Last year, Rolling Stone declared Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems “the future.” Today, as Dazed latest cover star, she shared that her outlook on tomorrow is bigger than her.
“What I’m trying to do,” she said, “or what I hope that God does through me, is for the image of the African woman to be [changed] to something luxurious, or desired, or sought after. For the demand of the African woman to go up… Let us not be chasing foreign things, let us be something to be chased. And that can’t just happen with me; it’s a together thing. It has to happen with a whole industry of women already doing real and amazing things. That’s the future.”
After launching into the global mainstream with her celebrated feature on Wizkid’s “Essence,” which earned one of Afrobeats’ highest spots on the Hot 100 and a Grammy nomination, she wrote for Rihanna and appeared on songs with Beyoncé, Drake, and Future. Future’s “Wait for U,” which just earned two Grammy nominations, is built around Tems’ searing hook. Future sampled Tems’ “Higher,” from her 2020 EP For Broken Ears, and credited Tems as a featured artist.
Currently, another song from For Broken Ears has spent four weeks at Number One on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart after climbing for 33 weeks. In the midst of her growing buzz, Tems took time to recognize other women from West Africa that have blazed their own trails in music, including Asa, Ayra Starr, Teni the Entertainer, and more. “When I see any one of you gracing a stage, I feel like that’s me,” Tems tweeted this summer after winning the BET Award for Best International Act. In her acceptance speech, she encouraged other women and girls to see themselves in her accomplishments.
In the Dazed interview, Tems reflected on the way she and her life has changed since becoming one of the most popular artists from Africa in four short years.
“Technically, my career has taken me out of my comfort zone and made me into a more outgoing person,” she said. “But I wasn’t thinking about how to be better in the limelight, I was just thinking of how to be a better person in general, the best possible version of myself. And I think once you start being visible, a lot of these things that you didn’t know existed start coming to light, you start knowing yourself more, too.”
“Free Mind” laid bare torment Tems seems to be shaking now. She’s working on new music, traveling the world, and standing firm in who she is. “My mind is freed… ish,” she said.