25 Afrobeats songs featured in Hollywood movies


In this article, we take a look at some afrobeats songs that have become soundtracks for blockbuster movies we all love.

The entertainment world is a deeply interrelated one, with several arms of it coming together with an end product in mind. A perfect example is movie soundtracks, where most times, pre-recorded and already-released songs are used in a movie to heighten the emotions portrayed in a particular scene. While very much like the music space, the movie market is mostly dominated by American movies and generally Western films. The incorporation of Afrobeats into Hollywood movies is a recent endeavor aimed at fostering global inclusivity and cultural exchange. Streaming giants such as Netflix and Showmax, which hold rights and access to African music, have facilitated a smoother integration of Afrobeat into Hollywood productions. Nigerian musicians have been able to, through their music, also leave a mark on the world of blockbuster movies.

The question of why this is happening now is due to the recent global appeal that Afrobeat has brought. In one way or another, everyone desires to align themselves with the worldwide allure of Afrobeat. Notably, Netflix and Shondaland teamed up with South African singer Msaki, Kenyan musician Nikita, and Nigerian singer Fave to celebrate the release of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The talented female African powerhouses did a rendition of the timeless song African Queen by the legendary Tuface Idibia. These Afrobeat tracks also infuse a contagious beat and rhythm into diverse films.

1. Alone by Burna Boy in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Burna Boy's Alone is a standout track on the Marvel movie, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, released in November 2022. Known for his ability to deliver captivating performances, Burna Boy once again proves his mastery in the music industry with this powerful yet soothing song.

At its core, Alone delves into the complex theme of loneliness, exploring the feelings of isolation and disconnect that can plague the human mind. The track was one of the best from the Black Panther franchise. The slow-tempo, R&B-infused song features a subtle piano playing in the background, providing a melodic backdrop for Burna Boy's emotive vocal delivery

2. I'm a Mess by Omah Lay in Everything Now

The new Netflix original series Everything Now features I'm a Mess by Omah Lay as a soundtrack in its opening scene. The series was released in October 2023. During its debut, Everything Now held the seventh position in Nigeria's Top 10 TV shows.

The incorporation of Omah Lay's popular track I'm a Mess in the show's opening scene portrays Mia's deepest emotions, despite her extended stay in the hospital. Mia grapples internally with the realization that her seclusion from the world is over, and it's time to start the external healing process. The journey to recovery is far from straightforward, with some obstacles along the way, and I'm a Mess effectively captures these challenges in the opening scene.

3. Who're You by Fela Kuti in Narcos (Mexico)

Fela Anikulapo Kuti's legacy continues to be celebrated around the world. The song Who're You was used in the second season of the TV series Narcos (Mexico). Fela's music transcends boundaries and resonates with audiences on a profound level.

4. Link Up by Metro Boomin', Don Toliver, and Wizkid in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Link Up seamlessly blends hip-hop with Afrobeats influences, showcasing the distinctive vocal prowess of Don Toliver and Wizkid. Metro Boomin's skillful production adds depth and energy to the track, creating a dynamic musical experience that resonates with audiences worldwide.

The inclusion of Link Up in the soundtrack of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse underscores Hollywood's recognition of the global appeal of Afrobeats and its ability to enhance storytelling in mainstream media.

5. Blood, Sweat, and Tears by Bas, Kel P & Black Sherif in Creed III

Ghanaian sensation Black Sherif teamed up with Dreamville artist Bas for the track Blood, Sweat, and Tears featured in the highly anticipated film Creed III.

Blood, Sweat, and Tears embodies the essence of perseverance and determination, mirroring the themes of resilience and triumph portrayed in Creed III. The track captures the spirit of overcoming obstacles through sheer grit and dedication, resonating with audiences on a universal level.

6. Zombie by Fela Kuti in Heart of Stone

The inclusion of Fela Kuti's iconic track Zombie in the 2023 film Heart of Stone once again showcases the timeless power and relevance of Fela's music. Known for his unparalleled influence in the music scene, Fela's presence in the movie amplifies its cultural significance and adds depth to the narrative.

Overall, the inclusion of Zombie in Heart of Stone not only enhances the film's auditory experience but also serves as a powerful reminder of Fela Kuti's lasting impact on both the music industry and society at large. His music continues to resonate with audiences worldwide, transcending geographical and generational boundaries to inspire change and ignite movements for social justice.

7. Jeezu by Doja Cat, Adekunle Gold and Kodak Black, and Sacred Love by Yemi Alade in Book of Clarence

The genre of Afrobeat, along with its accomplished artists, remains in a position of continued prominence and influence. Jeymes Samuel enlisted Yemi Alade and Adekunle Gold to feature on the soundtrack for his film Book of Clarence.

The musical score featured Yemi Alade and Adekunle Gold, along with other international artists like Doja Cat, Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, Jorja Smith, and others. British Ghanaian actor Eric Kofi-Abrefa, Nigerian-American actor Babs Olusanmokun, and David Oyelowo were also featured in the film.

When responding to backlash from the religious community concerning the film the director Jeymes Samuel said “I don’t choose the features first. I let the song tell me who it needs on it”.

8. Ogogoro by Dreamville, Bas and Ayra Starr in Creed III

The inclusion of Arya Starr's track Ogogoro in the soundtrack of Creed III marks a significant moment for the Nigerian artist and adds depth to the film's musical landscape. Arya Starr, a talent from the Mavin Records stable, teamed up with Dreamville's Bas to contribute to the 18-track album accompanying the movie.

9. Black Man's Cry by Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker in Beast

In the 2021 Hollywood film Beast, directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the use of Fela Kuti's iconic track Black Man's Cry as an outro is a poignant choice that adds depth and resonance to the narrative. The film, known for its intense psychological thriller elements and exploration of primal instincts, finds an apt complement in the pulsating rhythms and powerful messages of Fela's music.

By incorporating Black Man's Cry into the soundtrack of Beast, the filmmakers pay homage to Fela Kuti's enduring legacy as a musical pioneer and cultural icon. The song's inclusion enriches the film's narrative of a game of survival.

10. Heartbreaker by Blaqbonez in All the Queen's Men

The track from the album Sex Over Love received a significant number of streams and received praise when it was used in the American series. The 2021 BET+ series, filled with dramatic, crime, thrilling, and romantic elements, made an excellent choice in selecting this song to accompany its scenes.

The series, which premiered on BET+ in 2021, weaves together elements of drama, crime, thrills, and romance, creating a captivating narrative that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. The decision to include Heartbreaker in the television series injects a lively rhythm with the distinctive vocals of Blaqbonez into the gritty and intense party scene depicted in the accompanying scene.

11. African Queen by 2Baba in Phat Girlz

Released in 2006 with Mo’Nique as a starring actress, Phat Girlz is a movie about two fat women who, after struggling to find love due to their sizes and societal beauty standards, meet the men of their dreams that come from a culture where big women are appreciated. 

ALSO READ: 20 Unforgettable Ghana and Nigeria Music Collaborations from the 2000s till date

The inclusion of 2Baba’s (then Tuface) African Queen in the movie had generated so much buzz there had been a star-studded premiere in Lagos with the director of the movie, Nnegest Likka, co-star, Jimmy Jean Louis, and 2Baba himself making an appearance. 

While on the movie reviewing platforms, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the movie had gotten poor ratings, it was an A1 production where music was concerned thanks to their use of 2Baba’s African Queen classic as a major soundtrack. 

12. Let's Start by Fela Kuti in The Harder They Fall

When the movie, The Harder They Fall was previewed in September last year via its trailer, it generated a lot of buzz which was partly due to its choice of music; Fela’s Let's Start featuring Ginger Baker had been used. This immediately got the attention of fans of the late Anikulapo Fela as well as members and lovers of the Yoruba tribe as the lyric lines were in Yoruba. 

According to Jay Z who'd co-produced the movie, Fela's songs perfectly captured the essence of black people and was a perfect track for the trailer. Additionally, Director Jeymes Samuel who has Nigerian roots and is a Fela fan also felt the same. 

While the record wasn't listed in the soundtrack album as that contained music originally recorded for the film, it served as the backdrop for an intense confrontation between Trudy Smith (Regina King) and Stagecoach Mary (Zazie Beetz) in a memorable fight scene. Truthfully, Fela’s mission in Let's Start may be sensuous but the clashing cymbals, drums, trumpets, and Fela’s tone of urgency and finality, matched the scene well enough. 

13. Assurance by Davido in Coming to America

In the 33-year-old sequel to Eddie Murphy's Coming to America with its prequel airing in 1988, the Nigerian megastar, Davido made an unforgettable cameo, crooning along to his Assurance track at a wedding scene. In the 2021 sequel, the African monarch Akeem learns he has a long-lost son in the United States and must return to America to meet this unexpected heir and build a relationship with his son.

A song about true love, no record could be any more befitting for the scene. According to Davido in an interview with Ionnawalk Podcast, he was paid $15,000 per day on set of the movie. 

14. Daddy Yo by Wizkid in Pacific Rim 2

When Pacific Rim co-producer, John Boyega announced that Wizkid's Daddy Yo would be one of the sounds used in the movie, the interest of several Nigerians and Africans was beyond heightened. Mention of this had fans of the star picturing exhilarating fight scenes with a Jaeger throwing punches at a Kaiju while swaggering to the song. 

Daddy Yo was however applied with a different purpose, the joyous after-party that came with the victory of the Jaegers and the human race against the Kaijus. 

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15. My Money, My Baby by Burna Boy in Queen & Slim

A film by Melina Matsoukas explores the skewed and hasty analysis black people are subjected to due to color as well as other troupes of racism. Burna Boy was recruited to supply the main soundtrack of the movie.

For this, the Afro-fusion star had gone the more traditional Afrobeat way, sampling Fela’s Shakara to create an upbeat and jazz-kissed anthem on My Money, My Baby

16. Skelewu by Davido in Queen of Katwe

In Queen of Katwe, the protagonist makes it out of the slums of Katwe to become a female Master candidate of chess. It is a 2016 American biographical sports drama film and it depicts the life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess prodigy from Katwe who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after her performances at World Chess Olympiads.

ALSO READ: All the Afrobeats Songs Certified Gold in the US

Produced by Mira Nair while starring Kenyan-Mexican screen star, Lupita Nyong'o, Davido’s Skelewu was one of the vibrant Afropop records applied to the soundtrack to in their words ‘enliven an introspective score,’ and was also included in the soundtrack album as well. 

17. Sekem by MC Galaxy in Queen of Katwe

MC Galaxy’s Sekem is another Afropop record from an Afrobeat artiste used in lightening the Disney film, Queen of Katwe. Likewise, Eddy Kenzo‘s song Mbilo Mbilo was also enlisted in the soundtrack album as one of the originals. 

The film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN Films. Queen of Katwe was one of the most inspirational and uplifting films of 2021. Therefore it was only right for the musical score to feature Afrobeat artists.

18. Odo Nwom By Kofi Nti in The Kitchen

The soundtrack of the latest Netflix original film The Kitchen includes the song Odo Nwom by Ghanaian musicians Kofi Nti, Ofori Amponsah, and Barosky.

During a recent Radio Times interview, Kibwe Tavares discussed the incorporation of varied musical genres, stating, "It's definitely a sort of process of elimination and starting pretty broad, and we had to sort of build the soundscape the same we did the world – in a sense, we were still trying to push for, like, this idea of layers and this idea of colours and this idea of building what's there. So then you'll see, like, a mix of influences that we have, whether it's garage, drum and bass, grime, and some more sort of classically composed things".

19. Ja Ara E By Burna Boy in The Lion King Live-action

In the 21st century, it has become a prevailing trend to create remakes of classic movies, with the 1994 animated masterpiece The Lion King being one of the more notable films to undergo a modern transformation. The live-action adaptation of "The Lion King" featured a strong lineup of Nigerian artists responsible for crafting the original musical score for the movie. Among them, Burna Boy and Wizkid stood out prominently, generating significant buzz on social media.

Beyoncé, serving as the executive producer for the soundtrack album, curated a captivating musical score that seamlessly complemented the film's narrative. The visuals accompanying each track were thoughtfully selected for inclusion in her "Black is King" album. Notably, Burna Boy contributed his track titled Ja Ara E among the 14 tracks on the album.

20. Fall by Davido & Shake Body by Skales in Sex Education

A popular favorite, the Netflix series has been a much-needed fresh air with its informative and detailed depiction of sex-related topics among teenagers. And when Season 3 of the show saw Eric follow his Nigerian roots home for a wedding, the producers didn't fail to give viewers a truly Nigerian experience. The first of these was the scene where Eric had a dance-off with his reflection to Skales’ Shake Body while packing for the trip. 

21. Joro by Wizkid, and Anybody by Burna Boy in Sex Education

With the need to drive home a truly lavish Lagos wedding party, Sex Education’s depiction of the reception scene also included the instrumental of Burna Boy's Anybody off his Grammy-nominated African Giant album, Soothing yet heady melodic song Joro by Wizkid.

22. Wake Up by Bloody Civilian in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

One of Nigeria's hottest producers and singers Bloody Civilian was included in the musical lineup for one of Marvel Studios' biggest films. The Black Panther: Wakanda Forever film was an ode to its fallen hero Chadwick Boseman. The film had a worldwide release with the main cast touring the biggest continents on planet Earth including Africa.

Bloody Civilian featured Rema on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for the film. According to the artiste she was chosen because "the film is about Africa and had a very women-led cast, they really wanted to portray the strength of women in general. So, even with the way they made the music, they wanted it to involve women creatives".

23. Attention by Tiwa Savage, Oyejo by Fela Kuti, and Sweet Mother by Nico Mbarga in Sex Education

The African and British cross-over in Sex Education was truly an impressive and well-crafted episode. Nico Mbarga’s Sweet Mother is one of those classics that have defied its digital markers to be passed down even from mouth to mouth, at homes, and even at traditional gatherings. In Sex Education, it was tactfully deployed in the scene where Eric dresses up for the wedding reception with his mother present. 

As Eric and his family leave Lagos, Nigeria, and head home to England, this arc is closed with Tiwa Savage's Attention, signaling the rush from Eric's short-lived romance with Oba. Made in an era of the King of Afrobeat where his lines were less satirical and his refrains unpolitical, Fela’s Oyejo classic was deployed at the scene in Sex Education where Eric’s family arrived in Lagos. This episode of Sex Education was truly a taste of home.

24. Gbona by Burna Boy in Top Boy

When Top Boy Jamie finally regains freedom, there's an air of exhilaration and cocksureness. It becomes a palpable feeling when Burna Boy’s Gbona starts to play. Echoing through his car ride, down to the scene where he reunites with his friends. The use of instrumentals and the Yoruba language is used to welcome Jamie back into the jaws of the UK drug-crime lifestyle.

Gbona was featured in the opening sequence of the second season of Top Boy, wherein Jamie likely anticipated a return to normalcy following his prior incarceration and conflict with Dunashe. The selection of Gbona was fitting for this season as it resonated with the expectation among viewers that Jamie would reclaim his position as the Top Boy, symbolizing his status as a respected leader within the hierarchy.

25. Leave Me Alone by Amaarae in Top Boy

Ghanaian singer Amaarae Leave Me Alone was also soundtracked in Top Boy

This article was originally written by Bamise Oyetayo

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