Paying homage to the growth of Afrobeats, in this story, we draw out 10 Afrobeats songs that have been certified Gold in the US.
Years ago, the tag ‘Afrobeats to the world’ had been for the most part, words of manifestation and belief in the future of the genre and the talent of the artistes on whose backs it was strapped upon. This is because, while Nigerian music had gotten international recognition, these moments had either been few and far between or it was from migrants from Nigeria and its neighbouring countries, rarely sub-Saharan Africans. At the heart of it, we were nowhere on the international charts, with little visibility on international media and tokenised inclusion at award shows. Fortunately, these days, the narrative has reached a turning point with Afrobeats, Nigerian songs as well as musical products from other African countries now rubbing shoulders on the charts with entries from international megastars. While the artistes leading this change, consistently sell out arenas in borders far from home, entertaining people who due to the transient power of Afrobeats speak the same language in that moment and space. In fact, in recent times, there’s been a heart-swelling spate of Nigerian songs on international charts with an even longer list of artistes enjoying international recognition, so much so that the ‘Afrobeats to the world line has now clearly come into fruition. As a result of this coming of age, in this story, we draw out 10 Afrobeats songs that have been certified Gold in the US.
But to help break down this milestone, what does it mean to attain Gold certification in the US?
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, the RIAA, which advocates for music recorded or distributed in the United States as well as the people and companies that create them, the certification defines success in the recorded music industry. An RIAA Gold certification is awarded to artistes when their single or album sells at least 500,000 units whether as records, tapes or compact discs.
While digital and physical albums both count as one “unit” per sale, the RIAA counts 100 permanent track downloads the same as 1,500 streams be it video or audio. In other words, 1,000 downloads and 1,500 streams both equal the 100 units you’d earn by selling just 100 physical or digital albums. So you either sell 100 units of a physical album, or get 1,000 downloads or 1,500 streams.
It’s also important to note that Afrobeats in this light is used as an umbrella label for the poly-rhythmic and contemporary style of popular music made in African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana which we all know and enjoy today.
So which are the Afrobeats songs that have attained Gold certification? Check below!
Your Number-Ayo Jay, 2017
Ayo Jay may no longer be in the eye of mainstream Nigerian music but several years ago he had been a torchbearer, with his Your Number track blazing through the UK and US charts. Your Number had been released in 2013 and re-released two years later by RCA Records. Produced by Melvitto who is currently a well-loved singer, it became the first-ever Nigerian song to get a spot on the Billboard Chart without any features. If a playbook of successfully marketed Nigerian songs is ever made, Ayo Jay’s Your Number will most definitely be a highly referenced record as it also leveraged on international features with two remixes, the first featuring American rapper, Fetty Wap and the second with Chris Brown and rapper Kin Ink. On the video streaming platform YouTube, Your Number’s visuals also took off and currently sits on 29 million views, the audio upload amassed 26 million views and the Chris Brown-featured remix 15 million.
On the 28th of February, 2017 these well-played cards paid off when Your Number officially sold 500,000 units in the USA and became certified Gold. The record-breaking single also made waves in the UK and became certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry after selling 200,000 units.
Fall- Davido, 2020
The expression hit the ground running was exemplified by Davido in 2017 as he released Fall three months after his equally Gold-certified, If. Produced by Fresh VDM, it had also caught on instantly like the aforementioned, igniting charts in Nigeria and blazing on to the Billboard charts to become one of the longest-charting Nigerian pop songs in Billboard history. Interestingly, Fall was such a success, its Gold certification came almost a year before that of If, on the 28th of May 2020. Like a gate oiler, the meteoric rise of Fall in earning its Gold certification marked a quickening in the length of time for the Gold-certification of Nigerian songs that came afterwards.
Come Closer- Wizkid ft Drake, 2020
Wizkid has always exuded a palpable level of grace most evident in the rise and global spread of his music. For instance, in 2014, Wizkid had put out the stirring Afrobeats record, Ojuelegba where he chronicled his childhood and path to fame. Ojuelegba had become an instant favourite, travelling past the shores of the country despite being sung for the most part in Wizkid’s Yoruba mother tongue. Soon enough, British rapper Skepta had caught the Ojuelegba bug and in the spirit of sharing good music, had played it for American rap star, Drake who later requested to be on the remix of the record with the latter. After that collaboration had come the global smash hit Drake, Wizkid and Kayla had created with One Dance and to return the favour, the duo had made another musical lap, this time on Wizkid’s Come Closer. Come Closer was produced by the legendary Sarz and was released in March 2017, some three years later, in September 2020, it became Gold certified in the United States after selling 500, 000 units.
If- Davido, 2021
In 2016, Davido released his Son of Mercy as his project with Sony Records, while records off the EP had been well-received, Davido himself had not been a fan of the project and till date, speaks dismissively on it. Coincidentally, after the release of the EP, the star had taken a brief break, he’d later share that it had been needed to re-strategise and indeed, when Davido got back into the game in February 2017, it had been with the Tekno produced and written If which had instantly grown on Nigerians till it became a smash hit. Eventually, it grew beyond being a Nigerian hit, trending on social media and penetrating South Africa and the US as well. In South Africa, If became certified Diamond in February 2018 selling 200, 000 copies. While in the US, it raked in a Gold certification on the 12th of February 2021.
Interestingly and according to Davido, Tekno had handed him the song, already written with beats too, going as far as tracking him down to Quilox club to get a hold on him and get him to record it.
Ye- Burna Boy, 2021
The sixth and most successful single off Burna Boy’s internationally centring album, the story behind the making of Burna Boy’s Ye is one that never gets old and highlights how mysterious mechanisms of the universe work in one’s favour at the right time and in unexpected ways.
Burna Boy had just rounded up on his Outside album, he’d bought himself a Bentley to celebrate and was clubbing every other day till the fateful day he’d wound up at Quilox. There the owner, Shina Peller had convinced him to listen to beats that had just been made by the in-house producer, Phantom. Reluctantly he’d gone ahead and listened to the beats of what we now know as Ye. The song had in fact been recorded within 10 minutes and had upon its release on the 6th of August in 2018, been accepted as the new national anthem. Today, when people turn up to Ye, they do so with rapt attention, upholding its anthem status. It has however surpassed being a Nigerian anthem and this was also spurred by the cogs of providence whereby Ye witnessed a 200% spike in streaming numbers thanks to the fact that it shared titles with Kanye West’s Ye album, leading Kanye fans to stumble on the song. Ye was certified Gold in the US on the 5th of May 2021 and had at that moment, been the fastest Nigerian song to reach those heights.
In My Bed- Rotimi ft Wale, 2021
“I’m just a first-generation Nigerian kid from Jersey. Don’t EVER let anyone tell you that there’s a box, a CEILING or LIMIT to what you can do, or who you can be,” Singer Rotimi had captioned his Instagram post announcing his Gold certification As the child of immigrant Nigerians who had blossomed into an actor and singer, he was definitely speaking from a wealth of experiences from struggling with disillusionment and confusion regarding origin and identity and most likely career as he also doubles as an actor. As an actor, Rotimi had earned his chops and was in fact a regular character in the popular series, He’d also been cast in a handful of well-performing songs and had through his acting, garnered music placement in a show. In between and after this, he’d put gotten a deal with 50 Cents G-Unit and also put out some projects as well as singles. His works finally came to a head after releasing In My Bed on the 13th of November, 2019, when on the 14th of July, 2021, it was certified Gold by the RIAA.
‘Essence’ – Wizkid ft Tems; 2021
On one of Wizkid’s earlier records, No Lele, the Starboy had prophesied his success singing, “My music travel no visa,” now his prophesy continues to ring true as his Essence record keeps on growing past any cultural differences to become a much-loved record even in the United States. In fact, this love has grown into a movement with the Tems-featured Essence being tagged the song of the summer in 2021 and for some, the song of the year. In fact, Essence has currently been nominated at the 64th Grammys for the award of Best Global Music Performance.
And on the record, Wizkid’s unquantifiable grace becomes evident again in the making of the Essence remix which features Justin Beiber after he reached out and requested to be on the record. Despite having 70 million streams on the remix which signals a major cultural crossover and a different type of alignment for Afrobeats, Essence the original still takes the cake, becoming Gold in the UK with 400,000 units sold. And then barely a year after its release, became the fastest African song to be certified Gold in the US, after selling 500,000 units to cinch the award on the 2nd of September 2021.
To cap it all, on the 4th of October 2021, Essence officially hit the benchmark of a million sold units and went Platinum in the United States and then on the 3rd of March, got certified Double Platinum, after making sales to the tune of 2 million units, and in that process, becoming the first Nigerian song to hit that milestone.
Do Like That- Korede Bello, 2021
At the age of 18, Korede Bello had become signed to one of the most powerful record labels in the country, Mavin Music. He had served to inform the transition of the label and had with his success as a fresh teenage sensation, had helped maintain their social currency earned via hit records from much-loved popstars. In a short period after he was signed, the singer had put out a string of well-received singles and till this date, his Godwin rings in the minds of several Nigerians as a soundtrack for joyous moments. The singer then struck the pot of gold with his sensuous RnB, Pop and Dancehall-blessed hit, Do Like That which was produced by Altims. Released in September 2016, two years after he was signed, his Gold certification was confirmed by the RIAA on the 20th of September, 2021. Presently, the video to Do Like That sits at 125 million on YouTube and has 68 million streams on Spotify alone.
9. Drogba (Joanna)- Afro B, 2021
A British DJ of East African descent thanks to his Eritrean parents, Afro B had secured a win for the self-coined genre which he also pioneered, with his hit single Joanna. Tagged Afrowave, the sub-genre is described and actualised as a blend of Dancehall, Hip-hop and Afrobeats melodies. These elements had come together perfectly in Joanna which he released on the 18th of February, 2018 and rapidly grew into an international hit. Some three years later, on the 8th of November 2022, Afro B’s fusion on Joanna went Gold, signalling a win for the musical African talents in the diaspora, who’ve been blending sounds from different cultures to create a place of belonging for themselves.
Love Nwantiti- CKay, 2022
Simply put, CKay’s Love Nwantiti is the biggest African song and makes the perfect argument for the talent and potential of artistes that make up the new age of Nigerian and African music. Love Nwantiti was released in 2019 off his ep, CKay The First, by Chocolate City through American multinational entertainment company, Warner Music Group and in 2021 began its climb to global dominance through DJ versions, international remixes and Tik Tok challenges. On the 12th of June, 2022 Love Nwantiti went Gold in the United States but that’s only a droplet of the mighty ocean of milestones the song has pooled together. Presently, Love Nwantiti is the most certified African record, going Platinum in the US with a million units sold, Platinum in the UK with 600,000 units in the bag, Gold in Germany with 200,000 units certified by their Federal Music Industry Association; Bundesverband Musikindustrie. It’s also two times Platinum in Portugal at 20,000 units and is double Platinum in Canada at 160,000 units. In addition to these are has Platinum certifications from music associations in France, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, among several others.