When Drake hopped on Wizkid‘s “Ojuelegba Remix” back in 2015, his co-sign helped elevate the blossoming Afrobeats scene to global heights. With the impending Afrobeats bonanza in his sights, a year later Drake, the globe’s biggest (and most opportunistic) artist, again sought Wizkid’s helping hand for his own Afro-inspired single “One Dance,”
This foray into the unknown paid off for him as “One Dance” exploded into one of the most successful singles of the streaming era. Just like that, almost in the blink of an eye, Afrobeats became a global commodity.
The emergence of artists like Burna Boy, Rema, Mr. Eazi, and the continued success of the likes of Wizkid and Davido, have propelled the genre globally. The recent release of Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift, which featured the who’s who of the Afrobeats scene—Mr Eazi, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Maleek Berry, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale—is further evidence of the world’s growing interest in Afrobeats.
Throughout the years, there have been several producers who have consistently been behind many of our favourite hits. We take a closer look at the cream of the crop.
It took almost two years for Davido’s “Fall” to make its mark across the world, but when it did, it quickly became a torchbearer for the expansion of Afrobeats. The Kiddominant-produced record broke ground in the US and became the longest charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history, peaking at number 13 on the US R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. It also notably rose to one of the top 100 most Shazamed singles in America in early 2019 and was enlisted among Pitchfork‘s 200 best songs of the 2010s. Other notable production credits by Kiddominant include AKA’s “Fela In Versace”, DJ Neptune’s “Marry” (feat. Mr Eazi) and Orezi’s “Rihanna”.
African Giant, Burna Boy’s magnus opus, would not have been possible without Kel P. A producer and co-writer on 10 of the album’s 19 songs, including the standout singles “Pull Up”, “Killin Dem”, “Dangote”, “On The Low” and “Gbona”, his production on African Giant provided a smooth canvas on which Burna Boy could showcase his immense talents. With multiple gold and platinum certifications all over the world, African Giant has arguably been the most important project in Afrobeats’ ongoing global expansion. Aside from his work with Burna Boy, Kel P has produced for an array of gifted African acts such as Niniola, Phyno, Wizkid, Solidstar, Ceeza Milli, Diamond Platnumz and Davido.
London-based producer P2J is perhaps the continent’s most visible Afrobeats production export. The versatile Nigerian has worked with the likes of Doja Cat, Chris Brown, Stormzy, Mario, H.E.R and Tiwa Savage. On Beyoncé’s album, Lion King: The Gift, he produced arguably the two most memorable songs, “Brown Skin Girl” and “Ja Ara E”. Other notable records produced by P2J include Amine’s “Easy” featuring Summer Walker, DJ Tunez’s “Cool Me Down” featuring WizKid, and Wizkid’s “Smile” featuring H.E.R.. Last year he had the impressive distinction of having two of his songs featured on President Obama’s list of his favourite songs of 2019: Gold Link’s “Joke Ting” and Burna Boy’s “Anybody”.
When E-Kelly and Mr Eazi came across each other in Lagos in 2016, Mr. Eazi was fresh off the success of his breakout singles “Skin Tight” and “Bankulize”, while E-Kelly had recently left his role as an A&R for Patoranking. Both were in search of a new challenge. The two connected instantly, and it wasn’t long before they had their first record together—the easy, infectious and sultry “Leg Over”. As the song enjoyed global success, they soon collaborated on yet another chart-topping single, “Pour Me Water”, which helped propel the Nigerian star into the continent’s highest streaming artist in 2018. Aside from his work with Mr Eazi, E-Kelly has produced songs for other stars such as Major Lazer, Patoranking, Vanessa Mdee, Tekno, Ycee and Waje.
Since bursting onto the scene in the early 2010s, Nigerian producer Sarz’s production style has evolved year on year. A pioneer of the growing Afro-house scene, his extensive work with Nigerian singer Niniola continues to break boundaries. The award-winning producer’s work stands out for its smooth, bouncy African rhythm and minimalist production. He counts among his collection of hits songs such as Wizkid’s “Closer” featuring Drake, Niniola’s “Maradona” and Skepta and Wizkid’s “Energy (Stay Far Away)”.
Award-winning Ghanaian DJ and record producer, GuiltyBeatz has been on a tear since he released his breakthrough single, “Akwaaba” featuring Mr Eazi, Patapaa and Pappy Kojo in 2018. After collecting several awards, including most notably Best African Collaboration and Song of the Year at the 2018 All Africa Music Awards, he went on to co-produce three songs off The Lion King: The Gift: “Already”, “Keys to The Kingdom” and “Find Your Way Back”. On his recently released debut EP, Different, GuiltyBeatz presents a more uptempo rhythm than the mellow, sexy vibes that have become his signature sound. It’ll be interesting to see if the sparse, clubby Afro-house world he imagines on “Different” will be a staple in his production work going forward.
Few songs have been as important in elevating the Afrobeats genre than Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba”. The soulful melody on this gold-standard production paved the way for Wizkid to provide a spiritual and joyous classic about harsh life in the streets of Lagos. With Skepta and Drake’s contribution on the remix, the song received critical acclaim in the UK, North America and beyond. Aside from producing several hit songs for Wizkid, the multi award-winning production duo, which comprises siblings Uzezi Oniko and Okiemute Oniko, have also produced for the likes of Mr Eazi, Seyi Shay, Ice Prince, L.A.X and Skales.