Photo: PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / Contributor via Getty Images (left) Yui Mok / WPA Pool via Getty Images (center) and Ernest Ankomah / Contributor via Getty Images (right)
  /  06.14.2023

Most people confuse Afrobeat and Afrobeats but don’t know that the two are predominantly distinct in sound and genre. Music historians have traced origin sounds of Afrobeat in Ghana and Nigeria as early as the 1920s but most people would mark the birth of the genre to the 1960s. As it morphed into a looser style called Afrobeats, it became the No. 1 genre of popular music in the African continent for the past decade — and thanks to support from major American superstars and killer moves created by African dancers, it has invaded the U.S. as well.

“The name is kind of elusive and people get confused by it. I don’t even think just people who are not African get confused by it; I think Africans are also confused by the name. It’s always been contention around the name Afrobeats in general. Some people within the culture don’t even like the name Afrobeats. They don’t think it’s a proper descriptive of the sound. They think that it was just a name that people made in the U.K. and it stuck,” culture journalist Ivie Ani told REVOLT. “Afrobeats is the name people chose to go with and it is very different from Afrobeat.” She added, “People should look at Afrobeat as the genre that came way before Afrobeats. Afrobeats is more so an amalgamation of Afrobeat, hip hop, dancehall, all of the older sounds that we see in Nigeria and Ghana like Highlife and Fuji.”

Afrobeat was first popularized by the late Fela Kuti, a Nigerian legend who is widely acknowledged as the father of the genre. Kuti was a multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and a human rights activist. He took African harmonic and rhythmic concepts and combined them with many contemporary musical genres to create the sound. As a musician, he traveled to the U.S., where he soaked up the American culture and applied it to his own art. His timeless tracks from more than 50 albums have continued to spread across the nations for generations.

Afrobeat puts together American influences like jazz and funk and combines them with elements of West African musical styles. For example, you can hear the strains of so-called Fuji music in the genre. Fuji hails from Nigeria and has roots to the music that was performed to wake Muslims during their holy month of Ramadan. Another common element in Afrobeat is Highlife music, a Ghanaian genre characterized by jazzy horns and multiple guitars. In more recent years, Afrobeat morphed into Afrobeats and simply became the new sound of Africa. It has diverse influences that take inspiration from its African roots and are combined with other music genres such as rap, reggae, dancehall, R&B, and hiplife, a musical style that Ghanaians identify as hip hop with a more modern expression.

When speaking about the two genres, Ani revealed a common issue that arises and makes it a lot more difficult for people to differentiate the words Afrobeat and Afrobeats tonally. “When we’re talking about people with West African accents, often times we tend to drop the s after things. You see it a lot in the Caribbean as well,” she explained. “For example, the word ‘artists’ — someone might be referring to the plural version of artist, but they’re dropping the s because of their accent, so they’ll say artist instead of artists. That happens a lot with the word Afrobeats. They’re saying Afrobeat referring to the newer genre Afrobeats, but with their accent, and tone and the way we speak, the s sometimes gets dropped and then you hear them say Afrobeat, but they’re not talking about Afrobeat. I think that is something that people don’t consider.”

Nigerian singer 2Baba, who is known as one of the biggest pioneers of Afrobeats, agreed that there is a huge space between the old and new school music artists across Africa. “Most of the sounds, ideas, philosophy, and even the mannerisms in them were very common and present in the old school sounds, but I think Fela was ahead of his time in so many ways and embodied this the most so naturally that the young minds gravitated towards him more in every aspect, and it was just a no brainer to accept the sound as Afrobeats,” he said.

Though it started in Africa and remains more popular and dominant there than any other kind of music, Afrobeats is not a one-continent phenomenon. It has been adopted around the world and has gained a constant presence on the radio, on TV, in award show categories, social media, and even in nightclubs around the world. Many West African artists have developed global audiences with their hits charting in multiple countries.

2Baba’s 2004 hit single “African Queen” was one of the first iterations of Afrobeats. “I really appreciate the love and respect I get,” the 47-year-old said when asked how he felt about the impact the song made around the world. “There were other songs that my Naija people felt more, but ‘African Queen’ was universally understandable. As an artist, you definitely must believe in what you put out and always hope the listeners will feel what you put out, so the response that I got was what I hoped for and beyond.” He ended up becoming the first winner of the MTV Europe Music Awards’ Best African Act category in 2005.

Other popular Afrobeats pioneers like P-Square, D’banj, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, and Sarkodie have been consistently making charting records for years and paving a way for newer Afrobeats artist like Tems, Rema, Fireboy DML, and CKay to do the same. They’ve also made the genre a worldwide household name by influencing and collaborating with Western pop music artists like Beyoncé, Brandy, Madonna, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Chris Brown, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and more.

Wizkid stands as one of the first Nigerian artists to top the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart with his Drake collaboration “One Dance” in 2016. His hit single “Essence” featuring Tems gained popularity worldwide and, of course, made its way to the charts as well. In 2019, Nigerian-American singer Davido’s 2017 hit “Fall” was one of the top 100 most-Shazam-searched singles in the U.S., according to Rolling Stone. Two years after its release, the song became the longest charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. His latest album, Timeless, peaked at No. 37 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Davido (@davido)

Nigerian singer Tiwa Savage, who started her career doing backup vocals for Mary J. Blige, has been crowned the “Queen of Afrobeats.” In 2016, she signed a management and publishing deal with Roc Nation and in 2018, she became the first woman to win in the Best African Act category at the MTV Europe Music Awards. Her collaboration with Brandy on “Somebody’s Son” landed her an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding International Song. “I draw a lot of inspiration from a variety of Nigerian music period — Afrobeat, Afrojuju, Fuji, Highlife and Yoruba sounds, to name a few. I grew up with these genres as the backdrop to my childhood, so it’s completely helped me shape how I make my music,” Savage said of her musical background.

A few months ago, Ghanaian dancehall artist Shatta Wale’s latest album, M.A.A.L.I, hit No. 1 on iTunes’ Top 100 Reggae Albums chart. In 2019, he also became the first Ghanaian artist to work with Beyoncé. He was featured on the Grammy Award winner’s hit single “Already” from The Lion King: The Gift album, which landed him a few spots on the U.S. Billboard charts. “Collaborating with an artist of Beyoncé’s caliber can be a remarkable opportunity for any artist,” he said. “Working with someone as talented and influential as Beyoncé can provide exposure, credibility, and the chance to reach a wider audience. Long story short, her team reached out to me and I was like, ‘Whaaaat!!!!! BEYONCE? JAY-Z, the Godfather’s wife? Our queen of queens?'” In 2012, rapper Sarkodie became the first Ghanaian artist to win the BET Award for Best International Act and in 2019, he was announced as the first winner in the BET Hip Hop Awards’ Best International Flow category.

On Tuesday (June 13), the Grammy Awards announced three new categories, including Best African Music Performance. This is a victory for both the Afrobeat and Afrobeats culture because it isn’t just limited to the latter genre but cuts across the highly rooted musical stylings mentioned above like Fuji, Highlife, Kizomba, and more. The breakdown of the category states, “A track and singles category that recognizes recordings that utilize unique local expressions from across the African continent. Highlighting regional melodic, harmonic and rhythmic musical traditions, the category includes but is not limited to the Afrobeat, Afro-fusion, Afro Pop, Afrobeats, Alte, Amapiano, Bongo Flava, Genge, Kizomba, Chimurenga, Highlife, Fuji, Kwassa, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian Drill, Afro-House, South African Hip-Hop, and Ethio Jazz genres.”

“It brings me joy to see Afrobeats being embraced globally in the way that it is,” Savage stated. “It’s an ongoing journey, but the growth is definitely something to celebrate and feel good about.”

“The inclusion of Afrobeats categories in award shows reflects the genre’s impact on the music industry and its growing fan base. It provides a platform for African artists to receive recognition and exposure on a global scale, which can contribute to the diversification and enrichment of the overall music landscape,” Shatta Wale added.



View More



View More


Walmart has the home essentials for everyone on your holiday shopping list

Below, our gift guide highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds for anyone in need of a home refresh.

  /  11.24.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicks off at Central State University

On Oct. 10, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University.

  /  11.14.2023

5 things you need to know about the 2023 Billboard Music Awards

“REVOLT Black News” correspondent Kennedy Rue counts down the top five moments from the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, including surprising wins, historic firsts, and dope performances. Sponsored by Amazon.

  /  11.20.2023

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour visited Mississippi Valley State University

The Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour made its final stop at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) and left a lasting impact on students and alumni alike.

  /  11.22.2023

Walmart has everything you need for the tech enthusiast on your shopping list

Check out our gift guide that highlights some of our favorite Walmart finds in time for Black Friday.

  /  11.10.2023

Walmart continues HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour during lively Virginia State University stop

After unveiling their state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University, Walmart brought the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to Virginia State University (VSU) on Oct. 13.

  /  11.14.2023

Walmart HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour brings attention and wisdom to North Carolina Central University

On Oct. 17, Walmart brought the third stop of the HBCU Black & Unlimited Tour to North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

  /  11.15.2023

Walmart's HBCU Black and Unlimited Tour kicked off at Central State University

In October, Walmart unveiled a brand new, state of the art creative studio on the campus of Central State University. The HBCU located in Wilberforce, OH was the first stop on Walmart’s Black and Unlimited HBCU Tour.

  /  11.28.2023

Groovey Lew on hip hop style, Johnell Young's industry secrets, BGS salon's wig mastery and more | 'Black Girl Stuff'

Fashion King Groovey Lew on masterminding hip-hop’s most iconic looks. Actor Johnell Young reveals the secret to breaking into the entertainment industry. Celebrity hairstylist Dontay Savoy and got2B ambassador Tokyo Stylez are in the BGS Salon with the perfect wig install. Plus, comedian Lauren Knight performs.

  /  11.15.2023

Pheelz talks expressing himself through music & his biggest inspirations | 'On In 5'

On this all-new episode of “On In 5,” multitalented Nigerian artist Pheelz opens up about waiting for his opportunity to fully express himself through music, his inspirations and emotions, and the musical icons he grew up admiring. Watch!

  /  07.11.2023

Kareem Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke & networking | 'The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels'

On this all-new episode of “The Blackprint with Detavio Samuels,” the host and REVOLT CEO sits down with Kareem Cook. Throughout the introspective episode, Cook talks growing up in The Bronx, studying at Duke and being nervous to be in the South at the time, network vs. education, taking advantage of your opportunities, and connecting with Debbie Allen. Watch!

  /  07.10.2023

Tiffany Haddish on therapy, wild fan interactions & the upcoming 'Haunted Mansion' movie | 'The Jason Lee Show'

On this all-new episode of “The Jason Lee Show,” the one and only Tiffany Haddish sits for a must-watch conversation about wild interactions with fans, her new movie ‘Haunted Mansion,’ bringing her therapist on dates, and being present. Watch the hilarious interview here.

  /  07.12.2023

BNXN talks leaving IT for music, linking with Wizkid, going viral & new album | 'On In 5'

For this all-new episode of “On In 5,” singer-songwriter BNXN discusses his journey from IT to music, finding his voice and originality, linking up with Wizkid for their hits “Mood” and “Many Ways,” and what fans can expect from him this year — including a new album. Watch the full episode here!

  /  08.08.2023

From city lots to lush gardens: The power of urban farming with Karen Washington

This is the inspiring story of Karen Washington, a pioneering urban farmer who has been revolutionizing urban spaces by transforming them into vibrant community gardens and educational hubs. Sponsored by State Farm.

  /  11.17.2023

Investing in stocks in a recession | 'Maconomics'

Host Ross Mac provides useful advice for preparing your personal finances in the event of a recession. He emphasizes the importance of budgeting properly, building an emergency fund, and maintaining discipline when investing.

  /  11.21.2023

Best chef's kiss | 'Bet on Black'

“Bet on Black” is back with an all-new season! Watch as judges Pinky Cole, Bun B, Van Lathan, and Target’s Melanie Gatewood-Hall meet new contestants and hear pitches from entrepreneurs Saucy D and Chef Diva Dawg.

  /  10.24.2023

Good taste test | 'Bet on Black'

With the help of host Dustin Ross and correspondent Danielle Young, entrepreneurs Diva Dawg, Brooklyn Tea, and The Sable Collective pitch their ideas to the judges. Watch the all-new episode of “Bet on Black” now!

  /  10.31.2023

Lauren London sparks conversation on how Black parents unintentionally give kids negative outlook on money

At the live taping of “Assets Over Liabilities” at REVOLT WORLD, Lauren London opened up about how witnessing the financial decisions adults made during her childhood fueled her outlook on money. 

  /  10.26.2023

Madam DA Fani Willis proclaims, “A lie has been told on African American men”

“Every time I’m in trouble, it’s been Black men that have come to my aid,” Madam DA Fani Willis said at REVOLT WORLD while speaking on the stereotype that they are not dependable or worth dating.

  /  10.11.2023

Black media leaders stress the space's importance because we're always antagonists in mainstream's storytelling

“I definitely feel those ‘heavier is the crown’ moments. But I also believe that Black entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to be successful in the future,” Detavio Samuels said at AfroTech.

  /  11.03.2023
View More
Revolt - New Episodes