A young artist from Lagos, Nigeria who started writing songs to cope with teenage solitude has achieved the highest accolade in the music industry.
On a night when the big guns of African music that have dominated at the Grammy Awards, in recent years including Angelique Kidjo and Burna Boy failed to clinch an award, up stepped singer, songwriter and producer, Tems.
Tems who has written music for and collaborated with superstars like Rihanna and Beyonce won the Best Melodic Rap Performance Grammy for the song Wait for You, sharing the award with rappers, Future and Drake.
The song which sampled the tune Higher from her 2020 EP For Broken Ears debuted at the No 1 on the prized Billboard Hot 100 pop charts in the US.
In 2021, she and compatriot Wizkid enjoyed global success with the hit song Essence, a US Top 10 hit, which was nominated in the Best Global Music Performance category at the Grammys last year.
Her dreamy vocals have appeared on some of the biggest songs of the last few years and she may not even have a full album to her name but Tems has attained enough influence through collaborations and songwriting to push her name to the very top of the game.
The 27-year-old Lagos-born singer-songwriter whose official name is Temilade Openiyi spent part of her childhood in the UK before returning to Nigeria at the age of 5.
She attended school in Nigeria and South Africa, where she learned how to play the piano and practised singing with her brother.
As a young shy girl, she kept her own company and found a channel to express herself by writing poetry and songs.
In 2018 she quit her digital marketing job to pursue music full-time, learning production skills on YouTube. She developed a style that is a departure from the typical Afrobeats, by fusing R&B with soul, reggae and pop.
Using just a laptop and earphones, Tems produced her debut single Mr Rebel, an emotional song dedicated to her mother who had suffered a broken leg after their home was attacked by burglars.
Her second single was Looku Looku before the big break came with the brilliant Try Me in 2019 which she declared a song for the “underrated, understated people who have been suppressed from use and abuse”.
A year later Tems was featured in a reworked version of Know Your Worth by American singer Khalid and the group Disclosure.
Her first EP For Broken Ears released in September 2020 was a deep reflection on relationships and depression, featuring the hit Damages.
Her international exposure hit its peak in 2021 with her feature on two huge global hits: the remix of Essence by her mentor Wizkid featuring Justin Bieber and Fountains by Drake.
She was signed to RCA Records in 2021 the American label on which she released her second EP If Orange Was a Place featuring the catchy single Crazy Tings.
That same year, Apple Music featured her on the Up Next programme which provides a global platform for emerging music stars.
Tems was named the Best International Act at the 2022 BET Awards in the US, using her acceptance speech to inspire women to chase their dreams.
“Where I’m from in Lagos, this is a dream, as you are watching me, imagine yourself as me, you are meant to be here too,” she said.
All eyes will be on her at next month’s Academy Awards, where she is nominated for Best Original Song for co-writing Lift Me Up by Rihanna from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack.
Tems also contributed her version of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry to the soundtrack of the same film.
She also co-wrote and was featured, along with the legendary singer Grace Jones, in the song Move from Beyonce’s highly acclaimed Renaissance album.
“It is incredible. I get to work with people who 5 years ago were on my playlist,” she told Rolling Stone magazine at the Grammy Awards Red Carpet.
“I was jamming to them and now I am working with them, it’s such a pleasure and I feel like this is just the beginning.”
Another of her idols, Adele is now a big admirer of the Nigerian and has been filmed singing along to Try Me.
Tems is also a fashion designer with her line of clothing and also hosts her own radio show on Apple Music.
When Rolling Stone Magazine declared Tems “the future” in 2021, few would have predicted that the future would come this soon for the Nigerian singer.
As she said after last week’s Grammy success this could be ‘just the beginning’ of extraordinary success for an artist who has the world at her feet.
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