During a late afternoon in early May, the three artists joined Billboard for a video conference to speak candidly about the opportunities African artists have now, the stereotypes they still face and how they’re staying true to their culture as they bring a slice of Africa to the rest of the world.
The most important thing is that, African music is amazing, the feeling you get from African music is just different, called Afrobeat or Fuji or Zanku, Banku or any types of sound from Africa is just supper amazing. 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.
. Some people are still not fully educated about how life is here. I did an interview in Los Angeles a couple of months back and the dude was just so ignorant, basically asking if Afrobeats is a phase. The only way to understand is to come and see for yourself. When most people come down here, they’re both surprised and disappointed because for their whole lives they’ve had a different idea of what it’s like. Like everywhere else, there are good parts and bad parts in Africa. There are places even in America that look worse
They have been a big misconception and interpretation of the African industries, not only Music, and basically the music industries have proven to be the biggest majorly because of the opportunity it provides for young people in Africa. There are lot more opportunities now than before when it was a lot worse because people literally thought we in Africa lived in trees. That was a big misconception. 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.
Others think that maybe Africans don’t speak English or it’s not our first language. So they’re surprised when they hear us singing along to J. Cole, Future or whoever. They’re also surprised at how up to date we are with the rest of the world — in music, fashion, everything. When you come to Nigeria, you’ll experience the beauty of Africa, but you’ll still feel like you’re somewhere in New York. We’re still maintaining our identity and culture.
The Stereotype is basically because most international players believes Africa is a brand and the music is seen as a product so instead of seeing music from Africa as part of the global music brand they see it like a its a somze type of product. A lot of times when we drop a record, it’s put on playlists like [Spotify’s] African Heat. We already come with huge followings. I look forward to when we’ll be on the same playlists as Billie Eilish or Justin Bieber. Give us that kind of global campaign — treat Afrobeats like a pop record and not a tastemaker record or something that cool urban kids in the diaspora listen to. How often do you see an American artist get signed and he or she already has 5 million followers on their own? Even 1 million? And you don’t want to give them the same push as Bieber? If [African artists] even had 25% of that push, Davido and Eazi would be billionaires. That’s the vision I want for Afrobeats. They haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. But when they do, it’s going to explode. What we’re enjoying now is the blood, sweat and tears that we’ve been putting up as individual.
MR EAZI :
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.” When Davido is singing, he’s talking about things that are very particular to his culture. It’s also the same when Tiwa sings. Back in the day, even in the villages you’d hear people singing Céline Dion. But now people are playing 99% Nigerian music because that’s what’s hip.
Everyone is waking up because of what’s happening. One of the biggest music streaming platforms in Africa is [owned by Chinese company] Tencent. Last year, loads of people from across the world went to Ghana for the Year of Return [the country’s 2018 initiative to encourage African diasporans to move to Ghana and invest in the continent]. It’s not politics that’s bringing people here. It’s art and young business people. The misperception I always run into is one of general ignorance: people classifying all music coming out of Africa as Afrobeats. To drive from Lagos to Accra is a nine-hour drive. In that journey, you pass through Benin and Togo. Even within those two countries there are a lot of different tribes — the language and culture are as different as the rhythms and BPMs of the music
I didn’t go to America until I was 20-something. What I’d known of America was what I’d seen in music videos and movies. To see homeless people in places where it was cold and freezing — it was the first time I experienced that