This Nigerian afropop artist made serious waves after an Ed Sheeran cover went unexpectedly viral. Now, he’s hit a quarter of a million monthly listeners on Spotify and is turning heads across the globe.
Described by CNN as “one of Nigeria’s fast-rising music artists”, Joeboy has topped charts in Zimbabwe, Uganda and his home country and is now making the crucial crossover into the Western market. His story begins with an unassuming cover of Ed Sheeran’s world-dominating 2017 single “Shape Of You” that reimagines the original’s effortlessly catchy melodies in his own uniquely fleet-footed style. Though Joeboy reportedly “didn’t even know the song until a day before” he recorded the cover, his version of the mega-hit immediately blew up on YouTube, gaining the attention of Nigerian singer-songwriter and Banku pioneer Mr Eazi. Only a day later, Joeboy had the surprise of a lifetime: Mr Eazi dropped into his DMs with an unassuming “call me”. A phone call later, and Joeboy was set to be enrolled in Eazi’s project emPawa Africa, an “incubator program” that provides essential guidance and funding for upcoming African talents.
After linking up with emPawa, Joeboy was provided with crucial support in recording his debut material. After relentlessly experimenting with a range of sounds, from the trap-leaning “Realest” to the dancehall-afrobeats fusion of his official debut single “Faaji”, he found widespread success with “Baby”, a single that showcased a more melodic and sensitive side to his creative abilities. The track careered to No 1 in Nigeria’s Apple Music chart before hitting the top spot in Uganda, No 2 in Kenya and reaching Top Tens in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Distributed through all platforms but pushed primarily through YouTube, “Baby” was accompanied by a stunning music video, funded by emPawa, that’s now nearing three million views in under six months since its release.
“Normally, the way I write, I record a bunch of hooks. I start my songs with choruses; I record a bunch, then I just try to find the one that actually fits. That was how I just found a perfect hook for that beat and that was it, but the beat is amazing… So, shout-out to Dera The Boy for that classic.”Joeboy on “Baby”, speaking to Pulse
“Baby” put Joeboy on the map as a Nigerian artist with the potential to make a worldwide impact. Like others before him – Mr Eazi, Burna Boy, Wizkid – he possesses universally appealing vocal talents and an instinctive knack for producing memorable hooks that resonate with a global audience, putting him in a position to turn his dominance of the African charts into a crossover success similar to that of Burna Boy, an artist whose latest LP, African Giant, has entered charts across Europe and America and featured star-studded collaborations with Jorja Smith, Future, Jeremih, and Damian Marley. In September, Joeboy gave an indication that he’s on his way to confirming these expectations with the release of “Beginning”, a follow-up to “Baby” that runs on similarly romantic themes (“I’m beginning to begin to fall in love…”) while expanding on Joeboy’s undeniable skills as a vocalist and songwriter. The track has spiralled in popularity, picking up over 7 million views and further raising Joeboy’s profile on the global music scene.
So what’s next for Joeboy? This gifted artist is set to continue establishing himself as one of Africa’s most exciting new talents while spreading his radically unique fusion of afropop, afrobeat, dancehall, trap and RnB far and wide, as he begins to catch the ear of influential names outside of his home continent. His latest single, released October 17th, sees Joeboy collaborating with London-based KaniBeatz and fellow Nigerian artist Teni on “Mr. Man”, a joyful afrobeats banger built around fizzing synths and a weighty drum pattern that sends out a message of female empowerment. With his first official crossover collaboration, Joeboy has displayed the potential to become more than just a No 1 artist in his home country, but a worldwide sensation standing at the forefront of afropop’s current surge in popularity across the globe. Watch this space.