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The 02 Arena and the international rise of Afrobeats


In the story of the international rise of Afrobeats, the United Kingdom played and continues to play the most important role made possible by its rich cultural cross-pollination with Nigeria.

A common denominator in the international ascension of Nigerian superstars is their headlining of the famous 20,000-capacity O2 Arena.

After an unprecedented run of hits that was capped with a record-breaking debut album, Asake was on top of the Nigerian music industry with his music traveling far to other corners of the world, especially the UK and the US.

Similarly, Rema is at the fore of Afrobeats’ global charge with hit mega smash hit ‘Calm Down’ which has become Afrobeats’ biggest following an unprecedented level of international success.

With Rema and Asake operating at the highest level of the mainstream, they are heading to the famous O2 Arena to announce themselves on the international stage as the superstars advancing Nigerian music.

Like Davido, Wizkid, and Burna Boy who have broken ground and reached the summit of the Nigerian music industry, Asake, and Rema are now fulfilling what can be described as a rite of passage in solidifying their superstar status and international reach.

A look at the relationship between Nigerian superstars and the famous O2 Arena captures the different key moments in the evolution of Afrobeats.

In May 2018, Wizkid headlined the Afrorepublik Festival in the 02 Arena which was the first of its kind festival in the UK. The show came off the back of a strong momentum that started building up in 2015 following the release of Wizkid’s ‘Ojuelegba’.

In 2016, Wizkid became the first Afrobeats act to reach NO. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his contribution to Drake‘s mega-hit ‘One Dance’.

In 2017 Wizkid released his third album ‘Sound From The Other Side’ with the lead single ‘Come Closer’ featuring Drake. While the album failed to find massive listeners at home and abroad, ‘Come Closer’ further opened the international doors to Afrobeats.

And all these led Wizkid to become the first Afrobeats act to headline the O2 Arena.

Just 9 months after Wizkid headlined the O2 Arena, Davido would go on to achieve an even more exceptional feat as he became the first solo Afrobeats act to sell out the 02. And for Davido, it took a consistent release of boundaries-defiling hit songs before he could use the 20,000 O2 Arena as a symbol of his international rise.

Even when Naira Marley dominated the Nigerian music industry with an incredible collection of smash hits in 2019, it would be documented in the great halls of the O2 Arena.

In Wizkid’s first solo headline effort in October 2019, readers will recall that the event famously and even embarrassingly clashed with the Headies Awards, and consequently carted away the priced stars that defined the year. Naira Marley being the hottest artist at the time delivered a hall-of-fame entrance with his electrifying legwork.

In August 2021, when Burna Boy decided to make his first grand international show following his international success with ‘YE’ and the Grammy-nominated ‘African Giant’, it was the O2 Arena that captured the landmark moment.

The O2 Arena will capture another landmark moment in the global rise of Afrobeats. Wizkid sold out the choice arena for three consecutive days in October 2021 following the international success ‘Essence’ off his fourth album ‘Made In Lagos’ which further took Afrobeats to new commercial heights. The O2 3peat was an incredible feat that announced Afrobeats a global genre.

This line of events succinctly captures the different international turning points for Afrobeats and the artists that engineered them.

In 2022, Afrobeats reached new heights through Asake who is taking indigenous Nigerian music to a global stage, and Rema who is taking the music to new frontiers. With their stakes high and their music the toast of international listeners, little wonder that they have elected to announce themselves at the famous O2 Arena.

After the rite of passage at the O2 Arena, Burna Boy, Davido, and Wizkid have expanded to stadiums and festivals. Asake and Rema are up next and they have the talent and drive to continue taking Afrobeats to great heights.

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