Everything you need to know about Afrobeats: a timeline

The last ten years has seen Afrobeats grow to one of the world's most popular genres.

Recent years have seen the popularity of Afrobeats soar across the world. This week sees the launch of the first ever Official Afrobeats Chart, a weekly Top 40 initiated by Afro Nation that will shine a spotlight on Afrobeats artists enjoying success in the UK, where the scene has been thriving for the best part of a decade.

The Sound

Broadly speaking, Afrobeats is a fusion of West African pop music with western rap, bashment, dancehall, R&B and EDM. It’s the sound of Nigeria and Ghana, with a focus on creating upbeat, fun and energetic melodies designed to make you move.

Crucially, Afrobeats is different to Afrobeat, a music style pioneered by Fela Kuti and developed in the 1960s. Afrobeat is big band, afro-funk, jazz-influenced and often highly political.

Early 2000s beginnings  

In 2005 Afrobeats breaks into the mainstream with the launch of MTV Base Africa. The first wave of artists featured include MI Abaga, Naeto C and Sarkodie. It's the first major platform for Afrobeats artists, though language barriers and a lack of major label funding mean their success was limited.

2011

Several Afrobeats artists begin to find success across the continent. One of the most established acts are sibling duo P-Square, who sign a deal with Akon’s Konvict Muzik label and release their fifth album Invasion, featuring guest appearances from Akon, Rick Ross and Tiwa Savage.

After signing a record deal in 2009 with Empire Mates Entertainment, rising star Wizkid releases his debut album Superstar to critical acclaim. 

Key tracks:

P-Square - Beautiful Onyinye ft. Rick Ross
WizKid – Don’t Dull

2012

Oliver Twist by Nigerian artist D’Banj reaches Number 9 on the Official Singles Chart, marking the first Afrobeats artist to score a UK Top 10. The music video is jam-packed with famous faces, including his GOOD Music label founder Kanye West and label mates Big Sean, Pusha T, and producer Hit-Boy, plus Sugababes’ Keisha Buchanan, Mike Dean, Bricka Bricka, comedian Eddie Kadi and Sneakbo.

Ghanaian artist Sarkodie wins Best International Act Africa at the MOBO Awards. His song U Go Kill Me is a huge hit in Ghana and helps popularise the Azonto, a Ghanaian dance craze and music genre.

Key tracks
D’banj – Oliver Twist
P-Square ft. Akon & May D – Chop My Money (Remix)
Mista Silva ft Skob, Kwamz & Flava - Boom Boom Tah
Burna Boy – Like To Party

2013

London rapper and singer Fuse ODG brings Afrobeats to mainstream UK radio with Top 10 singles Antenna, Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad) and Azonto, a track based on the African dance phenomenon. Fuse also wins Best African Act at the MOBO Awards.

Other British Afrobeats artists begin to emerge in the mainstream, including Mista Silva, Vibe Squad and Naira Marley.

Key tracks

Fuse ODG - Antenna
P-Square - Personally
R2Bees ft WizKid - Slow Down
Atumpan - The Thing
Davido – Skelewu
Guru - Alkayida

2014

WizKid’s Ojuelegba is the big Afrobeats track of the year, boosted in the UK by a remix featuring Drake and Skepta.

US artists including French Montana, Kanye West, Destiny's Child's Michelle Williams and Rick Ross begin dabbling in the genre or collaborating with Afrobeats artists.

An offshoot of Afrobeats called Afroswing emerges - a fusion of rap, grime, dancehall, trap and R&B led by British rapper J Hus. 

Key tracks

WizKid - Ojuelegba (Remix)
Naira Marley ft. Max Twigz - Marry Juana
Afro B - Baba God
Michelle Williams – Say Yes

2015

Wizkid signs to RCA Records and lands the biggest record deal an African musician has ever received.

East London collective NSG land their breakthrough viral hit as a guest feature on Jaij Hollands' Pinga.

Key tracks

Tion Wayne ft Afro B - Can't Go Broke
Burna Boy - Soke
Sarkodie ft Castro - Adonai (Remix)
Belly Squad - Banana
Jaij Hollands & NSG - Pinga

2016

Drake releases One Dance with Wizkid and Kyla. The track becomes Spotify’s most-streamed song ever, with over 1 billion streams, and is Number 1 on the UK’s Official Singles Chart for 15 weeks – the longest-running Number 1 single of the millennium. Although One Dance borrows more from dancehall than Afrobeats, WizKid's feature helps push Afrobeats into the mainstream globally.

Beat FM launches in the UK, the first British radio stations dedicated to Afrobeats.

Ghanian rapper Sarkodie speaks to a group of Harvard Business School students. His speech, themed around 'The Art of the Hustle', was about the challenges associated with being an African musician.

Key tracks

J Hus - Friendly
Eugy & Mr Eazi - Dance For Me
Maleek Berry – Kontrol
Kwamz & Takeover – Takeover
Yxng Bane ft Kojo Funds - Fine Wine
Kojo Funds & Abra Cadabra - Dun Talkin
Mr Eazi - Leg Over

2017

Wizkid becomes the first African artist to headline a sold-out headline show at the Royal Albert Hall (5,272 capacity). 

J Hus lands his first Top 10 on the Official UK Singles Chart with Did You See. His debut album Common Sense also reaches the Top 10, peaking at Number 6 and ranking prominently among the numerous influential album of the year lists.

Another dance craze, Shaku Shaku, takes off. Though the origins are not known, the dance move first appeared in Olamide's Wo music video.

Key tracks

J Hus – Did You See
Wande Coal, DJ Tunes – Iskaba
Not3s – Aladdin
Davido – Fall

2018

Afrobeats continues to grow in its mainstream appeal. Swae Lee and Drake release Won't Be Late, produced by Nigerian artist Tekno, and Aya Nakamura releases European smash Djadja. Other key tracks from the year include:

Burna Boy – Ye
Afro B - Drogba (Joanna)
Wizkid, Ceeza Milli , Spotless & Terri - Soco
Skepta & WizKid - Bad Energy
NSG ft Tion Wayne - Options

2019

GoldLink and Beyoncé both release albums with Afrobeats influence. GoldLink’s Diaspora features an afrobeats song as the lead single, called Zulu Screams, and production from P2J. Beyonce’s The Gift – an accompanying album to The Lion King remake – is heavily inspired by afrobeats and features WizKid, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Tekno, and Yemi Alade among others.

Universal launches Def Jam Africa, a new label division within the continent dedicated to representing the best hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap talent in Africa. Their roster includes Boity, Cassper Nyovest, Larry Gaaga, Nadia Nakai, Nasty C, Tshego, Tellaman, Ricky Tyler and Vector.

In the UK, six-piece NSG and Ziezie land multiple Top 40 hits, including NSG’s Options ft. Tion Wayne and OT Bop.

Key tracks

Zlatan & Burna Boy - Killin Dem
Naira Marley - Soapy
Darkoo ft One Acen - Gangsta
Young T & Bugsey ft Headie One - Don’t Rush