Everything You Need to know About Afrobeats

Want to get a better understanding of the term ‘Afrobeats’? What could it mean? A cultural movement? A trend?  A genre of music or socio-cultural philosophy? Let’s find out in this article.

A new style is taking over dance clubs and music charts from Lagos to London to Los Angeles. You’re probably familiar with the sound even if you haven’t heard the name.

Afrobeats, a Nigerian music genre, is shaking up the global music industry. The genre has been growing since the early 1990s, but it took off in the international music scene with Drake’s 2016 hit “One Dance,” featuring Nigerian artist Wizkid. Other American artists, such as Ciara and Major Lazer, have used Afrobeats sounds and featured African artists.

Afrobeats’ popularity is growing, and it appears that the genre is here to stay. As a result, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to everything you need to know.

The Sound

Afrobeats

Afrobeats gets its distinct sound from a variety of influences. The style is rooted in West African music, particularly highlife. American jazz and funk are also mixed in, resulting in a cross-continental sound.

Complex rhythms, heavy percussion, repeating vocals, and Pidgin English will alert you that you’re listening to Afrobeats. It’s no surprise that this music is gaining popularity on a global scale; the upbeat, fun, and energetic melodies have people dancing in clubs all over the world.

“This is music that has come a long and joyful way in a very short time,” says Teju Cole, a Nigerian-American author. “Dance to it, take note of its constant tone of joy, then come back and listen to it.”

Nonetheless, Afrobeats should not be confused with Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat style. Afrobeat is a highly political, non-commercial music style, which distinguishes it from other Afrobeats!

The Artists

There are so many artists making hip-shaking hits that it would be impossible to list them all. If you’re new to Afrobeats, there are a few well-known artists to start with, and there’s plenty more to discover from there!

2Baba

2Baba

No list of Afrobeats artists can be complete without this name. The member of the defunct Plantashun Boiz, and former Kennis Music frontman is the CEO and founder of a record label called Hyperteck Record.

Innocent Ujah Idibia (born September 18, 1975) is a Nigerian-born Afrobeat singer, musician, songwriter, producer, and philanthropist better known by his stage name 2Baba.

He is also a business owner, humanitarian, and social activist. He is regarded as one of the most well-known singers in the African music industry.

He was the first MTV Europe winner.

Wizkid

Wizkid

Wizkid rose to international prominence with his hit “One Dance,” but his success as an artist extends far beyond that single.

His debut album Superstar, released in 2011, earned him immediate recognition, as did several singles from the album.

His rise to fame was evident in 2014, when he became the first Nigerian musician to have over a million Twitter followers. He is now one of the most well-known Afrobeats artists, earning him the moniker “Star Boy.”

Davido

Davido

Davido rose to prominence in 2011 with his debut album Omo Baba Owolo, and his success continued with his second album, A Good Time. He was the first African artist to receive his award in person on the BET stage, winning Best International Act in both 2018 and 2014.

Davido is the founder and CEO of DMW, an acronym for Davido Music Worldwide; a label that houses popular singers and rappers like Peruzzi, Idowest, Dremo, Ichaba, Davolee (former), Mayorkun (former), Sinzu, etc.

Burna Boy

Burna Boy

Burna Boy emerged as one of Nigeria’s fastest-rising stars in the early 2010s with his fusion of dancehall, reggae, Afrobeat, and pop. The 2012 single “Like to Party,” produced by LeriQ, proved to be his breakout track, paving the way for his full-length debut, L.I.F.E, a year later.

Burna followed up with two more albums and collaborations with artists ranging from J Hus and Skales to Fall Out Boy and Lilly Allen over the next five years.

Outside, his 2018 album, reached number three on the Billboard Reggae chart and won the Nigeria Entertainment Award for Album of the Year. Both 2019’s African Giant and 2020’s Twice as Tall were critically acclaimed and charted in a number of countries.

He released his sixth album, Love, Damini, in 2022, after becoming the first Nigerian to headline a show at Madison Square Garden.

Other popular Afrobeats singers in Nigeria are D’banj, Timaya, Olamide, Wande Coal, Terry G, Rema, JoeBoy, etc.

The Future of Afrobeats

Sony Music and Universal Music Group recently opened offices in Lagos, hoping to sign local artists and help them succeed. These labels are also combating piracy, which will result in improved legal ownership and rights to the music.

Afrobeats musicians paved their own path to international success. These artists have nowhere to go but up now that major music labels have taken notice.

Margaret Nelson.

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