The New Wonders of Nigerian Afropop

Something new is always buzzing in Nigeria. We’ve been witnessing the growth of its burgeoning pop music scene for some time now. It’s not new to see some of its artists leading the most prominent rankings in the world, from the Billboard Top 100 to the UK Top 40. At this point, Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy are global stars with almost a decade of hits behind them. They come from a field that remains fertile: new names and new songs sprout, shake, go viral and take the spotlight all the time.

This sound goes beyond genres – be it R&B, hip-hop, dancehall or traditional music. It emerged around 2011 to bring joy and make people dance. Initially, a radio host called it Afrobeats, although this incorrectly linked it to Afrobeat, another Nigerian movement from the 70s – an African version of funk led by Fela Kuti that sought to awaken social consciousness. People like Davido and Wizkid were inclined to call it Afrofusion, although other big names like Mr Eazi preferred Banku Music – to underline the influence that he had from the Ghanaian highlife. More recently, rising star Rema even talked about Afrorave – to emphasize his link with Indian culture. Anyway, for now, Afropop seems to be the most accurate word to talk about this urban music from West Africa.



At 23 years old, Rema leads the new generation of Afropop. His real name is Divine Ikubor and he was born in Benin City, in the Nigerian state of Edo, into a Christian family. He started as a teenager by posting his free versions of trendy songs. His 2019 self-titled debut EP peaked at number one on Apple Music Nigeria. That same year he released two more EPs, expanding a fleet of hits that would appear everywhere – from Barack Obama’s summer playlist to the FIFA 21 videogame soundtrack. His first full-length album, 2022’s Rave & Roses, became the first record by an African artist to reach one billion streams on Spotify. It was anticipated by three singles: “Soundgasm”, “Calm Down” and “FYN”. This year he released his fourth EP, Ravage, and performed at the Ballon d’Or awards ceremony.



Born in Lagos, the former Nigerian capital, Temilade Openiyi moved to the UK as a baby and returned to her native country when she was 5. Tems has made a name for herself by putting her voice and songwriting talents into the right tunes. If there’s a starting point in her career, it is 2018, when she released her song “Mr. Rebel”. In 2020, Tems released her debut EP For Broken Ears, and collaborated on Wizkid’s hit song “Essence”. The following year she released her second EP, If Orange Was a Place, and gained even more popularity after featuring on Drake’s single “Fountains”. Last year she had her definitive breakthrough working alongside Rihanna on the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. Anything else? Yes, this year she became the first Nigerian woman to win a Grammy!


Omah Lay

Here’s further proof of how social media can fuel the rise of new stars, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere. Of course, there must also be real talent, but that’s no problem for Stanley Omah Didia, better known as Omah Lay. Raised in the city of Port Harcourt, he got into music as part of a rap group, and then went on to write and produce songs. In 2019 he released his first singles “Do Not Disturb” and “Hello Brother”. However, his breakthrough came in early 2020 with the viral single “Bad Influence”, included on his debut EP Get Layd. A few months later, Omah released another EP, What Have We Done, to satisfy the demand through digital platforms. In mid-2022, his full-length album, Boy Alone, finally arrived, driven by the success of the single “Attention” he made with Justin Bieber.


Fireboy DML

Talking about the Fireboy DML phenomenon is also talking about YBNL Nation, an independent record label founded by Nigerian rapper Olamide in 2012. His breakout single “Jealous” first appeared on a 2018 YBNL compilation, YBNL Mafia Family, before being re-released in early 2019, as a prelude to his successful debut album Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. Born and raised in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Adedamola Oyinlola Adefolahan was just another church choir kid before becoming Fireboy DML. A year after his debut, he released his second album Apollo, including hit songs like “Peru” which earned him rave reviews and sparked the interest of stars like Ed Sheeran to work together – they re-released that song in 2021. His latest album Playboy came out last year.


Of course, the list doesn’t end here. There are more stars in the Nigerian Afropop firmament, such as CKay, Joeboy, Kizz Daniel, Yemi Alade, Tekno Miles and Odunsi (The Engine). There’s also a lot of new talent emerging. They can be those sudden appearances that amaze and surprise. Or those names that are already outgrowing the underground circuit. Either way, here are some fresh artists to keep on your radar: Minz, Kayode, Raebel, Ladé, YKB, WhoIsAkin, Majeeed, Soundz, Shallipopi and Odumodu Blvck.