10 unrivalled pairings in Afropop

the dynamic duos of AfroPop

Many would agree that one of the more interesting aspects of music consumption that keeps it refreshing, is born out of great knowledge of collaborations. More than knowing what works for each creator’s sound, bringing various talents together allows the birth of new sounds and ultimately guarantees great music. 

Think Wizkid and Skepta, fostering a bromance that brought on timeless jams like “Energy (Stay Far Away)” or the brewing sisterhood between our resident IT girls, Tyla and Ayra Starr. Even official pairings like Mellow and Sleazy or TxC, taking the melodies of Bacardi and AfroHouse to the world, or The Cavemen, for their innumerable contributions in the resurgence of Eastern-Nigerian Highlife, do not fall short in this conversation. Read on to find out the pairings whose collaborations redefined African music forever. 


When you think of iconic artist-producer pairings in music history, most references are pulled from the hip-hop scene. Whether it’s the OG’s like Snoop Dogg & Dr Dre or Snoop Dogg & Pharrell Williams, or this decade’s stars with 21 Savage & Metro Boomin or Tay Keith & Travis Scott. Regardless of the combination, we’re reminded of the duo’s heaven sent collaboration the moment the iconic producer tag lands on the beat. Though the artists may branch out once in a while, the announcement of that all too familiar tag gives listeners a sense of relief that they have another banger in their hands. Speaking of bangers, one of Afropop’s most successful artist-producer duos to date is Rema and London. On most of the rave lord’s biggest hits, the charming chant of ‘another banger’ is usually accompanied by ‘London!’ 

The earlier days of Rema’s career, soundtracked by “Dumebi” and “Woman,” he mostly worked with Ozedikus Nwanne, another perfect pairing. But Rema’s relationship with London came into full bloom prior to his debut album, ‘Rave & Roses,’ where he snagged ten of sixteen production credits.  Remember the lush guitar strums and rhythmic drums on sex-themed “Soundgasm” to the high-tempo shrills and humming bass of “Addicted,” not to mention monster hit, “Calm Down” or the raver’s favourite “Oroma Baby.” The mutual understanding between the pair is undeniable, to the extent that they play within Rema’s soundscape while leaving room for experimentation. They reiterate their harmonious alliance on the debut’s deluxe, ‘Rave & Roses (Ultra)’ and further with the surprise 5-track EP dubbed ‘RAVAGE.’ These two are music’s version of jollof rice and chicken, good alone but even better together. 


Since the pair’s joint release in 2019, this South African dynamic duo have collectively gone by the title of the hit-stacked 12 tracker, Scorpion Kings.’ Their impact is so far reaching, it is hard to track the astronomical growth of Amapiano without mentioning Kabza De Small and DJ Maphorisa. Originally, the project’s title was the idea of Maphorisa who, being born on November 15th, is a Scorpio. While Kabza’s birthday is twelve days later during Saggitarius season, the pair bonded over their love for ‘piano and sharing the same birth month. Maphorisa, who considered himself a long time admirer and student of Amapiano, took interest in learning from who many call the genre’s king. Their meeting, half a decade ago, has played such a key role in transporting this underground movement from SA’s burbs to the world stage. 

It is almost impossible to point out all the ways these DJ-producers have done this, but songs like “Lorch,” or “Vula Vula” do a good job of encapsulating a fraction of it. Not only are those monster hits, but the pair’s dedication has made room for a younger generation of astounding acts like 22 year old Virgo Deep to emerge. When Kabza isn’t expanding the scope with cross-country collaboration from Wizkid and Burna Boy-assisted “Sponono,” Maphorisa is stepping away from the deck to deliver memorable verses on chart toppers like “Izolo.” Apart or together, the pair represent the broad spectrum of what the domineering genre could achieve. Then if you throw in the staggering vocals of Ami Faku, the result is bound to be an unrivalled partnership. Side by side, these three have created some of the biggest and most emotionally resonant tracks of ‘Piano; “Abalele” and “Asibe Happy,” and in the spirit of love, these piercing stories are worth bringing to the top of your playlist. 


Music has a stockpile of successful stories of bromance. Not only have they produced tracks that remain relevant across several decades but you can’t call one’s name without the other due to their inseparable bond. The likes of Jay Z and Kanye West or Dave and Central Cee come to mind. Within the Nigerian context, Boj and Ajebutter22 fall close in replicating that admirable synergy between solo artists who in another lifetime would have formed the perfect group. 2014’s “Omo Pastor” launched the world into the pair’s potential individually and collectively, with a pop-rap classic that tells a captivating tale of a forbidden relationship. Together, they joined acts like Black Magic and Show Dem Camp, to usher in the first wave of alternative music in Nigeria, with hits hinged on individuality and a renewed creative perspective of music making. 

Boj and Ajebutter22 solidified their peerless union with the ‘Make E No Cause Fight’ trilogy, of which the third and final iteration was released in the final quarter of 2023. The first part housed buttery, slow jams like “24,” a heartfelt declaration of love on “Tungba” and three others in a brief narration of the tumultuous journey of finding love in Lagos. The project’s warm reception set the stage for Falz on the second version, who expanded the project’s reach with stories of infidelity, sex and his non-committal tales of love prominent amongst the younger generation of Nigerians. While “Baninam,” a play on Birmingham, showcases Falz’ whimsical touch as he recaps travelling across the world to visit a woman, “Too Many Woman” shows the trio spoilt for choice with the plethora of women vying for their attention. Boj and Ajebutter close off the 5-track trilogies with “DITR,” part three’s outro translating to ‘diamond in the rough,’ showcasing maturity as they veer away from the  player ways. These two’s contributions to the love-themed catalogues from Nigerian artists are invaluable and their unwavering bond is one Afropop will forever be thankful for. 


You know those two inseparable friends in class, sharing everything from snacks to textbooks, wreaking havoc at the back and likely getting punished together? That’s Santi and Odunsi. Together, they reconfigured Nigeria’s music space with a penchant for originality and experimentation. Led on by the likes of Black Magic and DRB Lasgidi, they introduced a refreshing perspective to the ways we create and consume music, steering eyes away from the formulas of mainstream music. On one side, we have Santi with cult classics like “Rapid Fire” or “Freaky” which teased the world of the faultless release that is ‘Mandy & The Jungle.’ On the other hand is Odunsi with staple alté numbers like “Alté Cruise” padded by a sprinkle of mainstream touches with Runtown and Davido on “star signs” and “divine” for ‘rare.’

Fast forward to over half a decade later and the pair’s relationship is blossoming brighter than ever as they deliver spotless verses on the other’s track, coupled with a slew of production credits. The ties come through clearly on “NOSTALGIA,” off Odunsi’s ‘SPORT’ and “Panic Island” off Santi’s ‘Cincinnati Pumpin!!’  Together, Santi and Odunsi have, and are still redefining the face of African music of this decade. When you throw repeat collaborator and Ghana’s pop princess, Amaarae, into the mix, you have an unbeatable trio. From Santi’s “BORN AGAIN” and Amaarae’s Kojey Radical-assisted “JUMPING SHIP” or Odunsi’s “body count,” these three are alternative music’s holy trinity.  


For a genre that was originally hinged strictly on production without vocal accompaniments, most consider the instrumentals the primary ingredient to a great Amapiano song. As such, a significant number of songs house several production contributors. If you comb through the discography of Amapiano’s princess, Uncle Waffles, there’s a recurring collaborator across over half of her works. The Johannesburg-born producer, Tony Duardo is one of the other brains behind Waffles’ biggest singles, “Tanzania” and “Yahyuppiyah.” 

Other than producing some of the biggest ‘piano tunes, this team are the brains behind all 4 tracks on ‘Red Dragon,’ Waffles’ debut as well as two-sided EP, ‘ASYLUM’ & Manana-assisted pre-release, “Echoes” forSOLACE’ One of the pair’s most impressive works can be seen on “Love I Need,” decorated with production so masterful, they can be compared to the veteran hands of DJ Lag or Kabza. The perfectly cinematic intro is distinguished from anything Waffles has made when the signature log drums take a back seat to looming piano chords that set the pace for Kunene’s rich vocals to take over. BoiBizza later arrives with sonorous croons to set a contrast, all the while maintaining the track’s airy atmosphere with the appearance of light shakers and crystal synths. This match made in heaven offers Amapiano’s spectrum of facets, making sure to include their unique inflections that make room for limitless possibilities. 


When you’re a star signee to a Nigerian rap and street pop legend like Asake, you’re bound to earn the title as one of Africa’s biggest breakout stars in decades. From a debut stage performance at Obafemi Awolowo University, Olamide decade-plus knowledge expertly positioned Asake as Nigeria’s next big thing, setting him up to sell out one of the world’s biggest stages, O2 Arena. Asake recalls the moment that started it all in his first cover, reminiscing on his viral reaction after hearing his friend delivered on his promise to get a verse on “Omo Ope” from Baddo, as he fondly calls the YBNL (Yahoo Boy No Laptop) label boss. “There’s up in your life and there’s down, and I was in the part of my life where I didn’t really know what next. So I wasn’t even taking Yemi[Yhemolee] seriously until I heard it,” he shared. 

Shortly after the astronomical growth of the single and a later Burna boy-assisted remix for hit single, “Sungba,” the pair were inseparable, smoking, catching a vibe and playing snippets of what will later be Asake’s Mr Money With The Vibe’ — a promising LP  summation of his scorching streak thus far. The brewing mentor-mentee relationship quickly blossomed into a friendship and bromance of mutual benefit: Asake’s learning first hand under the tutelage of a Nigerian music icon and Olamide’s status as a legacy builder is further emphasised even taken to a world stage, after earning his first Grammy nomination for his contributions on “Amapiano” off Asake’s sophomore release, ‘Work of Art.’ With years and more tuneful hits like “New Religion” stacked up their sleeves, Olamide and Asake or Baddo and Mr Money, as they are colloquially referenced, remain a perfect example of potential from a collaboration written in the stars. 


The duo of Wale Davies (Tec) and Olumide Ayeni (Ghost) have been, for over a decade, a permanent fixture in Nigerian rap, providing a refreshing perspective to the traditional formulas in the country’s Hip-Hop scene. While their gritty reflections on ‘Clone Wars’ launched them into the scene, Juls-produced “Feel Alright” introduced a new outlook on their battle-ready bars with a conscious addition of Highlife. The pair spearheaded the movement of what’s now dubbed Palmwine music, a melting pot of airy productions, groovy progressions and bars exploring love and lived experiences. The new series displayed their incomparable wit and masterful lyricism as they touched on generational topics with an emotionally resonant edge. 

Perfectly positioned at the centre of Nigeria’s budding alternative scene, the pair completed the final iteration of the series with ‘Palmwine Music 3,’ two years ago, a nod to their dedication to preaching the palmwine gospel and expanding the genre’s scope. The first version brought on breezy raps accompanied by tuneful hooks, soundtracked by the likes of Boj, Odunsi(The Engine) and Funbi, who would grow to become recurrent collaborators for the two. The second instalment brought on a unique summer warmth, set up by a stack of melodious confessions of love and desperate longing with tracks like Lady Donli-assisted “For A Minute.” Before the finale, the pair closed out 2019 with ‘The Palmwine Express,’ to balance the harsher realities of ‘Clone Wars Vol.IV “These Buhari Times”’ released at the start of the year. It goes without saying that Tec and Ghost’s innumerable contributions to Afropop and Hip-Hop’s rich tapestry, in Nigeria and beyond, will never go unnoticed. 


This twin-producer duo, Bandile and Banele Mbere, takes inimitable pairings to a whole new level. Collectively dubbed Major League DJz, the Sandton-raised duo drew inspiration from their pianist father and uncles, including Hugh Masekela and Caiphus Semenya. They propped up as Hip-Hop but made the switch to Amapiano when the infant scene began gaining traction locally and globally. Speaking on the pair for the NATIVE’s 2021 cover Sounds From This Side: Amapiano, Mohlomi explains, “Starting out producing New Age Kwaito music, which they describe as more Hip-Hop inclined variant of the House sound that prevails in South Africa, Major League are champions of the approach to “hlanganisa” (combine) that The Lowkeys describe as the principal characteristic in the collaborative ethos of Amapiano.”

In the spirit of love, it would be an injustice not to recognise their contribution to the romantic catalogue of the dance-driven genre. “Dinaledi” stands out from their generously delivered 31-track debut LP ‘Pianonation,’ with a stunning rendition delivered by Mpho Sebina and production-assist by Abidoza. The rhythmic log drums are accompanied by lush piano chords and a vibrant, passionate declaration of love in a lifetime commitment, “No matter where you are, I’ll be there beside you/No matter how deep, I’ll be there to guide you.” Nearing half a decade later and that song, alongside most of their contributions, continue to weave permanent imprints in the fabric of Afro-House. Together, they have and continue to take Amapiano to the furthest parts of the world, including a masterful set in Ibiza for one of the largest music broadcasting platforms, Boiler Room


With the amount of appearances this pair have made on each other’s projects, it’s surprising that they aren’t an official pair or at least, put out a joint project. This Nigerian and British-Gambian duo have been inseparable for nearly decade, with collaborations going back to Burna Boy’s 2018 album, ‘Outsider’ and J Hus’ ‘Common Sense.’ Dubbed “Sekkle Down” and “Good Time” respectively, these tracks opened a world of possibilities within Afropop’s melodious catalogue and the gritty refined touches of the Hip-Hip outputs from the UK. Burna would later deliver an unrivalled performance on “Play Play,” assisting J Hus’ resounding comeback into the scene after a near three-year hiatus. Even after Hus’ absence from the scene through 2022, he still lent a stellar verse to “Cloak & Dagger” from the Grammy nominated album. As expected, Burna returned the favour on ‘Beautiful And Brutal Yard,’ joined by an impressive feature cast including Jorja Smith, Popcaan, Drake and more. 

And this brotherhood runs deeper than a couple verses. Though J Hus didn’t make an appearance on Burna’s recent addition, ‘I Told Them…’ the comically narrated intro at the start of crowd favourite, “City Boys” was picked up from a video of Hus’ shared Instagram a couple years back. As these two continue to achieve outstanding feats in their respective genres, it is clear that this friendship is bound to birth more timeless hits that emphasise the sea of possibilities born of an Afropop-UK rap marriage. 


The sudden passing of Mohbad October 2023 brought about a number of distraught fans, friends and music lovers across the world. With a rich discography etched with his life experiences, Imole’s death was particularly bitter news to digest considering the circumstances of his death. In his later years, the ex-Marlian Music signee spoke up about threats and contract tensions he faced after parting with the label, shedding light on the darker side of the country’s music industry. Fellow street-pop crooner and friend, Bella Shmurda, openly voiced his support and upon his passing months later, understandable bore the weight of his loss. He later released “My Brother,” a heartfelt tribute  where he reminisces on the bond they shared.   

Pre the tragic loss, the pair shared their sonic strengths on track’s  like “Pariwo” of Mohbad’s ‘Blessed’ EP. Ready to track a new path, Mohbad enlisted him for a short but passionate rendition where he opens up about the emotions of living. The pair take turns to effortlessly slide across the wave of the beat with sheer vulnerability, etching the track for a clear top spot for contemporary Nigerian pop hits. While these two undoubtedly had a blossoming relationship and slew of potential hits, stunted by a series of regrettable events, their brotherhood and support for each other was still a beautiful one to be modelled after. 

[Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE]