Who Are The Best Afrobeat Artists? A Top 12

Afrobeat songs are on the rise!

According to Vogue, the streaming of Afrobeats music has increased by 283 percent since 2019.

Afrobeat artists like Burna Boy and Davido are gaining traction worldwide, and almost every knows the Afrobeat song “Calm Down” by Rema.

So what are the best Afrobeats artists, and where did it all start?

In this post, I’ll guide you through the history and the best Afrobeat artists and songs.

afrobeat artists, afrobeat songs & afrobeat pioneer fela
This illustration was made my Panca Productions

History of Afrobeats | Afrobeat Pioneer Fela Kuti

There’s something quite fascinating when you blend things as it gives a new meaning and life to the things you find dull. Wine blending exists, as does genre-blending or fusion in music. Interestingly genre-blending in music is as old as music, and that’s the beauty of music artists when they give a new identity to something. Afrobeats is a music-blending phenomenon originating from West Africa, particularly Nigeria and Ghana.

Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician and political activist, is the legendary innovator behind a genre. He was also a political activist. He famously said, ‘Music is the weapon of the future.’ No doubt, his afrobeat song debut, Fela Fela Fela, accompanied by satirical lyrics criticizing the Nigerian government, remains relevant even after more than 50 years.

Afrobeat pioneer Fela was experimental, and his fusion of African rhythms, jazz, funk, and soul music led to the innovation of a new genre, Afrobeat music. I once stayed in a hostel in Kosovo, and after the owner welcomed us with a glass of rakija, we heard Fela’s music playing. We said we were fans, and he told us: “You can’t be unhappy when listening to Fela.” It’s hard to disagree with that statement.

Influence of Afrobeats

Although Afrobeat songs started political, over the years, the genre evolved beyond Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti into an eclectic mix of diverse musical styles. It’s become more commercial and reaches far beyond the African content. Afrobeat songs like Calm Down and Location have millions of listeners worldwide, but the influence of Fela is always there. Knowing some of Kuti’s famous lyrics, you’ll realize that many Afrobeat songs refer to his work.

Afrobeat artists have successfully used Afrobeat music to address social issues such as poverty, inequality, and political oppression while inspiring a new generation of artists across various genres. The influence of Afrobeat songs on global musical culture is something to marvel at. In Africa, it provided a platform for African musicians to share their music with the world.

Furthermore, you must have heard many songs without realizing they fall in the Afrobeat genre, as top international artists have collaborated with Afrobeats artists to create hits. Today, top Afrobeat singers include Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, and many others.

afrobeat artists, afrobeat songs & afrobeat pioneer fela

What Makes Afrobeats Different?

Afrobeats is a unique blend of traditional African rhythms and contemporary sounds. Using indigenous instruments like talking drums, congas, shekeres (beaded gourds), and other percussion instruments adds a rich texture to afrobeat music, making it unique. This fusion creates a distinctive style that is captivating.

Afrobeat music also adapts to various musical influences while maintaining its authentic African essence. This versatility makes Afrobeats artists collaborate with musicians worldwide, making it global piece. 

So, let’s delve into the top 12 Afrobeats artists and best Afrobeats songs to get the beat rolling.

1. Afrobeat Pioneer Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti is widely regarded as the founding father of Afrobeat. He was born in Nigeria, moved to the UK, and returned to Nigeria during political turmoil. When he returned in the 1970s, he set up his own nightclub Afro-Spot and named his band Africa 70, hence born Afrobeats music. After that, there was no looking back as he released hit after hit. Verily, his influence on Afrobeat artists is undeniable, as many modern Afrobeat singers cite him as the most significant influence. Some of his top hits include “Zombie,” “Water No Get Enemy,” and “Lady.”

The legacy didn’t end with the death of Fela Kuti as the Kuti family has continued Fela’s legacy, producing talented Afrobeat artists such as his sons Femi and Seun Kuti. Both have carved their niche within the genre while maintaining the essence of their father’s work. Femi’s notable tracks include “Beng Beng Beng” and “No Place Like Home,” while Seun’s top songs include “Black Times” and “Struggle Sounds.”

2. Niniola

Niniola, whose full name is Niniola Apata, is a Nigerian singer and songwriter known for her unique blend of Afrobeat and electronic dance music. She is known for her powerful vocals and energetic performances, making her one of the top Afrobeat artists in recent years. After her debut single, “Ibadi,” she since then has released some popular Afrobeats songs, including “Maradona,” “Boda Sodiq,” and “Addicted.”

Niniola uses various musical influences and Afrobeats in her music and received a nomination for Most Promising Act to Watch in 2015. Since then, she has released two albums, ‘This Is Me,’ and ‘Colours and Sounds.’ She is one of the top Afrobeat singers, and her music is worth exploring.

3. Burna Boy

Burna Boy is also a Nigerian singer-songwriter. He is famous for his unique fusion of Afrobeats with reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, and R&B. He gained prominence in 2012 with his single “Like to Party,” which became a hit across Nigeria. Since then, Burna Boy has released seven albums, with the latest album, Love, Damini, released in 2022. Some of his top afrobeat songs include “Ye,” “On the Low,” and “Anybody.”

Burna Boy’s success is transatlantic, as he has collaborated with Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, and Damian Marley. His distinctive sound and energetic performances make him one of the top Afrobeat artists in the world.

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4. Davido

David Adedeji Adeleke, or Davido, is a Nigerian singer and record producer whose catchy afrobeat songs are a global sensation. He rose to fame in 2012 with his second song, “Dami Duro,” from his debut album “Omo Baba Olowo.” Since then, he has released top Afrobeat songs such as “If,” “Fall,” and “Fia.”

Davido’s influence on Afrobeats extends beyond his music as his record label Davido Music Worldwide has launched the careers of other best Afrobeat artists. He continued to make music and released his latest album, ‘Timeless,’ on March 31, 2023.

5. Tems

Tems is an emerging Nigerian Afrobeat singer who quickly rose to prominence in 2018 with her debut single, “Mr. Rebel.” After her first song, an amalgam of Afrobeat and Afropop, she has released top Afrobeat hits like “Damages” and collaborated with fellow Afrobeat artist Wizkid on “Essence.” She is known for her soulful voice and emotional lyrics.

Tems’ unique blend of afrobeat music with pop and soul elements makes her an amazing addition to the Afrobeats genre. She was also a part of the soundtrack album of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in 2022. As Tems continues releasing new music, she is the best new Afrobeats artist to watch out for.

6. Wizkid

Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, a Nigerian singer and songwriter, goes by his studio name, Wizkid. He is one of the most famous Afrobeats artists of his generation. He burst onto the Afrobeat music scene in 2011 with his debut album “Superstar,” Wizkid quickly gained global recognition with smash hits like “Holla at Your Boy,” “Say My Name,” and “Come Closer.”

His distinctive music and successful album launches have led him to collaborations with top international artists such as Beyoncé, Drake, Skepta, and Justin Bieber. His distinct afrobeat sound and star power mean he is a leading figure in the Afrobeats genre. In 2022, Wizkid released his latest album, “More Love, Less Ego.”

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7. Mr. Eazi

Oluwatosin Ajibade, or by his stage name Mr. Eazi, is a Nigerian singer who needs no introduction to the Afrobeat genre. His unique blend of Afrobeats, highlife, and banku music (a Ghanaian fusion of highlife and electronic sounds) resonated with fans across Africa and beyond. Some of his top afrobeat songs include “Leg Over,” “Pour Me Water,” and “Skin Tight.”

As one of the most prominent Afrobeat artists today, he is also the founder of emPawa Africa, a record label that introduces emerging African singers and provides them a platform to succeed in Afrobeat music. (Mr. Eazi discovered Joeboy, whom we discuss below).

8. Teni

Teniola Apata is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, popularly known as Teni or Teni the Entertainer. She is known for her unique blend of Afrobeat and pop music, or Afropop,  that has earned her numerous awards and accolades since she burst onto the scene in 2017 with her debut single “Fargin.” Some of her top Afrobeats songs include “Askamaya,” “Case,” and “Billionaire.”

Teni has powerful voice vocals and is a powerhouse when performing. It makes her one of the best Afrobeats artists in the music industry. She is the sister of fellow Afrobeats singer Niniola (We have discussed her above).

9. Yemi Alade

Yemi Alade is a Nigerian singer-songwriter known for her powerful vocals and dynamic stage presence. She is famously known as the “Queen of Afrobeats,” Her unique blend of Afrobeat music, Afropop, R&B, and traditional African sounds makes her one of the best female Afrobeat singers. Yemi is known for some of the top Afrobeat songs like “Johnny,” “Kissing,” and “Tangerine.” She has also been featured on Beyonce’s album “The Lion King: The Gift.”

Yemi Alade’s success as an Afrobeat artist extends beyond her music; she is also an activist. She is a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN and works to promote female empowerment and raise awareness about African social issues.

10. Tiwa Savage

Tiwa Savage is a Nigerian singer-songwriter who has become one of the most influential female Afrobeat artists. She is known for her sultry voice and captivating lyrics, and she has consistently produced top afrobeat songs since her debut song, “Kele Kele Love,” in 2010. She released her last album in 2020, “Celia,” and her latest single, “NSV,” was released this year.

Savage is the first female singer to win the Best African Act at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards 2018. She is known for her powerful performances on stage and is recognized as one of the best Afrobeats singers of this generation.

11. Joeboy

Joeboy, also called Young Legend, is known for smooth vocals and passionate lyrics, which makes him one of the fastest-rising Afrobeat artists in recent years. He was discovered by Mr. Eazi (we also discuss him later) and is associated with his record label, EmPawa Africa. He gained recognition in 2019 with his hit single “Baby,” and since then has released some of the best Afrobeats songs like “Beginning” and “Don’t Call Me Back.”

As a young talent in the Afrobeats scene, he is famous for melodies while maintaining an authentic African sound has earned him a place among the top Afrobeats artists today. He released his first album, “Somewhere Between Beauty And Magic,” in 2021.

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12. Rema

Divine Ikubor, a professional Rema singer and rapper, is the latest sensation in the Afrobeat scene. He mixes Afrobeats, trap, and pop, and what comes out is a unique flavor of the Afrobeat genre. Rema released his successful debut single “Iron Man” in 2020, and since then has released some of the best afrobeat songs such as “Dumebi,” “Lady,” and “Bad Commando.” Rema has collaborated with Selena Gomez, releasing a single, “Calm Down,” which debuted at number 1 on many charts worldwide.

As a young and new talent in Afrobeat music, he is sure to cement his place as he can produce catchy melodies. He released his album Rave & Roses in 2022. Although relatively new on the Afrobeats music, he sure will make way for more.

Wrap-up & Best Afrobeats Artists Playlist

After delving into the history and influence of Afrobeats, it’s clear that the Aforbeats genre is a true fusion of traditional African rhythms and contemporary sounds. From legendary Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti to modern Davido and Rema, we can say that Afrobeat music is a global phenomenon.

What sets Afrobeats apart from other music genres is its ability to adapt to diverse musical influences while maintaining its authentic African essence. It is the very reason that this genre’s versatility has made it possible for Afrobeats artists to collaborate with musicians from around who have given us some of the best Afrobeats songs.

Are you ready to listen to it now? Check out the playlist!

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