The women behind the biggest Afropop Stars

the women pulling all the strings

From the euphoric release of operating behind the mic to navigating the drama that unfurls at boardroom level, there is no Afropop without the contribution of its women. In the twenty-odd years since the genre has risen from a sub-regional powerhouse to a key component of global pop’s framework, women have been at the forefront of that evolution, working ardently to propel African music to the top of the charts and the minds and hearts of millions across the globe. 

The theme for 2024’s International Women’s Day is ‘Accelerate Progress,’ and at no time has the propulsive force of the women in Afropop been felt as much as it has now. In honour of IWD and the work being done by women in Afropop, we at The NATIVE are celebrating some of the women driving some of Afropop’s acts to success across the globe. 


Bose Ogulu, popularly known as Mama Burna, is a giant who has history as a linguist, academic, and business woman but she’s most well-known for her role as the manager of her children, Burna Boy and Nissi.  Ever-present from the beginning of Burna Boy’s career, she set up his first recording deal with Aristokrat Records and served as his manager in a first stint until 2014. After returning as his manager in 2017, she orchestrated the run that took Burna Boy from misunderstood virtuoso to Grammy Award-winning superstar, while receiving acclaim for some of her public speeches, like the famous 2019 BET Awards acceptance speech where she reminded the audience that they were Africans first before they became anything else. 


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A key part of Burna Boy’s transglobal appeal lies in his imagery and fashion. That aspect of his brand is handled by his sister, Ronami Ogulu, who helps to translate his idea of cosmopolitan pan-African co-operation into stylish fashion statements. Even though her role on team Burna only became official in the last half-decade, Ronami has been an ever-present at Burna Boy’s side since his breakthrough with “Like To Party,” in 2012 and has helped to guide him through several style evolutions in the 12 years since then. She officially became a key part of his team as his global campaign took off in 2018 and she’s since curated several timeless looks for him ranging from his 2019 Kenneth Ize outfit for his Coachella performance to attending the 2023 Met Gala in custom Burberry. 


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Jada Pollock is a British-American music executive and entrepreneur who has worked with Nigerian superstar, Wizkid, for over a decade, helping to establish his international profile. In addition to her work in music, she has consulted for Premier League footballers and sports stars. Jada has also worked on brand management for a number of music industry personalities like Bu Thiam and managed stars like Pia Mia + more. Since working with Wizkid, Jada has been instrumental in taking the singer’s career to new heights, and bringing Afropop to a global audience with special highlights like the groundbreaking success of Wizkid’s fourth studio album, ‘Made In Lagos.’ 


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Grace Ladoja is always keen to showcase the diverse range of talent in Afropop. Born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, Ladoja has worked in music for over a decade and has since used that platform to work on landmark initiatives like MetallicInc London and Our Homecoming, an annual showcase of African creativity in music, fashion, and art that aims to connect the diaspora with the motherland. As a co-founder of the music company, Metallic Inc, she has also been instrumental in platforming some of Afropop’s most dexterous performers such as Lojay and the celebrated record producer, Sarz. The release of “Happiness,” the Asake and Gunna-featuring lead single off Sarz’s forthcoming debut album hints at a new era for producers working in Afropop. 


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Currently, there are few Afropop acts with a stronger visual identity than YBNL singer and songwriter, Asake. In the two years since Asake has staged a coup on the mainstream of Afropop, he has not only received critical praise for his amapiano-inflected, energetic variant of street-pop, his style has also been in the spotlight. Raya Khaled, his go-to stylist, is responsible for so many of his striking looks, complimenting the artist’s natural swagger. Raya has worked extensively with acts like Ciara, Kelly, Cardi B, Bia, and Davido but it is with Asake that she creates some of her most compelling looks. By blending the traditional elements of Asake’s heritage with the innovative edges of high fashion, Raya is creating a new playbook for fashion in Afropop. 


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Feyisola “Kulupsy” Ogunbanjo thinks of herself as a liaison, helping creatives to bring their dreams to life and execute campaigns efficiently. She started her career as a marketing executive at Trace TV and has gone on to work as a public relations and branding officer at Chop Life Crew where she played a key role in furthering the public acceptance of its frontline act Mojo AF. Always evolving. Kulupsy presently works as the project manager for hip-hop star, ODUMODUBLVCK, who has taken Afropop by storm over the last year-and-half  thanks to hit tracks like “DECLAN RICE” and “Cast.” Kulupsy is also the marketing operations lead at NATIVE Records


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[Featured Image Credits/The NATIVE] 

Words by Wale Oloworekende