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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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South African Singer Tyla Won The Inaugural Best African Music Performance Category At The 2024 GRAMMYs. What Does It Mean For African Music On The Global Stage?
Tyla with her golden gramophone

Photo: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

feature

South African Singer Tyla Won The Inaugural Best African Music Performance Category At The 2024 GRAMMYs. What Does It Mean For African Music On The Global Stage?

While Afrobeats and amapiano are certainly crossing over in America, Tyla’s win reflects how Western influence is often necessary for African music to transcend the continent. Is "Water" what African music needs to blossom?

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 10:43 pm

As the first recipient of the inaugural Best African Music Performance GRAMMY Award, South African songstress Tyla has officially etched her name into history. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, the 22-year-old's amapiano-infused Afro pop hit "Water" beat out several long-established names in African music.

While Tyla's success on Music's Biggest Night stresses the Recording Academy's continued efforts to showcase diverse African music, her victory is more of a one-armed hug rather than a full, legs-off-the-ground embrace of African music. 

This is chiefly because "Water" was successful and marketable for its use of Western pop influences. While Afrobeats and amapiano are certainly crossing over in America, bestowing a golden gramophone upon an artist whose work reflects familiar sounds is a curious step forward for African music. Still, Tyla's win may foster a greater embrace of the African sound, and the virality and pervasiveness of "Water" propelled the Johannesburg-born singer/songwriter to unheard of heights. 

"Water" hit No. 1 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs and Hip-Hop/R&B charts, and became the first African song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 since 1968. The track peaked at No. 7, making Tyla the highest-charting African female solo musician in Billboard history. The "Water" dance challenge on TikTok further pushed the track into the global sphere, and the song has been featured in over 1.5 million videos.

The widespread appeal of "Water" is a culmination of elements, notably a fusion of Western pop with subtler amapiano influences. The song melds sleek American R&B and pop compositions with the log drums and piano trails synonymous with the South African amapiano genre. 

Read more: 10 African GRAMMY Winners Through The Years: From Miriam Makeba To Angélique Kidjo & Burna Boy

Indeed, most musical genres (regardless of continent of origin) draw inspiration from and contribute back to each other. The resulting music transcends regional boundaries and appeals globally — and Tyla's "Water" is proof of this resonance. Yet it also reflects how a major Western influence is often necessary for African music to transcend the continent. 

The Recording Academy's new Category was designed to highlight "strong elements of African cultural significance," said Shawn Thwaites, Recording Academy Awards Project Manager and author of the Category. In describing eligibility for the Best African Music Performance Category, Thwaites noted that songs must feature "a stylistic intention, song structure, lyrical content and/or musical representation found in Africa and the African diaspora." 

Still, when it comes to recognizing lesser known genres — from South Africa's gqom to Tanzania’s singeli and Ghana’s asakaa — the global audience still has a long way to go.

"We need to go deeper and in more detail within different genres of music. We know there are multiple different types of music — hundreds of genres, in fact — coming from Africa and from all 54 countries on the continent," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. told GRAMMY.com after his three trips to the vibrant continent. "I'd love to see us be able to honor even more music from Africa and other areas of the world."

Thwaites hopes that celebrating the diversity of African music will also lead to greater cultural exchange. Eventually, this could lead to "more collaborations between artists of different genres and more artist relations between labels and executives in America," he said. 

But for this progression to happen correctly, there has to be a cultural education about the music within the continent and it's something Ghazi Shami, CEO/Founder of Empire Records, Distribution and Publishing — who consulted with the Recording Academy on the new Category — is looking forward to watching develop. 

"I think we'll see expanded categories in African music in the years to come, but this is a great start toward recognizing the merits and impact of African music," he told GRAMMY.com prior to the ceremony. 

Tyla's GRAMMY win is an exceptional achievement — particularly so for a young African woman. Popular African music has often been skewed towards male artists. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, Tems became the only female solo artist currently living in Nigeria to win a GRAMMY. (Sade, who was born in Nigeria, has won four GRAMMYs but lives in the U.K.)

A similar trend is observed in South Africa, where Miriam Makeba was both Africa's first GRAMMY winner and the country's solo female vocalist to win prior to Tyla. 

Tyla's win is a beacon to other young female performers in Africa — including fellow Category nominee Ayra Starr and singer/songwriter and producer Bloody Civilian — proving that female artists can and will be recognized, regardless of their country of origin. It also demonstrates how the distance between African artists and international prestige has been shortened, thus furthering the likelihood of artistic innovation.

Her win is also notable in a Category stacked with Nigerian artists. Of the five nominated works, "Water" is the only one not created by an artist of Nigerian descent or currently living in Nigeria. (Though South African producer Musa Keys is featured on Davido's nominated "UNAVAILABLE.") Although South Africa has a lengthy history at the GRAMMY Awards, Tyla is proof the world is listening to what her country has to offer. 

While her fellow nominees — Starr, Burna Boy, Davido, ASAKE & Olamide  — and artists such as Wizkid have also shouldered the responsibility for the globalization of popular African music, there is still a long road ahead. 

Tyla’s win holds significant promise for African music as pop music. While "Water" certainly has noticeable South African elements, its Western appeal may partially lay in its use of familiar sounds. For Africa to truly win, the world has to embrace African music for what it is, and not for what it's trying to be. 

Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More

Dancehall Artist Teejay Unveils His Most Honest Persona Yet On 'I Am Chippy'
Teejay

Photo: Hakeem West

interview

Dancehall Artist Teejay Unveils His Most Honest Persona Yet On 'I Am Chippy'

On his debut EP with Warner Music, dancehall artist Teejay shares the chip on his shoulder along with "the story of where I came from and where I’m trying to go."

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2024 - 04:21 pm

Dancehall artist Teejay has long used alter egos in his breakout performances. Throughout his artistic journey, Teejay has developed a knack for reinventing his image.

First coming on the scene as wunderkind Timoy, Teejay later took on the moniker Buss Head General, a young adult gritty gunman persona, before evolving into joyful melodies as Uptop Boss and later embracing the sensuous realm as Teejay.  On I Am Chippy, his debut EP with Warner Music, Teejay sheds his previous layers and embraces yet another cycle of renewal with the alter ego Chippy. 

Released Feb. 2, the nine-track I Am Chippy is brimming with infectious melodies and impactful verses. Featuring collaborations with fellow dancehall artists Tommy Lee Sparta, and Bayka on five tracks, I Am Chippy also sees an infusion of Afrobeats with Davido. Throughout, Teejay showcases his vocal mastery against a backdrop of pulsating basslines, eerie synths, Latin guitars, gunshot sounds, and dance-worthy rhythms. 

Much like Teejay himself, each track adopts a distinct persona. Lead single "Dip" promises to get everyone moving, as Chippy enthusiastically declares, "Just like how the world did Drift," his 2023 breakout single that earned him TikTok success, a record deal, and over 78 million plays, everybody is gonna dip for sure."

Despite these successes — or perhaps because of them — Teejay's latest alias, Chippy, can't conceal the chip on his shoulder regarding life's stark realities. Timoy Janeyo Jones was born into a humble family in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and his musical talent was nurtured by his Christian revivalist mother and two brothers with production skills. By age 9, Teejay was already showcasing his musical prowess within the community, on television, and on the radio. While Teejay seemed destined to become an entertainer, reality took a different turn after he left school in the seventh grade.

"Some of us weren't meant to be brought up well, go to good schools, learn, and have a proper education. Some of us grew up in the streets and never had fathers," Teejay reflects. "The EP tells the story of where I'm coming from. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be a star. So that's the most important thing about it…people can actually listen to it and understand the story of where I came from and where I’m trying to go.

Teejay spoke with GRAMMY.com about his new musical chapter, the nuances of dancehall culture, and his efforts to elevate his dancehall peers into the mainstream.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

This album and era took a bit of a turn for you. I think some people were used to your songs for the ladies, like "Unfaithful Games," however, this EP is a bit darker with  "gunman chunes." It's like you've been holding your tongue for so long that now you are showing everyone just how bad you really are. 

Reggae music was about peace and love and then came dancehall — it's been happening since the 1990s with Shabaa Ranks, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, and Mad Cobra. I was born in '94, I grew up listening to all these artists so by 2000, that’s all I knew. 

The clashing in music, STING  [a notorious Jamaican concert where artists lyrically clash], and everything is just culture. Artists go on stage and deejay against each other. This is how we build a fanbase in Jamaica. This is how people know that an artist is lyrically inclined, and to not be played with. 

We are not gonna see each other and fight, or anything like that. We're going to perform together and make some money. It’s all about the bread. It's just entertainment. 

You recently engaged in a clash with another dancehall artist, Valiant. Clashing is a part of dancehall culture; why was doing a clash important to you?

I mean it's a publicity stunt, right? Both good publicity and bad publicity work sometimes and it has engaged a lot of fans. 

I just know how to promote myself. I always wanna be in the front of the class because I wanna learn something so I always practice and know what’s my next move. It's like playing chess. 

Can you share the story behind the transition from your early days in the gritty dancehall scene to today, when you're blending more diverse styles?

Before "Drift" and "Unfaithful Games," when Teejay was coming up in Montego Bay, in 2013, it was only grimy dancehall hardcore music. My name was Buss Head General in the beginning and then I decided after some things happened in the past, to grow. 

Since I have six kids, I decided to do some good music they can grow up listening to. But I also realized that even the kids love hardcore dancehall songs. I just have to balance the scale.

What's something signature that every song on the EP has?

Every song on the EP has that new sound. It's like a new wave. Artists from Kingston and Jamaica always compete for the new sound. Everybody is saying that the Montegonians have the new sound right now, so I'm just trying to get that particular sound out. 

Everything has a vibe to it. The 808 is totally different. The melody and the dynamic of everything changed. We took out words from the songs so you can actually feel the melody more with the beat. That's the craft of it. It’s simple and easy to remember.

Didn’t your mentor Shaggy tell you something about making the words simpler and focusing on amplifying the beat?

Yeah, we went back to the drawing board and changed everything. One of the songs with my son is called "Star." That's my favorite song. Everybody is going to sing that song. It's so understanding! You can hear it clearly and you can understand everything that you sing. It has a melody. It has meaning to it.

You have a lot of features from dancehall artists on the EP; it feels like you're lighting the way for them. 

Yeah, because no man is an island. No man can stand alone. Each one helps the other. So if I can use my platform to enlighten other dancehall artists, at least people will remember that Teejay had his shine and he also brought somebody on the latter with him. 

United we stand divided we fall. And I can't do it alone. I swear I need help. I need other artists in the genre to understand that this is bigger than us. This is a big picture, and if we can just fill in somewhere on the bottom, the top, or in the middle, it would be good for the culture of dancehall and not just for Teejay. 

You got signed to Warner Music in 2023. Was getting signed to a U.S. label one of your dreams?

It was always one of my dreams because I'm a lover of music and I realized that people in Jamaica don't buy EPs — or albums, much less. It’s like time is evolving and people in Jamaica are not evolving with it. They will sit and wait for the YouTube link or something to stream it. 

We don't have proper A&R, we don't have proper lawyers, but now I have the opportunity to work with these wonderful people, these lovely people, so let’s just do it. Don't just sit and think about getting the No. 1 trending spot on YouTube in Jamaica. It's bigger than that. It's bigger than me. It's bigger than all of us. 

How did the Latin-infused "Twerk" on I Am Chippy come about?

Well, "Twerk" is for the ladies; it was inspired by Busta Rhymes' "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See." It has the same feeling along with [[Santana"Maria, Maria, you remind me of a Westside story." 

That song was produced by DJ Frass Records. Some producers have the experience and the wisdom to know what people want to hear. We were at the Airbnb chilling and he said, "Yo, I have a new rhythm I think you would like." I said "Run the rhythm, turn it up!" As soon as I heard it, I was like, "Yo this bad, this sick, this crazy! Load it up in the studio!" 

I don't write, I just smoke and drink sometimes and then I just get the inspiration [for a song] based on maybe seeing what a friend or family member is going through. I sing about it so it can feel real. 

You dropped out of school in seventh grade to pursue music. That is really young. What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Honestly, I always wanna learn. Back then, music was the only thing for me. That's why, now, I make sure that all my kids go to good schools. I tell them that they need their education. 

Whenever I'm in a conversation, I try not to say much. I listen to what people say so I can learn or add up things. I read a lot. Most of the time if I'm not doing anything, I try to read a book just to learn something. 

I think that I’m far better off than most people who have subjects and degrees. I'm not saying this for kids to feel like, oh, you can do what Chippy did. No, not everybody has the same luck. I never had a father to even help my mom send me to school, so it was pressure for her to see Teejay leave school. But the fact that I didn't end up in prison or in violence or anything, and I did music and became a big star in the community is good. So I took the negative and turned it into a positive.

You decided to collaborate with Davido on "Drift," which was a great move. How do you feel about Afrobeats getting some of the mainstream attention that dancehall once had?

I mean, everybody has their time. The reason that dancehall music has taken a backseat, I think, has to do with the people, because music is evolving. [[To be recognized as a supporter of music] you have to have a credit card, a bank account, you have to file taxes, have Zelle, Amazon music, and everything. Nobody in Jamaica subscribes to that, so these are the things that are affecting dancehall music [on the charts]. I think that's why I am here as an artist promoting dancehall music, telling the people things, and talking to the government about  [putting programs in place to support Caribbean music]. 

For us to say that we feel a way that Afrobeats music has reached where it is, I don't think is fair. Africa has been putting in the work over the years. I mean, it's 200 million people in Nigeria alone; like we can't even compete. [But Afrobeats] was inspired by dancehall music. All these artists from Africa can tell you that they grew up listening to dancehall music: Burna Boy said on a show that he used to listen to Movado, Vybz Kartel, and all these great artists.

And based on the success of your 2023 what was your biggest lesson of the year?

"Drift" taught me a lesson about time. No matter what you do, you have to wait for your time. I swear you cannot beat time. That's nature.

There was a time when as you mentioned I thought I was a flop. There was a time when I felt nobody was paying Teejay attention. I was giving other people attention and all my time and nobody stopped and even asked me if I was good. So I would just say that's the most valuable lesson: Believe in yourself, and love yourself before you can love others.

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Burna Boy, Tyla And Africa's Moment At The 2024 GRAMMYs
Best African Music Performance winner Tyla attended the 2024 GRAMMYs with her mother and father (standing beside her)

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

feature

Burna Boy, Tyla And Africa's Moment At The 2024 GRAMMYs

African artists shone bright at Music's Biggest Night, highlighting the ever-growing influence of Afrobeats, amapiano and African pop music.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 06:03 pm

Late into the festivities at the 66th GRAMMY Awards, an African giant took the stage. 

Burna Boy — the king of Afrobeats, a massive star of the continent’s pop music industry, and a national hero of his home nation of Nigeria — brought down the house at Crypto.com Arena with a formidable show that bridged the cultures of Africa and America. 

With backgrounds inspired by the streets of Lagos, the GRAMMY winner began the set surrounded by drummers and dancers in colorful traditional clothes, jamming to his Afrobeats hit "On Form." 

Then, he switched things up, transitioning to two ‘90s hip-hop-influenced cuts from his recent album I Told Them… As the background shifted to Brooklyn brownstones, the Timbaland-inspired bump of "City Boys" gave way to "Sittin’ On Top of the World," during which featured rapper 21 Savage and sampled artist Brandy, appearing live for the first time in years, came out to perform alongside Burna. 

That Afrobeats finally reached the GRAMMYs stage made Burna Boy’s performance a milestone for African pop music. And while Burna prefers to label his own work "Afro-Fusion," any Afro pop representation is considered a major coup. 

The performance marked a triumphant culmination for African artists at the GRAMMYs, and for the African music industry as a whole. Its explosive global growth in recent years is something that even GRAMMYs host (and two-time GRAMMY nominee) Trevor Noah remarked upon before Burna Boy’s set. Noah, comedian and former host of "The Daily Show," was probably the biggest African presence at the GRAMMYs — himself being a South African who has discussed his own mixed-race heritage in standup and his memoir. 

Noah shouted out his country’s amapiano scene, joking, "You know people say Afrobeats is new and personally growing up in South Africa, I would get Afrobeats all the time for my mom every time I came home past my curfew." 

Read more: 10 African GRAMMY Winners Through The Years: From Miriam Makeba To Angélique Kidjo & Burna Boy

But the proceedings had an even more significant backdrop. Earlier in the day, the GRAMMYs handed out the first-ever Best African Music Performance award. The category, one of three new prizes added for the 2024 GRAMMYs, was conceived of and designed as a way to honor the massive, burgeoning African music industry as it continues to expand globally. Ultimately, it was rookie pop singer Tyla that took the heavily contested golden gramophone for her song "Water." 

The South African starlet faced stiff competition: Burna Boy ("City Boys") and fellow Afrobeats legend and first-time GRAMMY nominee Davido ("Unavailable" feat. Musa Keys) were nominated in the category, along with rising Nigerian stars ASAKE ("Amapiano" feat. Olamide) and Ayra Starr ("Rush"). Burna Boy and Davido both received multiple nominations this year — four and three, respectively — and Burna had already triumphed at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards, winning Best Global Music Album for Twice as Tall

But none could compete with the behemoth hit that is "Water." The sultry, Amapiano-influenced vocal pop song entered the Billboard Hot 100 in October of last year, in the process making 22-year-old Tyla the first South African on the chart since Hugh Masekela in 1968, as well as the youngest South African to ever reach the chart. It also topped Billboard’s US Afrobeats Songs chart, reached No. 5 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, and finally peaked at number seven on the Hot 100. 

As Tyla accepted the award during the GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, even she was surprised at her victory, saying "I never thought I’d say I won a GRAMMY at 22 years old….I know my mother’s crying somewhere in here." 

As the South African made her way to the stage, legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti’s classic Afrobeat tune "Water No Get Enemy" soundtracked her moment — Tyla’s "Water" and Fela’s "Water" linking the two major musical nations. Coincidentally, the two countries’ soccer teams play each other this week in the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, and fans are already preparing for a rematch between the two rival nations. 

As the BBC noted from one commenter after Tyla’s victory, "South Africa won today but Nigeria will win on Wednesday where it matters most." It’s a moment that wouldn’t have been possible only a year ago, but thanks to the GRAMMYs, it is now.

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Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More
Lainey Wilson at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More

The 2024 GRAMMYs were momentous in a myriad of ways, including major firsts. Here's a rundown of big first wins by Paramore, Zach Bryan, Tyla and others.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 01:07 am

That's a wrap for Music's Biggest Night! The 2024 GRAMMYs were extraordinarily stuffed with incredible moments, from performances to historic wins to unforgettable surprises.

Several of the most memorable moments came from first-time winners. In fact, there were 126 at the 66th GRAMMY Awards, spanning a wide array of talent across genres. From Colombian songstress Karol G to indie rock supergroup boygenius and country singer Brandy Clark, take a look at some of the biggest acts that took home their very first golden gramophones.

Miley Cyrus Celebrated Her First Wins With A Pumped-Up Performance

Miley Cyrus may have taken home the coveted Record Of The Year for "Flowers," but a different Category may have been the biggest achievement. Just before her performance on the GRAMMY stage, Cyrus won her first-ever golden gramophone for Best Pop Solo Performance.

"This award is amazing, but I really hope it doesn't change anything, because my life was beautiful yesterday," Cyrus said while accepting her first award.

"Flowers" is featured on Cyrus' 2023 album Endless Summer Vacation. "Flowers" was also nominated for GRAMMYs for Song Of The Year.

Karol G's First GRAMMYs Resulted In Her First GRAMMY

Karol G has had a meteoric rise over the past several years, and that continued unabated at Music's Biggest Night.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, Karol G won the GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album, for her 2023 LP Mañana Será Bonito. (She'd previously been nominated at the 2022 GRAMMYs, for the same category, for KG0516.

"Hello everybody, my name is Karol G. I am from Medellín, Colombia. This is my first time at the GRAMMYs, and this is my first time holding my own GRAMMY," she said, utterly concisely.

Victoria Monét Completed A Lifelong Goal…

Victoria Monét won big at the GRAMMYs, including taking home the award for Best New Artist. The singer also took home golden gramophones for Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for Jaguar II.

Monét has been nominated for 10 GRAMMYs over her career as both a solo act and songwriter. When accepting the GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist, Monét compared herself to a plant growing from soil. 

"My roots have been growing underneath ground, unseen, for so long, and I feel like today I'm sprouting, finally above ground," she said.

…And So Did Coco Jones

Monét’s fellow R&B nominee — and one-time collaborator — Coco Jones also turned a nearly 15-year journey into GRAMMY success, winning Best R&B Performance for her song "ICU."

Tyla, Me'shell NdegeOcello & Kylie Minogue Won In First-Time Categories

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, there were three new Categories — which meant three inaugural winners. South African singer/songwriter Tyla took home her first GRAMMY with her win for Best African Music Performance for her smash hit "Water," while Me'shell NdegeOcello and Kylie Minogue notched their second wins each, in the new Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording Categories, respectively.

After 16 Years, Paramore Got GRAMMY Gold 

Myspace-era alt wizards Paramore enjoyed a stunning resurgence with their 2023 album This Is Why. They'd been nominated in past ceremonies — their first nominations coming in 2008 — but at the 2024 GRAMMYs, they nabbed the trophy for the prestigious Best Rock Album Category. And with their first win, they made GRAMMY history: Paramore is the first female-fronted rock band to win Best Rock Album.

Lainey Wilson Continued A Massive Year With A GRAMMY

Much like Tyla, country star Lainey Wilson nailed it on the first try — as far as the Recording Academy goes. She was nominated twice at the 2024 GRAMMYs, and took home a golden gramophone for Best Country Album, for Bell Bottom Country.

Clearly, the phenomenon of a first-time GRAMMY nominee taking it home transcends genres and continents.

Second Time Was A Charm For Zach Bryan

Country great Zach Bryan's been nominated before — at the 2023 GRAMMYs, for Best Country Solo Performance, for "Something in the Orange."

This time, he brought home the golden gramophone for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, for "I Remember Everything." Bryan was also nominated for Best Country Album (Zach Bryan) and Best Country Song, also for "I Remember Everything."

First-Time Nominees Boygenius Won Three Times

Women dominated the 2024 GRAMMYs, which certainly applies to boygenius — who consist of three women, and cleaned up at the ceremony. And, they too were first-time nominees

Boygenius took home three GRAMMYs revolving around 2023's the record, including Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance — both for the stirring, gender-flipped "Not Strong Enough."

Peso Pluma Went From First-Time Nominee To First-Time Winner

Música Mexicana, stand up! Upstart Peso Pluma took home the GRAMMY for Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), for his tremendous album GÉNESIS.

As the status of Mexico on the global stage continues to swell, take Pluma's win as a sign to keep your ear to the ground.

Brandy Clark Left A Winner

Roots-heavy singer Brandy Clark's been nominated for 17 GRAMMYs over the years, but never gave up.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, she won for Best Americana Performance for "Dear Insecurity" — and she played a corker of a version at the Premiere Ceremony with the string duo SistaStrings.

Fred again.. Proved To Be Dance Music’s Latest Hero

2022 saw Fred again.. rise as one of dance music's most promising new stars with the release of his compilation album, USB, and his third studio album, Actual Life 3 — and both helped him win his first pair of GRAMMYs in 2024. USB's "Rumble" (a collaboration with Skrillex and Four Tet) scored Best Dance/Electronic Recording, and Actual Life 3 took home Best Dance/Electronic Music Album.

Taylor Swift & Kacey Musgraves Celebrated Historic Firsts

While winning a GRAMMY was nothing new to 2024 winners Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, they both had feats that marked big firsts in GRAMMY history. Swift became the first artist to be awarded Album Of The Year four times with her win for Midnights, while Musgraves' win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for her Zach Bryan collaboration "I Remember Everything" made her the first artist to win in all four Country Field Categories.

Keep checking GRAMMY.com for stories about the 2024 GRAMMYs — and the Recording Academy thanks you for tuning into Music's Biggest Night! If you missed it, stream it on Paramount+ for maximum musical glory.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List