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DARKO VIBES: Ghana Is The New Cool

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Initiator of the Ghanian alternative movement and member of La Même Gang, Darkovibes joins forces with the who’s who of Accra and abroad for his new LP Kpanlogo.

“I grew up in Jamestown and Labadi. These are traditional Ga communities by the sea. There is a lot of singing and dancing for morale. Kpanlogo dance is the one I remember from when I was little. It’s fun and energetic”.  The Kpanlogo dance and lightness of the sea appear to be starting points for Darkovibes’s career. Twenty-five years after his birth in Accra in 1995, he pays tribute to his roots with his first solo album Kpanlogo, released on April 3rd. 

Journey of a child from Accra

Water has flown under the bridge since the time the young Paul Nii Amu Andrew Darko was dancing carefree with his group of friends, the La Même Gang. Since he has toured the West African stages and played a major role in putting Accra on the map in a booming industry. His music is described as a potpourri of rap, Afrobeats, highlife, English, pidgin, Ga and Twi. With ingredients like that, the final product is inevitably tasty. PAM met the man who is rightly nicknamed Cool Paul to look back on his career and discuss his new project. 

In an interview for Redbull, KwakuBS, a close friend of Darkovibes, explained that “Ghanaians have very strong opinions, especially in terms of morals. You can’t look a certain way, you can’t give a brother a hug”. Cool Paul clearly stands out in this landscape: tattooed, changing his hair colour almost every week, dressed like the most stylish fashionista (he hates the term), hanging out with skaters, his lifestyle is seen by some as provocative.

However, the explanation can be found in his childhood, spent in Accra in the Labadi and Jamestown neighbourhoods. Both areas have very unique histories and characters in the city’s landscape – Jamestown has been cited as one of the coolest African neighbourhoods on the continent. “In both communities uniqueness is celebrated, so we grew up being interested in many things,” the artist explains. “I, for example, have always been curious about music, and I remember arguing with my friends about who heard a record first once it was out, especially with rap music”. He also mentions it was these two places that taught him what he calls his “heritage” and exposed him to RnB, Reggae, Highlife, Hiplife or soul, depending on what was on the radio and TV.

Since childhood, he “interprets” all the sounds he hears as music; in his first year of university, he decided to take serious action. There was no particular divine revelation : “I chose music as my true calling. I knew I was ready to do it, so I put all ten toes down and just did it”. He then started going to the Villain Sounds studios and met $pacely, Nxwrth, KwakuBS, Kiddblack and RJZ, his future colleagues of La Même Gang. The young men immediately got along: same look, same style, same passions, same ambitions. What is the probability of meeting 5 youngsters with totally similar visions when you are a green-haired Ga artist in Accra? “Alignment!” is the artist’s explanation. “None of it was planned. We were just always in the studio creating, harnessing each other’s strengths. It was a beautiful time”. These six friends form the collective La Même Gang, where music, fashion, visual arts and culture overlap. “I always say that we are like the Power Rangers,” Darkovibes adds. “We have our individual superpowers and function 100 percent in our element, but sometimes, we come together to do things on another level”.

Breaking artistic barriers 

The La Même Gang members quickly become ambassadors of a young, trendy lifestyle free of complexes and contrasting heavily with the Christian and conservative rigour that exists in certain parts of Ghanaian society. The 6 rappers are all tattooed, wear ultra-flashy dyes, skateboard and curse in their lyrics. In short, they have fun and don’t let anyone stop them.

Darkovibes explains that the group effect contributed to their style: “We’re all rebels, and because we were always cooked up in the studio, we bounced all our ideas off each other. Doing that was what created the sound people refer to as alternative”. The beginnings were difficult, but the young men “had each other” and trusted their talent. They didn’t take notice when critics were shocked by their exuberance. “They used to call us twitter artists. We embraced that label and kept it moving. We were creating the music for us, music we thought was cool, we didn’t care about what the dominating sound was. We were loud and disruptive, and our lifestyle was very infectious. Everything about us is provocative: you either follow us heavy or you don’t, there’s no middle ground. And people made their choices”.

The team released a mixtape in 2017 (“La Même Tape”) and 2018 (“La Même Tape: Linksters”), which quickly propelled them to the forefront of the Ghanaian scene, allowing them to do concerts and appearances all over the country. In February 2020, they were invited to perform at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas (which was later cancelled). At the same time, the members do countless collaborations with their peers, who all rise together: Joey B, Kwesi Arthur, B4Bonah, Kuvie… Accra got organized and everyone helps each other in this joyful dynamic that rubs off on the whole Ghanaian art world.

Indeed, united by the ambition to disrupt norms, actors in the music, fashion and visual arts worlds join forces. It is very common to see fashion collectives like Free The Youth, The Weird Cult, or specific directors and filmmakers gravitating around La Même Gang. To describe this interdisciplinary wave electrifying Accra, Darkovibes, who also has a foot in fashion, says, “birds of a feather flock together”. He explains: “It’s a pace and movement that’s growing. There is little money in these industries, and no form of capacity building for interested individuals. There is no structured institution that teaches these things in Ghana. People only learn by experience. But we’re enjoying the process, and I guess it makes the journey richer”.

Kpanlogo, starting local going global

On April 3rd, Darkovibes released his album Kpanlogo while his single “Inna Song (Gin & Lime)” was already number 1 in the country. One can hardly describe the project as a rap album: Darkovibes describes his musical style as “Feels”. Tracks like “Emotional”, “Different”, “Mama Cee”, or “Medaase” are clearly reminiscent of highlife or hiplife, while most of the other tracks sound more like Afrobeats, rap or dancehall revisited. “This album was made with Ghanaians in mind and to showcase Ghana to the world,” the artist explains. “There is a lot of highlife music in there, and traditional songs that Ghanaians will connect to on a deeper level”.

Darkovibes has succeeded in making something new out of the old and rewriting Ghana’s future with inspiration from the past. Afrobeats rhythms blend perfectly with the swaying highlife guitars and the artist has taken his vocal mastery to the next level, while interludes of Ga music punctuate the track list. “You can never really leave your roots”, he comments. He has also invited the best among Ghanaian artists to feature (Kwesi Arthur, Stonebwoy, Mugeez, Joey B, King Promise) as well as some Nigerian superstars (Peruzzi, Runtown, Mr Eazi). A track in collaboration with the one and only Wizkid was also supposed to be on the project, but Darkovibes “didn’t like the final sound” and therefore didn’t include it.

The artist is now established at home and the modern and resolutely Ghanaian music he managed to create is beginning to cross borders. Just like the highlife of the early days, it is starting to resonate in Nigeria. “Nigeria has its own sauce and we have our own,” he says. “But I listen to a lot of Nigerian music and I have a lot of friends there”. Darkovibes is also beginning to have some success in Europe, especially in the United Kingdom, where the Ghanaian diaspora represents a significant part of the population. “The UK is like an African country on another continent. And no matter where we go in this world, we are bound to get some love because Africans are everywhere. My music is for everyone, everywhere. It’s about the flow and emotions, and that knows no borders,” he concludes. Considering Accra is the most fashionable destination of 2020, his foresight is clear.

– Nils Bourdin/Pan African Music

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Meet New Talented Afrobeat Artist, Roy X Taylor, The Fusion of Highlife & Hip Hop

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Roy X Taylor is musically Afrobeat, the music inspired by Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti in the 1970s and it is no news that Roy X Taylor, Ghana’s new talented Afrobeat artist take inspiration from this legend.

Roy X Taylor is known in real life as Deroy Jimmy Taylor. He was born in Mfantsiman in the Central Region where he built up the adoration for music because he was comfortably in the studio every day in his house. His endearment for music started from a young age with legendary Ghanaian guitarist and musician, Ebo Taylor being his father.

His Dad who was an essential figure on the Ghanaian music scene for more than six decades with major musical collaboration with Fela Kuti and other African performers in Britain at that point.

Roy’s style of music is a blend of our African-rooted highlife with funk grooves and American popular music genre, hip hop making his sound unique among his competitors in Ghana and Africa at large.

He started performing in church at very tender age of 5, where he used to drum and teach others how to drum since he was born in a ‘musical house’. Also, being a music inclined person, Roy was the first kid to learn and play trumpet in his hood, Mfantsiman District. He is likewise an alumni of University of Education, Winneba (UEW).

Before, SHS, Roy used to play musical instruments for churches where he gets paid after, since he was not getting that support from his church. After SHS, he started learning sound engineering. So, Roy doubles as a sound engineer as well. In 2014, he worked with German based production house, Philophon on a project called ‘Odoyewo’.

In 2018, Roy did a remix of a song dubbed ‘Mumudey Mumudey’ by his father on his ‘Yen Ara, album, which became a hit song off the album in the world market on lead vocals and guitar.

He is the official guitarist in a local band in Saltpond called ‘The City Band’ led by Ebo Taylor. Roy released his madien and second album, “Salvation” and “Dance Wahala” in 2014 and 2019 respectively and subsequently won the best ‘Highlife Song of The Year’ atMfantsiman Music Awards in 2018. Remarkably, he also won the same category – ‘Highlife Song of The Year’ at the 2019 Central Music Awards (CMA) in the Central region.

Having great musical icons such as, celebrated guitarist, Ebo Taylor (his father), Afrobeat genius, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, famous Highlife musician, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and godMC, M.anifest as people he take inspirations from, Roy X Taylor is sure and fit in everything he’s making, and upheld by his own top level production and content when it comes to his profession as a musican.

Connect with Roy X Taylor on social media;
Facebook: Roy X Taylor
Instagram: @roy_x_taylor
Twitter: @ROYXTAYLOR1
Email: royxjimmy1@gmail.com

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MEET FOUAD: Africa’s Fastest Rising Creative Talent

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Nobody can predict the future. Not least the future of music, dictated as it often is by factors beyond just talent. But there are some artists so fizzing with potential that their success seems predestined. Few years ago, some talent broke through the mainstream to become faces of their respective genre and other brands. As we head into a new decade, it’s time to sing the praises of the next future star.

FOUAD: The British-Ghanaian artist (Born 22, January 1996) isn’t exactly an industry newcomer – he’s produced tracks for other recording and performing creatives – but it’s his solo work that’s the most intriguing prospect. He introduced himself to the “mainstream” by releasing his debut single, “Come My Way”, early last month. His roots are distinct components of her artistry.

The hypnotic track, which he co-produced with WebbieMadeIt and features label mate KWABSMAH, went viral at the tail-end of May. The single made entry to various top playlists on major music streaming platforms; Spotify and Apple Music’s Alte Cruise, Ghana Bounce, Future Hits, New Music Daily, and has also made made staggering numbers across various streaming platforms. He is also the producer for most of his projects.

Stream audio HERE

Signed on to F.O Records, Fouad studied Business IT at the University of Greenwich and has always had the talent and passion for Music. With his versatility, he has been able to indulge in Hip Hop/Rap, Afro Pop and Trap genres of music but primarily known to be Afro-fused artiste. He describes himself as “the King of Melodies“, with a practical evidence in his recent jam. His aggressive bars combined with the energetic beats he selects makes his music undeniably unique.

Follow Fouad on the various social media platform below;

Instagram – instagram.com/fouad__official/

Facebook – facebook.com/FouadOfficialGh

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South African Rapper, Willy Cardiac, Highlighted As The Latest Spotify ‘RADAR Artiste’

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Last week, Spotify announced the South African rapper Willy Cardiac as the second artist to join RADAR – Spotify’s global emerging artists program featuring artists from over 50 markets worldwide. With the RADAR program, the streaming highlights and offers support for emerging artists.

This announcement coincided with the release of the young rapper’s latest single “Fan of Me” which was released last week. The melodic trap banger features prolific Los Angeles singer Eric Bellinger, who, may have heard on songs by the likes of The Game, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, BJ The Chicago Kid and others, if you haven’t checked out his extensive catalog. Production on “Fan of Me” KindlyNxsh.

Willy Cardiac has built a buzz in the virtual streets since emerging circa 2017. Several of his singles (“Maniac Lullaby,” “Flu,” “Clout Chaser” etc.) have racked up tens of thousands of streams on SoundCloud. The song “Maniac Lullaby” is a collaboration with fellow new wave rapper The Big Hash. Earlier this year, the rapper performed at Riky Rick’s annual festival Cotton Fest.

“I am thrilled to be chosen by Spotify to be a part of their RADAR program. All the hard work I have put into my music continues to be recognised and having Spotify support me on my journey will make my music accessible to millions of users around the world, from South Africa all the way to America. There’s no limit to where your music can go.” – the young rapper stated

According to Spotify, under the RADAR program, Willy Cardiac will be supported across different verticals. From first-hand editorial and on-platform support, to bespoke Spotify social media content to broaden his fan base and more. The South African version of RADAR was launched in March, and the first artist highlighted was South African R&B sensation Elaine. The streaming platform also started the On Our.

With a move like this, Willy Cardiac will hopefully go from being a “SoundCloud rapper” to a fully-fledged star. Not a far-fetched feat if you ask us. But no need to take our word for it. Stream “Fan of Me” on Spotify and Apple Music and be sure to head over to the rapper’s SoundCloud page to understand his evolution.

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Mr. Eazi, Tiwa Savage And Davido Join Billboard To Speak Candidly About The Opportunities African Artists Have Now

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As the industry buzzes with — and profits from — new languages and sounds from all over, the prospects for artists across the continent have never been brighter or more numerous. There have, of course, always been African superstars — from Miriam Makeba to Hugh Masekela to Fela Kuti — as well as great respect for the continent’s music, thanks to projects like Paul Simon’s iconic 1986 album, Graceland, which famously put Ladysmith Black Mambazo and others on the international map. But despite major-label deals, chart successes and eye-popping sales figures, African artists have often been siloed from the popular music landscape, segregated under the “world music” banner or viewed as Africans first, artists second.

Yet in recent years, especially as streaming has helped hip-hop become a universal language, the industry is witnessing the rise of the first generation of truly global pop superstars from Africa, whose defining trait will not be their geographic origin, but the artistry and business savvy that are on par with the biggest names in their field. In 2016, Nigeria’s Wizkid topped the Billboard Hot 100 as a collaborator on Drake’s summer smash “One Dance,” which hinted at the possibilities awaiting his peers from the continent. In the years since, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé have fueled interest in the motherland by curating ambitious, Grammy Award-nominated movie-music projects — Lamar’s Black Panther: The Album and Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift — that put a spotlight on African artists and producers and showed just how closely their music resembles today’s reigning pop and R&B styles.

A-list tastemakers aren’t the only ones lavishing new attention on the region, however. The three major-label groups — Universal, Warner and Sony — have all ramped up their investments in Africa in recent years: opening offices, sending A&R scouts to major hubs and forming joint ventures and partnerships. Meanwhile, advances in technology and social media have further connected a continent of 1.2 billion people — with a median age of 19.7 years — to the rest of the industry, creating a lucrative audience for both homegrown and foreign stars alike.

Among Africa’s 54 countries, Nigeria, with an estimated 206 million people, has the largest population and the largest economy. It has also emerged as a particular wellspring of talent, thanks to stars like Tiwa Savage, Davido and Mr Eazi, whose diverse paths through the industry have helped pave the way for other artists — and highlighted just how many possibilities await African talent.

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Davido wears an Orange Culture jacket and pants, Wow accessories brooch. Savage wears a Lisa Folawiyo blazer and Lace by Cataleya jewelry.

Lauded as the “Queen of Afrobeats,” Lagos-based Savage, 40, signed a landmark global recording deal with Universal Music Group and Motown Records last spring after making a name for herself as an independent artist (on Nigeria’s Mavin Records and her own 323 Entertainment), a songwriter (for the likes of Monica and Fantasia) and a backing vocalist (for Whitney Houston, George Michael and Mary J. Blige). With two degrees — one from Boston’s Berklee College of Music, one in business from England’s University of Kent — and stints in London, New York and Los Angeles under her belt, she’s showing how primed for global stardom African artists already are as she readies her fourth studio album, Celia, due later this year.

Davido, who has been in the business for a decade, has brought the worlds of African and contemporary black music together like few others before him. Signed to RCA Records through his own Davido Music Worldwide and Sony Music U.K., he’s fusing Afrobeats, Afropop and highlife — a cosmopolitan style of Ghanaian music — with dancehall, hip-hop and R&B, while recruiting some of the genres’ biggest names as collaborators. The Lagos-based 27-year-old’s most recent studio album, last November’s A Good Time, featured guests such as Chris Brown, Summer Walker, Gunna and Popcaan, and breakout hit “Fall” spent an impressive 21 weeks on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart. He’s currently working on an EP that will showcase the acts he has signed to his label. (In the United States, Davido Music Worldwide is registered as Davido Worldwide Entertainment.)

Mr Eazi, who grew up in Lagos but is now based just outside of London, has devoted himself to supporting the next wave of African artists as he builds an independent solo career making what he calls “Banku music” — a twist on Afrobeats with greater influences from Ghana, where he moved as a teen and attended university. The 28-year-old, who worked in mechanical engineering before becoming an artist, founded the talent incubator and label emPawa Africa in 2018. Its first round of investment raised $300,000 to help cover video costs for 100 emerging artists from 11 countries, including Nigeria’s Joeboy and Ghana’s J.Derobie; in 2020 it will award 30 artists grants of $10,000 each. Mr Eazi, who last year made his Coachella debut and toured with J Balvin, is also preparing an upcoming EP as well as a collaboration with Major Lazer and Nicki Minaj.

During a late afternoon in early May, the three artists joined Billboard for a video conference to speak candidly about the opportunities African artists have now, the stereotypes they still face and how they’re staying true to their culture as they bring a slice of Africa to the rest of the world.

How have you been adjusting creatively and personally to life during the pandemic?

Davido: Man, it’s been crazy because my fiancée actually tested positive [for COVID-19 but has since recovered]. I was on tour in America, with six shows done and 19 sold-out shows left. We were in Denver sitting in my hotel room listening to the news. We looked at each other and said, “Yo, let’s just tell ourselves the truth: It’s about to be a wrap.” New York had put a cap on shows at 500 [people], then 200 the next day and down again the next. So we all came back home and did the test. My fiancée was in London with the baby. She’s the only one that came out positive. She had to isolate; I had to isolate. I did two tests after that, and they came out negative. I just got back home [to Lagos] a week ago. Since then I’ve been recording.

Savage: At first it was kind of difficult for me to get my head around. I had a tour planned, a bunch of festivals lined up. When it finally dawned on me that those weren’t going to happen this year, it made me wake up and realize how fragile life is and how we take it for granted. So I’ve been spending time with my son and speaking on the phone more with my family. More importantly, I’ve been giving out food to people around my neighborhood. I can quarantine for a month or couple of months, but some of these people don’t even have food for tomorrow.

Eazi: I’m 19 minutes out of London, living in a small community and finally getting back to jogging. But musically, it’s been an eye-opener for me. During this lockdown, I’ve not recorded any new music. But I’m on Zoom calls almost the whole day working on my business or [talking] with one of my new artists, listening to records and setting up release plans. I thought I would have been frustrated by not being able to go out of the farm. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur, so this has been a next-level step for me in terms of investing more of my time and resources toward my business.

What factors have been driving the industry’s investment in Africa in the past few years?

Savage: One of the main reasons is that social media and tech have made it a lot easier for people to access our music. When I lived in London [she moved there with her family at age 11], African music and culture weren’t cool. In fact, it wasn’t cool to be African. When music came out in Africa, it would sometimes take a year for people to get the mixtapes. So by the time we were hearing the music abroad, it was already old back there. With social media, we’re able to connect instantly with fans. That has made the music travel a lot faster and a lot wider. And it’s great music.

Davido: That’s the most important thing: The music is amazing. The feeling you get from Afrobeats and African music is just different. When I was in school in America and would play African music, people would say, “Yo, what’s that? That shit’s hard.” They didn’t understand what the artists were saying, but the feeling they got [from the music] was just crazy. People have always loved African music, but we didn’t have the avenues to go worldwide. Back then, you actually had to have an African friend or come to Africa to experience it.

Eazi: There’s also a general wind of appreciation now for what being African is about: “Hey, I’m African, it’s great to be African, and we’re flaunting it.” When Davido is singing, he’s talking about things that are very particular to his culture. It’s also the same when Tiwa sings. Back in the day, even in the villages you’d hear people singing Céline Dion. But now people are playing 99% Nigerian music because that’s what’s hip.

Everyone is waking up because of what’s happening. One of the biggest music streaming platforms in Africa is [owned by Chinese company] Tencent. Last year, loads of people from across the world went to Ghana for the Year of Return [the country’s 2018 initiative to encourage African diasporans to move to Ghana and invest in the continent]. It’s not politics that’s bringing people here. It’s art and young business people.

Mr Eazi
Mr Eazi wears a JW Anderson sweater.

Do you still encounter stereotypes about Africa abroad?

Davido: Some people are still not fully educated about how life is here. I did an interview in Los Angeles a couple of months back and the dude was just so ignorant, basically asking if Afrobeats is a phase. The only way to understand is to come and see for yourself. When most people come down here, they’re both surprised and disappointed because for their whole lives they’ve had a different idea of what it’s like. Like everywhere else, there are good parts and bad parts in Africa. There are places even in America that look worse.

Savage: It was a lot worse before, when people literally thought we lived in trees. That was a big misconception. But it’s changing as people see pictures via social media when people visit places like Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Nothing beats that experience when somebody actually lands in Africa. And it depends where in Africa, because it’s a continent and not a country.

Others think that maybe Africans don’t speak English or it’s not our first language. So they’re surprised when they hear us singing along to J. Cole, Future or whoever. They’re also surprised at how up to date we are with the rest of the world — in music, fashion, everything. When you come to Nigeria, you’ll experience the beauty of Africa, but you’ll still feel like you’re somewhere in New York. We’re still maintaining our identity and culture.

Eazi: The misperception I always run into is one of general ignorance: people classifying all music coming out of Africa as Afrobeats. To drive from Lagos to Accra is a nine-hour drive. In that journey, you pass through Benin and Togo. Even within those two countries there are a lot of different tribes — the language and culture are as different as the rhythms and BPMs of the music. You can have a hit song in Nigeria, but it won’t be a hit in Ghana.

I didn’t go to America until I was 20-something. What I’d known of America was what I’d seen in music videos and movies. To see homeless people in places where it was cold and freezing — it was the first time I experienced that.

Davido
Davido photographed on May 5, 2020 in Lagos, Nigeria. Styling by Daniel Obasi Ifeanyi Nwunye shirt and pants.

Eazi, you’ve been independent since the start of your career, while Davido and Tiwa are signed to major labels. Why go that route?

Eazi: I began doing music full time on July 22, 2016, here in London. I feel like I was lucky because people like Davido, Tiwa and Wizkid had laid the foundation for the Afropop renaissance. But at every point along the way, I’ve asked myself: Do I stay independent, or do I sign to a bigger label with a bigger team? Do I plug into that machinery to solve my financial goals, or do I keep investing in myself, which is obviously riskier? I remember dropping my last project and having to take from my personal savings to do a global campaign and tour. When I look back, I have no regrets. I’m a junkie in the sense that the risk is thrilling to me. And now for the first time, I can see an ecosystem building that’s also giving a chance for other artists.

Davido and Tiwa, what drew you to the major-label path?

Davido: When I got my deal, it was very, very early in the transition of Afrobeats to the U.K. and then to the U.S. Before signing the deal in 2015, I was perfectly fine. It wasn’t something that I needed, as I’d been successful prior to that. But then I was like, “Fuck it, let’s take the risk! I basically have nothing to lose, as I’ll still be able to do my thing in Africa.” But a year after signing, the vision I’d had then didn’t come into play. I felt like I had dropped the ball because people were trying to make me sound different.

I really had to put it in

head that the sound I was talking about was the sound that was going to pop, not the sound the guys there were trying to make us do. So me being stubborn, I came back to Nigeria from L.A. and started making the music I wanted to make. “If” was my first record that really blew up. At the same time, other artists began dropping [Afrobeats] music as well. Then Wakanda [the futuristic, fictional country featured in the 2018 film Black Panther] came and everyone wanted to be African. The process for making people believe in this culture wasn’t easy. I’m just happy that everything paid off in the end. All the labels are out here now in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa looking for talent.

Savage: I still act like an independent artist even though I’m signed to a major label. I think all of us [signed to a major] do. I think labels still don’t quite understand how to sell Afrobeats. And they haven’t really put their machinery behind the genre yet.

A lot of times when we drop a record, it’s put on playlists like [Spotify’s] African Heat. We already come with huge followings. I look forward to when we’ll be on the same playlists as Billie Eilish or Justin Bieber. Give us that kind of global campaign — treat Afrobeats like a pop record and not a tastemaker record or something that cool urban kids in the diaspora listen to. How often do you see an American artist get signed and he or she already has 5 million followers on their own? Even 1 million? And you don’t want to give them the same push as Bieber? If [African artists] even had 25% of that push, Davido and Eazi would be billionaires. That’s the vision I want for Afrobeats. They haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. But when they do, it’s going to explode. What we’re enjoying now is the blood, sweat and tears that we’ve been putting up as individual artists.

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With the scene heating up, are African artists commanding equitable respect dollarwise?

Davido: I’m getting my fair share now. (Laughs.)

Eazi: The amount of respect has grown. I remember my first deal in 2016 was 400,000 pounds [$522,068, adjusted for inflation] for three albums. It’s becoming more evident that the numbers are rising. I was about to sign a huge label imprint deal in 2018 for about $6 million but didn’t. Now I’m having a different conversation with the same people.

Once the Internet becomes cheap in Africa, then you’ll see. That’s when we’ll be able to get our fair share in terms of recognition and revenue. Africa has a population of over 1.2 billion. When you see a Davido song with 100 million views, just know that the real view count is like 900 million because there are a lot of people who don’t have the money to pay for the internet, so they’re watching via untrackable means.

Tiwa, have you encountered additional challenges as a female artist?

Savage: A lot of people in Africa still have the idea that a woman has to be submissive, stay at home and be the wife and mother. Don’t get me wrong. Those are great morals to keep. But I think the modern African woman, the modern black woman is being limited. We can do both. You can have a successful full-time job, you can be strong and vulnerable at the same time. That’s the message I’m trying to put across. So when you see my videos or see me on the red carpet, don’t think I’m not at home cooking for my son or helping him with homework when I’m not doing shows.

Tiwa Savage
Savage photographed on May 5, 2020 in Lagos, Nigeria. Styling by Daniel Obasi Lisa Folawiyo dress, Lace by Cataleya earrings, bracelets and rings, Wow Accessories ring and bracelets.

Beyond Afrobeats, what other styles and artists should the industry be looking at in Africa?

Savage: Don’t tell them, Eazi! (Laughs.) I’m kidding. Because Africa is so big, I think everyone is still trying to figure it out. Even in Nigeria, you have artists like [alt-folk songwriter] Johnny Drille, Flavour [who fuses highlife, R&B and hip-hop] and [Afropop singer] Rema, as well as the three of us. It’s just weird how everything is being categorized as Afrobeats.

Eazi: Between Tiwa, Davido and myself, we don’t make the same kind of African music. But beyond that, there’s so much to know. I just jumped on a record by George Kalukusha, a new artist I signed from Malawi. There’s something traditional to his music, but it also sounds like folk. I didn’t know people in Malawi are listening to this kind of music.

Davido Eazi, the ones you cannot sign, send to me! (Laughs.)

Eazi: I’ll send to you, no worry! But this just shows that music is different everywhere in Africa. I don’t think there has been a proper profile yet of what’s happening on the continent. But it’s all good. Maybe like Tiwa said, we want to keep our Wakanda secret.

Savage: People just need to get on the train. This isn’t a fad. With 1.2 billion people, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. We’re here to stay.

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– billboard.com

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