The Best Nigerian Moments On Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift”

July 19, 2019

The first few lines of Beyoncé’s hook on “Bigger“, the opener for her just-released “The Lion King: The Gift” tells you all you need to know about the album. “If you feel insignificant, you better think again,” she sings, “better wake up because you’re part of something way bigger, You’re part of something way bigger.” 

The album, which she says is a love letter to Africa was inspired by the Lion King franchise.

And as promised, the album is a celebration of African music. Beyoncé tapped the who’s who of Africa’s biggest musical movement, Afrobeats.

The list of collaborators — Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Mr Eazi, Tekno, Tiwa Savage, Busiswa, Moonchild Sanelly, Bankulli, P2J, NorthBoi, GuiltyBeatz and many more — would make any African proud. From the tidal wave of pride sweeping through social media, the album’s Nigerian pop and Ghanaian Highlife influences have struck a chord, especially among West Africans.

It’s only fitting that we celebrate the Nigerian essence on Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift”. These are the 5 best Nigerian moments on a body of work that may be Afrobeats’ first true global moment.

  • WIZKID ON “BROWN SKIN GIRL” with Beyoncé, Saint Jhn & Blue Ivy Carter.

When fans first saw Wizkid on the tracklist for this album, familiar fears were raised. Wizkid has always been known for his melodies than any form of poignant songwriting, especially on an album packaged as a slice of African Pride. However, our fears were allayed on listening to the track. The ease with which Wizkid slotted his vocals into the beat is the level of comfort Nigerians should aspire to in these Buhari times.

The song is a celebration of Melanin and darker skin tones. Wizkid is not credited as one of the songwriters, unsurprisingly. But this matters only a little; Starboy focuses on his strengths and ends up nearly bodying everyone on the song, before rounding it off by harmonising with Queen B. Did you read that right? Wizkid, Baba Bolu, the patron saint of Nigerian gbedu flexed voices with Beyoncé on the best song off her new album. Wake me up. This has to be a dream. Hate him or love him, but Wizkid may have just crafted, with help, of course, an evergreen anthem for African women. What a time to be alive.

  • BANKULLI’s VOCALS

You may remember Bankulli as the chubby man screaming “Burna Boy, Call Me” in that viral video of Kanye West convulsing to “Ye”. Older fans may remember him as one of the first members of the Mo’ Hits team and the man who introduced D’banj to Kanye West thus kicking off the G.O.O.D Music/Mo’ Hits relationship. Long story short: Bankulli is an OG’s OG. On “The Lion King: The Gift“, Bankulli contributed writing and vocals to three songs. He’s the man responsible for the subtle ode to fuji music on “Find Your Way Back“. His best contribution to the album is arguably the spiritual outro on “OTHERSIDE“.

Sung in Yoruba, “Sokale o Oluwa, wa wonu okan mi lo” (“Descend from the heavens, Lord and take over my soul”) is a staple of Nigerian pentecostal church music that elevates just another Lion King song to a call to God. It’s safe to say that while the lineup is heavily Nigerian, Bankulli represented the culture in ways that no-one else did.

  • A NIGERIAN BEYONCÉ

It takes a lot to curate a culture you’re not actively invested in. Sure, Beyoncé’s romance with Nigerian culture, especially the goddesses Osun and Yemoja is well documented. But what she achieves on “The Lion King: The Gift” is immense. She fits seamlessly into traditional Afropop & Ghana Highlife production on most songs and morphs into a soulful westernized Tope Alabi on “OTHERSIDE”, so well that when Bankulli’s vocals come in, she’s family.

Beyoncé’s romance with Nigerian culture, especially the goddesses Osun and Yemoja is well documented.

The most Nigerian version of Beyoncé comes on “ALREADY” featuring Shatta Wale. From her enunciation to how she interpolates melodies, you can almost swear she’s been listening to Yemi Alade. Queen B has delivered her love letter to Nigeria, maybe it’s time to come show that love in person.

  • EVERY TIME WE HEARD AFROPOP BEATS AND MELODIES

For decades now, producers have been the unsung heroes of Afropop’s evolution and subsequent journey to global recognition. In the last few years, producers like Sarz and DJ Maphorisa have gotten global recognition, but these were more of sporadic cosigns than full recognition of their abilities. Beyoncé’s “The Gift” may as well be that moment. It may have taken longer than expected for Nigerian/UK producer, P2J to get his coins and roses, but with credits on multiple songs off the album, it’s fair to say the man has etched his name in history.

NorthBoi Oracle, who produced Starboy’s “Soco” is also credited as a producer on the album and that’s not counting the back-end creatives — Michael Uzowuru, Bankulli, and more — who built what is a cinematic African experience. Much has been said of Afrobeats’ journey to global acceptance. This album, which may become its biggest moment yet, is evidence of how much collaboration and years of work behind the scenes we’ll need to make it happen.

Who’s the only artist with his own full song on an album made, curated and executive produced by the biggest musician in the world? That’s right, our very own Damini Ogulu aka Burna Boy. Rankin’s ascent to the upper echelons of afrobeats and world music since the release of 2018’s “Outside” is one for the storybooks.

Many have guessed that Burna refused to have anybody else on his song, others claim no-one was a good fit; whatever the case is, you can see why Burna Boy is in a class of his own, literally. “JA ARA E” is another tribute to Fela’s Afrobeat, a very apt allusion in an album about African pride. The title, which means “Enlighten Yourself” is also consistent with Burna Boy’s Pan-African ideals. This song sounds like the soundtrack to the radicalisation of Simba and is already a fan favourite. With what we’ve heard so far, we simply can’t wait for Burna Boy’s “African Giant“. 

Speaking of evolution, one artiste who is an unsung hero on this album is Zlatan. Artists enjoying a breakout year have the capacity to do anything from changing the popular sound to creating sub genres of their own. In the year since he released “My Body” w/ Olamide and caught the attention of Nigerian singer Davido, Zlatan has done both.

Zlatan’s friendship with Burna gave him his biggest hit yet, “Killin Dem” and stamped him in the eyes of a mainstream audience. In turn, Zlatan’s edge and energy have found a willing vessel in Burna, who dances the Zanku like he came up with it.

Fans have hailed Burna’s loyalty to his personal sound on the Beyonce album. And the best evidence of Zlatan’s influence yet is how his ad-libs spice up Burna Boy’s “JA ARA E”. Those shouts of Kuronbe and Eh Eh are dominating Nigerian airwaves for months now. They’ve made their way to a Beyonce album. Agege must be proud.

It’s a great time to be African.


Did you enjoy this? You should sign up for our weekly pop culture newsletter, Poppin’. You’ll get to know what we’re up to before anyone else + insider gist, reviews, freebies and more. If it sounds like your deal, sign up here.

Segun Akande

Join The Conversation

Bring a friend.

You'll like this

October 24, 2019

Blaqbonez — “Jesus Is Black (Letter To Kanye)” Even if Blaqbonez wasn’t already a phenomenal rapper, his jokester persona would still make him an absolute delight to listen to. Thankfully, his latest release, “Jesus Is Black (Letter To Kanye)”, affords him the chance to give us the best of both. On the first half of […]

April 15, 2020

Teni & DJ Neptune — “Isolate” Last week, Teni teamed up with DJ Neptune to deliver a solid 4-track project, The Quarantine Playlist. While every song is impressive in its own right, the clear standout is the immensely sexy “Isolate”. Previously teased on social media, the studio version is even more infectious than we could […]

May 7, 2021

Reality shows are fun and entertaining; so much display of talent you can’t help but be wowed. Still, if you think only the contestants in these shows are an interesting bunch, then let us introduce you to the other central figures – judges. Read on. 1. The bad belle ones Forget about trying to impress […]

Watch

Now on Zikoko

September 16, 2021

International advocacy organization, Global Citizen, has revealed the local hosts TV personalities Ebuka Obi-Uchendu and Nancy Isime for the Global Citizen Live event in Lagos, Nigeria. Pan-African broadcast partners are AIM Group, MultiChoice and The SABC. Performances from Lagos will be given by Tiwa Savage, Davido, Femi Kuti and Made Kuti, among others. Burna Boy […]

Recommended Quizzes

November 27, 2019

Do you have a face that could make angels jealous, or should you really be walking around with a nylon bag over your head so you don’t scare children? Well, this quiz is here to answer that by telling you exactly how good-looking you are. Take and find out: 11 Quizzes For People Who Aren’t […]

March 24, 2020

While we know that a lot of the best Nigerian artists deservedly have fans across generations, that won’t stop us from attempting to guess how old you are based on your taste in Nigerian music. So, take this quiz to see if we got it right:

January 2, 2020

Do you have even a single romantic bone in your body? Well, if you’re not sure about just how sweet and thoughtful you can be to someone you love, that’s what this quiz is here to answer. 11 Quizzes For Nigerians Who Are Ready To Marry  Are you ready to marry? Take these quizzes.

More from Pop

September 14, 2021

It was yet another Thursday games night on the BBNaija Season 6 show with TECNO and it was a very creative one. As you know, TECNO has been on the Season 6 journey with the housemates since it began and they have not disappointed. With the TECNO Phantom X dolling out incredible pictures of the […]

September 14, 2021

Watching the BBNaija show comes with different stages. You may not notice it, but somehow you go through a complete metamorphosis from the first week you watch the show to the last week when the winner is finally announced. The viewer you were at the beginning of the show is dramatically different from the viewer […]

zikoko - BBnaija party
September 12, 2021

Last night’s BBNaija saturday party was a vibe! The housemates came through with the right energy and they had a good time. We also got served a side of extra plot twists; new ships emerging and old ships entering new relationship stages. If you missed it, here are a few posts that captured the drama. […]

Watch

Trending Videos

Zikoko Originals

December 14, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
November 2, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
October 26, 2020
A collection of videos documenting some of the events of the EndSARS protests.
June 22, 2020
'The Couch' is a Zikoko series featuring real life stories from anonymous people.
June 22, 2020
Hacked is an interesting new series by Zikoko made up of fictional but hilarious chat conversations.
June 4, 2020
What happens when a group of chatty young Nigerians talk about things they're passionate about? You get Nigerians talk. A show that discusses very familiar struggles for the average Nigerian. From relationship deal breakers to sex education with Nigerian parents to leaving Nigeria, be prepared for a ride.
June 2, 2020
Quickie is a video series where everyone featured gets only one minute to rant, review or do absolutely anything.
May 14, 2020
Isolation Diary is a Zikoko series that showcases what isolation is like for one young Nigerian working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
March 12, 2020
Life is already hard. Deciding where to eat and get the best lifestyle experiences, isn't something you should stress about. Let VRSUS do that for you.

Z! Stacks

Here's a rabbit hole of stories to lose yourself in:

Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.
X