Whether it’s through hip-hop, R&B, Top 40 radio or Internet memes, Drake is a ubiquitous presence on our cultural landscape. Yet for all of his inescapable hits in the past few years (“Hotline Bling,” “Started From the Bottom,” guesting on Rihanna’s “Work,” to name a few), it was only in May that Drake finally topped the Billboard charts, with the bubbling, shuffling beat of “One Dance.” And while Drake is known to assist rising stars such as Migos and iloveMakonnen, on “One Dance,” he was the one who got a boost, from singer Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, better known as Wizkid.
All but unknown in the United States, Wizkid is a star in his native Nigeria and a major force behind Afrobeats, a fidgety musical hybrid mashing Afro-pop, Caribbean soca and American hip-hop (not to be confused with Afrobeat, the genre pioneered by Fela Kuti that has a heavier, more driving beat). Nigeria has a long musical heritage, including Fela, King Sunny Ade and William Onyeabor. But in singing a verse on “One Dance,” Wizkid became the first Nigerian artist to land on the U.S. charts, as well as the first to top them. And don’t think it’s an anomaly. Along with fellow Nigerian rapper and singer Davido, South Africa’s Black Coffee (who became the first South African to win a BET Award this year), Ghana’s Sarkodie or Ayo Jay, African artists of all stripes might soon become permanent fixtures on both the U.S. pop charts and in the dance music underground.