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Burna Boy Won 2018

In 2018, Burna Boy was Nigerian music's most undeniable force. But is he the king of Naija music?

The first time I saw Burna Boy's "Like to Party" video I was shook. The artist looks knowingly at the screen as he sings the words "you see my dark shades on like I can't see you, but you no say me fancy you" with a flirtatious smirk on his face. Needless to say—I was into it. The rockstar bravado, the flashy style, the sweet-sounding party anthem—all of it. That was 2012.

By the time he dropped "Soke," in 2015, I was convinced he was "the one." Sure, I'd heard afrobeats songs I liked before then, but none had truly grabbed me like that song, or the man behind it. It was how I thought contemporary Nigerian music ought to sound; inspired by the past but not derivative, and not simply tailor-made for the club either. Burna's unique appeal felt obvious to me then, but in 2018 it became undeniable.

The self-proclaimed afrofusion artist has been the pride of the "in the know" afrobeats crowd for some time—a stunning talent that sometimes went overlooked while the masses argued over who between Davido and Wizkid was king of the Naija pop throne. His sheer talent was acknowledged, but still it seemed his name wasn't brought up enough in conversations about the genre's greatest stars.


Burnaboy - Soke [Official Video] www.youtube.com

But something changed in 2018: Burna proved himself to be the most prolific Nigerian artist on the scene, outperforming most of the genre's "bigger" names with an overflow of quality tunes. It didn't feel as though Burna was trying hard either, instead he appeared comfortably in his element. He simply carried on doing his thing: producing one-of-a-kind, mellifluous bangers with strong replay value. For me, every new release brought about a renewed excitement, another jam with the potential to bringing the artist closer to full afropop stardom.

It began at the top of the year with the release of Outside—a sonic showcase of Burna's musical versatility. On the same album, he delivered his signature dancehall-leaning fusion with tracks like "Rock Your Body" and "Sekkle Down" featuring Gambian-British rapper J Hus, alongside songs like "Koni Baje," a juju-inspired throwback sung in Yoruba. He served textured R&B production on "Giddem" and "Devil in California," collaborated with Lilly Allen on the lyric-heavy "Heaven's Gate," and even shared the Little Yachty-esque schoolhouse trap single "Streets of Africa." Though it was immediately met with rave reviews from fans and connoisseurs, the album took its time to truly set in, gaining more and more hype over time as new listeners discovered its wonder. The album's widespread listenability further established Burna as one of the Nigerian artists most equipped for much-coveted crossover success, proving he could appeal to several palates without compromising the essence of his musical identity.

Of Outside's many gems, the jewel in its crown was the track "Ye." After hearing it for the first time, I hit the replay button immediately. There was simply nothing to dislike about the raw and expressive mid-album cut. The track took on a life of its own, growing into a full blown anthem—the Nigerian National Anthem to be exact.

"Ye" was always a hit, but it received an unexpected boost this summer, when listeners searching for Kanye West's album by the same name accidentally stumbled upon it, reportedly leading to a 200 percent spike in streaming numbers. Those searching for Kanye discovered a new talent—quite frankly more worthy of their time than 2018-era Kanye West—and the rest of us got to relish the rightful exposure of a song that we knew deserved it in the first place. According to testimonials shared on social media, this helped earn the artist a new batch of global fans.

While many of us were still savoring Outside, the artist gave us even more to devour, delivering the smoldering "Gbona" in September, complete with a music video that showcased his fresh fashion sense and unique visual approach. After that, he slowed things down for the love song "On the Low." He was even featured on the sleeper collaboration "Baba Nla" with two of afrobeats founding fathers, D'Banj and 2Baba and managed to be the clear standout on that too.

Perhaps the climax of his eventful year were a series of performances in London during his Outside tour—most notably a packed, headlining show at London's O2 Arena. I watched via livestream as Burna Boy mania ensued. The energy in the venue palpable even through a 13 inch laptop screen. The artist himself appearing wowed as the audience shouted the lyrics he was supposed to be performing back his way. Oluwaburna had announced himself and I felt like an adoring Nigerian aunty watching it all happen. Folks were finally seeing the vision.

Something clicked for Afropop fans in 2018. Burna's increased recognition wasn't mere happenstance, of course. Like any other artist of his caliber, he has a hardworking team behind him, strategically helping elevate his career with every collaboration, appearance and profile in Vogue magazine. But that's not all that was responsible for his stellar year. In 2018 the artist's star qualities: his singular musical skill, undeniable edge, and formidable style shone too brightly to go unnoticed.

Burna enjoyed a standout year by nearly any measure and a better one than most of his counterparts. This year Burna took full command of his space in the growing Nigerian music scene, remaining an uncontested "fave" by simply remaining a more visible version of himself and gaining new fans along the way. While the industry's other frontrunners may have been vying for royal titles, Burna emerged the people's champion—the true contender.

In 2018, it was clear that as Nigerian music continues its journey across the globe, Oluwaburna will remain "the one."

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Photo by Lana Haroun

From #FeesMustFall to #BlueforSudan: OkayAfrica's Guide to a Decade of African Hashtag Activism

The 2010s saw protest movements across the continent embrace social media in their quest to make change.

The Internet and its persistent, attention-seeking child, Social Media has changed the way we live, think and interact on a daily basis. But as this decade comes to a close, we want to highlight the ways in which people have merged digital technology, social media and ingenuity to fight for change using one of the world's newest and most potent devices—the hashtag.

What used to simply be the "pound sign," the beginning of a tic-tac-toe game or what you'd have to enter when interacting with an automated telephone service, the hashtag has become a vital aspect of the digital sphere operating with both form and function. What began in 2007 as a metadata tag used to categorize and group content on social media, the term 'hashtag' has now grown to refer to memes (#GeraraHere), movements (#AmINext), events (#InsertFriendsWeddingHere) and is often used in everyday conversation ("That situation was hashtag awkward").

The power of the hashtag in the mobility of people and ideas truly came to light during the #ArabSpring, which began one year into the new decade. As Tunisia kicked off a revolution against oppressive regimes that spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook played a crucial role in the development and progress of the movements. The hashtag, however, helped for activists, journalists and supporters of causes. It not only helped to source information quickly, but it also acted as a way to create a motto, a war cry, that could spread farther and faster than protestors own voices and faster than a broadcasted news cycle. As The Guardian wrote in 2016, "At times during 2011, the term Arab Spring became interchangeable with 'Twitter uprising' or 'Facebook revolution,' as global media tried to make sense of what was going on."

From there, the hashtag grew to be omnipresent in modern society. It has given us global news, as well as strong comedic relief and continues to play a crucial role in our lives. As the decade comes to a close, here are some of the most impactful hashtags from Africans and for Africans that used the medium well.

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Convener of "#Revolution Now" Omoyele Sowore speaks during his arraignment for charges against the government at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Images)

Nigerian Activist, Omoyele Sowore, Re-Arrested Just Hours After Being Released on Bail

Sowore, the organizer of Nigeria's #RevolutionNow protests, was detained by armed officers, once again, in court on Friday.

Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian human rights activist and former presidential candidate who has spent over four months in jail under dubious charges, was re-arrested today in Lagos while appearing in court.

The journalist and founder of New York-based publication Sahara Reporters, had been released on bail the day before. He was arrested following his organization of nationwide #RevolutionNow protests in August. Since then, Sowore has remained in custody on what are said to be trumped-up charges, including treason, money laundering and stalking the president.

He appeared in court once again on Friday after being released on bail in federal court the previous day. During his appearance, Sowore was again taken into custody by Nigerian authorities.

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Screenshot from the upcoming film Warriors of a Beautiful Game

In Conversation: Pelé's Daughter is Making a Documentary About Women's Soccer Around the World

In this exclusive interview, Kely Nascimento-DeLuca shares the story behind filming Warriors of a Beautiful Game in Tanzania, Brazil and other countries.

It may surprise you to know that women's soccer was illegal in Brazil until 1981. And in the UK until 1971. And in Germany until 1970. You may have read that Sudan made its first-ever women's league earlier this year. Whatever the case, women and soccer have always had a rocky relationship.

It wasn't what women wanted. It certainly wasn't what they needed. However, society had its own ideas and placed obstacle after obstacle in front of women to keep ladies from playing the game. Just this year the US national team has shown the world that women can be international champions in the sport and not get paid fairly compared to their male counterparts who lose.

Kely Nascimento-DeLuca is looking to change that. As the daughter of international soccer legend Pelé, she is no stranger to the game. Growing up surrounded by the sport, she was actually unaware of the experiences women around the world were having with it. It was only recently that she discovered the hardships around women in soccer and how much it mirrored women's rights more generally.

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(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage via Getty)

Listen to Wizkid's Surprise New EP 'Soundman Vol. 1'

Wizkid treats fans to new songs featuring Chronixx, DJ Tunez and more—just ahead of 2020.

Wizkid is back. The Nigerian pop star surprised listeners early this morning with the unannounced release of a new EP, Soundman Vol. 1.

Though Wizkid has released a couple of singles this year, fans had been awaiting a new drop and more extensive project from the artist. With it being so close to the end of the year, it didn't look like we'd get a new body of work from the artist till 2020, but he proved otherwise when he took to Twitter at the wee hours of the morning to quietly share streaming links for the new project.

He also announced that a second EP, Soundman Vol. 2, would drop sometime before his highly-anticipated upcoming album Made In Lagos (MIL).

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