Burna Boy’s acceptance speech at the Grammy Awards 2021 was a powerful moment.
It wasn’t just his words when he said, “This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world. And this should be a lesson to every African out there - no matter where you are, no matter what you plan to do, you can achieve it”.
It was how he broke into a spirited celebration in Igbo and how he pointed his finger in the air when addressing “every African”.
Africa was indeed "in the house" at the 63rd Grammy Awards, as Burna said. The continent was also represented by Wizkid, who won a Grammy Awards with Beyonce for Brown Skin Girl, and the event's host Trevor Noah.
In 2018 when African youth culture made an appearance at the Grammys, it was as Rihanna's performance of the gwara-gwara dance. Burna Boy performed three songs at the Grammy 2021, Wizkid beat Drake, Harry Styles, Future, Drake, Anderson.Paak, Harry Styles and Woodkid, and Noah’s first-time hosting the Grammy was a resounding success.
Therein lies the big win for Burna Boy’s generation of Africans. Wizkid, Noah and Burna Boy are among a growing list of African artists who have become part of the global pop culture. They tell their stories in Igbo, IsiXhosa, Pidgin, and other distinctly African ways of expressing themselves that they never translate.
The world can’t get enough.
One of the most prominent internet personalities of the moment is Kenyan comic Elsa Majimbo, who used what she had then - a low-quality phone - to create viral videos that led to collaborations with MAC, Fenty and Valentino.
When the world became gloomy from the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, a group of Angolan dancers filmed themselves moving in step to South African producer Master KG’s song Jerusalem - giving birth to a viral sensation that found its way to every corner of the globe.
There’s a pop culture reset whenever Beyonce releases new music. Black Is King, the musical film and visual album to The Lion King: The Gift was no exception. It didn’t sample music from the continent. It starred musicians, photographers, actors and designers from South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Coming 2 America might be a mixed bag of persistent stereotypes about Africa, all coated in Eddie Murphy’s slapstick comedy brand that uses negative stereotypes to get easy laughs. The movie’s soundtrack, on the other hand, showcases the diversity of Africa’s popular music with songs by Nigeria’s Tiwa Savage and Tekno, the late DJ Arafat from Côte d'Ivoire, South Africa’s Prince Kaybee, Nasty C and Msaki, DRC’s Fally Ipupa, and Diamond Platinumz from Tanzania.
LeBron James - one of the most prominent athletes globally - wears Nike sneakers designed by South African street artist Karabo Poppy.
These feats are amazing individually. Collectively, their strides are a testament to the influence of Africa’s youth culture and the power of telling Africa’s story authentically, whether it’s through beats, graphic design or fashion or TikToks that say what’s on everyone’s mind.