African superstars Fireboy DML, Bnxn fka Buju, Wande Coal, Navy Kenzo, and many more are set to feature on Empire Africa’s debut compilation album, “Where We Come From.” The album — which is set for a Nov. 18 release — also features Tolani, Black Sherif, Leil, L.A.X, and more. The project is being launched with “Cough (Odo)” BY Kizz Daniel as the lead single.
The project focuses on sounds from multiple parts of Africa — not solely West African Afropop. With Tanzanian duo Navy Kenzo, Ghanaian rapper Black Sherif, and Nigerian singer-songwriter Kizz Daniel all having strong focus tracks, the project is likely to paint a fuller image of the African culture exploding across the globe. As African music becomes more popular year over year, more stakeholders (from different genres within Africa) are entering the industry and battling for market share and influence.
The project, much of which was recorded this summer in a community writing camp environment, is a significant priority for Empire CEO, Ghazi Shami. “The artists from Africa transcend where music is today,” he said. “This is a legendary moment for Empire to be able to share incredible African music with the world, much of which we were fortunate enough to record at our studio here in San Francisco.”
One artist who is very aware of the power of collaboration is Bnxn (pronounced “Benson,” and formerly known as Buju). Bnxn, who boasts two tracks on “Where We Come From,” released his debut EP in 2021 and has already collaborated with WizKid, Burna Boy, and Zlatan ahead of his debut studio album due next year. While being driven around in Lagos, Nigeria, Bnxn spoke with Variety – via Zoom – about his involvement on this album, his excitement about African music, and his plans for 2023.
How did your songs on the album come together?
Working on this album was amazing. We were in San Francisco in March and it was actually a songwriting camp with musicians from around the world. I was meeting with producers, and getting inspired, and it was almost like a big genius conference (laughs). I met Sapase – I actually didn’t know he produced Rihanna’s “Man Down”, so it was great to be around that level of genius. It was crazy we worked together – and his sound is a mix of his Haitian sound and the groove you expect in Nigerian Afrobeats. He was a major influence on my EP Bad to 97. It was a sweet opportunity for me.
African music has gone global so quickly — what has that been like for you?
I always tell this story: I was with Wizkid in L.A., and he told me about how Future took him to a club, and they weren’t playing Afrobeat. Fast-forward six years later, and after every American song you hear an Afrobeat song, or an amapiano song, or a song that a Nigerian is a part of (laughs). Now people get and are like ‘oh this is groovy’. People are starting to understand that we’re talking about real topics, and seeing themselves in the music. Look at “Last Last” by Burna Boy – it was the summer anthem but it’s really a song about needing weed and alcohol to make it through it. That’s something a lot of people can relate to. So now I’m focused on just being real in my music, I learned that from Burna – he had a message, he spoke his current success in to existence in 2012. I wanna say something – so I tell producers to give me a beat that makes me want to say something.”
What’s coming up for you next year?
I want to be in America for the first two months just to get some work in — I have about five songs recorded for my album but I still want to record a lot more. I want to be very intentional about what I’m doing – every song has to have a meaning. Producer-wise I’m very open. Artist wise – I want a collab with Post Malone! I feel like his sound is something I connect with and we would go crazy.
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