Africa & the DiasporaFeatures

The enigmatic Nigerian DJ at the heart of Afrobeats underground

Olayinka ‘DJ YK’ Lawal

Lagos-based Olayinka “DJ YK” Lawal is probably one of Africa’s music producers who has been spearheading Afrobeats in mainstream pop music over the last few years. In 2019, a catchy and melodic instrumental hit social media platforms in Nigeria. A year later it emerged as a groovy soundtrack on dancefloors across parts of Africa and the diaspora.

However, an overwhelming majority of those who liked it had no idea who its producer was until November 2019 when its creator, Olayinka “DJ YK” uploaded a street video on YouTube. The beat is simply titled “Dance” and has no vocals and undeniably bore the marks of Nigeria’s blossoming Afrobeats music genre.

The popularity of his instrumental dance video coincided with the emergence of a new dance wave accompanying the introduction of Afrobeats to global audiences.

The beat went viral on social media platforms as the hashtags #DJYK and #DJYKbeats have up until now over 14 million streams and 50.5 million streams respectively on TikTok. Although he was relatively unknown in the mainstream Nigerian music industry, DJ YK has a massive presence on Instagram and TikTok.

This is in addition to a large following in the street music scene across Lagos, Africa’s de facto entertainment capital. The untitled hit has been conquering the African continent however DJ YK is the kind of person who prefers to stay away from the limelight.

The 29-year-old Nigerian DJ and music producer is known for his enigmatic character and music critics describe his reclusive behavior as simply a case of a private individual shunning the media.

Motolani Alake, Nigerian music critic and Lagos-based managing editor of Pulse Nigeria told Al Jazeera that he is one of those old-school producers that are content with having a hit song and being a DJ: “Maybe he is scared of the public, that’s a possibility.”

“DJ YK Mule” (‘mu le’ is a Yoruba phrase which means ‘drop it’) has without a doubt been a powerful engine behind the Afrobeats music genre as his beats have become the soundtracks to viral challenges on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.










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