The Definitive Afrobeats Playlist for Newbies

Don’t miss out on these Afrofuturistic sounds that have been beloved all over the diaspora.

As Billboard and Afro Nation announce plans to launch the first-ever US Afrobeats chart, the vibrant sounds from the continent of Africa continue to soar into the stratosphere. From Wizkid’s “Essence” featuring Tems to CKay’s “Love Nwantiti (Remix),” the internationally-beloved genre continues to maintain top positions on the charts, making Afrobeats difficult to ignore.

For more than a decade, modern African musicians like Tiwa Savage, Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid have laid the foundation for the global attention surrounding Afrobeats today. When the world was under lockdown due to the pandemic, an ethereal scope of visibility occurred through dance challenges on TikTok — beginning with South African musician/record producer Master KG’s “Jerusalema” featuring Nomcembo — an isiZulu song that caught the ears and eyes of Janet Jackson

Afterwards, more African recording artists started to receive support from American celebrities like Gabrielle Union (bathed her daughter Kaavia as Kid AlpHa’s “Colours” played in the background, strutting to Fireboy DML and Ed Sheeran's “Peru,” TLC’s Chilli danced to 1da Banton's “No Wahala” in her backyard, and Drake posted a screenshot to his Instagram Stories of him listening to Oxlade’s “Away.” As a direct result of Drake’s support, Oxlade received over three million streams.

Since December, British pop star Ed Sheeran shared he jumped on “Peru” as a suggestion made by the late great British music entrepreneur Jamal Edward. The track even got an American remix featuring 21 Savage and BLXST. Soon after, Madonna enlisted Fireboy DML to remix her electronic club banger “Frozen” crafted by Canadian Sickick. On Mar. 1, fellow Nigerian Afropop singer-songwriter Omah Lay announced his collaboration “Attention” with Justin Bieber.

Afrobeats is in good shape and on its way to becoming one of the newest musical genres to sweep the world off of its feet. And with this week’s Afro Nation festival in Puerto Rico already causing commotion in the streets, here are ten new Afrobeats tracks infusing enough English for you to dance to and sing along!

  • 1da Banton feat. Kizz Daniel & Tiwa Savage — “No Wahala (Remix)”

    When you’re on the way home from work on the subway or stuck in your traffic in your car, “No Wahala” is the song with lyrics that let you know no matter what's happening, it’s not the end of the world. We are humans, so our problems will never finish. 

    Thus, we should try to enjoy life regardless. 1da Banton’s breakout single produced by Blaise Beatz is synonymous with Bobby McFerrin’s Billboard Hot 100 chart-topping a capella track “Don't Worry, Be Happy” in its messaging. 

    French rapper Naza and DJ Leska have remixed the breakout song alongside Nigerian producer, Masterkraft, making it an instant classic to play wherever you’re at in the world.

  • Tiwa Savage feat. Brandy — “Somebody’s Son”

    Women are shifting narratives and redefining paradigms by owning businesses, becoming breadwinners, and being in charge of their lives en masse. 

    With all of that in tow, Tiwa Savage’s “Somebody's Son” is a favorite track written from a woman's perspective who has the world's weight on her shoulders and has been through several heartbreaks. Nonetheless, she yearns for her soul mate, hopeful that things will turn around for her. 

    The Mystro-produced track is the latest number from Water & Garri, which features Nas, Rich King, Amaarae, and Tay Iwar.

    Widely considered the “Queen of Afrobeats,” Tiwa Savage is like how Beyoncé is to American pop music.

  • KiDi feat. Tyga — “Touch It (Remix)”

    Now, as we visit the raunchier or sexually-liberated side of Afrobeats (think of the themes mainly in modern Jamaican Dancehall), there's a remix to Ghanaian artist KiDi's high-streaming track “Touch It.” The new version, produced by Dennis Nana Dwamena, Richie Mensah, and Jack Knight, features a verse from Young Money artist Tyga.

    In theme, “Touch It (Remix)” is a song with advice similar to 1da Banton's "No Wahala," but fills in the space of what to do next after you've gotten over life's ills. Like Goya Menor and Nektunez's "Ameno Amapiano (Remix)," it is poised to bubble and take off by the time Detty December — the annual homecoming of Africans overseas — rolls around.

  • Omah Lay — Understand

    “Understand,” produced by Omah Lay's frequent collaborator Tempoe, is the highest-streamed solo track performed by the Nigerian Afrofusion artist. 

    The tune displays Omah Lay’s subtly delivered vocals and impressive songwriting at full bloom. The dark lyrics reflected when things in his life didn't feel fair, equal, or balanced. 

    Play this one whenever you find yourself immersed in those same feelings.

  • Laycon feat. Made Kuti — “New Dimension”

    “New Dimension,” a colorfully romantic song laden with romantic saxophone, is an instant groove played by Afrobeat icon and pioneer Fela Kuti's grandson Made Kuti. 

    This is a high-energy track that encapsulates new energy, new love, and operates from an elevated space/level. Anyone would carry themselves differently after witnessing “All Over Me” performed for the Recording Academy’s Press Play at Home series. 

    The Guard-produced record symbolizes freshness and a revitalizing sonic for the rising Nigerian star.

    And for those just tuning in, know that Afrobeat and Afrobeats are two different styles of music.

  • Ayra Starr — “Bloody Samaritan”

    If you are a young baddie with indestructible energy, Ayra Starr's 'Bloody Samaritan is your anthem. The Mavin Records artist is only 19 but has the confidence of women twice her age.

    Following in the footsteps of Tiwa Savage, Rema, Ladipoe, Ayra Starr is the latest signee of the Don Jazzy–led super label Mavin Records to breakthrough behind a genre-bending sound. The 19-year-old was raised between Lagos and Cotonou, and on “Bloody Samaritan,” she is influenced by a ton of different styles: Her silky and cozy vocals might bring to mind neo-soul; her verses have this improvised feel to them that’s similar to when rappers freestyle; and the mellow groove of the production is pure Afropop. It’s the type of song where the prominence of each element depends on where you are; the beat might catch your attention at a house party, while her soothing vocals will swirl around your mind when you’re home alone.

  • Rema — “Calm Down”

    Signed to Mavin Records, Rema is a young superstar from Nigeria, who possesses the spirit of young people today. Spirited and connected to his roots, Rema’s songs are usually edgy and explore relationships and unapologetically intimate moments. 

    On “Calm Down,” Rema is ready to prove his star power as fans anticipate his debut album, Rave & Roses, which drops on Mar. 25. However, nearly three years since his mega-run back in 2019, it is evident that the streets need Rema, and “Calm Down” is the centering soundtrack real music lovers need in their lives.

  • Adekunle Gold feat. Davido — “High”

    Two Nigerian musical heavyweights, Adekunle Gold and Davido, teamed up for a banger titled “High,” produced by multi-talented producer artist Pheelz. 

    He was also behind the record “Finesse” with BNXN. The song fuses Amapiano, a sound popular in South Africa otherwise known as South African house music. 

    Having emerged ten years ago, both artists have collaborated with many American artists like Chris Brown, Lucky Daye, Meek Mill, Ty Dolla $ign, and more.

  • Sarkodie feat. Oxlade — “Non-Living Thing”

    Magic is created whenever Ghana links up with Nigeria. 

    Ghanaian rap icon Sarkodie teamed up with Nigerian singer-songwriter Oxlade on the heavy-hitter single “Non-Living Thing,” about the extraordinary women in their lives and how life without them would be. 

    The beat complements Sarkodie’s smooth bilingual flow (English and Twi) and punchlines perfectly, while Oxlade’s dynamic voice and melodies melt the track together. All in all, this mixed concoction of West African flavors is perfect for your playlist at any time.

  • Wande Coal — “Come My Way”

    Dance machine and Afrobeats living legend Wande Coal returned to the flourishing scene late last year with an infectious new track called “Come My Way.” 

    Also, while implementing  Amapiano, the Nigerian music veteran sings about money blessings and the protection needed to keep it. If you want dance lessons from an authentic source, Wande Coal is the one to employ.

    Richardine Juah Bartee is an award-winning advocate for her contribution to spotlighting modern African music and closing the gap between Africa and North America. She owns and runs the global music discovery platform — GRUNGECAKE — and is a member of the Recording Academy.

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