The BET Awards have proven to be the award show geared towards identifying and celebrating black excellence across film, sports, music, and television, for many decades. The 22nd edition of the show was held last night in Los Angeles. Viewers and attendees were treated to stellar performances from Lil Kim, Chloe Bailey, Diddy, Giveon, Lizzo, Kirk Franklin, Fireboy DML, and many other great artists. As usual, the occasion was packed with artists and celebrities from different industries captivating the audience with red carpet looks and inspiring speeches from Taraji P. Henson and many more.
Thanks to the hard work of pioneers of Afrobeats and the doggedness of African artists, we were able to set a new record. While the sound continues to soar, artists have been able to establish their mark across the globe in a quest to bring our music to every doorstep and create an avenue for other sounds to thrive; one artist who is taking Afrobeats to the next level is Tems. Two years after quitting her job as a digital marketing executive and venturing into music, Tems has created her unique sound in the music industry and broken records to retain her position as the leader of The Rebel Gang. This is the success story of how a music teacher discovered a diamond in the rough and inspired a young woman to pick up the mic and become of the brightest stars the country has ever seen in years.
After participating in the first-ever Jameson seen and heard initiative in collaboration with the PGM Club in 2019, Tems has risen to become one of the major contenders in the music scene. The singer has had quite many accomplishments in the past few months and some of them include becoming the first Nigerian artist to debut on the Billboard hot 100, she won the Future Awards for music, clinching several Grammy nominations via collaborations, and now she has become the first female Nigerian artist to win the Best International Act award in this year’s BET award ceremony – also winning the Best Collaboration award for Wizkid’s “Essence” featuring Justin Bieber. Before “Made in Lagos,” was released Wizkid tweeted that he and Tems had created something special, but when the album was released a lot of listeners and music critics predicted that “True Love” would be the most successful song off the album. Two years later, “Essence” has broken more records than any record ever to be released from a Nigerian artist, and with a feature from international star Justin Beiber, the song became an international anthem.
“Essence” is a special song for clinching the Best International Collaboration category, making Tems and Wizkid the first African artists to win a BET award outside the Best International Act category. Give Tems and Wizkid all their flowers because they deserve all of them.
Long before “Essence” became the song of the year, she had already drawn attention to her sound as she had already hypnotized both mainstream and alternative charts with her hit singles like “Try me” & “Mr. Rebel”, something quite impossible to achieve as an emerging artist. However, Tems was doing her music and promoting her identity the way she wanted. The marriage of both artists fan bases culminated in a hit single and gained a spot in the former US President Barrack Obama’s playlist. The curiosity to know the voice behind “Essence” was a necessary ingredient to the success of the song. It further broadened Tems’ audience and brought her to much bigger stages.
In a world where women aren’t given opportunities in every sector, Tems doggedness pushes her to disrupt the status quo. According to a report by The Recording Academy, it was revealed that women make up only 21.7% of the music industry, 2.1% of them are music producers, and 3% mix and master music which is quite sad considering the population of women in the world. These statistics are definitely much smaller compared to the Nigerian music industry and in the face of these challenges Tems went on to take tutorials on YouTube on how to make beats by herself. While speaking to Native Magazine, Remy Baggins, the co-producer of ‘Try me” said “Tems brought the stems of the original beat to the studio for me to touch up; she said she was going for a newer, energetic rock-trap sound on the record. I took out her drums and programmed new ones, then added 808s. All the organs, pads, and synths were made by her; I just mixed them and made them sit well. Her voice is too special. At a point, she took over the recording session, because I was so stunned. She’s a perfectionist; she hears things in her voice no one else hears.” This is the quality of someone who is intentional about their success.
Her latest feat places the award-winning artist in a class of her own, establishing herself as a superstar who dares to be more with the sky as her starting point. Tems’ success is an inspiration to African women and she made it clear in the acceptance speech that she wants more female African artists to thrive. She said, “I want to use this opportunity to speak to every young, old, whatever; every single woman watching this, every single girl watching this at home. As you are watching me, I want you to imagine yourself as me because you are meant to be here too, and so I’m dedicating this to every single young woman, every artist, everybody that is thriving and dares to dream. I dare you to get up from your seats and go for your dream and fight for yourself because you can do it.”
It was a historical night for Afrobeats, and the Nigerian music industry, and who better than Tems to represent our sound on the global stage. Also, there to bring Afrobeats to the center stage was Pheelz and Fireboy DML who is the first African artist to perform an Afrobeats song “Peru” on the BET stage. Congratulations to Tems, we can’t wait to celebrate more achievements with you. Watch her acceptance speech here and be inspired.