Billboard Explains: Tems’ Breakthrough on the Charts

Scores of new artists snag hits in a given year, but few truly break through and create a lasting impact on the global music scene and popular culture. Tems is one of those artists. The Nigerian singer-songwriter has used her lush amalgamation of Afrobeats, soul and hip-hop to become one of the leading female artists in the global Afrobeats boom of the early 2020s.


As the 2024 Billboard Women in Music Breakthrough Artist honoree, Tems joins an exclusive list of movers and shakers that includes Idina Menzel, Maren Morris, Camila Cabello, TWICE and Tori Kelly. To illustrate why the Grammy winner is a true breakthrough artist, Billboard Explains has put together a brief overview of Tems’ impressive chart success.

Tems made her Billboard Hot 100 debut back in 2021 with “Essence,” a collaboration with fellow Afrobeats star Wizkid and Justin Bieber that reached No. 9 on the ranking. The following year, she translated that momentum into her first Hot 100 No. 1 single — “Wait for U” (with Future and Drake), which spent one week atop the chart. Her other Hot 100 hits include “Fountains” (No. 26, with Drake), “Move” (No. 55, with Beyoncé and Grace Jones) and “Free Mind” (No. 46), a single from her debut EP For Broken Ears, which reached No. 28 on Independent Albums.

“Free Mind” and “Essence” are also Tems’ two chart-toppers on Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs, where she boasts 15 career entries. “Higher,” which was sampled on Future’s “Wait for U,” reached No. 5 on the chart in 2022.

With a debut studio album set for release in 2024, Tems is poised to own the coming year and further solidify her breakthrough.

After the video, catch up on more Billboard Explains videos and learn about Peso Pluma and the Mexican music boomthe role record labels playorigins of hip-hop, how Beyoncé arrived at Renaissance, the evolution of girl groupsBBMAsNFTsSXSW, the magic of boy bandsAmerican Music Awards, the Billboard Latin Music Awards, the Hot 100 charthow R&B/hip-hop became the biggest genre in the festivals book their lineupsBillie Eilish’s formula for success, the history of rap battlesnonbinary awareness in musicthe Billboard Music Awardsthe Free Britney movementrise of K-pop in the U.S.why Taylor Swift is re-recording her first six albumsthe boom of hit all-female collaborationshow Grammy nominees and winners are chosenwhy songwriters are selling their publishing catalogshow the Super Bowl halftime show is booked and more.

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