform at any other time –the Radio and Television Personality (RTP) Awards (October 22, 2016) is my preferred sample.

Sarkodie bounces back from the unfortunate undersupply of pandemonium  over his aesthetic Mary project (September 2015) with a flaming line-up of features and individual dance-ready and hip-hop releases: Choices,  Wofa Kwame, Sarcastic (by Da’Hammer and also featuring Worlasi), No Kissing Baby (by Patoranking), Bossy (featuring Jayso), Fa Sor Hor, RNS, Take it Back, Hand to Mouth, Kanta ( his reply to colleage M.anifest’s alleged dig god MC), Confirm Remix (by Medikal), Anointing (by Mr Eazi), and Trumpet (featuring a bunch of promising young heads including Medikal, Koo Ntakra, Strongman, Pappy Kojo and Donzy).

A number of his songs (including Choices, Take It Back, and RNS) have also been covered by other Ghanaian acts either as acts of homage or to take a bite of his significant traffic, which has become natural over time. His grip on the top spot of Ghana music is unquestionable. The Rapperholic Concert, his annual end-of-year show, crowned what a great year it was for him. Held at the Accra International Conference Centre on December 25,  the well-attended concert was also graced by an unmatched list of local and international stars including Article Wan, Stonebwoy, Shatta Wale, Bisa KDei, Ras Kuuku, Guru, Efya, Nii Funny, Wisa Greid, as well as Nigeria’s Runtown, Flavour, Masterkraft, Patoranking, Reekado Banks, and Burna Boy. The ultimate Christmas party it was, it further highlights Sarkodie’s place on our music front, and why he cannot be overlooked in the any list collating the biggest Ghanaian acts of 2016.

Let’s not forget that the he has also grabbed a number of local and international awards.

READ MORE: FEATURE –On Sarkodie’s #Rapperholic2016

Stonebwoy (born Livingstone Etsey Satekla) nearly scored Grammy nomination this year…let’s start with that. Because that award scheme ends all other award schemes, it proves what an impressive year it has been for the Mightylele singer.

He’s also one of Ghana’s high-profile reps at the prestigious Coke Studio Africa Season 4, which also saw participation from other Africal icons as Jaguar, Patoranking, Yemi Alade, DJ Maporisa, Casper Nyovest, 2Baba, Haile Roots, Neyma, Eddy Kenzo, and American R&B star Trey Songz.

Sick Inna Head, Sapashini, People Dey, We Made It, Problem, By Grace, Guy Guy, and Winner, have kept his hold on the industry intact. For a long time this year, when we bit out fingers finding what songs constituted bona fide hit, it was People Dey we ran to. He was the single advertised Ghanaian act the historic One Africa Concert held at the famous Barclays Centre in New York. He embarked on a well-patronised Go Higher Europe Tour, bagged local and international awards including at the VGMAs, International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA), Ghana Music Awards-UK, the BASS Awards among others. He also heaped up a total of nine nominations at this year’s 4Syte Music Video Awards –the most nominations for a single act this year

He headlined two shows in his honour: a peace concert in his native Ashaiman, and another on December 27 at the Accra International Conference Centre. An artist’s ability to stage their own show is gradually and without our knowing, worming its way into what indexes they should check in order to be rated Artist of the Year. It is perhaps why many of our a-list acts have established concerts of their own –M.anifest has M.anifestivities, E.L has his B.A.R Concerts, Sarkodie has Rapperholic, and Stonebwoy’s is stemming too.

That Stonebwoy has managed two shows thus, proves his mettle –this year’s Ghana Rocks concert, which he spearheaded, also saw the Conference Centre filled to capacity, with industry friends Medikal, Samini, Article Wan, MzVee, Kaakie, Ras Kuuku, Trigmatic, Starboy Records’  L.A.X, Tekno, Luther, Cabum all making appearances in solidarity with him and respect for his efforts this year.

E.L (born Elom Adabla) is reigning VGMA Artist of the Year, and in the opinion of many, has done enough work to merit retaining it this year. That is an uphill battle without question, but he puts up a good fight. Like Stonebwoy, he was also present at Coke Studio Africa Season 4, rendering performances which have been described as “the most electrifying ever”.  E.L was Ghana’s most important rep in the series this year, and perhaps the most brilliant too.

E.L also released the third instalment of his B.A.R projects. Usually a mixtape, he published it as a fully- fledged album this time.  Soliciting contribution from both regular and new collaborators, locally and across the continent: Kojo Cue, Shaker, MI ( Nigeria) Khuli Chana (South Africa), Ayat, Adomaa, Worlasi, Gemini etc, EL returns to his very musical foundations: powerful wordplay and undiluted vim. It  was promoted with such strong songs as Body Bags, Love God, Portey Dey Be, and Lalafama. Also, we all bear witness to the influence of his Kaa Bu Ame.

This year (like other years a B.A.R record has been released), a dedicated concert came was held to decent  patronage. Also witnessing performances from Koo Ntakra, Worlasi, Recognise Ali, Ko-jo Cue, Jayso, Ball J, Tee Phlow, M3dal,, Medikal, A.I, Trigmatic, Cabum, Joey B, Pappy Kojo, Adomaa, and veteran Nigerian rapper and CEO of Chocolate City Music Jude “M.I” Abaga, the concert which came off at the Accra Polo Grounds, was abundant with delight.

In my opinion, E.L has matured in bounds, because today, his craft is one to look forward to, and no crowd is too big for him. I saw him perform to over 50, 000 at the Accra Sports Stadium- he knows how to thrill an audience, and is without debate, Artist of the Year material.

Very few people dispute that god MC Kwame Ametepee Tsikata (M.anifest) makes his boldest claim to the status of topmost GH act of 2016. That it had to take god MC for that to happen is slightly troubling, but finally, he’s risen to be part of the conversation. He also confessed to pressmen gathered for a briefing ahead M.anifestivities 2016 (which came off earlier this month), that this year, he noticed the existence of more M.anifans (his support base) than ever before. Released on June 30, god MC essentially revived debate about depth and lyricism. It made him number 1 trending topic on social media portal Twitter, and headline fodder for months.  He also released Nowhere Cool, his brilliant  fifth solo project following Apae: the price of free EP (2013), Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America (2011), The Birds and the Beats (Free Mixtape, 2009), and Manifestations (2007). Released to glowing reviews, the project (which he describes as an album he’s been waiting to put out his entire life) also reveals a pan-African agenda as he features such continental greats as Nigeria’s Brymo, South African singer and spoken word act Nomisupasta, as well as rapper Tumi Molekane. Nowhere Cool is widely touted as 2016’s best body of work.

M.anifest was also listed in MTV Base Africa‘s list of top rappers from Ghana, along with  Sarkodie, Omar Sterling, Worlasi, Edem, E.L,  FlowKing Stone, Pappy Kojo, Ko-jo Cue, D-Black, and Worlasi.

If headlining a concert is a prerequisite for Artist of the Year consideration, he checks that box. Running since 2012, M.anifestivities is a labour of love for loyal fans of his music all these years.

READ MORE: M.anifest rounds up extraordinary year with #Manifestivities2016

It is important to state that Nigerian-born singer Mr Eazi has done a lot this year. Steadily, he toured the world with his Life Is Eazi campaign, and earned massive acclaim for it. He also chalked a partnership with Wizkid’s Starboy Worldwide label. Aside a significant number of features on projects with local and international colleagues, he released Anointing (ft. Sarkodie), Sample You (ft. Lil Kesh), Shitor (ft. DJ Juls), Teef Teef (ft. Eugy & Sarkodie), Bankulize remix (ft. Burna Boy), Fre MeSkintight (ft. Efua), and Leg over.  On December 22, he picked up the Next Rated award at the prestigious 2016 Headies in Nigeria

Edem, Okyeame Kwame, AMG act Medikal, fiery singer Wiyaala, and the evergreen Okyeame Kwame have all maintained high levels of visibility this year, and must not be left out in conversations thus. Bisa K Dei seems to have relinquished his place among the top contenders, as no song he’s released this year quite matches Mansa or Brother Brother. He has put in impressive work this year, it must be said…rapper Guru too, for how many street anthems he has churned out this year.

Who makes up your list of top acts for this year?

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