Representing the black, green, and gold at Afro Nation is the King of Dancehall himself, Beenie Man. Jamaica has one of the most outsized impacts on global music in the world for a country of its size, and Beenie is certainly a part of that legacy thanks to hits like "Who Am I," "Girls Dem Sugar," and his duet with Janet — Ms. Jackson if you're nasty — "Feel It Boy." He'll play on the main stage on Sunday, while his countryman Mavado will perform Saturday. It should be noted that Beenie Man does have a history of making homophobic public statements, apologizing, then denying the apology. But, then again, one would, unfortunately, be hard-pressed to find an artist in dancehall, a genre with a deep, shameful legacy of queer-bashing, that hasn't acted similarly.
Saturday's headliner Burna Boy is Afrobeats. The Nigerian star is arguably the genre's leading light and its most well-known personality — especially outside of Africa. The list of artists he's collaborated with is a who's who of global music stars: Justin Bieber, Stormzy, J Balvin, Jorja Smith, Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and even Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Based on the smoothness of songs like "On The Low" and "Last Last," it's easy to see why he has such mass appeal, with his 2020 album, Twice As Tall, winning a Grammy for "Best World Music Album."
Part of the new generation of Afrobeats artists, Nigerian Ckay blends African rhythms with autotuned R&B vocals and sensual lyrics. It's a formula proven resoundingly successful as Afrobeats expands beyond the continent. His hit single "Love Nwantiti" became the first African song to surpass one billion streams on Spotify and the first song to top the newly launched Billboard Afrobeats chart. His 2022 album, Sad Romance, also saw him introduce amapiano into his sound, with tracks like "Hallelujah" featuring Blaqbonez and the slow jam "You."
American audiences might be surprised to learn that France is home to a massive homegrown rap market, mainly originating from its African immigrant population in the banlieues (suburbs) surrounding Paris. This isn't a pale imitation of American hip-hop, however. Unlike the somewhat embarrassing French rock scene, these guys actually have some swag. Case in point: French-Congolese rapper Franglish blends hip-hop, American R&B, and Afrobeats rhythms, utilizing infectious hooks and clever production choices. You don't have to parler français to pick up what this guy's putting down.
Major League DJz
They may have been raised in South Africa's club music heartland of Johannesburg, but twin brothers Banele and Bandile Mbere were born in Boston, of all places. As the amapiano DJ duo Major League DJz, they've been instrumental in the effort to break the sound in North America, collaborating with Major Lazer (AKA Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Ape Drums) on the album Piano Republik and touring around the U.S. and Canada, including an appearance at Coachella this year. You may have seen them around during Miami Music Week earlier this year, where they played sets at Get Lost and Soho Beach House. They're everywhere for a reason. From immersing listeners into the darker side of 'piano in their mixes to releasing their glamorous tracks such as "Careless Whisper" with Abisoza and Jay Sax, they understand the genre better than anyone.
She's been declared the Princess of Amapiano, Drake follows her on Instagram, and she's at a KFC-custom-menu-item level of stardom in South Africa. Yet, until 2022, Lungelihle Zwane, better known as Uncle Waffles, was a TV presenter in her native country of Eswatini, which is almost totally surrounded by its larger neighbor. She didn't even learn to DJ until the global lockdown, gravitating towards 'piano away from the Afro-house of Black Coffee by watching YouTube remixes from fellow Afro-Nation artist DBN Gogo. Her single "Tanzania," with vocalist Tony Duardo, went to number one on the South African charts. Her meteoric rise signals her as the foremost representative of amapiano's new wave.