The Lagos native dedicated the award to every single woman who does not believe she is capable of pursuing her dreams. “This is a dream where I’m from in Lagos, as you’re watching me, imagine yourself as me, you’re meant to be here, too,” Tems said as she accepted the award.
Anyone who has been listening to afro-beats in the last year or so has heard Tems’ deep, velvety voice, whether it’s the chart-topping hit song “Essence,” on which she collaborated with Wizkid, her debut EP “For Broken Ears,” or her most recent EP “If Orange Was a Place.”
Although it appears that her meteoric rise occurred overnight, the Lagos native began singing at the age of 13 and producing at the age of 20. Fans who have followed her since the beginning will remember her first song, “Mr. Rebel,” which she produced herself and released in 2018.
She talked about how she got her start in music with Hot 97 in 2021. The 27-year-old singer revealed to the hosts that she met someone who let her use his studio and that she didn’t know anything about the industry at the time. She felt her rise to fame was slow and gradual when she first posted her music online.
However, after releasing her debut EP in 2021, she spoke with Apple Music about how quickly things had changed. “It’s all happening so fast, there’s just so many things that have happened, trying to take it all in and be grateful for all this grace and all the blessings,” Tems explained to Apple Music.
It was mentioned in the interview that at one point in her career, she told fans that God went above and beyond anything she could have imagined. She also talked about how many people send her messages about how her music has affected them.
Despite many people’s wishes for her to get a serious job when she was growing up in Lagos, she never stopped thinking about music. She fell in love with music when she was five years old, citing Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, and Lil Wayne as influences. As a teenager, she joined the choir and learned to play the piano. Nonetheless, her mother encouraged her to prioritize school, especially when applying to universities.
“Where I come from, you have to go to school and do something serious in order to get a high-paying job,” she explained to Hot 97. She studied economics in South Africa and joked with the hosts that she had never used the degree because she had been so focused on breaking into the music industry.
She tweeted to her fans last year about the importance of finding balance after admitting she quit her office job three years ago to pursue music. Based on her recent success, it is clear that she made the right decision. Her hit song “Essence” with Wizkid made history as the first Nigerian song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Global 100, and the record even received a Grammy nomination for Best Global Music Performance at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards. Tems told Apple Music that she and Wizkid were surprised by the outpouring of love for the song.
Her single “Free Mind,” from her debut EP For Broken Ears peaked at number 1 on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs and Bubbling Under Hot 100, becoming her most successful songs in addition to “Essence.” Tems’ feelings of doubt, fear, and the mental strains of difficult situations are explored in For Broken Ears.
“I don’t talk much, but I sing a lot,” Tems told Vibe in 2019. “I write what I feel because it is the only way for me to express myself.”
Tems has established herself as more than just a featured artist; she is a triple threat who can sing, write, and produce her own music. And this is just the beginning; she has risen to prominence in Nigeria and continues to dominate the international stage.