When we talk about the Nigerian Afrobeats scene, we can’t ignore the pioneers who paved the way for its global acclaim.
We’re talking about the legends, the ones who laid the foundations before “Afrobeats” became the buzzword of the 2000s.
Artists like Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade deserve a shoutout for their invaluable contributions, but for now, let’s focus on the stars who emerged around the 2000s.
We’re talking about the old cats here, the ones who started it all. Artists like 2face, Psquare, and the legendary Mo’hits team—they set the stage for what we see today.
Remember 2face’s “African Queen”? That song was an absolute storm, capturing the hearts of millions with its soulful melody and heartfelt lyrics. It’s the kind of song that makes you want to grab your imaginary microphone and sing your heart out in the shower.
And let’s not forget Psquare’s “Do Me.” That banger had everyone jumping out of their seats. “Do Me” became the anthem of youthful exuberance, bringing joy and excitement to countless gatherings. If that song didn’t make you want to hit the dance floor, I don’t know what will. It was like a secret code between friends—when the DJ dropped “Do Me,” you knew it was time to let loose and show off your finest moves.
Now, let’s talk about the Mo’hits All Stars and their mind-blowing album, Curriculum Vitae. This masterpiece dropped in 2007 and turned the Nigerian music industry upside down. Seriously, you couldn’t skip a single song on that album. Each track was a meticulously crafted work of art, combining infectious melodies, captivating storytelling, and mind-blowing production. From the irresistible energy of “Booty Call” to the chart-topping success of “Pere,” every song on Curriculum Vitae had its own unique charm.
And here’s a fun fact for you: back in those days, there was a popular songbook that kids would eagerly buy to learn the lyrics of their favorite tracks. Picture this—friends huddled together, poring over the songbook, singing along and memorizing the verses. It was a cultural phenomenon, a bonding experience fueled by the power of music. Those were the days, my friends. Those were the days.
But wait, there’s more! We can’t forget the other old cats, the ones who played significant roles in the growth of Afrobeats. One of them is D’banj, the charismatic member of the Mo’hits team. His infectious hit single “Oliver Twist” in 2012 was not just a massive success in Nigeria—it took the world by storm. The song’s catchy hook and vibrant Afro-infused sound had people grooving from Lagos to London.
And what about 9ice? This man knows how to captivate listeners with his distinct Yoruba-infused vocals and captivating storytelling. His hit song “Gongo Aso” in 2008 was a game-changer, infecting everyone with its irresistible rhythm and relatable lyrics. “Gongo Aso” quickly became an anthem, firmly establishing 9ice as one of the leading figures in the evolving Afrobeats scene.
Of course, there are more names to drop. Timaya, Olu Maintain, and D’Prince—these artists also made notable contributions to the growth of Afrobeats during that era. Timaya’s “Plantain Boy” in 2009, Olu Maintain’s “Yahooze” in 2007, and D’Prince’s “Give It to Me” in 2010 were all chart-topping hits that showcased the diversity and evolving sound of Afrobeats.
And let’s not forget about the fierce women who played a pivotal role in the growth of Afrobeats. Nneka, the Nigerian-German singer-songwriter, burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s with her soulful tunes and socially conscious lyrics. Her breakout hit “Heartbeat” in 2009 was like a musical gut punch, hitting you right in the feels with its powerful vocals and thought-provoking messages.
And then there’s the one and only “Queen of Afrobeats,” Yemi Alade. This lady knows how to bring the heat with her incredible stage presence and energetic performances. Her smash hit “Johnny” in 2013 was an absolute banger across the continent, racking up millions of views and putting her on the international map. I mean, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that catchy tune. Yemi Alade proved that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the Afrobeats scene.
Last but not least, we have Tiwa Savage, another powerhouse in the industry. Her debut single “Kele Kele Love” in 2010 had everyone grooving and falling head over heels for her soulful voice. Tiwa Savage has since become one of the most recognizable and successful female Afrobeats artists out there. Her captivating performances, killer vocals, and collaborations with international stars have helped put Afrobeats in the global spotlight.
While the old cats have undoubtedly passed the baton to the new cats in town, such as Davido, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems, Ayra Starr, Rema, and FireboyDML, it doesn’t mean their contributions should be forgotten. These veterans still possess incredible bodies of work that deserve to be celebrated. In fact, they are more than capable of creating hits even today, although it might be a bit tougher as the audience has shifted toward newer sounds.
Burna Boy, with his fusion of Afrobeats and international flavors, has taken the world by storm. His Grammy-winning album, “Twice as Tall,” speaks volumes about his artistry and the impact he’s had on the global stage. Wizkid, the Starboy himself, continues to mesmerize audiences with his infectious melodies and collaborations with international heavyweights. And let’s not overlook the rising stars like Tems, Ayra Starr, Rema, and FireboyDML, who have injected fresh energy and unique sounds into the Afrobeats scene.
It’s essential to understand that there’s no need for comparisons between these OGs. Each artist has made an indelible mark in their own right, and their contributions to the Nigerian Afrobeats scene should be celebrated individually. They have all played a significant role in elevating the genre to unprecedented heights, both locally and internationally.
Back in those days, there were no viral videos or trending hashtags to boost their careers. These artists had to rely on pure talent, word-of-mouth, and the magic of their music to make a name for themselves.
Imagine the scene: no Instagram, no Twitter, just the raw power of their performances and the buzz they generated through live shows and radio airplay. They had to hustle hard, touring the country, performing at countless gigs, and winning over fans one captivating show at a time.
Nigerian Afrobeats is a fusion of past and present, where the vibrant beats of the old cats intertwine with the fresh, innovative sounds of the new cats. It is a testament to the resilience, creativity, and diversity of Nigerian music, and a testament to the power of these exceptional artists.
Let’s appreciate the joy, memories, and cultural significance they have gifted us. Their body of work represents a treasure trove of musical brilliance, forever etched in the vibrant tapestry of Nigerian music history.