Fresh Afrobeats Picks of the Month: Burna Boy, Libianca, Aya Nakamura and more

Last May, Billboard launched its US Afrobeats Songs Chart, which highlights some of the best music coming out of the African music scene and influencing listeners in the States. But we had been paying more and more attention to what was going on there for several years now, and that increased awareness has only helped shine a light on a growing generation of artists and songwriters. These forward-thinking artists not only push the genre forward, but expand it beyond its traditional boundaries – incorporating hip-hop, amapiano, R&B, jazz, soul and just about anything else into a melting pot that, for lack of a better overall term, we’ll still referred to as Afrobeats.

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To help celebrate the growing influence and diversity of the music being released with increasing frequency, Billboard is launching a new monthly column to highlight 10 of the best new Afrobeats (and its kin) songs in a given month. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty more where they came from – and for this first column we’ve pulled some of the best songs from the last few months of 2022 to help kick things off in 2023 – but here is the first compilation of some of our latest favourites, with a Spotify playlist at the end to help you get into the mood. So without further ado, here are 10 Afrobeats tracks that are catching our ears already this year.

Libianca, “People”

Libianca’s breakout single “People” is a stirring cry for help that has resonated through TikTok and reached No. 2 on US Afrobeats Songs. She gives listeners a raw insight into her mood disorder Cyclothymia by constantly questioning “Have you checked me out? Now, did you notice me?” with soothing, bouncy vocals and tinkling bells that keep Libianca from feeling low From competing in Season 22 of NBC’s The voice to sign with RCA Records and producer Jae5’s 5K Records, the Cameroonian American singer-songwriter gives Afro-soul music a global platform.

Tiwa Savage and Asake, “Loaded”

Tiwa Savage and Asake take shots at their haters on “Loaded”, one of the highlights from Empire’s first ever African compilation album Where We Come From, Vol. 1. The self-praise track mixes theatrical string arrangements, amapiano’s syncopated breakbeats, gospel choir melodies and rap’s braggadocio, signature sonic ingredients from Asake’s successful debut album Sir. Money with the atmosphere. Complementing her rant, African Bad Gyal addresses a leaked sex tape from last year by deflecting her detractors and teasing, “Well who never fk, hands up!”

Burna Boy, “Alone”

The African giant feels powerless and asks God not to abandon him in “Alone”, his unique contribution to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. Burna Boy kicks off the track with his siren-like hum before mournful strings and his desolate vocals take over the verses. And as the chorus translates into a cry for help, harmonies and triumphant percussion empower Burna and make him sound less alone.

Aya Nakamura, “Baby”

Malian-French singer Aya Nakamura is proud to be someone else’s eye on her new single “Baby”, which was released ahead of her fourth album DNA. “Because I’m his baby, I want to be my father,” she boasts in her robust French vocals. Nakamura also shows off her skill, coordinated girlfriends, and Y2K-inspired fashion in the accompanying music video.

Ruger, “Asiwaju”

Afrobeats newcomer Ruger boldly crowns himself “asiwaju”, or champion in Yoruba, in this guitar-driven, melodic offering. The 23-year-old Jonzing World signee rejects his Gen-Z label and promises to “bring hell to anybody we’re trying to test me” in his sharp-tongued bars, deceptively coated with his syrupy vocals. Ruger also looks effortlessly cool as he parades around town with his namesake flag-waving team and school kids in the accompanying photo.

Kizz Daniel, “RTID (Rich Till I Die)”

An airy, infectious melody; a confident, carefree hook; a major key pop sensation: what’s not to like? Kizz Daniel has been growing in popularity for a few years now, with his latest a perfect vibe for a summer afternoon – “I live the life I love / I love the life I live” – ​​having the kind of staying power that lasts in these months. With the release of its music video two weeks ago, it debuts on the US Afrobeats Songs at No. 29 on the chart dated Jan. 21, with the promise of warmer days ahead.

Teni, Mayorkun and Costa Titch feat. Ch’cco“MAITAMA”

Teni had one of the best albums of the year in 2021 in her debut Wondaland, a lush collection of songs that established her as one of the clearest voices to emerge in the last few years. “MAITAMA” picks up right where the album left off, with an earworm of a melody and a driving beat that provides a platform for guests Mayorkun, Costa Titch and Ch’cco to make their mark. If this is a precursor to another album, there may already be an early contender for best of the year.

Zinoleesky, “Personal”

Zinoleesky first caught our attention with his show-stopping verse on Lil Kesh’s 2022 hit “Don’t call me,” and his latest EP Laughter & Lust, released just before Christmas, is a welcome introduction to a new rising talent from Nigeria. The entire project is worth checking out — a special shout out to “Yan Yan Yan” — but “Personal” is another standout from the project, with a clean production that leaves the singer/rapper to establish a sort of thesis statement and a promising future for what is to come.

Seyi Vibez, “Alaska”

Seyi Vibez broke out last year with his Billion Dollar Baby album that introduces a fresh voice to the scene. But his five songs Memory card The EP is something completely different: less produced, more persistent, with a raw feel, as if it just spilled over from the street to the record. “Alaska” is as good a representative of the project as any; its stripped-down instrumentation relies more on layered vocals and a stray flute than it does on anything traditional, as it almost involuntarily burrows into memory. A completely original voice.

Victony & Tempoe, “Soweto”

This song has been around for a minute now, but the song’s smooth, danceable beat, produced by Tempoe, is too infectious not to include here. The track peaked at No.15 on the US Afrobeats Songs chart towards the end of last year, but its vibe has seen it lead playlists into 2023, while its playful lyrics and catchy melody have seen it stick around for months on the charts, with no sign of it going anywhere.

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