meta-scriptMeet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More | GRAMMY.com
Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More
(Clockwise from left): BNXN, Aya Nakamura, Amaarae, Asake, Fireboy DML, Lisa Yaro, Mr Eazi

Photos: Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Kristy Sparow/Getty Images; Gonzalo Marroquin/Getty Images for REVOLVE; Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Amazing Klef; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Bang and Olufsen

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Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More

The pan-African pop movement has generated significant talent in recent years. Here are 10 Afrobeats artists who are bringing their unique voices and perspectives to the scene.

GRAMMYs/Aug 28, 2023 - 03:24 pm

Burna Boy, WizKid, Tems — more and more, the GRAMMY-winning stars of Afrobeats are becoming household names. 

Based in Nigeria, the genre has exploded in popularity internationally. Billboard recently started a chart for Afrobeats singles, and the Recording Academy recently added a brand new category, Best African Music Performance, to honor the continent’s best musicians. 

The pan-African pop movement has generated lots of fresh and interesting talent in recent years. Red on for 10 Afrobeats artists who are bringing their unique voices and perspectives to the scene.

AMAARAE

Born in the Bronx, Ghanaian American AMAARAE was raised between Atlanta and Accra — and it shows in her unapologetically sexy music. Bridging the gap between African and American sounds is AMAARAE's M.O.; she’s collaborated with artists on both continents, from Blaqbonez and Stonebwoy to Kaytraminé and Kali Uchis

On songs like "Wasted Eyes" off her latest album Fountain Baby, AMAARAE effortlessly blends Afrobeats with R&B and neo-soul, alongside raps that reverberate with trap braggadocio: "Fresh to death, I’m beyond heat / Activist in my Dior jeans." 

Speaking of designer clothes, she’s also becoming something of a fashion icon, having been profiled in British Vogue about her style and teaming with Shygirl and Arca on a campaign for H&M’s collab line with Mugler.

AMAKA

All over the world, forward thinking musicians are introducing new innovations to pop music. Take NewJeans, for instance — the K-pop quintet introduced global club influences and Western collabs into their music, resulting in rave reviews and massive hits. 

Nigerian American R&B singer AMAKA, formerly of the sister act VanJess, also wanted to do something different for her solo debut, recruiting Haitian Canadian producer/DJ KAYTRANADA, whose woozy take on house music has earned him two GRAMMY Awards. The resulting EP, Oasis, is incredibly interesting, blending suave R&B with Afrobeats influences for an irresistible, sensual combination that feels like an exciting new direction for African pop music. 

Asake

You don’t have to look far to find the next major Afrobeats superstar, the next Burna Boy or Wizkid — it’s Asake. This month he sold out London’s O2 Arena. Before that he took Miami’s inaugural AfroNation festival by storm with a showstopping set that saw the audience tearing off his clothes. And even before that he had booked appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Good Morning America." 

He is incredibly talented and charismatic, as his rapid rise proves. But what makes the deep-voiced Lagotian so compelling isn’t just that — it’s also the embrace of a musical pan-Africanism that feels special. He blows open the Afrobeats formula by introducing influences from all over the continent. "Dull" from his debut Mr. Money With the Vibes interpolates the traditional Yoruba genre of fújì, but he also includes séga, a traditional genre from Mauritius and Réunion, on "Yoga," from this year’s Work of Art.  Of course, there’s also his primary influence, South Africa’s massive house offshoot amapiano — he even named a song, which became a massive hit, after the genre

Aya Nakamura

Most big Afrobeats and amapiano stars tend to perform mainly in English, with many also mixing in African languages like Yoruba, Igbo, and Zulu. But with a massive portion of the continent speaking French, it makes sense that a few Francophone Afrobeats musicians have risen up.

Born in Mali and raised outside of Paris, Aya Nakamura comes from a family of griots (musical oral historians), meaning music runs in the family. She’s had a string of massive hits in France and elsewhere in Europe, including 2018’s massive "Djadja," a bold breakup anthem which topped the charts in France and the Netherlands. 

This year, she’s returned with a new album, DNK, and rather than take on the trendy amapiano influences embraced by the rest of the Afrobeats world, she’s offering her own take on zouk, a French-Caribbean dance genre. In our borderless era of pop music, this is one talent that certainly deserves more attention in the states. 

BNXN

Formerly known as Buju, BNXN (a stylization of his last name Benson) can count Burna Boy as a mentor, having quarantined with the King of Afrobeats during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Like his mentor, BNXN describes his sound as Afro-fusion, taking cues from R&B, dancehall, and traditional genres from Nigeria. 

It’s this Naija identity that truly powers his distinctive songwriting voice, however. A song by BNXN will feature plenty of local witticisms and lyrics in pidgin and local languages, as well as standard English, and his faculty as a storyteller ranges from tales from the gritty streets to childhood recollections of Lagos. 

Fireboy DML

Afrobeats is full of romantics, from Burna Boy to "Africa’s number one boyfriend" Ckay. With his own "Afro-life" take on songwriting, Fireboy DML certainly occupies that lane well, taking on a Casanova persona and weaving tales of love and heartbreak that frequently see him top the charts. 

His track "Peru" resulted in remixes from Ed Sheeran and 21 Savage, topping the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart last year and making it to 53 on the Hot 100 and all the way to number two on the Global 200. Fireboy DML’s reappeared this year with the uptempo, dancefloor-ready "Someone" and amapiano-influenced "YAWA," both taking his sound in interesting new directions.  

Mr Eazi

Though he’s been a star in Nigeria and Ghana for some time, it’s taken Mr Eazi until now to announce a debut album, currently due in October. Lead single "Chop Time, No Friend," with a title taken from a pidgin phrase meaning "live in the moment," is a breezy, catchy take on Afrobeats with a vibrant video paying tribute to local life in Dakar, Senegal. 

It’s only one part of the artist’s ambitions. He’s also joined BBC Radio 1Xtra selector DJ Edu to create the ChopLife Soundsystem, a new project designed to highlight sounds from across the continent. Their first release Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles delves into amapiano, featuring stars of the genre such as Focalistic and Major League DJz. 

Lisa Yaro

An actress, singer, and songwriter, Lisa Yaro is a triple threat. She’s acted alongside Vanessa Hudgens in movies like Asking For It, and written for the likes of will.i.am. Now she’s turning her attention to music with her debut EP My Way. It’s a pivot that may prove her most exciting move yet: Single "SAVAGE" bristles with amapiano-influenced brawn, while the title track offers a confident take on the Afrobeats sound. With the scene remaining dominated by male artists, it’s exciting to see a female singer arrive with such a clearly-defined sound.

Oladapo

With a style incorporating highlife, R&B, and pop with lyrics in English, Yoruba, and Nigerian pidgin, Oladapo is another up-and-coming musician in the Afro-fusion lane. He got an early boost when his 2019 single "Mango" was shortlisted by Mr Eazi’s Empawa Africa initiative, and since then he’s refined his style on bright and romantic hits like "Proud." 

His latest single, "IF AT ALL," adds amapiano log drums and blends a wistful instrumental with contemplative lyrics. 

Ruger

In pop music it sometimes helps to have a signature look. There’s Missy Elliot’s bulbous "Supa Dupa Fly" fit, or KISS’ black-and-white face paint. Pharrell had his vintage Vivienne Westwood hat, and Dame Viv herself helped defined the punk aesthetic by styling the Sex Pistols. Nigerian singer Ruger has…an eyepatch. 

To be clear, he’s not visually impaired in any way, he just wears it because it’s hard. Specifically, as he once told an interviewer, it’s a tie-in with his artist name — taken from the Ruger firearms company — and his persona as a sniper, as well as a tribute to a friend in the Nigerian military who really did lose an eye. Of course it’s not all about the eyepatch, because Ruger’s bubbly blend of dancehall and Afrobeats on songs like "Bounce" is a winning pop formula. 

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2024 GRAMMYs: Tyla Wins First-Ever GRAMMY Award For Best African Music Performance
Tyla accepts the award for African Music Performance at the 66th Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony

Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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2024 GRAMMYs: Tyla Wins First-Ever GRAMMY Award For Best African Music Performance

"I never thought I’d say I won a GRAMMY at 22 years old," the South African singer said. Although coming up against stiff competition, including massive Afrobeats stars Burna Boy and Davido, Tyla's hit song "Water" proved undeniable for GRAMMY voters.

GRAMMYs/Feb 4, 2024 - 10:31 pm

Tyla has taken home the golden gramophone for Best African Music Performance — an all-new category — at the 2024 GRAMMYs, for "Water."

The South African starlet came ahead of ASAKE & Olamide ("Amapiano"); Burna Boy ("City BoysMiracle"); Davido Featuring Musa Keys ("UNAVAILABLE"); and Ayra Starr ("Rush"). 

The 22-year-old singer was taken aback upon winning the trophy, which was awarded by Jimmy Jam during the GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony. 

"What the heck?!" she declared once on stage. "This is crazy, I never thought I’d say I won a GRAMMY at 22 years old."

Although coming up against stiff competition, including massive Afrobeats stars Burna Boy and Davido, the massive appeal of Tyla's hit song "Water" proved undeniable for GRAMMY voters. The amapiano-based pop song entered the Billboard Hot 100 last year, the first for an South African solo artist since Hugh Masekala in 1968. It later peaked at No. 7, making her the highest-charting African female solo musician in Billboard history. The song also went to No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs and Hip-Hop/R&B charts. 

Tyla shouted out her family during her acceptance speech, saying "I know my mother’s crying somewhere in here." 

Tyla makes history as the first-ever Best African Music performance winner. The category was created in order for the Academy to honor music from the continent, according to Academy President Harvey Mason Jr. 

"I'd love to see us be able to honor even more music from Africa and other areas of the world," Mason said in an interview with GRAMMY.com. "The future of the Recording Academy is going to build on equity. We're not just honoring music breaking in our country — we're celebrating music from around the world." 

Keep checking this space for more updates from Music’s Biggest Night!

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2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Afrobeats & African Music
(From left) Mr. Eazi, Arya Starr, Tyla, Rema, ASAKE

Photos (L-R): BANKU MUSIC, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for MTV, Steve Granitz/FilmMagic, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV, Paras Griffin/Getty Images

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2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Afrobeats & African Music

African music and Afrobeats expanded its influence in 2023 as renowned artists achieved global recognition and created new sounds. From a new GRAMMY category to chart dominance and the rise of female artists, check out the biggest trends.

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2023 - 02:24 pm

It could be argued that 2023 was African music’ biggest year ever. The stars shined brighter, the hits went further, and the global music industry is taking notice. 

To wit, the Recording Academy announced the 2024 GRAMMY nominees for its inaugural Best African Music Performance award. Some of the continent’s biggest talents are getting the spotlight: Rising artists like Ayra Starr, ASAKE, and Tyla will compete against global megastars Burna Boy and Davido in a history-making category. 

But there was much more going on than hits and highlights. Afrobeats embraced continent-spanning sounds, from traditional genres to South African club music. Female artists from the continent shined as brightly as their male counterparts. Across the board, bold, experimental new sounds began to creep into the landscape. As an exciting year in Afrobeats and African music comes to a close, take a look at some of the trends that defined this broad soundscape in 2023. 

Afrobeats Stars Are Crossing Over in America

Even if the GRAMMYs hadn’t decided to shine a light on Africa’s music industry with the Best African Performance category, Afrobeats artists made major inroads into the American music market in 2023. ASAKE appeared on "Good Morning America" and "The Tonight Show" to promote his album Work of Art, and recently released a collab with H.E.R. And Burna Boy — one of the genre’s biggest forces — sold out Citi Field in New York and played to a massive Coachella crowd. 

Afrobeats artists played festivals across the country, none more significant than the first-ever stateside editions of AfroNation. Burna Boy headlined both legs of the genre-specific festival alongside WizKid in Miami and Davido in Detroit, while each one featured an undercard full of incredible artists. Rema, ASAKE, Ckay, and BNXN performed in Miami, while Detroit featured Kizz Daniel, P-Square, Stonebwoy, and others. 

But in terms of chart success, one song dominated above all. Driven by a remix featuring Selena Gomez, Rema’s "Calm Down" smashed Billboard records. The song became the longest-running No. 1 in the history of the U.S. Afrobeats chart, spending more than a full year at the top. It eventually crossed over to the Hot 100, also spending a on the chart and becoming the longest-charting African song in its history, although it fell short of the top, peaking at No. 3. 

There’s more where that came from. Rema’s success with "Calm Down" shows the potential Afrobeats artists have to connect with audiences across the world, including North America. Some are already looking for ways to integrate American music into their own songs.

Amapiano Is Everywhere

South Africa’s long history of flirting with house music — from kwaito in the post-Apartheid ‘90s, to the Afro-house of Black Coffee and Da Capo — is finally taking the country’s music global thanks to amapiano. The dance genre typified by sweltering grooves, sizzling shaker rhythms, and the bombastic log drum, was all over Afrobeats this year. 

Heartthrob Ckay tapped the sound on "Hallelujah" with Blaqbonez. Davido collaborated with Musa Keys on his GRAMMY-nominated track "Unavailable" [fellow nominees in the Best African Music Performance category are "Amapiano" by ASAKE & Olamide, Burna Boy's "City Boys," "Rush" by Ayra Starr, and Tyla's "Water."]  And Mr. Eazi recruited Focalistic, Major League DJz, and others for the debut record of his ChopLife Soundsystem side project. Artists as far away as China are also putting their own spin on the sound, such as Vinida Weng with "WAIYA." 

But no one in Afrobeats has embraced amapiano quite as much as ASAKE. His inventive take on the genre incorporates Indigenous sounds from Nigeria to create a totally new and personal style. Songs like "Basquiat" and "Amapiano" reverberate with amapiano log drums and cymbal samples as well as choral background vocals. 

America has caught amapiano fever as well. South African starlet Tyla’s R&B-inflected "Water" became a crossover hit, unseating Rema from No. 1 on the Billboard Afrobeats chart and reaching (as of this writing) a record-setting No. 1 10 on the Hot 100 — the highest-ever for a South African artist. Both U.S. legs of AfroNation also featured a Piano Power stage, with sets by Maphorisa, Musa Keys, Major League DJz, DBN Gogo, Focalistic, TXC, and Uncle Waffles, who also performed at Coachella. 

Female Artists Are On The Rise

Although Afrobeats has largely been dominated by male artists — especially the big three of Burna Boy, WizKid, and Davido — the genre’s female stars are also proving their might. Tems gained fame thanks to features on songs like WizKid’s "Essence," but stepped further into the spotlight following the release of 2022’s For Broken Ears. Her latest song, "Me & U," is a soul-searching track that doubles as a love song and a paean to the almighty. 

Tems' continues to receive industry recognition as well. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, she took home a golden gramophone for Best Melodic Rap Performance "Wait for U," a collab with Future and Drake. Her work co-writing Rihanna’s "Lift Me Up" from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack earned an Oscar nomination, and the song is nominated for Best Song Written For Visual Media at the 2024 GRAMMYs, alongside Barbie The Album's "Dance The Night," "I'm Just Ken," "What Was I Made For?" and "Barbie World.

Ayra Starr, meanwhile, is universally seen as Afrobeats’ next big thing. The Benin-born starlet’s triumphant song "Rush" notched a GRAMMY nod, and she’s continued her dominant streak with singles such as "Sability" and "Stamina" with Tiwa Savage and Young Jonn. She’s also featured on tracks by WizKid, Ninho, David Guetta, and Tyla. 

And speaking of the South African, Tyla’s success with "Water" also highlights the power of female Amapiano artists, none are as mighty as Uncle Waffles. The eSwatini native gained a huge hit with "Tanzania," and played it out to feverish crowds at Coachella and AfroNation Miami. 

Ghana’s Scene Is Buzzing

Two countries away from Nigeria, Ghana’s music scene is bursting with creativity. For proof, look no further than Atlanta-raised AMAARAE’s Fountain Baby, one of the most buzzed-about pop releases on either side of the Atlantic. The record fuses Accra-attitude with 2000s R&B futurism for a bold, dangerously sexy sound that’s totally unique. 

Black Sherif, meanwhile, reps the streets. As a major representative of asakaa, the country’s take on drill music, the rapper has taken the gritty sound of Ghana’s ghettos to new places this year, touring his 2022 record The Villain I Never Was and its hit single "Kwaku the Traveler" at the MOBO Awards in London, Wireless Festival in Abu Dhabi, and events across the U.S. His latest track "OH NO" goes into ambitious new territory with influences added from highlife and soul. 

Finally, Mr. Eazi may be Nigerian by birth, but Ghana is where he made his name and developed his signature "banku" sound, mixing Afrobeats with highlife and other local influences. After 10 years in the business, he finally released his debut album The Evil Genius with a uniquely artful twist: Every track is accompanied by a painting executed by an African artist. Eazi has called the album his most personal work yet. 

Afrobeats Artists Are Defying Genres

Burna Boy took on hip-hop and pretty much everyone else hopped onto amapiano, but in 2023 artists in Afrobeats and beyond took turns trying to expand the genre. Fresh off the success of "Calm Down," Rema delivered a scorching new EP. Ravage flung the singer into dangerous new territory, with dramatic lyrics and dark, hyperpop-leaning production on tracks like "Don’t Leave." 

Up-and-coming artists are also trying to break away from the pack with experimental new sounds. Blaqbonez, featured on Ckay’s "Hallelujah," spits over bouncy Igbo drumming on "NYEM EGO." Brazy, meanwhile, blended Afrobeats with Jersey Club on "omg." 

Last but not least, one of the most interesting Afrobeats-adjacent songs of the year was made in London. Nigerian-British Jim Legxacy’s "dj" boldly fuses hyperactive Afrobeats drums with Midwest emo guitars and a warbling, R&B-esque vocal performance. "You used to promise me you’d teach me how to DJ" may be one of the most instantly devastating opening lines of the year. 

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Here Are The Nominees For Best African Music Performance At The 2024 GRAMMYs
(From left) Asake, Arya Starr, Burna Boy, Davido, Tyla

Photos: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; TiVO; Prince Williams/WireImage; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images

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Here Are The Nominees For Best African Music Performance At The 2024 GRAMMYs

The five nominees for the inaugural Best African Music Performance at the 66th GRAMMY Awards signal the commercial and cultural prowess of the continent’s music.

GRAMMYs/Nov 11, 2023 - 02:36 pm

No matter who takes home the GRAMMY for Best African Music Performance, they’ll be making history in the process. One of three newly-added categories for the 2024 GRAMMYs, the award is a breakthrough for the African music industry, signaling the commercial and cultural prowess of the continent’s music.

"Giving African music its own category would highlight and celebrate the diversity and richness of Africa," Shawn Thwaites, project manager at the Recording Academy, said in a roundtable about the new category. "This is a great step forward!" 

African musicians have a long history at the GRAMMYs, from Ali Farka Touré to Wizkid. Artists of any African musical style can gain a nomination, whether they make Ethio-jazz, Ghanaian drill, high life, or kwassa. This year, however, one genre’s stars are shining particularly bright: Nigerian Afrobeats stars Burna Boy, ASAKE, Davido, and Ayra Star all netted nominations. 

And yet, this can’t be said to have been a conventional year for Afrobeats. The genre’s best and brightest have embraced the sensual, pulsating sound of amapiano, the South Africa-born house offshoot that has taken clubs from London to Lagos by storm. Three of the five tracks nominated take stylistic cues from amapiano, with ASAKE even namechecking the genre in the title of his nominated track. Meanwhile, South African Tyla’s blend of ama and R&B shows the pervasive nature of piano power across the field. 

Learn more about the nominees below, and see who takes the pioneering award during the 2024 GRAMMYs, held on Sunday, Feb. 4. 

"Amapiano"- ASAKE & Olamide

There are more established artists in this field, but none feel as momentous as Asake, whose rapid rise to fame feels at times like the Afrobeats equivalent of Beatlemania. Thanks to his deeply charismatic persona and spectacular stage presence, he’s become massively popular with just two albums under his belt. And speaking of spectacle, earlier this year he became the fourth Nigerian artist, behind Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, to sell out London’s O2 Arena, entering on a helicopter.

The key to his appeal lies in his embrace of sounds from all over the continent, especially amapiano. His album Work of Art mixes the popular Afro-house offshoot with Mauritian séga music as well as fújì, an Indigenous Yoruba genre from Nigeria. 

"Amapiano" works as both a statement on the title genre’s popularity and a subtle flip on its conventions, rearranging elements such as the iconic log drum and combining them with dynamic rapping from Asake and featured artist Olamide. The song’s hook — "Steadily, steadily, heavily, we are getting lit" — is especially irresistible. 

"City Boys" - Burna Boy

There’s not a bigger star in Afrobeats, or even the whole of Africa itself, than Burna Boy. He nabbed two consecutive Best Global Album GRAMMY nods for his albums Twice as Tall and African Giant, and he’s also collaborated with global stars such as Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber.

After earning his first UK No. 1 album this year with the classic hip-hop influenced I Told Them…, featuring appearances from 21 Savage, J. Cole, RZA, and GZA, he’s firmly in his imperial era. It’s hard to get away with releasing a track called "Sittin’ On Top of the World" if you’re not doing just that. 

Yet it was "City Boys," that caught the Recording Academy’s attention this year. Produced by MD$ and Ruuben with a sample from Jeremih’s sultry R&B classic "Birthday Sex," the stomping, glamorous track reminiscent of late-’90s Timbaland beats highlights the path of influence from hip-hop to Afrobeats. In the song’s flashy video, Burna Boy rides around the streets of Los Angeles in a yellow Ferrari and matches an iced-out Richard Mille watch with a Wu-Tang Clan durag, paying tribute to hip-hop’s extravagance and braggadocio. The track also topped the UK Afrobeats Singles Chart in September

"UNAVAILABLE" - Davido Featuring Musa Keys  

Asake may have risen to fame based on his embrace of Amapiano, but Davido has been boosting the genre for even longer. Back in 2021 he joined forces with amapiano DJ and MC Focalistic on "Champion Sound," giving the style a crucial early foothold into the Afrobeats scene.

"Champion Sound" eventually became the lead single for Davido’s 2023 project Timeless, released after the tragic accidental death of his three-year-old son. It’s a record dominated by the forward momentum of Amapiano beats, and "UNAVAILABLE," the GRAMMY-nominated single from the album, is no exception. A brighter, smoother take on the sound with triumphant choral vocals on the hook, it features confident verses from Davido and collaborator Musa Keys. 

Considered one of Afrobeats’ big three along with Burna Boy and Wizkid, Davido first broke onto the scene in 2012. He’s since dueled with the other two artists for records and chart placements, such as Timeless beating Burna Boy’s album Love, Damini as the biggest debut for an album on Spotify Nigeria earlier. The album also gained the most single-day streams for any African album on Apple Music. 

"Rush" - Ayra Starr

With an anthemic tone reminiscent of Rihanna’s "Diamonds," Ayra Starr’s track was boosted up the global charts thanks to TikTok virality. Born in French-speaking Benin to Nigerian parents, the 21-year-old moved frequently during childhood, eventually ending up in Lagos to pursue music.

After a brief stint in modeling, she signed to the star-making Mavin Records label in 2020, only their third female act. This nomination is only the latest accolade for her: she’s already earned three Nigerian number one singles, a feature on Wizkid’s track "2 Sugar," and a spot on the soundtrack to Creed III

"Rush" is all about staying focused and grinding towards success. Starr sings about the cutthroat nature of the working world with determined fierceness: "Me no get the time for the hate and the bad energy / Got my mind on my money." The track may have a distinctive Afrobeats clave rhythm and Nigerian pidgin lyrics, but its glimmering synths recall early 2010s electro-pop from the likes of Robyn or Carly Rae Jepsen

"Water" - Tyla

The youngest nominee on this list and the lone South African artist, 21-year-old Tyla is already a star in her home country, having been nominated for two South African Music Awards.

With "Water," the lead single from her upcoming debut EP, she also became the first solo musician from South Africa in 55 years to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. Largely driven forward by a popular TikTok challenge, the song debuted at 67 and has peaked at 21 so far. 

It’s easy to see the crossover appeal of "Water," which could be mistaken for an American pop song if not for the sweltering Amapiano instrumental underneath. Singing entirely in English, Tyla’s vocal delivery brims with confidence and desire, especially over the chorus — "Make me sweat, make me hotter, make me lose my breath, make me water" — while the song’s sweltering video turns up the heat further. 

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT. 

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

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7 Incredible Sets From AfroNation Miami: WizKid, Uncle Waffles, Black Sherif & More
Burna Boy performs during day one of Afro Nation Miami 2023

Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

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7 Incredible Sets From AfroNation Miami: WizKid, Uncle Waffles, Black Sherif & More

At the inaugural AfroNation Miami, stars of the Nigerian Afrobeats movement joined by Caribbean artists, South African amapiano DJs and MCs, all of whom kept the sweltering crowds grooving until late into the night.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2023 - 01:44 pm

If the inaugural AfroNation Miami could be described in one word, it’s hot — in all its meanings. 

With thousands of tourists descending on Miami for Memorial Day weekend, many of them celebrating Urban Beach Week, it should be a no-brainer to have a festival focused on Black artists and music from around the world. The thing is, Florida gets pretty balmy in the summer — in the 80s and 90s every day — and the high-humidity heat during the two-day fest felt almost unbearable at times. But artists and fans alike didn’t let the climate ruin their good time. 

An incredible selection of talent from across the African diaspora played to an approximately 20,000-strong crowd at LoanDepot Park, usually home of the Miami Marlins. Stars of the Nigerian Afrobeats movement including Burna Boy, Asake, and WizKid gave pulse-pounding performances, joined by Caribbean artists such as Jamaican dancehall talent Mavado and Panamanian reggaetonista Sech. Just outside on the stadium plaza, an entire stage of South African amapiano DJs and MCs kept the sweltering crowds grooving until late into the night. 

There were a few snags common to festivals. Some artists, like WizKid, showed up late to their sets. Others, like Beenie Man, dropped out entirely, only to be replaced by the charismatic up-and-comer Shenseea. But more often than not, the international crowd was granted a formidable festival experience, anchored by extraordinary sets from some of the best Black artists in the world. Read on to discover seven of the most jaw-dropping sets from AfroNation Miami. 

Asake Bares All-In Enrapturing Performance

Not even  clothes could contain Asake’s exuberance — the Nigerian Afrobeats rookie basically undressed himself slowly during his half-hour performance. First he threw away his neon green wraparound shades. Then he ditched his Louis Vuitton jean jacket on the stage floor. His chunky silver sneakers came off at one point, and he finished the rest of the set walking around in his socks. His ear monitor fell out during one of his many twirling dance moves and had to be replaced later by a stagehand. 

Eventually, that left his white tank top, which he’d been using to wipe away sweat for the whole performance. That came off at the climax of the show, when the singer stepped over the barrier to commune with the crowd. As a security guard supported him he leaned back in a crucifix pose, letting fans tug at his shirt until he finally tossed it into the throng. 

Asake has come a long way in a very short time. The 28-year-old dropped his first album just last year and has been making the media rounds in the states, appearing on "Jimmy Fallon" and "Good Morning America." He’s a star on the rise, representing the new wave of Afrobeats, its embrace of continent-spanning sounds like amapiano (which he namechecks in the title of one of his biggest songs), and its potential to go even more global than it already is. 

His stage presence signifies his world-conquering potential. He doesn’t interact with the crowd like Ckay or Burna Boy. He dances and sings, in a deep, sonorous voice, as if possessed by some spirit, staring into the middle distance, concentrating on nothing but leaving it all on the stage. It’s almost as if he was in a trance, and the moment he walked off after performing "Mr. Money," it felt as though everyone present had all snapped out of one as well, hypnotized by this one-of-a-kind talent. 

Black Sherif Spits From The Streets

Although he played to a sparse crowd early Saturday, Ghanaian rapper Black Sherif didn’t let that stop him from giving a blistering performance. Fans holding signs thanking him for songs such as "Second Sermon" had camped out in front of the stage, and he didn’t disappoint them, delivering a passionate sermon from the streets. 

As a proponent of the gritty Ghanaian offshoot of UK drill known as asakaa, Black Sherif was one of the few hip-hop-oriented acts on a bill dominated by pop and Afrobeats stars. He told stories of darkness and heartbreak with incredible focus and intensity, almost shouting his lyrics at the crowd in a raspy voice. Songs such as "45" feature lyrics in English and Sherif’s native language of Twi, and to his credit, his delivery was flawless through the entire set. He didn’t skip a single word, which is more than can be said for many American rappers. 

The drama of Black Sherif’s passionate performance climaxed with his final song, the hit "Kwaku the Traveler," weaving a tragic tale of falling from and grinding his way back to success. About 30 seconds in, the DJ let the beat drop out, leaving the rapper to finish the song with a captivating a capella. 

Burna Boy Withstands The Heat For Fuego Saturday Closing Set

Drenched in sweat, even Burna Boy eventually needed a break from the heat. After eight songs straight of passionate performance, he finally turned to a stagehand and declared "I’m gonna need some water." 

The fiery performance was the climax of AfroNation’s Saturday lineup, and Damini Ogulu did not disappoint. Backed by a full band even larger than Asake’s, with backup singers, dancers, a brass section, and a drumline playing African percussion instruments, the global superstar dripped with charisma as well as perspiration. His million-watt smile shone brighter than any of the lights in the LoanDepot Park stands as he strutted around the stage and blazed through solo renditions of his biggest hits, including "Secret," as well as tracks from his recent album Love Damini such as the Ed Sheeran collab "For My Hand." 

With pyrotechnics, smoke machines, and a stadium full of adoring fans at his disposal, the king of Afrobeats put on an incredible spectacle in Miami, with the most iconic moment coming at the end as the entire ballpark sang the chorus of "It’s Plenty" a capella. But an even more iconic moment may have been after performing his Dave collab "Location" when he recovered a Haitian flag, waved it around, and wrapped it around his neck like a bandanna. Out of all the flags being waved in the audience, this is the one that matters most in Miami with its huge Haitian diaspora population. And when Africa’s biggest star bore it proudly, the crowd erupted. 

Ckay Celebrates Love And Money On The Main Stage

Before he went onstage at AfroNation Miami, Ckay’s DJ declared him "Africa’s number one boyfriend." It was easy to see why: Not only did he perform some of his most romantic songs, but the Nigerian singer spent much of the show making eyes at the crowd. And making heart symbols with his hands. And peace signs. 

It seems the fans loved him back. The phones all came out upon hearing the opening strains of closer "Love Nwatiti" (a massive international hit and the first No. 1 on Billboard’s Afrobeats chart) and the crowd roared with approval upon hearing the sweet guitar melody on "Emiliana." "This is my first time doing this song in Miami, I want you to make some noise!" he declared. 

The show wasn’t all about romance, however. Penultimate song "Hallelujah" is an ode to cash money, and Ckay displayed his clout by bringing out featured rapper Blaqbonez to perform his verse. "If you wanna make some money this year say ‘Ohhhhh,’" the singer said to the crowd before jumping into the amapiano-influenced track. Money and talent — maybe he would make a good boyfriend. 

Major League DJz Offer A Scorching Set Of South African Sounds

More than anyone else at AfroNation, Major League DJz showed the world-conquering potential of amapiano.

Closing the stage on Sunday night, the duo ran through a scorching set of amapiano favorites, even slipping in an immaculate remix of Beyoncé’s "CUFF IT" while a succession of MCs pumped up the crowd. Shifting the vibe at will — from intense, futuristic rave and trance-indebted synth tracks to lighter tunes with soulful piano and organ chords, and always with eruptions of log drum bass and skillfully-deployed delays, filters, and other effects — they kept the crowd enraptured and in thrall to the power of ‘piano. So deeply in command of the audience were they that a guest appearance midway through the set threatened to derail it entirely. Atlanta rapper Kali took the stage to perform her song "Area Codes," and the trap-influenced track felt like a wrench thrown into the Majors’ finely-tuned amapiano machine.

Kali wasn’t the only guest appearance, as by the end of the set, it felt as though the entire Piano People collective had come on stage. Over a dozen people stood behind, in front of, and even on top of the decks, celebrating their success and lending their collective energy to give the performance a feeling of unstoppability. The MCs hyped up the crowd, the dancers (including the previous night’s headliner Uncle Waffles) danced, and the rest basked in the vibes of the by-then-bursting crowd. This is how Africa raves, and the rest of the world would be smart to follow along. 

DJ Uncle Waffles Brings Impeccable Femme Energy To Piano People Stage 

While the stars of Afrobeats took the stage inside on the LoanDepot Park field, outside the stadium the Piano People stage had the feel of a block party. Focusing on the ascendant South African dance genre of amapiano, the stage brought some of the scene’s biggest talents to Miami.

It was Saturday night headliner Uncle Waffles, also the only female artist to headline either stage, that offered the purest take on what makes the genre exciting. Looking like a Matrix character in a black jumpsuit and neon-green hair, the South Africa-via-eSwatini DJ put up a powerful mix of amapiano tracks, including her own massive hit "Tanzania." The pulse of the log drum bass and the steamy rhythms felt right at home in the swampy humidity. 

While many of the loudest, most energetic voices at the stage were MCs such as Focalistic and Musa Keys, Waffles, despite primarily DJing, quietly behind the decks. She would often start a track and jump to the front of the stage to join her dance troupe, themselves dressed in cheerleader-style outfits, in thrilling, coordinated dance routines. The energy and enthusiasm onstage and in the crowd manifested itself the most in these moments. 

WizKid Shows He's The Star Of The Show

WizKid knows he’s a star (he was calling himself "Starboy" long before The Weeknd) and at his festival-closing set on Sunday night, he delivered a star experience, taking the stage from atop a massive stair-shaped backdrop designed to let him descend from high above the rest of us. 

Wearing sequined black pants, a leather fedora, and shades that never left his eyes, Wizzy strutted back and forth on the stage like a proud lion, performing the biggest hits from his massive catalog. Some guests came out, such as Buju for "Mood," while the artist let the crowd sing-along to Drake’s verse on "Come Closer." The instrumentals seemed to switch between a DJ and a live band, both of them obscured by the stage setup. 

At other sets such as Burna Boy and Asake, the band was a major feature; here there was nothing to distract the crowd from Big Wiz. He absorbed their love like a sponge, and may have caught some thrown underwear from the crowd too. 

Much was made by the artist of the global nature of the crowd. Wizzy started out his set by shouting out all the Caribbeans, from Jamaica to Trinidad and certainly Haiti, present in the audience, before moving on to Africa. "I see your flags, I see you repping for your country right now," he said. "This is a sexy ass crowd tonight, baby!" 

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