This year saw the full realization of the love affair which has been brewing for years between mainstream Hip Hop/R&B fans in the US and the artists who cater to similar audiences abroad.
It was absolutely a slow build, one which started to show potential around 2017 with the release of Drake‘s “One Dance” featuring Wizkid and Justin Bieber’s takeover of the ubiquitous Reggaeton chart topper “Despacito.” Over the course of the next few years, these kinds of mashups continued to enter the popular American zeitgeist. And despite thinking it might have peaked during the pandemic, with TikTok challenges popularizing songs like “Don’t Rush” by Young T & Bugsey and Headie One; and Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift placing the spotlight squarely on Afropop stars like Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale and Busiswa, the invasion of international stars is showing no signs of slowing down.
Thus far, 2023 has been the most balanced year for international music on urban and pop airwaves in the US. Because, for the first time in recent history, the top international artists finding success in the States represent a variety of genres, cultures and nationalities and are authentically showcasing their culture on the global stage.
HipHopDX has compiled a list of the top artists from abroad who dominated the airwaves this past year. Review all of our 2023 Hip Hop Award categories and check out our nominations for Best International Artist 2023 below.
Editor’s Note: Nominees are listed in alphabetical order.
Best International artists Of 2023 NOMINATIONS
The Best International Artist of 2023 is…
From the top of the charts (Latin or otherwise), to viral TikTok hits, to your favorite basketball team’s arena playlist to the Kardashian universe, nowhere was off limits for Bad Bunny in 2023. Artistically, he continues to push boundaries with his visuals and experiment with sounds that fans might not automatically associate with Latin Caribbean or Latin Urban music.
Culturally, Bad Bunny shows up as himself each and every time, forcing those who want to engage with him and his content to do so on his terms. This year, that meant both a Grammy acceptance speech and SNL intro monologue en español. It was clear that Bad Bunny is a superstar globally and it would be hard to deny him this award.
Since proclaiming himself the “African Giant” with his 2019 album of the same name, Burna Boy has been on a mission to prove that the title is well deserved, and he may have finally succeeded with his sixth studio album, Love, Damini, which includes what may ultimately be the biggest record of his career, “Last Last.” Carrying the wave of that 2022 single well into this year, he followed it up with a similarly inspired track, the 21 Savage-assisted “Sittin’ on Top of the World.” In addition to showcasing his love for ’90s R&B, this year Burna Boy also took his talents to the Caribbean, taking rising Dancehall star Byron Messia’s hit “Talibans” to new heights.
While he’s been in the game for a minute, Central Cee really started making noise on a different level with his 2022 single “Doja,” which seemed to open the floodgates for the rising drill star in 2023. In addition to notching the biggest song of his career so far in the form of “Sprinter” alongside Dave, Central Cee landed a coveted spot as part of XXL’s 2023 Freshman Class — an even more impressive feat as an international artist. The track also helped him nab a number of awards, including the 2023 BET Award for Best International Act. Back at home, Central Cee’s first No. 1 single also broke the record for the biggest streaming week for a rap song in UK history and the longest running No. 1 rap single.
It’s been a long time since a Mexican artist making traditional Mexican music has risen to the status of bona fide international superstar. Peso Pluma has not only become the first since Selena to do so, but he’s possibly done it on a grander scale than even she was able to manage. Peso is credited as one of the pioneers of the new-ish genre corridos tumbados, which sonically sounds like traditional troubadour-style Sineloan music, but infuses it with elements of street life and Latin Urban music. By appealing to both Millennial/Gen Z fans and their parents (and sometimes grandparents), Peso has bridged a gap that also creates a new lane for Mexican-American fans and artists in popular music.
With her uniquely haunting vocal tone, Tems stole the show on both Wizkid’s 2020 hit “Essence,” which the US didn’t truly catch on to until last year, and Future and Drake’s “WAIT FOR U.” Just as that evocative, beautifully-pained voice captured the attention of listeners across the country, Tems’ classy yet daring red carpet style made her a darling of the fashion world as well. Then when fans began digging deeper into who the Nigerian starlet was, they were pleasantly surprised. Their curiosity pushed her 2020 track “Free Mind” to a record breaking 17 weeks atop Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop Airplay charts earlier this year, the most by any female artist. Her latest single “Me & U” has already garnered over 25 million Spotify streams and 10 million YouTube views in a little over two months.
Artwork and graphic design by JR Martinez.
Paragraphs written by Tai Saint-Louis.