The summer of 2016 is a time many of us have wished we could wind back to this year: the endless sun-filled easy days, the overwhelming allure of the addictive Pokémon Go, the boundless amount of music that soundtracked every moment and that is still rinsed and repeated to this day. But if there was one hit that documented that year, it was Drake’s transnational dance floor tune, “One Dance”, with UK singer Kyla and Afrobeats legend Wizkid.
This is the power of a Wizkid track, and as the Afrobeats genre has grown globally over the past few years, the enigmatic and eccentric star has been at the forefront. Since dropping his debut album Superstar in 2011, Wizkid has grown to become a global powerhouse, crafting his own sound and crossing over into genreless territory. From navigating the ever-evolving scene of Lagos to his status on the world stage, the artist’s work rate never slowed or stopped — all it takes is one Google search to see his accolades and achievements.
Now, with a new force of musicians breaking into the scene, Wizkid is securing his legacy as the king of Afrobeats with his new album, Made In Lagos. Postponed due to the recent End SARS protests against police brutality in Nigeria, which saw the singer take to the streets of London to march and become an advocate for the movement on social media, Wizkid dedicated the record to his home country.
As the album progresses, stand out tune “True Love”, produced by Juls and featuring Tay Iwar and Projexx, serves as a highlight. Crooning over lush bass lines, Wizkid transports us away for a late-night love affair, evoking two lovers slow whining to seductive saxophone instrumentals in the sweltering heat. Known for his rich selection of beats, Juls has been noted as one of the most prolific producers of our time and established himself as a prominent tastemaker in the wave of African influence sweeping through music all over the world. His signature tag, ‘Juls Baby’, unanimously signifies the start of a feel-good rhythmic hit, which you can now tune into on his new weekly Afrobeats show on Kiss FM.
As we blast Made In Lagos through our speakers, Wizkid connects with Juls via Zoom to talk inspirations for the album, pushing each other in the studio, and how he wants his music to make us feel.
W: I would say just growth, you know? Just growing up. That’s the number one thing that really inspired the music. Me finding myself more makes me want to make great, amazing music
J: You’ve had five projects, which one is the most exciting one that you’ve made? And when you’re answering, think about the situation that you were in.
W: Making my first album, the first one was that. And probably this one, Made In Lagos.
J: I feel like Superstar is reminiscent of Made In Lagos. The reason why I say that is because with Superstar, if you listen to the music on there, it’s one of those albums where everybody’s favourite song changes. People’s favourite songs change all the time, not even every week, maybe every day. And I think that’s the beauty of a very, very good album: it has the ability for people to change their mind so rapidly. Which leads me to my next question — do you feel like this is the direction you’re going to go with your sound? Because now, people have said that Wiz is creating this sound that is more ‘cross-over’ music. Do you think you’re going to continue to do this type of vibe or do you want to try new things?
W: I’m always going to try new things; I’m always going to try new sounds. This is just a piece of me. There’s going to be more experiments, more sounds, just making great music. What will never change is the fact that we’re going to keep making great music, regardless of wherever we take it.
J: Why the title? Because people like to judge a book by its cover, but they don’t like to read the content. Why Made In Lagos? And what’s the meaning behind the whole title of the album?
W: For me, experimenting with a new sound, I had to make sure the people don’t confuse it from where it’s coming from. I had to make sure people don’t forget where Wiz is from, what Wiz represents. It’s a big change in my sound, you know? From the last album until now. I felt like it was very important for me to call this album Made In Lagos.
W: What was exciting was it was a learning experience for everyone involved. Our aim was just making music, we didn’t have any other aim but just making great music. Making an album, for me, is always exciting because we tend to bounce off ideas. I love the album time, I love all of that stuff because I love exchanging knowledge.
J: For me, what I enjoyed a lot about our sessions as well was you hear things differently.
J: It’s kind of like you already have an idea of what you want a certain message to be, or how you want the sound to move. There’s not a lot of artists that do that, so that creative process for me was very interesting and exciting as well. It even pushed me to different limits. […] The growth for the music scene, especially in Nigeria, has been incredible and you’ve obviously been at the forefront of Nigerian music for years and years now. Do you still see it continue to grow? And who are you feeling at the moment? No pressure, but I don’t think there can be any other WizKid… You’re carrying the torch, but who do you think is definitely following in your footsteps and doing the right thing to be able to make it to that level that you’re at?
W: Everyone that makes amazing music, man. Everyone that’s creating their own paths and writing their own stories. I can only wish the best for everyone. The next generation is only going to be inspired by what we do and make it crazy, because I was inspired by the generation before me. So it’s only going to get bigger.
J: How do you manage to stay so calm and avoid all the unnecessary BS and nonsense around you with regards to music — if it’s personal, or people are trying to pitch you against the other person? How do you manage to stay so relaxed and just focus on you? It’s a very difficult thing to do, especially in the position that you’re at.
W: 100%. First of all, [I’m] very content with what I have and where I am. Me being here is a blessing from God, bro. I’m very content with who I am; I’m very sure of who I am and why I’m here, my purpose in life.
J: I’ve never told you this before, but it’s something that I learned from you — sometimes we get distracted by things that will take our attention and it’s just negative energy. It could be anything, somebody could just be saying some BS about you and it literally just messes up your whole day and you can’t focus. For some reason, you just manage to snap out of it quick and be like ‘Alright guys, let’s just get back to work and forget those guys’. It’s something that I admire.
W: The truth of the matter is, in life, especially with people, you have to expect everything. Everything is possible, there’s nothing that
I would say in life that is impossible. I’ve seen friends betray friends, I’ve seen brothers betray brothers, I’ve seen all of that. You stay in your zone. Sometimes you just have to ignore, man. Expect anything from anybody. That’s my rule of life: expect everything.
J: I want to go back to Made In Lagos for a few seconds — when you were making the album, what was your mood board like? ‘Cause there’s R&B on there when you look at Ella Mai, you’ve brought Damian Marley into your world but at the same time he still sounds very roots reggae. And then you’re still able to make traditional rhythms with the likes of Terri.
W: When it comes to picking sounds for the album, it always has to do with how I feel first. I don’t worry about what anyone else is saying, I don’t worry about radio, just focus. Like you said, staying in your zone really helps as well [to] create a sound that I can listen to, that I can vibe to.
J: What kind of mood were you in? The streets say this is for the ladies, Wiz is in love, he’s happy, family, all of that. Was it a mood of love that encouraged this album?
W: Just life, man. It’s everything. I just put my life into it, everything that you hear on the album is inspired by real stuff.
W: I want people to be able to feel like ‘This WizKid album made me feel this way in 2020’. Leave good vibes to the world, because at the end of the day, we all go through crazy shit on a daily basis. I would love to make music that helps people get through shit, whether they’re sad, down, happy, excited, on top or low. I want my music to be able to make you feel something.
J: I feel you. Do you think this is your best album?
W: I don’t think I can answer that question yet because I’m still making albums, I’m literally making another album right now… I’ll let you answer that.
J: You know what’s crazy? You only just turned 30 this year. You have a whole decade-plus ahead of you; I don’t think you’ve peaked yet at all. There’s definitely a whole lot more that you have to offer the world that will probably blow our minds. But currently… I loved Soundman so much. I can’t wait to hear that performed live as well. So for me, it’s Soundman and Made In Lagos. But then Ayo also has memories… I feel like they’re all different time capsules that we can celebrate, so I can understand why you can’t answer that question. But the streets are saying this is your best album.
W: I appreciate that.
W: We can only hope and pray that we have a leader that has the people’s interests at heart. With the SARS situation, I feel like it’s a conversation that just needs to keep going on. It’s never really going to change, you know? Because of how our system has been set up. There’s no structure, police don’t even have body cams, so how can you tell if the police is being brutal? That’s why it needs to be a constant conversation. The people has to be educated about their rights.
J: Thank you for talking, bro.