Nicknamed the “Giants of Africa”, Nigeria is the most populous country on the continent with a population of more than 200 million people. A recent US survey showed Nigerians in the US are one of the highest educated migration groups in the country. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that some of the most talented singers and rappers that have made it big in America have come from Nigeria.
Today, we look at 10 American Musicians of Nigerian Descent.
Chika is an American rapper, songwriter, poet, model, and actress who garnered attention on social media for her viral freestyles. She rose to fame when her video dubbed “A Letter to Kanye Omari West” went viral in 2018, criticizing West for his public support of Donald Trump and endorsement of political commentator Candace Owens.
She was later signed to Warner Records in 2019 releasing her debut single “No Squares” in April of that year. The following year, she was included in XXL’s 2020 Freshman Class and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2021. Going by the stage name Chika, the multi-talented rapper was born Jane Chika Oranika in Montgomery, Alabama, on 9th March 1997. Chika is the youngest of her Nigerian-American parents’ three daughters and is of Igbo descent.
Although this artiste isn’t technically an American, he is very much active on the US rap scene.
Daniel Nwosu Jr, born on 22nd March 1994, better known by his stage name Dax, is a Nigerian Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter. Dax’s birthplace might be in Canada but his parents were born in Nigeria. Having lived his formative years in Canada, he later moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue his rap career. Dax rose to fame for the official music video of his song “Cash Me Outside” featuring Danielle Bregoli. In April 2021, he ended speculations about his roots and origins when he shared a photo of the Nigerian flag tatted on his neck with the caption: “Yes. I am Nigerian.”
3. Maxo Kream
Born on 29th March 1990, Emekwanem Ogugua Biosah Jr, professionally known as Maxo Kream, is a Nigerian-American rapper and songwriter from Houston-Texas. Kream is of Nigerian descent through his father, who is a Nigerian immigrant to the U.S.
In 2012, he started to gain popularity after releasing a remix of Kendrick Lamar’s “Rigamortus” on YouTube. His early mixtapes Retro Card and Quicc Strikes also pushed him into the limelight. His debut album Punken was released in 2018, and the follow-up and major label debut, Brandon Banks, was released in 2019. Maxo Kream is renowned for his honest lyricism and for using his music to tell the gripping story of his struggles growing up in Houston – Texas as a child of an African immigrant.
Rapper Cozz is currently signed to J. Cole’s label Dreamville Records and Interscope Records, with his debut studio album Cozz & Effect, being released on 3rd October 2014.
The J. Cole protégé was born Cody Rashad Osagie on October 1, 1994, in Los Angeles, California to a Nigerian father and a mother with roots in Louisiana. His multicultural upbringing culminated in the rapper being influenced by several genres of music, from reggae to rap. He told Interview Magazine in a 2014 interview: “I was always a music lover. Growing up, my mom played a lot of old-school rap. I listened to reggae because my dad is Nigerian.”
5. Tobe Nwigwe
Tobechukwu Dubem Nwigwe, who goes by the stage name Tobe Nwigwe is an American rapper and singer from the Alief neighborhood of Houston, Texas born on 8th March 1987.
Nwigwe is a first-generation child of Nigerian immigrants hailing from the Igbo ethnicity. His name Tobechukwu translates to “Praise God” in the Igbo dialect. The rapper began to gain a following through his Instagram and YouTube posts and videos which he usually posted every Sunday. Since August 2016, he has posted an original song and video every Sunday across social media. His music has garnered a lot of attention, with Michelle Obama, once putting his song “I’m Dope” on her workout playlist. In 2022, Tobe received a nomination for Best New Artist at the 65th Grammy Awards.
Born on 30th November 1988, Olurotimi Akinosho, known professionally as Rotimi, is an American singer and actor best known for his roles as Darius Morrison on the Starz series Boss, and as Andre Coleman on Power.
Rotimi, by the way, is a name of Yoruba origin that means “stay with me”. He was born in Maplewood, New Jersey, to Nigerian parents. His father was an investment banker of Yoruba origin and his mother of Igbo origin, worked for the government.
In a recent interview, Rotimi delved into how his parents helped him stay connected to his Nigerian roots throughout his upbringing.
“My parents made sure I went every other summer until I was about 18 or 19. I was always in Apofe Village with my mom’s family. My mum is Igbo and my dad is Yoruba. I was always in Imo state with my mom’s side and with my dad’s side, I was in Lagos. I saw a lot of wealth and poverty. They exposed me to that. The funny thing is I had the most fun when I was in the village because there was camaraderie.”
Starting out his musical career as an out and out R&b artiste, Rotimi has evolved his sound over the years, now incorporating strong Afrobeats elements. The most successful of such releases is 2019’s “Love Riddim”.
Born on 4th May 1985, Jidenna Theodore Mobisson popularly known as Jidenna, is an American rapper and singer.
Jidenna is signed to Janelle Monáe’s Wondaland Records label and distributed through Epic Records and became world-famous with his 2015 first official single, called “Classic Man” featuring GianArthur which he quickly followed with his 2017-released debut album “Chief”. The song which was in heavy rotation throughout the United States debuted at number 49 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart.
Jidenna was born in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, to Tama Mobisson, an accountant, and Oliver Mobisson, a Nigerian Igbo academic. He grew up partially in Nigeria, where his father was working as a professor of computer science at Enugu State University. When Mobisson was six years old, the family moved back to the United States.
Proud of his African roots, Jidenna makes it a point to represent Nigerian culture through his music and his unique sense of fashion. In 2019, he outdoored his sophomore album “85 to Africa” which spots guest appearances from Nigerian acts Mr. Eazi and Seun Kuti. Highlighting his intent to bridge the gap between the States and Africa with his music, Jidenna describes the album as “the soundtrack someone might listen to if they were traveling from America to Africa.”
Olubowale Victor Akintimehin was born on 21st September 1984, in Northwest, Washington, D.C. His parents were both from the Yoruba ethnic group of southwestern Nigeria, and both of them came from Austria to the United States in 1979.
In an interview with OkayAfrica the rapper stated that growing up in a household of Nigerian culture, he looks at himself as a black man in America, but as a Nigerian first because those are his roots.
“Cause that’s my blood, I’m 100% Nigerian.”
Wale first gained recognition in 2006, when his song “Dig Dug (Shake It)” became popular in his hometown, leading Wale to become locally recognized as he continued recording music for the regional audience. Wale has experimented with Afrobeats and has worked with several Nigerian artists including Wizkid, Davido and Olamide.
Chamillionaire was born to a Muslim Yoruba father and an African-American Christian mother in Washington D.C and moved to Houston, Texas at the age of four. Chamillionaire’s parents separated in his early teenage years.
He began his solo career with local releases in 2002, including the collaborative album Get Ya Mind Correct with fellow Houston rapper and childhood friend Paul Wall. He signed to Universal Records in 2005 and released The Sound of Revenge under Universal. It included hit singles “Turn It Up” featuring Lil’ Flip and the number-one, Grammy-winning hit “Ridin’” featuring Krayzie Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Having been missing from our music charts for quite a long time now, today Chamillionaire is more recognized for his entrepreneurial exploits in the tech space amongst a number of industries.
10. Tyler, The Creator
Tyler Gregory Okonma, born in Los Angeles, California in March 1991, is an American rapper, and a founding member of the Hip-Hop collective, Odd Future who goes by the moniker Tyler, The Creator.
Tyler is currently one of hip-hop’s most critically acclaimed acts having already won two Grammy Awards, three BET Hip Hop Awards, a BRIT Award, and an MTV Video Music Award. The “Earfquake” hitmaker’s Nigerian father has Igbo ancestry, and his American mother is of mixed African-American and European-Canadian descent. Tyler claims to have never met his father.
However, in a recent interview, the rapper spoke about growing to embrace his Nigerian last name more and more, he said:
“I always thought my last name was weird, but whatever. I started f*king with it more around 2016, and then I started putting it on my album covers… I really f*k with that name now… My full name, Tyler Okonma, in all caps, just looks really cool…. So you might see more of that, I don’t know. I’m getting older, and I think when people get older, they start realizing s**t and liking things they didn’t like. You just start changing.”