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7 Crossover Moments That Highlight Africa's Influence on Pop Culture In 2018

African music, dance and fashion continues to influence global pop culture, and these seven examples prove it.

Africa's impact on global pop culture was undeniable in 2018.

On several occasions, many of the biggest stars in the wold incorporated elements of youth culture from across the continent into their sound, music videos and performances, further highlighting the value of the continent's cultural exports.

Everyone from Beyoncé to Diddy to Janet Jackson drew inspiration from the culture as part of their artistry—a testament to its growing international visibility.

Below are seven unforgettable moments that we covered in 2018 when African aesthetics, music, fashion dance and more crossed over into popular culture by way of some of biggest names in the industry.


Rihanna Hits the Gwara Gwara at the Grammys

Rihanna set the internet on fire this February when she hit the gwara gwara effortlessly during a performance of "Wild Thoughts" at this year's Grammys, bringing the popular South African dance to the big stage. The reactions to the megastar's performance were just as priceless as seeing her break it down on stage.

Beyoncé Pays Homage to Fela Kuti at 'Beychella'


Beyoncé, who's expressed her admiration for Fela Kuti on several occasions through her work, brought the Nigerian legend's 1976 classic "Zombie" to her historic headlining set at Coachella when she had her band perform a horn-filled rendition of the song during her unforgettable 2-hour set. It was one of the many highlights of her internet-breaking performance.

Janet Jackson Does the Akwaaba at Billboard Music Awards

Janet Jackson gave a nod to afrobeats dance back in May when she hit the Akwaaba, popularized by Nigerian artist Mr Eazi, during her Billboard Icon Award performance in May.

Janet Jackson's "Made For Now"

Ms. Jackson also looked to aforbeats for inspiration for her single "Made for Now," featuring Daddy Yankee, which dropped back in August. While the song itself was met with mixed reviews, the African influence on the both the track and music video was undeniable. The video featured a number of African dancers who did moves like the shoki and was choreographed by Senegalese instructor Omari Mizrahi. The singer also sported several colorful looks by Cameroonian designer Claude Lavie Kameni.

Beyoncé and Jay Z Channel 'Touki Bouki' for On The Run II

Beyoncé and Jay-Z drew inspiration from the classic 1973 film Touki Bouki by legendary Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty for a promo poster for that announced their On the Run II tour. The star couple recreated a famous scene in which the two protagonists ride a motorcycle embellished with a bull skull, and drew on the Wolof-language film's premise of love, adventure and escapism.

Ciara Heads to South Africa for "Freak Me'

Ciara made some noise online this summer when clips of her dancing to her Tekno-assisted single "Freak Me" in Soweto were shared online. In them the singer can be seen doing the gwara gwara in a dance sequence choreographed by thee renowned Sinovuyo Dunywa, she also rocked a look from the South African fashion brand Rich Mnisi, also recently seen on Beyoncé during her recent trip to the country for Global Citizen.

Diddy Continues to Obsess over Fela Kuti

It's no secret that many black artists are inspired by Fela Kuti's mission and sound, but Diddy took his love of the artist to another level in 2018. The music mogul, was spotted on several occasions jamming out to various Fela songs like "Let's Start" on his Instagram, and getting fly with Naomi Campbell while Fela's music plays in the background. He even included the late musician in his Black 100 list of individuals across a number of fields who've shaped black culture. Music critic Joey Akan, writes about Diddy's love for Fela and why his image continues to resonate with many influential black artists.


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On "Made For Now," produced by British-Nigerian producer Harmony Samuels, which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, which see the dancers hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

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