Nigerian artists have been penetrating Western music for a while now but 2020 has been particularly monumental. The Afrobeats sound has become a mainstay of popular music with everyone from Drake to Sam Smith finding inspiration in the genre. This year, however, it’s the original purveyors of the genre finding success overseas. Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Rema, Wizid and more have all had a big year so we thought it was time we put together the essential tracks from this year for those who are missing the movement.
Burna Boy - Way Too Big
Burna Boy has been making big waves internationally for the last few years. He’s collaborated with Lily Allen, Fall Out Boy, Sam Smith and J Hus but it’s his own music that is making the biggest splash. Off the back of 2018’s Outside, he played Coachella before 2019’s African Giant caused an even bigger commotion. With Diddy as a mentor, this year’s Twice As Tall has taken him to the next level. He’s spotlighted Nigerian producers like P2J and Telz while also working with heavyweights Stormzy and Chris Martin. Way Too Big is the most effortlessly uplifting moment of the set combining Afrobeats with a co-write from Kanye collaborator Mike Dean.
Tiwa Savage - Temptation (Feat. Sam Smith)
Tiwa Savage is an industry legend. As well as growing her own solo career she’s written songs for the likes of Fantasia, Mya, Monica and more. Last week, she released her fourth record Celia and it seems like the rest of the world may finally be catching on. Capitalising on the momentum of appearing on Beyonce’s The Gift, her Sam Smith collaboration Temptation is already doing big streaming numbers.
Fireboy DML - Favourite Song
Speaking of Temptation, Fireboy DML is the producer but he also gets on the mic. The 24-year-old artist has just dropped his second album APOLLO - a self-assured and inspiring set that combines Afrobeats with modern pop and funk. Favourite Song is the perfect example of that. It’s a sunny, slippery cut that could just as easily be lifted from a Bruno Mars album.
Tems - These Days
Singer and producer Tems is only just getting started. She’s on just her fourth official release but she’s already finding an audience around the globe. Pitchfork called These Days, “the rap song of the day” while she’s also been featured on The Fader and Pulse. It’s a slick track that’s clearly been inspired by the R&B she grew up with.
Rema - Woman
Rema is on the brink of something huge. The 20-year-old artist went viral with early track Dumebi and since then he’s kept the momentum going with a slew of excellent releases. This year, he pulled them altogether in the Rema Collection showing just how much of a master he is at combining Afrobeats with US trap sounds. Woman sits on the Afrobeats side of things with Rema sliding through the beat like he was born to do it.
DJ Neptune, Mr Eazi & Joeboy - Nobody
DJ Neptune has been shaping the sound of Afrobeats for the best part of the decade as has Mr Eazi who has been instrumental in bringing the sound to America and the UK. Eazi has collaborated with Major Lazer, Rudimental, RAYE, J Balvin and more while also appearing on Beyonce’s The Gift. Joeboy, the third name on this track, is a relatively new name who logged a big hit with 2019’s Baby. Together, they combine on Nobody. It’s a mighty track that achieves the difficult charge of sounding both monumental and effortless.
Wizkid - Smile (Feat. H.E.R.)
Wizkid has been one of the biggest visionaries when it comes to bringing Afrobeats to the rest of the world. He appeared on Drake’s 2016 megahit One Dance before backing it up with his feature-heavy 2017 record Sounds From The Other Side. An appearance on Beyonce’s The Gift has ensured that he’s on the tip of most music enthusiast’s tongue as has his 2020 hit Smile. Tapping one of the biggest voices in R&B H.E.R, Smile is one of the most joyous things to come from this challenging year.
Khalid - Know Your Worth (Feat. DaVido & Tems)
Khalid’s Disclosure-produced Know Your Worth was already great but he upped the anti with a remix that gathered Nigerian artists DaVido and Tems. Disclosure are bumped from production duties in favour of Burna Boy producer P2J as the song becomes a slick Afrobeats jam. DaVido and Tems bring a vocal masterclass to the table over the breezy beat.
Adekunle Gold - Something Different
Adekunle Gold initially broke through with an Afrobeats cover of One Direction’s Story Of My Life and since then he’s been on a mission to define the Afro Pop sound. His latest project, his first for a major label, Afro Pop Vol. 1 does a valiant job. Something Different, in particular, is the sort of track Drake would be dying to get his hands on.
Teni - Wanneka Women Anthem
Teni is another relative newcomer, popping off with her 2018 single Case. Since then, she’s released her debut EP Billionaire which did impressive streaming numbers and she’s spent 2020 dropping excellent loosies. Wanneka Women Anthem is the latest and it’s a triumphant moment celebrating her success.