The “Best International Act” category at the BET Awards was established in order to proudly honor the creative work of a diverse selection of musicians from across the globe. The nominees for the category includes a wide range of singers, MCs, and rhythmic poets. Each truly deserves a turn in the worldwide spotlight but may not be household names in North America just yet, so we’re here to give them a little extra shine and perhaps introduce you to some of your future favorites. Keep scrolling to learn more about each of these BET Awards 2021 nominees from the diaspora that are ruling charts and moving dance floors around the globe.
Burna Boy (Nigeria) - Winner
Best International Act winner Burna Boy (born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu), a magnetic superstar singer, rapper, and social justice activist from Nigeria, has won this category at the BET Awards for three years running. His leading voice has been racking up awards in Africa since his 2013 debut album L.I.F.E., and his 2020 album Twice as Tall won Best Global Album at this year’s Grammy Awards. He’ll perform live at the Hollywood Bowl and major music festivals in San Francisco and New York later this year.
Aya Nakamura (France)
Born Aya Coco Danioko, the flawless French pop star professionally known as Aya Nakamura has ancestors who were Malian griots in West Africa that root her in storytelling. Her three albums have all been top 10 hits in France and her video for the sassy 2018 single “Djadja,” in which she tells a man he could never, has been viewed over 785 million times on YouTube. Her latest single “Bobo” has been seen more than 21 million times in just over a month.
Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania)
Diamond Platnumz, also known as Simba, is a leading star in Tanzania for his work in the hip-hop-influenced style called Bongo Flava and has been a Pepsi ambassador in Africa, to give you an idea of how large he is there. In addition to three full-length albums, Diamond Platnumz (Naseeb Abdul Juma Issack) is also a formidable entrepreneur with a radio station, media platform, and record label.
With four albums under his belt, Emicida (Leandro Roque de Oliveira) has been an influential MC in Brazil for some time. His 2015 song “Passarinhos,” for example, has scored more than 59 million rotations on YouTube. He released an acclaimed and unflinching Netflix documentary in 2020 called AmarElo - It’s All for Yesterday, which includes live performances from São Paulo and an interstitial focus on important historical moments in Black Brazilian culture.
Headie One (UK)
A UK drill rapper with Ghanian heritage, Headie One (Irving Ampofo Adjei) debuted at the top of his home country’s charts with his 2020 album Edna, which was named after his mother. Headie’s “Only You” freestyle with Drake, which appears on the album alongside guest appearances from Future, Skepta, and fellow nominees Young T & Bugsey, has snagged over 30 million YouTube views.
Though he’s one of the biggest superstars in Africa and has had many achievements, including four albums, Nigerian singer WizKid (Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun) may be most recognizable to Americans as a collaborator with Beyonce on the Grammy-winning “Brown Skin Girl” from 2019’s The Lion King: The Gift. He recently released a YouTube docuseries called A Superstar Made in Lagos to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of his debut album Superstar.
Young T & Bugsey (UK)
Ladies’ men Doyin Julius and Ra’chard Tucker are best known as the charming hip-hop duo of Young T & Bugsey. Their 2020 video for the UK top 20 hit “Don’t Rush” featuring fellow English nominee Headie One has been seen over 78 million times, their highest view count on YouTube, and is the soundtrack for its own TikTok challenge.
A veteran conscious French, Congolese, and Senagalese rapper with a Master’s Degree pedigree, Youssoupha Mabiki recently released his eighth album Neptune Terminus, a top 10 hit in France. He has also appeared as a songwriting coach on the American Idol-esque TV show Popstars.