The hip-hop community recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of Biggie’s passing but his legacy lives on through his family, friends and us, the fans.

One of the most unlikely fans of Big’s music is English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, and he’s a serious one too. Ever since I watched this video of Ed Sheeran reciting Notorious Biggie’s lines, I became a fan of not only his music but of the man. 

As I paid closer attention to Ed, I’ve seen so much reverence for hip-hop from an artist who, on the surface, looks like the antithesis of rap music. It’s been hard for me to dislike hip-hop head Ed since then, and all the articles I’ve read that disparage him for his love of rap music and call him a culture vulture and what not are often saltier than the water some of our brothers and sisters used to bath at the height of the Ebola crisis.

Ed has transferred some of that love for diverse art forms to Afro-centric music. In an interview with the Breakfast Club recently, the singer talked about how ‘Afrobeats’ influenced his album.

Watch from the 1:25 minute mark:

I did spend some time in Ghana for about 3 weeks and I collaborated with an artist over there called Fuse ODG, he’s a very talented Afrobeats artist and he had a house full of amazing Afrobeats artists as well. So we created some music out there, which was good.

Fuse ODG is a Ghanaian singer most notable for the 2014 hit song “Azonto”. He has developed a relationship with Ed Sheeran, back in June 2016, Fuse took the Grammy Award-winner on a trip to his home country. Ed was on a year-long break from music at the time but still teamed up with Fuse and producer Killbeatz to write and record new music.

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Amazingly, one of the songs they worked on made it to Ed’s 3rd studio album ÷ (Divide) which dropped on March 3. The song is titled “Bibia Be Ye Ye” and the chorus was performed, in part, in Twi, the local dialect – it means ‘all will be well’.

Listen below:

This placement is huge for the culture; Ed has embraced ‘Afrobeats’ not only musically but also culturally and a cosign from a superstar of his stature is no small thing. The ‘Afrobeats’ Ed Sheeran is referring to, however, is not to be confused with Afrobeat – the music form that was birthed by Fela Kuti in the 70’s.

Afrobeats is an umbrella term for music coming out of Africa or more specifically, anglophone music coming out of West Africa or to be even more specific, the mainstream/urban sounds of Nigeria and Ghana. The use of the term has generated a lot of controversy with many preferring the term ‘Afropop’ to protect the identity of Fela’s musical legacy and to draw a clearer distinction between the two art forms than just a pluralization.

Actually, “Bibia Be Ye Ye” isn’t necessarily considered Afrobeats or Afropop in the strict sense, it’s a song with strong soukous influences. While on French TV, Ed performed another track in Twi, this track wasn’t on his latest album though and seems to be titled “Africa Skies”.

Ed Sheeran’s new album ÷ (aka Divide) arrival atop the U.K. album chart with an astonishing total of 672,000 combined units. It’s the third fastest-seller ever in the U.K., according to the Official Charts Company, and the highest-ever opening sale for a male artist. The dope thing is that most of those folks who bought the album will now be able to listen to a piece of Africa wherever they are in the world.

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