The “live-action” Lion King remake hews closely to the original film, even recreating some scenes with shot-for-shot precision. But Beyoncé’s album that accompanies the film, The Lion King: The Gift, takes an approach that’s more inspired than a simple retread of familiar songs. Though the 27-track release is liberally woven with at-times distracting spoken word excepts from the film, the songs themselves are only inspired by the story, and you don’t need to be a Lion King fan to get on board.
The album features appearances from American artists like Pharrell and 070 Shake, as well as an adorable guest spot by seven-year-old Blue Ivy Carter. But it also features a lot of African talent. “This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa, and I wanted to make sure we found some of the best talent in Africa,” Beyoncé told Good Morning America. “I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.” Accordingly, the album is packed with appearances from some of the continent’s hottest names, including many stars of Nigeria’s Afrobeats genre, which is marked by intricate rhythms, energetic tempos, and influences ranging from traditional West African musical styles to funk. Here’s a guide to the African artists featured on The Lion King: The Gift.
Even if you don’t know his name, almost anyone who’s even accidentally listened to the radio in the past couple of years is familiar with Wizkid’s voice. This 29-year-old Nigerian singer-songwriter is one of Afrobeat’s biggest stars, and featured on Drakes’ “One Dance,” the top global single of 2016. He appears on another standout track on The Gift, “Brown Skin Girl,” alongside the album’s cutest guest vocalist, little Blue Ivy.
Tekno Miles is 26-year-old singer, actor, and dancer, a multiple Nigeria Entertainment Awards nominee and 2017 nominee for the BET award for best African artist. His 2016 song “Pana” was a massive success, and caught the attention of the US-based Columbia Records, which signed the song for its re-release.
Nigerian Afropop singer Alade is the first female African artist ever to clear a million subscribers on Youtube, and she makes two appearances on The Gift—first on the early-album stunner “Don’t Jealous Me,” and then on “My Power.”
Nigerian singer-songwriter Mr. Eazi is no stranger to big-name global collaborations, and appeared Bad Bunny and J Balvin’s “Como Un Bebé” earlier this year. On The Gift, he appears on “Don’t Jealous Me” and “Keys to the Kingdom.” “Growing up i watched the @lionking but never imagined that someday i would be part of the project!,” he wrote on Instagram. “Sending big Love to @beyonce for putting this project together! Its bringing The World To Africa.”
This Nigerian Afrobeats superstar is all over the place—he’s worked with Lily Allen and Fall Out Boy, and has been sampled by Drake. “It’s funny,” he told Billboard, “Most Americans don’t even understand what I’m saying in my records, but they pick up on the vibe, the vibration.”
“Water” is one of the most catchy and radio-friendly songs on The Gift, and it features Cameroonian singer Salatiel alongside Beyoncé and Pharell. “I can’t be grateful enough for all the support and trust y’all put in me,” he wrote on Instagram. “It was a pleasure working on this historic project on the song #Water alongside @beyonce & @pharrell.”
This Afrobeats star was born in Nigeria and spent her adolescence in the UK, where she was a contestant on The X-Factor and background singer for artists including George Michael and Kelly Clarkson. Later, she returned to Nigeria and began a successful solo career, becoming the first African artist ever signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation.
This Ghanahian dancehall musician appears on The Gift’s “Already” alongside Beyoncé and fellow Jamaican dancehall-inspired artists Major Lazer. “#Already is a banger,” he wrote on Instagram. “Thanks to the management of @beyonce and al the #Lionking team ..And to all my African artists on the album, I love you all.”
This South African singer isn’t just a super engaging entertainer with a gorgeous voice—she’s also an accomplished poet. On The Gift, she features on “My Power.”
Known for her instantly identifiable air-light voice, signature blue hair, and songs that frankly discuss female sexual pleasure, Sanelly features alongside her fellow SA musician Busiswa on “My Power.” “So honored to be a part of this magic,” she wrote on social media of her work on the album.
GABRIELLE BRUNEY Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.