Tems and Elaine join Burna Boy, Wizkid and Diamond Platnumz at the 2021 BET Awards

These African acts are nominated in the Best New International Act (Viewers' Choice) and Best International Act categories

One of the first major events in the American music industry to take place during the full swing of the COVID-19 global pandemic, last year’s BET Awards were a groundbreaking display of what award shows, public performances and mass gathering would look like in a pandemic. Held virtually last year, in respect of the lockdown, this year BET will return to a live award show in Los Angeles on June 27 8pm ET, airing live on the BET channel as well.

With just one month until the show, yesterday, BET revealed the nominees for this year’s awards, including a total of seven nominations for last year’s ‘Best Female Hip-Hop’ winner, Megan Thee Stallion and other notable nods for Dababy, Chloe x Halle and Pop Smoke. The BET Awards are a celebration of Black artistry in America, but they are also commemorative Black musicians worldwide, who are nominated within the ‘Best International Act’ category and the ‘Best New International Act’ viewers’ choice category.

Representing Africa in the Best International Act category are two of Nigeria’s biggest Pop acts, Burna Boy and Wizkid, and Diamond Platnumz from Tanzania. In this category, our African stars go up against Aya Nakamura, a Mali born French-based artiste; Headie One and Young T & Bugsey from the UK; Brazil’s Emicida; and French rapper Youssoupha, born to a Congolese father and Senegalese mother. In the viewers’ choice category for the Best New International Act, Tems and Elaine stand a chance of bringing it home for Africa, going head to head with Brazil’s coveted MC Dricka, British Pop sensation, Bree Runway, joined by Arlo Parks, half-Nigerian but also representing the UK, as well as French singers Ronisia and Bramsito. Judging by social media reception on the BET International Instagram page, African artists are the buzz in each of these categories, which is especially important in the Best New International Act category as that is viewers choice. Our confidence for a continental win across the International categories is definitely not misplaced, but if you’re in doubt, below is a breakdown of each artists’ campaign to prove just how sure we are of this bet.


Few newcomers have had as exciting and prolific a year as Tems had. Since featuring on the cover of NATIVE‘s Issue 004, Tems has led Apple Music campaigns and concluded partnerships with YouTube Music, she has made history whilst topping local charts, locally and internationally, with singles of her own and featured credits, namely on the ‘Made in Lagos‘ standout track, “Essence”. Releasing ‘For Broken Ears‘, her debut project last September, Tems’ unprecedented red streak ascent since “Try Me” went supersonic, and she now ranks comfortably amongst the cross-over African stars who have been inching for an international break long before Tems even released her debut single, “Mr Rebel” just three years ago. With the second most votes from the public so far, Tems is a clear favourite to win the Best New International Act Viewers’ Choice Award.


Debuting officially in 2019, Elaine has been accomplishing groundbreaking feats right from the start. Dropping ‘Elements‘ in September that year, leading with singles, “Slip Away” and “I Just Wanna Know” Elaine became the first independent solo female artist to reach number one on Apple Music and iTunes album charts in South Africa, and went on to become the first South African artist named under Spotify’s Radar program for emerging artists. Spotlighted in our Fresh Meat column last June, following Elements was a significantly successful year for Elaine; she was nominated for ‘R&B/Soul Album of the Year’ at the South African Music Awards, bagged a Colombia Records deal and continued to clear her path as a trap-soul, alternative R&B singer with numerous charting singles. With this BET nomination, 2021 looks to have even more Ws lined up for Elaine, let’s hope and vote a win in this category is amongst these.

Other nominees for the Best New International Act

Where the Best International Act category is packed with male talent from across the world, the Best New International Act nominees reflect the changing landscape for women in music. Empowering initiatives for women – the likes of Femme Africa, which has recently joined the Spotify Equal Board – are truly making a difference in creating a more egalitarian industry, executives are being called out for the misogynistic biases towards marketing and promoting male artists, and audiences are increasingly conscious of their own complicity in making success that much harder for female artists. This has led to more women being recognised and commended deservedly, evident in this year’s Best New International Act category.

Alongside Tems and Elaine is Bree Runway, a British rapper hailing from Hackney, London who has become something of a pop culture icon this past year, with her nostalgic, dramatic visuals that accompany her assorted musical style. Also from the UK is half-Nigerian indie musician, Arlo Parks, who earned three nominations at this year’s Brit Awards, for British Album of the Year, British Female Artist and lastly Breakthrough Artist, which she won. Leading so far is Brazil’s MC Dricka whose music is an provocative fusion of Latin notes, Dance production and hype sung rap that has earned her wide attention across the region. The final two nominees for the BET 2021 Best New International Act, Viewers’ Choice Award are Bramsito, the only male in the category, and Ronisia, both from France. Whilst Ronisia is still in her earlier stages, Bramsito has a sizeable discography behind him, complete with a platinum certification that proves he is a top contender locally.


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Wizkid in Best International Act

Out with arguably the most favoured album of last year, Wizkid is a very likely winner for this year’s Best International Act award, not only given the quality of the project, but his ubiquitous global presence over the past year. Beginning the ‘Made In Lagos‘ campaign with the H.E.R.-assisted R&B cut, “Smile”, Wizkid kept music lovers in a tight grip through the second half of the year, relentlessly teasing his album to no avail. Finally dropping ‘Made In Lagos‘ to heal his country in the wake of EndSARS protests he had lent his voice to, Wizkid’s post-album campaign has been a multimedia experience, with a YouTube live concert, a special edition NATIVE issue, Puma collections and more. In today’s abundant world, good music isn’t the only mark of a strong artist, but one of Africa’s leading stars, Wizkid has it all in his pocket, a W for him would be no surprises.

Burna Boy

Winning BET’s last two ‘Best International Act’ awards, this year could mark Burna Boy’s third consecutive win in this category, adding another notch in his belt after winning the Grammy’s album equivalent category, ‘Best Global Music Album’ back in March. Equally as magnetic a global presence as Wizkid – multiple editorial spreads, including a recent GQ cover, a BoohooMan collaboration, and multiple placements on mainstream globals album such as Justin Beiber’s ‘Justice‘ and the Coming 2 America compilation album – in terms of global acclaim, Burna Boy and Wizkid are toe-to-toe, so close in the race one can hardly compare. When it comes to their key albums for this year however, where Wizkid’s might have had a more lasting impact with audiences in these parts, given that Hip-Hop is a defining genre in contemporary music for Black people in America and the BET, endorsements, features and executive production from some of Hip-Hop’s most influential hitmakers on ‘TAT‘ lends partiality to Burna Boy’s chances.

Diamond Platnumz

There is no question about it, Nigerian music is disproportionately represented in the global perception of music coming out of the content, and our artists are awarded more visibility for this. Though the world might not be as tuned in to African music outside of Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana, that is no indictment on the music coming our of other nodes, and Diamond Platnumz’s unstoppable commercial success is clear proof of that. With no album behind his campaign this time, Diamond Platnumz has released a deluge of singles in the part year, ranging from Latin inspired Pop songs such as, “Haunisumbui” to a Hip-Hop infused “Quarantine” anthem that speaks to our obsession with learning dances during lockdown. Earning three spots on Africa’s most viewed songs on YouTube in 2020, with “Jeje” (1), “Waah” featuring Kofi Olomide (3) and “Gere” (7), Diamond Platnumz, has so far been tearing up East Africa with vivacious, entirely COVID-unfriendly live performances, that are a key component of this artist’s merit.

Other nominees for the Best International Act

Releasing her second self-titled project last November, Aya Nakamura, is the only woman nominated in the category, joined by rapper Youssoupha, who stand a chance of taking the award back to France. Close by in the UK is Headie One, who enjoyed a noteworthy year – wining a MOBO award and earning a Brit nomination – and British-Nigerian-Jamaican duo, Young T & Bugsey, also nominated at the Brits, who emerged with their debut album last year. Brazilian rapper, Emicida is the sole South American artist nominated, boasting an equally prolific year, including a GQ Brasil spread and a Netflix Brasil partnership.

In both these international categories, the competition is stiff, but as always our musical acts stand as favourites to bring the awards home. In the Best New International Act category, you have the power to make that happen by voting for Elaine or Tems, which is as easy as liking their pictures on the BET International IG page: here for Elaine and here for Tems. Simulcast via BET Africa on June 28 at 2am CAT you can also win a chance to attend the live show in person by registering on BET’s 2021 Awards website here. In the mean time, view the full list of nominees for the 2021 BET Awards here.

Adewojumi Aderemi is still learning.