• Friday, July 12, 2024
businessday logo


Rema eyes seat at Afrobeats high table with ‘Big 4’ comments

Rema eyes seat at Afrobeats high table with ‘Big 4’ comments

For a long time, the Nigerian music industry has been dominated by three superstars: Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy. However, Rema’s recent lyrics in his new song ‘Hehehe’ suggest a shift in this landscape. He confidently asserts that the era of the ‘Big 3’ is over, making way for a new ‘Big 4’ at the top of the Afrobeats scene.

This echoes similar discussions in hip-hop, where Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole are often hailed as the genre’s ‘Big 3’. Like their American counterparts, these Nigerian artists have consistently achieved chart-topping success, sold out stadiums, and gained widespread international recognition.

This is not the first time Rema has mentioned the Big four quote. With a series of cryptic tweets in April this year, he sparked a conversation about a supposed rift with his label when he tweeted, “no more Big 3 there’s now a Big 4.”

Rema’s confidence is not unfounded. At just 24 years old, he boasts an impressive list of achievements. His self-titled debut EP became a hit on streaming platforms with songs like ‘Dumebi’ and ‘Iron Man’, becoming one of the most streamed Nigerian songs in 2019.

The release of his debut Album, Rave and Roses, in 2022 followed a sold-out tour of the United States in 14 cities and a collaboration with Selena Gomez on his global hit, Calm Down Remix, which made Rema the highest and longest charting Afrobeat artist on the Billboard Hot 100.

He also became the first-ever artiste to record a billion Spotify streams on an Afrobeat record. He has a Guinness World Record, over 2 billion career streams, a VMA Award for Best African Song, and a performance at the 2023 Ballon d’Or awards show.

Read also: Rema’s ‘Calm Down’ breaks streaming record in the US

Musically, Rema carved his niche within Afrobeats, a fusion of Afrobeats sounds mixed with influences of Arabian and Indian sound, which he named Afrorave.

Joey Akan of Afrobeats Intelligence, tweeting about Rema on his X handle, said, “With Rema, nothing is static. Everything is in flux, changing with each campaign, each release, and each piece of music shared with the world. You go through his catalogue, and it hits you that this is a creator’s creator, the kind of guy with music flowing in his veins and possessing the presence of mind to execute each new rush of ideas to his head, with storytelling at its core.”

This, coupled with his smooth vocals and energetic stage presence, has cemented his place as a favourite among a younger generation of Afrobeats fans.

The announcement of his album ‘HE IS’, set to drop on Friday, 11 July 2024, has also garnered a reaction from his young fan base on X.

X user Shawnifee wrote that the Rave and Roses album was a top-tier album. “One of the best yet criminally underrated albums released in recent years. I can’t wait for this one. Looks like it will be another good one.”

LennyCliff01 on X said, “I want to see what this your new personality will cook.” This references Rema’s versatility in incorporating different personalities in the various bodies of work he has released.

However, is commercial success and critical acclaim enough to dethrone the established ‘Big 3’?

Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy have each carved their path to dominance. Wizkid has solidified his legendary status in Afrobeats, consistently selling out arenas worldwide and collaborating with superstars like Beyoncé and Drake.

Davido, a veteran in the Afrobeats scene for over a decade, boasts a similarly impressive track record and a fiercely loyal fanbase known as 30BG, one of Africa’s oldest and fastest-growing fanbases, locally and internationally.

Burna Boy, the self-proclaimed ‘African Giant’, has further propelled Afrobeats into the mainstream, winning a Grammy Award, performing at major festivals like Coachella, and selling out prestigious venues that many American hip-hop artists can only aspire to.

Each member of the Big 3 has amassed a dedicated fanbase, weathered industry challenges, and consistently delivered hits for over a decade. While Rema just started his musical career in 2019, his impact on the Nigerian music scene is undeniable.

Joseph Abiagom, President of Aristokrat Group, believes that Rema’s claim to being the 4th biggest name in Nigerian music is well-founded.

He argued that Rema’s strong support system has been crucial to his success.

“The machinery behind him already makes him one of Nigeria’s biggest artists,” Abiagom said. “He’s the biggest star from Mavin, one of Nigeria’s biggest music labels, which is now majority-owned by Universal Music Group, a global music giant. Additionally, he’s a top talent under the Virgin Music Group label.”

Abiagom emphasised the significance of touring, marketing, and events in Rema’s rise, comparing his impact to Asake, who also achieved a sold-out show at the O2 Arena. Rema’s dedicated fanbase, known as ‘Ravers,’ spans both Nigeria and international markets, drawn to his unique blend of international and local sounds.

“At the moment, he’s even more popular than some of the top three, Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid,” Abiagom noted. “He consistently releases projects. It’s one thing to be talented, but it’s another to deliver high-quality music to the audience consistently.”

According to Abiagom, the only artist who poses a real challenge to Rema is Asake. However, he believes Asake hasn’t reached Rema’s level yet due to the superior support system and broader international appeal that Rema enjoys.

The argument for a ‘Big 4’ is further tricky when considering the meteoric rise of artists like Asake and Tems. While not explicitly claiming a seat at the table like Rema, their accomplishments in charts, awards, and live performances are as impressive.

Tem’s feature on Future’s ‘WAIT FOR U’ made her the first Nigerian artist in history to have a No. 1 debut on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Moreover, she delivered a rendition of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” for the Marvel movie ‘Black Panther 2’.

According to industry experts, the ‘Big 3’ or ‘Big 4’ are labels, but what matters is the quality of music created by a new generation of Nigerian artists taking Afrobeats to the world stage.