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Thank Me Later: Your Introduction to Afrobeats (with an "s”)

Afrobeats - Wizkid
Afrobeats superstar Wizkid in a music video for "Soco"

It's a music genre that has taken over the African continent, Europe, and many other parts of the world. From Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” featuring Wizkid to Childish Gambino’s gwara-gwara dance moves in the viral “This is America” music video, you may have caught snippets and glimpses of its sound and dance styles in American pop-culture. It goes without saying, Afrobeats (also known as Afrofusion or Afropop) is indeed a global phenomenon, and as American record labels scramble to sign the many talented artists the genre has produced—Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Roc Nation have signed a few— this is your opportunity to jump on the bandwagon before you miss it. 

Beyoncé’s Grammy-winning “Brown Skin Girl” featuring Afrobeats superstar Wizkid, Blue Ivy and SAINt JHN

Not to be confused with Afrobeat (without the “s”), a genre that gave us African musical greats such as Fela Kuti and his son Femi Kuti, Afrobeats is a contemporary sound that fuses western African percussive instruments, rhythms, and pidgin English with Hip Hop, Dancehall Reggae, and/or RnB vocal arrangements, creating a truly authentic and thrilling fusion of African and African-diasporic contemporary sounds. 

Starboy - Soco Ft. Terri, Spotless, Ceeza Milli, Wizkid - a truly authentic and thrilling fusion of African and African-diasporic contemporary sounds

In addition to its unique, hip-shaking, and toe-tapping sound, it has inspired dance styles that have made their way into the choreography and dance moves of many superstars including Rihanna, Janet Jackson, and others. And in Europe, Afrobeats dance classes, workshops, and workouts have taken over studios, gyms, and other recreational spaces—and has spawned viral Tik Tok challenges along the way. In fact, if you’re in the Seattle area and are interested in taking an Afrobeats dance class, Kine Camara is one of the best instructors and choreographers of the style. 

Afrobeats dance classes, workshops, and workouts have taken over studios, gyms, and other recreational spaces

The United States has contributed a lot to the global landscape as it pertains to pop culture—film, music, sports, fashion, and more—all things that have, for better or for worse, entrenched it as the global entertainment trendsetter. But occasionally it can go full circle, and in that moment a new sound, visual, style, or trend from another part of the world can become the next big thing, take over, and even stake claim in the zeitgeist of American pop culture itself: Nintendo, The Beatles, Anime, K-POP, Reggae AND Reggaeton, just to name a few. And, given the pace and enthusiasm that Afrobeats has been embraced and celebrated around other parts of the world, it is safe to assume that much like the pop culture imports that came before it, it too has arrived. 

It has arrived: Afrobeats megastar Davido performing on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'

But maybe you don't believe the hype, so we created this Afrobeats playlist just for you. Hit play, take it for a spin, and let us know what you think. Try not to skip tracks. Just sit back, relax, enjoy the ride, and thank us later.

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About the author

Kwapi Vengesayi is a Public Engagement Producer at MoPOP and a fan and student of all things Motown, Afrofuturism, and Star Trek.

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