Drums, attitude, spirit: Afrobeats is alive on Beyoncé’s ”The Lion King: The Gift”

Beyoncé just might be the necessary ingredient to rocket Afrobeats into the mainstream US music scene,” Quartz Africa wrote days ago after it was revealed that The Lion King album would feature Wizkid, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, Shatta Wale, Tiwa Savage, Mr. Eazi and Tekno. These immaculate selection of Afrobeats artistes was Beyonce (who produced and compiled) wanting to make the album authentic and African, rather than manufacturing something disastrously gentrified. The Lion King: The Gift is available for streaming today, and so is the movie hitting theaters.

Like Black Panther did for South Africa’s Gqom sound, Disney’s live-action remake of The Lion King through Beyoncé is giving Afrobeats a little more tilt towards global prominence. Not that the sound hasn’t infiltrated Europeans nightclubs and American hip hop radio. At twenty-seven tracks, The Lion King: The Gift is hefty but seamlessly digestible, making it quite impossible to skip songs. On Don’t Jealous Me, Tekno, Yemi Alade and Mr. Eazi are in their element, a song so recognisable with its frantic, choppy drums and hypnotic Ghanaian hiplife.

As per African Giant and becoming more of a sensation than we imagined, Burna Boy reigns supreme on Ja Ara e. Water features Cameroon’s Salatiel, and its bombastic and lush. Beyoncé’s harmonies and ad-libs aren’t overpowering or acrobatic, and thus giving room for the song’s galloping beats to flourish. Wizkid does some tidy, impressive singing on the slow, dancehall track Brown Skin Girl, with skeletal singing from Blu Ivy in the outro. Tiwa Savage makes Keys To The Kingdom a lovely RnB confection, harmonies roiling on hollow drums while Mr. Eazi injects a spunky verse. Saved the best for last, in my opinion: Already, which features Shatta Wale and Major Laser and fits straight into a DJ’s club-ready turntable.

Remarkably, Beyoncé doesn’t feel out of place in the collaborations with these Afrobeats artistes – her mastery, coordination, vocal timing speaks to her incredible talent. And while album is set to cement Afrobeats in the global mainstream, this symbiosis is just as good for Beyoncé’s career. Stream The Lion King: The Gift below:

 

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