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2021 IN REVIEW: 21 artistes who refined Afrobeats last year



In 2022, five Nigerian Afrobeats artistes will be representing the nation at the 64th annual Grammy Awards. Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems, and lastly the father and son duo kids, Femi and Made Kuti will be looking to make the Giant of Africa proud on the international stage.

While we await March 2022, we would have to discuss the excellence of the creatives in the Nigerian music industry and analyze how they got the invite to mount the top echelon with international stars.

Afrobeats is no longer a music genre, it is an ideology that has found it’s way into the hearts of music lovers across the globe. Indeed, music is a universal language; first it soothes your ears then it hypnotizes the listeners with the crispy beats and relatable lyrics.

Afrobeats is currently among the leading genre in the world and this is due to the creativity and professionalism of Nigerian music moguls, the stakeholders, talents and record executives.

After a perilous 2020 where events had to be canceled due to COVID-19 rules, artistes had to restrategize their approach in the dissemination of music and interaction with fans. Interestingly, the world was watching.

What did the lockdown in 2020 teach Afrobeats artistes?

During the lockdown in 2020, everyone was ordered to stay indoors and function, including celebrities and socialites. The coronavirus pandemic aided people to look within themselves and communicate with the suppressed part of them.

Tems came through with her ‘For Broken Ears’ EP in September and it served as her audition to feature on Wizkid’s fourth studio album, Made In Lagos.

The single ‘Essence’ has continued to amass international awards and topping the 2021 music charts worldwide. The single has since transitioned Tems’ career positively.

How did Afrobeats become a mainstay on international radio?

Talent is not enough, it takes grit, determination and continuous grind to attain that breakthrough.

Afrobeats has always been enjoyable; The genre had icons such as D’Banj, PSquare, Don Jazzy gaining mainstream exposure, however, there was no mainstay on the international stage.

The genre needed more than just hits, it needed star power- Enter Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy. These three modern day musical virtuosos were responsible for waving the Afrobeats banner across the globe, their projects featured on international radio and put the Afrobeats sound in the mouth of those who reside outside the shores of Africa.

Afrobeats has done well in 2021. In the meantime, Ripples Nigeria will be unraveling twenty-one major players in the music industry. These stars have hits, an exceptional body of work (EP or album) and most importantly, their names are on everybody’s lips.

Check out the list below.

1. Wizkid

After winning the Artistes of the year at the 2020 Headies Awards and becoming the most decorated artiste in the history of the award, Wizkid has continued to win everything in sight.

In March 2021, he won his first Grammy Awards for his contribution on Beyonce’s ‘2019 smash hit ‘Brown Skin Girl’, at the 63rd award ceremony. He was nominated in the Best Global Music Album and the Best Global Music Performance categories in the 64th Annual Grammy Awards for “Made in Lagos Deluxe Edition and “Essence” respectively.

In November 2021, Apple Music Awards announced him as the winner of Artist of the Year (Africa).

Indeed, Ripples Nigeria has to put the 31-year-old singer at the zenith of the list.

2. Burna Boy

Grammy award winner, Burna Boy real name Damini Ogulu comes in at number 2. He did not release any noteworthy song this year, albeit, his success at the Grammys and BET Awards solidifies his spot here.

Becoming the first Afrobeats solo artiste to win a Grammy Awards is a herculean achievement. After three consecutive albums, Burna Boy decided to take the year off to relax and refine his musical strategy.

3. Tems

Tems records second Billboard entry with Drake's 'Fountain'

In 2019, Tems came through with her single, ‘Try Me’. She quickly became one of the most interesting artiste to watch; honing her prowess and persona, Tems’ unique voice, lyricism and perception on music distanced her from her peers.

It wasn’t until she worked with Wizkid before she gained that mainstream prominence. The single, ‘Essence’ has continued to break barriers and music charts across the world despite being a 2020 release.

Tems also featured on Canadian rapper Drake’s ‘Fountain’ off the 2021 album, Certified Lover Boy. The fame of the 26-year-old singer has continued to skyrocket.

It is pivotal to note that Tems is also a Grammy nominee for her contribution on Wizkid’s ‘Essence’.

4. Ayra Starr

Tems’ lookalike Ayra Starr has also had a remarkable year. The 19-year-old Don Jazzy’s protegee has not looked back since she made her mainstream debut in the early part of 2021.

Her eponymous EP and debut album, 19 & Dangerous captured the hearts of the younger generation and she is indeed on her way to becoming ‘2021 Next Rated Artiste’. Her single ‘Bloody Samaritan’ has amassed over 7 million plays on the music platform, Spotify.

She also has other hits such as ‘DITR’ and ‘Away, away” under her belt.

Ayra Starr is the star on the rise.

5. Davido

Again, Davido tests negative for coronavirus

No one predicted David Adeleke aka Davido to be one of the most relevant artistes in the Nigerian music industry today. In 2011 when he debuted with ‘Back when’ featuring Naeto C, Davido was expected to become just another one-hit wonder.

Davido went on to release, ‘ Dami duro’, ‘Skelewu’… a decade and three studio albums later, Davido is one of the most decorated artistes in the Nigerian music history.

Aside from his sublime music career, Davido has also aided the careers of numerous artistes such as his 30 Billion Gang/DMW signees, Mayorkun, Peruzzi, Donda, Liya, the list goes on. Davido’s mantra ‘we rise by lifting others’ has endeared the singer into the heart of his listeners.

On November 17, 2021, Davido challenged his true friends to send the sum of one million naira each to his bank account. Davido noted that anyone that doesn’t come through with the challenge should not associate with him anymore.

The funds started rolling in and he was able to raise 201 million naira in total, he added 50 million out of his own pocket and set a panel to disburse the money to orphanages in Nigeria.

Davido is simply an Afrobeats icon and more.

6. Ckay

For the uninformed, Ckay became the first African artist to hit 20 Million Spotify Listeners, with over 21 million monthly listeners on his Spotify page in October 2021.

Also, his first single Love Nwantiti (2019) was playlisted on Tiktok for having 15 billions views. The single has continued to be remixed by many Disk Jockey, Singers and upcoming acts.

7. Fireboy DML

Grammy award-winning British singer, Ed Sheeran, has confirmed that he has recorded the remix for Fireboy’s hit song, ‘Peru”. This is a significant win for the YBNL star, Fireboy.

8. Zlatan Ibile

Zlatan Ibile is simply an artiste that enjoys making music and creating enjoyable tunes for his listeners. His hits for 2021, ‘Alubarika’, ‘Ale yi’ and ‘overthinking’ have received considerable airplay due to the hypnotic vibes that he brings.

Zlatan is living up to his reputation on the streets of Nigeria.

9. Buju TYE

Buju To Your Ears (TYE) left Burna Boy’s label Spaceship to discover his own talent and become his own man. His talent is undeniable and it was only a matter of time before he lived up to the hype hovering around his budding career.

Buju’s debut extended play, Sorry I Am Late came at an ideal time in his career. He revealed that he is an artiste who has come to not only win the hearts of the listeners but to equally remain relevant in the sand of time.

While Buju is gradually finding his feet and making a name for himself in the entertainment industry, his objective of becoming the best is apparent. The 24-year-old singer also performed at Wizkid’s Made In Lagos concert at the 02 Arena in London.

It is only a matter of time before Buju becomes a leading artiste in the music industry.

10. Reekado Banks

Reekado Banks’ highlight for 2021 is the single ‘Ozumbe Mbadiwe’ where he addressed numerous issues including the #EndSARS protest in 2020.

Reekado Banks also spoke about his feud with Burna Boy.

11. Rema

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Despite announcing a potential album earlier in the year, Mavins records starlet Rema real name Divine Ikubor is yet to publish a proper body of work. The 21-year-old singer however released two impressive singles this year.

First, he released ‘Bounce’ before he dropped the sensational single, ‘Soundgasm’.

12. Tiwa Savage

Tiwa Savage’s 2021 has been significantly marred by her leaked video on social media. Aside from the controversial video that surfaced on the internet, Savage’s 2021 music project, Water & Garri continued her success as one of the leading female singers in the country.

The single, “Somebody’s Son” featuring Brandy which was initially released as a promotional single for Water & Garri on August 19, 2021 but it would go on to become the best single off the project.

Further, ”Somebody’s son” was serviced to urban contemporary radio and it later peaked at number 27 on the US Adult R&B Songs chart.

Read also: 10 most influential Nigerian afrobeats artistes of the decade

13. Ruger

Michael Adebayo popularly known as Ruger is another youngster from Don Jazzy’s Mavins factory. The 21-year-old singer-songwriter came into the music scene to share a piece of his heart with the people and he is simply one of the best on the streets of Nigeria.

14. Femi and Made Kuti

The father-son chemistry of Femi and Made Kuti have to be acknowledged on the top 21 artistes of 2021 list. Femi Kuti, the son of Afrobeats progenitor, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti has continued to redefine the beauty of music in the Nigerian music industry. Like a fine wine, each record featuring Fela’s eldest son Femi Kuti has maintained a terrestrial level of excellence.

Femi Kuti and his son, Made Kuti, released their two-album project, Legacy+ earlier in the year. Both Kutis received a Grammy nomination for their project, Legacy+.

15. Simi

Talented singer, Simi has preferred to be more concerned about seeking the freedom of women than just releasing songs pertaining to gyration. Her song, ‘Woman’ depicts where she is at the moment in her career.

16. Mohbad

Ilerioluwa Oladimeji who is professionally known as Mohbad gave Nigerians a reason to dance and groove earlier in the year with the smash hit, ‘Ko Po Ke’ (KPK).

17. Ric Hassani

In 2021, Ric Hassani went from being the perfect gentleman to being the young man who is cursing women out for breaking his heart.

The single, ‘Thunder fire you’ off his sophomore album, The Prince I Became is one of the most remarkable songs of the year.

18. Mayorkun

Mayorkun’s sophomore album, Back In Office has produced three impressive singles, ‘let me know’, ‘back in office’ and ‘Holy father’. One of the most likable musicians in Nigerian, Mayorkun has continued to churn out top notch music for his audience.

19. Omah Lay

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Since his introduction during the nationwide lockdown in May 2020, Omah Lay real name Omah Stanley Odidi has revealed that he will not be leaving the mainstream scene anytime soon.

Omah Lay won the Award for the Next Rated Artiste at the 2020 Headies Awards, deservedly so.

His 2021 singles, ‘Understand’ and ‘free my mind’ have continued his fairytale story as the future of Afrobeats.

20. Lojay

Lojay is a fast-rising Nigerian singer and songwriter. He gained modest notoriety in 2021 following the success of ‘Monalisa’ featuring leading producer, Sarz.

21. Adekunle Gold

Adekunle Gold has transitioned immensely as an artiste, from speaking about minimalism in his music, Adekunle God has simply stated that he is embracing the epicureanism of life.

2021 has been an awesome year for the 34-year-old Afrobeats singer-songwriter. His hits, ‘High’ and ‘Sinner’ have further distanced Gold from his ‘safe’ ideology about life.

In 2021, Adekunle Gold featured on the list of the most streamed artistes in this part of the world.

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