What does Burna Boy and Wizkid’s wins at the Grammys, mean for Afrobeat?
The name might continue to be contentious, but Afrobeats-the derivative form of Fela-inspired Afrobeat- got its most crucial validation with two Grammy wins from two of its most prominent stars Burna Boy and Wizkid.
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, March 14, 2021, saw two Nigerian stars Burna Boy and Wizkid, take home the coveted trophy.
Burna took home the Grammy Award for ‘Best Global Music Album’ with his 2020 project Twice as Tall, while Wizkid’s win came courtesy of his feature on Beyonce‘s ‘Brown Skin Girl’, which won the award for Best Video.
It was a big night for Nigerian contemporary music, which has come to be known as Afrobeats.
Since its recorded start in 1998, the genre has made a quantum leap from national dominance to nods from the most significant music institution.
Whoever thought Afrobeats would take it this far?” Nigerian pop culture connoisseur Ayomide Tayo titled an episode of his newsletter Naija Times.
Burna Boy couldn’t contain his joy after he won his award. A Grammy edition ago, he got sick after losing the category to Beninese veteran singer Angélique Kidjo, but this time it was a delight.
“Africa is in the house, this is a big win for my generations of Africans all over the world and this should be a lesson to every every African right there, no matter who you are, no matter what you plan to do you can achieve it, no matter where you are from, because you are a king . Look at me now, Grammy award winning Burna Boy,” he said in his acceptance speech.
His Sunday night win is also a massive endorsement of his talent; although evident from his emergence, he didn’t get wild-spread approval he craved earlier in his career.
It led to how he approached the music industry and his artistry—gusty and sometimes plain arrogance.
But it started paying off at some point. Burna garnered more commercial appeal from his third album ‘Outside’ released in 2018 and grabbed a Grammy nomination with this fourth African Giant released in 2019.
Drawing lessons from Kidjo, who beat him to the Grammy in 2020, Burna curated his next album ‘Twice as Tall’ to Grammy’s taste.
From the theme of the album to features and rollout, it was clear what Burna wanted. He got it.
Burna’s win also does a lot for the Nigerian music industry, getting a slew of local creators on the Grammy stage. Nigerian producers like Telz, Rexxie, LeriQ, P2J and JAE5 are all now Grammy winners.
“Grammy winning producer Rexxie,” Rexxie has since written on his Twitter bio.
It wasn’t the same with Wizkid. The equable singer never had to prove himself that hard; he was popularly heralded from his first single, ‘Holla at Your Boy,” released in January 2010.
His status as one of Afrobeats elite personalities got him a feature on Beyonce’s Lion King: The Gift album, which featured other Nigerian artists. The single he featured on, Brown Skin Girl, won for Best Video.
Burna Boy and Wizkid wins position them as the stars for Afrobeats’ next quest, global dominance.
From nation-wide stars like the Plantashun Boiz, Tony Tetuila, Eedris Abdulkareem, etc., Afrobeats churned out stars like P-Square, Yemi Alade, who conquered Africa.
D’banj‘s May 2011 release ‘Oliver Twist’ had massive success in the United Kingdom to further push the genre, while his alliance with Kanye West‘s Good Music was an attempt for American acceptance.
The resonance of black culture has since made it easier for Wizkid, Burna Boy, and Davido, but it’s perhaps time for a total takeover.