Black Music: The Rise of Afrobeats and Afro-PopMar 14, 2022 12:00PM ● By Belinda Nzeribe
There is a new wave of Black music, and it’s called Afro-Pop or Afro-fusion, and it’s finally getting the international attention it deserves. It has gone global, enabling African artists to garner billions of streams, rule the airwaves and playlists, debut on top Billboard charts, and win Grammy awards.
The sound is modern, popular, and fresh, emanating from the streets of West Africa, and championed by Nigerian acts. Its appeal lies in the unique blend of diverse sounds like hip hop, rap, dancehall, R&B, soca, juju music, azonto, highlife, etc. Laced with charged beats that often overpower the lyrics, Afrobeats feels like a genre that’s found a place in the increasingly loud world we live in.
Afrobeats began to gain popularity in the early 2000s but it took almost two decades for the music to gain mainstream attention and earn international repute. Long before it found its way to the world stage, it was African immigrants and the diaspora who promoted the songs from their homeland. In an interview with Trevor Noah, Africa’s music star, Davido said, “My music started from Nigerians being in the club and telling the DJs, “Yo, I want to spend $50,000 today but play Davido’s music when my bottles are coming out…”
The genre is experiencing a golden age that’s attributed to streaming platforms and social media apps like Tik Tok. These days, African artists like Wizkid and Ckay can boast about billions of streams on Spotify, Boomplay, and Youtube. Burna Boy, Davido Wizkid, and many others are touring and selling out concerts in 02 Arena, London, and in the US. They are collaborating with western pop stars like Beyonce, Drake, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, and Sam Smith in their albums. Indeed, Afrobeats now have crossover appeal and it’s become cool to include them in your playlist, even though you don’t live in Africa.
Afro-pop artist Fireboy DML told Rolling Stone, “Afrobeats is going to be on par with hip-hop because what makes hip-hop great is not that it is recognized as a genre, it is also recognized as a culture. Afrobeats is a culture too.”
For those of us who grew up listening to the western music of the 80s and 90s, there was an initial reluctance to accept this new street sound. But it’s given way in the face of the persistence of artists to innovate and recreate their sound. It’s no surprise to see the oldies and the younglings revel in the songs - in the end, the beat always gets you. We rock to the music, sing the catchy hooks, and learn the steps; there is always a song for everyone. It is interesting how the radios used to play lots of western music but now Afro Pop songs have taken over, saturating the airwaves, the clubs, parties, even homes. There is massive goodwill for Afrobeats all over the continent and Africans have a sense of pride in the accomplishments of their music stars.
Black Artists Powering Afro-Pop around the World
His song, “Love Nwantiti” has become the most Shazamed song at the moment. This song owes much of its success to viral Tik Tok challenges and remixes.
Fireboy infuses R&B in many of his songs. He scored a hit collab with Ed Sheeran on the remix of his Afrobeats hit, “Peru”. The song was already a streaming hit and the remix debuted at the top of the UK Official Singles Chart.
In 2020, Wizkid teamed up with another Nigerian singer, Tems, to make “Essence”, a smash hit off his 4th album, and in his words, “We made magic”. This song has shot him into global stardom. It became his singular biggest hit, giving him his first Hot 100 spot as the main act. “Essence”, often dubbed the “song of the summer 21”, earned a Grammy nomination for Best Global Music Performance. Even Nicki Minaj agrees with media personality, Joe Budden, that the song should have received a more prestigious nomination like, “Song of the Year”.
One of Africa’s most successful music talents, Burna Boy became the first Nigerian to score back-to-back Grammy nominations. In 2020, Burna’s 5th album “Twice as Tall” debuted at number 1 on the Billboard World Albums Chart, and in 2021 it won a Grammy for Best World Music Album. He has consistently sold-out arenas and toured extensively with his music.
Known for his high-energy, club-banging Afro-pop music, Davido enjoys massive support from Africans and the diaspora. His hit single, “FALL”, is the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. It’s also one of the most Shazamed songs by a Nigerian artist. “Blow My Mind”, a collab with Chris Brown and “FEM”, have both hit a million views on Youtube in just hours. In the span of his 10-year career, Davido has released multiple hit singles that have helped him remain a foremost Afrobeats musician.
Belinda is a contributor for FunTimes Magazine. She runs creative writing clubs in high schools and lives with her husband and three children in Lagos, Nigeria. Her other passion is child literacy and she manages a charity working to improve reading levels of kids in low income communities. She is becoming adept at stealing time here and there to finish her novel. Belinda holds varied degrees in Theatre and Film, Public and Media Relations, International Affairs and Pre-Primary Education.
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