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THE BET AWARDS 2022 AND THE ISSUE OF APPROPRIATION

It is indisputable that Afrobeats is the current beloved of the world — bouncing into every crevice and corner of different societies and landing on big platforms and stages, even one as big as the BET Awards. Established in 2001 by the Black Entertainment Television network, the BET Awards is an event held annually to celebrate Black people in music, acting, sports and other fields of entertainment. The ceremony which was recently held on June 26, 2022 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles has been an ongoing rave. A lot of Nigerians have been going into raptures over it due to its appreciation of Nigerian and Afrobeats artists, particularly everyone’s favourite girl, Tems, who won the Best International Act. Wizkid’s “Essence” featuring Tems and Justin Bieber also bagged the award for Best Collaboration, making it a double win for Tems. The performances of Fireboy DML and Pheelz are also celebrated as outstanding, stellar, and big wins for Afrobeats.

However, closely following the global acclaim of Afrobeats is the subject of the appropriation of the sound by the west — one that has remained a chief discourse among culture critics. Opinions accusing white artists of appropriating and benefiting from Black music and culture, including the global success of Afrobeats are commonplace. Again, the existence of the fear that the fundamental elements of Afrobeats that constituted the uniqueness of its sound will be forever lost to appropriation and foreign artists will be championed as key promoters of the sound are major issues that effectuate the need for many people to gatekeep the sound. For example, a Billboard article that blatantly credited Beyoncé and Drake for the rise of Afrobeats in the US was protested against by lots of Nigerians who insisted that the credit ought to be given to the Afrobeats artists themselves. The decision to release a remixed version of Fireboy DML’s banging song, “Peru”, with Ed Sheeran was met with criticisms claiming that it was not necessary to tap foreign artists to boost already hit songs. “For African pop music to command the level of respect that is reflective of its influence, artists must divorce themselves from the idea that crossing over to Western markets is the highest privilege,” asserts Korede Akinsete in an Okay Africa article.

On the other hand, people in the music industry have expressed pride at the expeditious exportation of the sound to the world. Famous producer and owner of Mavin Records, Don Jazzy, tweeted, saying: “Afrobeats has never been this busy. You look left and right, home and abroad, there is so much to make you smile with pride. I’m super proud of the game.”


Ini Baderinwa, an entertainment consultant and co-founder of TXT Mag, affirms, “I feel gatekeeping is ridiculous, and it’s people outside the game that usually make statements like that because, at the end of the day, music is a business. Afrobeats is something people earn a living from. The more everybody does things with Afrobeats, the more our music gets more streams, more listeners, more money and more attention. As Afrobeats goes global, it also allows the major music players to invest in the Nigerian music industry, and we need a lot of investment in the industry.”

Regardless, true to the claim that states, “the nature of music does not lend itself to being limited to a particular community or country. Music has always been shared, borrowed and adapted,” Afrobeats has undergone collaborations and cross-pollinations which has helped it grow into a heavily globalised sound that is enjoyed worldwide. However, its ubiquity should be trailed by due and proper acknowledgment of its main artists who are placing it on these global stages.

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