Tiwa Savage, Davido and Mr. Eazi are the cover stars for Billboard’s latest special issue, which is entirely devoted to the continent of Africa.
The feature states that as streaming has gained popularity, the sounds and visibility of African artists and producers has similarly increased, thanks to tracks like Drake’s “One Dance” (which features Nigeria’s WizKid), and albums like the Beyoncé-curated The Lion King: The Gift.
“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,” the feature reads, adding, “[Africa] has also emerged as a particular wellspring of talent, thanks to stars like Tiwa Savage, Davido and Mr. Eazi…[highlighting] just how many possibilities await African talent.”
“The music is amazing. The feeling you get from Afrobeats and African music is just different,” Davido explains of the factors driving industry interest in Africa, especially in recent years. “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.”
The world is certainly taking notice. Tiwa Savage became the first female winner of the “Best African Act” category at the 2018 MTV Europe Music Awards, Mr. Eazi (an independent artist) performed at the 2019 Coachella Music & Arts Festival, and Davido’s “Fall” is the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. However, all artists say there are still misconceptions of Africa, and it’s something they see when traveling abroad.
“It was a lot worse before, when people literally thought we lived in trees. That was a big misconception,” Savage says. “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.”
However, all are optimistic about the future of African artists as it pertains to mainstream music conversations.
“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,’” says Mr. Eazi. “When Davido is singing, he’s talking about things that are very particular to his culture. It’s also the same when Tiwa sings...Everyone is waking up because of what’s happening...It’s not politics that’s bringing people here. It’s art and young business people.”