In recent years, many African artists have opted to create music which is a departure from the traditional Afrobeats and afro-pop sound most music fans are used to hearing, with numerous soft and soulful releases emerging to widen the local soundscape. Artists such as Aylø, Bryann, Tay Iwar, Gyakie, Tim Lyre, Shekhinah, La Soülchyld and MAUIMØON, have borrowed sonic and topical elements from R&B without necessarily making R&B the main focus of their music practice.

Contemporary African artists consistently experiment with R&B. To demonstrate the impact and influence of R&B on African artists, the following songs come to mind - ‘Butter’ by Aylø featuring Merry-Lynn and SUTRA, ‘Peaking’ by Tay Iwar, ‘Taboo’ by Tim Lyre, ‘FOR MY BABY,’ by Gyakie, ‘Rose Gold’ by Shekhinah and ‘Here they come’ by La Soülchyld and MAUIMØON.

Through the discographies of these artists, it is clear that many African musicians are currently exploring and challenging R&B’s compatibility with other genres, such as electronica, afrobeats and highlife.

The influence of R&B on the afro-fusion landscape is evident through Bryann’s song, ‘Juju Pt. 2’. On 28 July 2022, the ‘COLORS’ performance of the song premiered, showcasing an interesting blend of fuju, afro-pop and afrobeats, alongside R&B inspired lyrics and melodies.

On the other hand, while some artists have opted to infuse R&B into their dominant sound, others, like sister duo VanJess, are African artists with a predominately R&B focus, whose work is equally as important and intriguing.

VanJess offer a unique perspective by leaning heavily on fashion and style influences from Nigerian women in the 60s and 70s to create beautiful and aesthetic cover artwork. They also collaborated with Nigerian songstress Lady Donli on the highlife song titled ‘Corner,’ from the latter’s 2019 album, ‘Enjoy Your Life.’ Through these deliberate choices, Vanjess continuously present themselves as an R&B group that is committed to celebrating, embracing and understanding Nigerian culture and history.

R&B serves as a bridge which connects Nigerians at home with Nigerians across the diaspora and vice versa. This is evident through the joint R&B EP by Odunsi and Nonso Amadi titled ‘War.’

‘War’ was released on 29 April 2017. At the time, Nonso Amadi was based in Canada and Odunsi was creating music from Lagos. Both artists complemented each other amazingly well on the ‘War’ EP, indicating a feeling of closeness and an understanding of their voices, melodies and cadences on songs such as ‘Ocean’ and ‘Stay.’ This closeness clearly transcended the geographical distance or space which existed between Nonso Amadi and Odunsi during the creative process for ‘War.’

Adekunle Gold’s collaborations with women across the diaspora highlights the ways in which R&B connects various artists and their fans. This year, Adekunle Gold collaborated with Fousheé to deliver ‘Dior, Dior, Dior’ which is one of the softer tracks on his ‘Catch Me If You Can’ Album. In addition, he recently collaborated with Lous and The Yakuza on the R&B-fusion song, ‘Handle Me.’

In January 2021, Nao featured Adekunle Gold on the R&B song ‘Antitode’. The collaboration was inspired by their daughters; born a week apart from each other during the COVID-19 lockdown and pandemic. Through ‘Antitode,’ Nao and Adekunle Gold demonstrate that R&B is the perfect avenue for artists to display vulnerability and share intimate; special moments with their fans.

Quote from Nao: “Antidote” is the remedy to 2020; it’s a song born out of lockdown which was something that affected everybody’s lives all over the world. Both Adekunle and I had daughters born weeks apart during this time, they lifted our vibrations and we wanted to share that good energy with the rest of the world.

Quote from Adekunle Gold: “This song [Antidote] is a perfect description of how I feel about my daughter. Love usually feels like a concept, sometimes invisible, but with her it's so tangible because she's right there. I'm so obsessed with her that if she wasn't around me, I wouldn't be ok, I guess that's what antidote is, a cure, a loving cure to the things that ail me."

In summary, R&B is heavily influencing the work of African artists by presenting opportunities for collaboration and experimentation with other adaptable genres. From artists like Odunsi to Adekunle Gold, the potential to infuse the genre is limitless, and will no doubt be persisting for a very long time.