Being an entertainment journalist is more than meets the eye for UK’s number 1 Female Afrobeat host.
It would be inappropriate to have a conversation about ‘Women in Afrobeats’ without including the entertainment journalist, Gracey Mae. It would just not sit right, so I explored the vibrant mind behind some of the noteworthy features of Afrobeats, propelled and documented by a young woman focused on amplifying African Arts through every medium available.
London-based Nigerian multifaceted entertainment journalist Gracey Mae is UK’s Number 1 Female Afrobeats Host. There are several reasons she has been rocking that title for several years now. I mean, she not only amplifies African music through her curated playlists, podcasts, radio shows, and magazine features but has interviewed over 200 African musicians and buttressed the very essence of African rhythm and culture through her thrilling conversations with these artists. These range from global superstars such as Davido, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Olamide, D’Banj, Yemi Alade, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, and Mr. Eazi, to those towering the charts Tems, Ckay, Rema, Fireboy DML, Kizz Daniel, Adekunle Gold, Omah Lay, and Ayra Starr, to name a few.
Owing to her deep-rooted upbringing and love for music, Gracey, born to an Igbo-speaking Dad and Yoruba Mum, grew to adore the culture and wealth of music often played in her home despite being raised in London. Her vivacious charisma and vibrancy have been there from her early days of being a YouTuber to releasing a demo and eventually becoming a radio host and entertainment journalist.
As I welcome her into our interview session, the buoyancy in her voice strikes immediately and is apparent over the zoom call. The subtle music playing in the background does not go unnoticed, but I could tell it is exactly how every day in her life saturates with music. While speaking about her passion for African music as a young girl, she highlights a memorable experience in her early years; “While growing up, the Style Plus (Olufunmi) era was part of what completely sold me out on Afrobeats. As I moved from being a Youtuber to hosting conversations on the radio, I got to see and understand better how the music business works and what I could do to contribute to the growth of African music.”
This brewing zeal to expand the Afrobeats audience in the UK has paid off spectacularly well for Gracey, earning her solid relationships with diverse music artists and prominent memberships in top music organizations such as BRIT and MOBO awards.
For Gracey Mae, being an entertainment journalist does not stop at storytelling, interviews, or shows. There is more to her job than meets the eye. Expanding her portfolio to public relations and now a music executive opens the floor for a better approach to fulfilling her goals.
Gracey elaborates that establishing an African music artist in the UK scene is beyond playlisting and journalism. “For the most part, the more delightful aspect of my work is getting to know the artistes behind the music and being able to help with the most mundane aspects of their lives and careers. I Assist with Plans and strategies to capture the international community, including discussions behind closed DMs. It is beautiful to have the opportunity to play such a vital role and witness the results.”
The rate at which Afrobeats has grown over the past decade is tremendous. From artists and producers winning the Grammys to selling out the o2 arena becoming a norm, more young African musicians are having their songs top charts in countries that don’t even speak English. Ckay, Tems, Rema, Fireboy, Oxlade, Buju, and their peers have in the past couple of years amassed so much growth and garnered fans in almost every country you can think of, but it doesn’t stop there.
The international entertainment scene is experiencing a massive influx of African music, with influential players and executives like Gracey channeling the music to the right places. The idea that music knows no borders is not a cliche. Digital streaming platforms welcome new and emerging African music artists into curated playlists and editorials every week. As a publicist, Gracey receives a variety of music every day and curates multiple playlists across Apple Music, Spotify, and Audiomack. Out of curiosity, I ask her how she handles the pressure and what attracts her to new music.
You have been spreading the gospel of African music for several years now. What draws your attention to new music or emerging musicians?
“It is always the total package. As much as you are an emerging music artist, you need to know what you are about with your style, sound, and skill. People want to see how hungry you are, what your social media is like, is it only freestyle, or if there is a growing discography. There are a lot of talented Africans, so you have to stand out in your entire package, not just one good song. There are a lot of young women doing amazing things with their music. We have Fave, Tems, Arya Starr, Ria Sean, Nissi, and Raybekah. The list is endless.”
There can not be any ignorance of Gracey’s impact and influence on the African music community in the UK. Gracey Mae has interviewed or interacted with almost every African musician whose music is prominent in the UK. She became a Grammy Recording Academy voting member of class 2022 for her excellent contribution to African art in the UK. Congratulations Gracey! You have done so well for yourself. What was it like for you, and what do you hope to achieve with this new accomplishment? I inquire.
“For the longest time, I felt that I did not need to be a part of these organizations to know my worth and make an impact, but in reality, your voice is louder when you are in the room as opposed to when you are outside of it. So, I spent the last few months actively pursuing opportunities, and when I got the news about the Grammy membership, I was at a naming ceremony with my mum and sister. I told her, and she screamed [laughs] like, she was so excited for me. My family has always been enthusiastic supporters of my career [even though my parents are Doctors and I did Law for a degree], so I am excited to share every success with them.”
The news about the new members of the Grammy Recording Academy went viral on social media as several African musicians, consultants, and entertainers joined the largest member inductions in the Grammy Recording Academy class of 2022. Curious about this achievement, I poke the bear [a friendly one though], and Gracey sheds some light on it.
“In the music industry, there are a lot of gates and gatekeepers. I believe it shouldn’t be the case, especially in a beautiful industry like ours. So when I became aware of the opportunity, I made the information available to individuals who deserve this honor but didn’t have access. Information is power, and I see no reason to hoard information, nominations, or recommendations that can help more Africans into whatever room necessary to get in and get our voices and music out there. I have also been at the receiving end of gatekeeping. I know how bad it felt, so I decided that moving forward, I would utilize every opportunity available to me to emphasize how amazing African music is. Everyone inducted is well deserving, and I am happy we all are honored and have a shot at amplifying African music even better.”
Witnessing this growth is a thrilling experience for every African music lover, more so how the International community absorbs the music and is beginning to understand the richness and vitality of Afrobeats. The lockdown also contributed to the discovery of African creators as people spent more time on their phones, surfing through social media and music streaming platforms. Gracey utilized this opportunity to host her ‘Unsigned series’, where she had guest artists such as Ckay, Alpha P, Victoria Kimani, King Perry, Kidi, Kwame Eugene, and several others listen to emerging acts for 1 hour every day for 76 days. The consistency and how she utilizes every opportunity to get the artistes she interacts with new deals, better branding, or just personal development is very commendable.
Gracey Mae is not just a name anymore, but now a brand. The young lady that started as an entertainment journalist has gone ahead to run her PR and publicity, consultancy, and marketing agency. That is only an aspect of her multifaceted career. As a proud ambassador and advocate of African music, she handles several moving parts of the music business for current and past clients, including Oxlade, Bella Shmurda, Gemini Major, and AV among others.
There is so much unknown about being a music executive, so I ask Gracey about the aspects of being a music executive blind to the public eye. “The glamour and lifestyle are barely 10% of what it involves,” she says. “There are things you must learn to keep behind the scenes because musicians are human beings too, and we all have flaws and bad days. It is an extremely tough job that requires investing your time, skills, and money, but communication and understanding go a long way to making it easier for everyone involved.”
As we wrap up our riveting conversation, Gracey speaks on some essentials for young women interested in the music and entertainment business and highlights the importance of knowing your value because anyone can use and be used.
“You must be disciplined and know where to set boundaries because you will be required to show up at odd hours. As a woman, you have the autonomy to do whatever you want, so know what you can take from people and learn to pat yourself on the back when you do a good job. It is often chaotic, and you can get lost in the grind, but try to have fun and take credit where due. I am proud of my team and the amazing young women that work with me because there is no stopping now.”
With these concluding comments, there is no denying that Gracey Mae is super poised to do whatever it takes to keep African music on the lips of listeners across the globe. The music industry is fast-paced, and amidst the countless trips and international shows, The numerous talents stemming from Africa deserve an audience beyond the shores of the African continent. There’s no fun if we sit back and keep the music to ourselves, but every opportunity to amplify African music benefits the industry and our culture.