Boardroom highlights the ladies in Afrobeats that are dropping hits and making business moves in a male-dominated music scene.
In the music business, each era has its reigning champion. For the past few years, it’s been Afrobeats’ time to shine in the spotlight.
Blending the modern sounds of pop, dancehall, and hip-hop, Afrobeats at its core is influenced by the similarly named Afrobeat, which was invented by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti as a fusion of traditional African music, Ghanaian highlife, funk, and jazz, and if this genre’s growing popularity and penchant for catchy summertime hits don’t prove to you that it’s taking over, look no further than the numbers behind the ascension — the global embrace of Afrobreats has led to artists from the continent not only to make it big with new audiences, but make history on the charts and across streaming platforms.
While Afrobeats is dominating the music scene, it’s apparent that the media focus has primarily been trained on male artists like Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Asake, and Rema. This prioritization of men comes as no surprise, however, as the music industry as a whole has always been male-dominated, but despite the landscape of Afrobeats being challenging (to say the least) for women, a vastly underrepresented group has been knocking down barriers awash in misogyny and prejudicial notions, creating top-tier music and racking up huge wins along the way.
As Afrobeats spreads its wings further and wider, take a look at Boardroom’s honor roll of several talented women artists that should be on your radar.
If they aren’t already.
Hailed as “the No. 1 African Bad Girl,” Tiwa Savage has been running the game for nearly a decade. The Nigerian singer-songwriter is recognized as one of the leading women of today’s Afrobeats scene who has paved the way for more women to enter into the male-dominated space. However, it’s clear she has no plans on letting up anytime soon.
From recent singles such as “Stamina” to working with the likes of Beyoncé and Brandy, the seasoned veteran has found a magical rhythmic formula of bridging both the older and younger generations to gravitate toward her timeless music.
Outside of her music longevity, Tiwa Savage has tapped into working with brands, putting her business degree to use. In 2022, she was named “Africa’s First MAC Maker.” In collaboration with MAC Cosmetics, she created her own lipstick. Previously, Tiwa Savage became one of the rare African artists to ink a deal with Pepsi as a brand ambassador.
After dropping her debut single “Mr Rebel” back in 2018, Tems has blown up right before our eyes into stardom. Many global artists aspire for years to cross over into the mainstream but the summer 2021 hit “Essence” was the catalyst that catapulted the 27-year-old early on. Since then, Tems has gone on to release two successful EPs under her belt and achieve numerous historic feats — including a 2023 Grammy Award for Best Melodic Rap Performance for Future’s “Wait For U” alongside Drake and becoming the first Nigerian artist to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Oscar-nominated for writing Rihanna’s “Lift Me Up” — all before dropping a debut studio LP. When her big, debut album release does roll around, expect a commercial frenzy.
Tems’ rising popularity has led her to partner with the likes of WhatsApp, Tommy Hilfiger, and Jameson Irish Whiskey. What’s more, in 2022, she launched her own Apple Music 1 radio show — Leading Vibe Radio.
There’s no escaping the young prodigy that is Ayra Starr. On top of dropping her own smash hits such as “Rush,” “Sability,” and “Bloody Samaritan,” the 20-year-old has been on a relentless run of not only killing but elevating each track she features on. Blooming into one of the most sought-after artists for collaborations is most likely due to her magnetic aura and how quickly she found her own standout sound. In just two years since entering the music business, Ayra has already collaborated with big names like Wizkid and Tiwa Savage.
As quickly as the streams have stacked up, so have the endorsement deals. In March, Ayra Starr joined the Maybelline family as its brand spokesperson for the New York-based company’s Sub-Saharan African region. In addition to crashing the gates of the beauty world, the singer has an ongoing partnership with Darling Nigeria, a leading hair extension brand.
“Baby Riddim” took off in late 2021 and so did the trajectory of Fave’s career. While Afrobeats is at the heart of the Nigerian singer’s music, she has also fused dancehall and R&B. The perfect blend Fave’s developed has caught the attention of the likes of Davido, whose “Timeless” album she recently featured on. Fave has been warming listeners up by feeding them singles that each give a further glimpse into her artistry as she builds toward releasing her debut album.
Last month, Fave secured one of her biggest collaborations to date: She was tapped by Netflix to create music for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story alongside a select group of fellow stars.
There’s no denying that “People” is one of the biggest songs of 2023. The previous year, Libianca — who was first in the limelight as a top-20 contestant on The Voice in 2021 — teased the single on TikTok only to see it go viral. Then, “People” got right to work taking over streaming services and generating sales. The breakout single has nearly 250 million streams on Spotify alone as of this writing.
The initial social media fame has paid off for the Cameroonian singer as she’s set to rake in touring revenue as an opening act for Alicia Keys’ “Key To The Summer Tour” alongside fellow female African artist Simi.
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