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Thursday, December 8, 2022

Wizkid: From Surulere To The World

In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in global appreciation for West African Afrobeats music. Afrobeats stars are touring the world, selling millions of records, winning awards, and collaborating with well-known international artists.

In fact, seven of the nine African artists nominated for a Grammy Award in 2022 – one of the world’s most prestigious music honors – are West African. The majority of these musicians create music that is influenced by Afrobeats sounds.

Afrobeats is a broad, umbrella term for African contemporary popular music that incorporates rhythmic and harmonic elements from West African highlife and Afrobeat traditions, as well as Euro-American funk and hip-hop.

Wizkid is nominated twice for best global music album and best global performance at the Grammy Awards in 2022. Wizkid received his first Grammy Award in 2021 for the video for Brown Skin Girl, a song he collaborated on with US superstar Beyoncé.

The 31-year-old is a leading Afrobeats artist from Nigeria whose music has already made a significant impact on many countries’ charts. Wizkid has over 32 hits, over 70 music awards, 50 singles, and four albums to his credit, as well as sold-out concert performances in Africa, Europe, and America. As a result, he has more than 30 million followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram combined. His songs traverse the rhythmic texture of Nigerian music.

Wizkid was born on July 16, 1990 in Surulere, Lagos State, Nigeria as Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun. He began singing and recording music as a member of the Glorious Five when he was 11 years old. In 2009, he joined the Empire Mates Entertainment record label.

In the early days of his music career in Nigeria’s highly competitive industry, the songwriter, singer, and performer worked hard. In one of his hit songs, Ojuelegba, he describes his time at Lagos’s Mo’Dogg studio, where he worked for a better life. He rose to prominence in Nigeria following the release of his debut album, Superstar, in 2011. The album provided many more opportunities for live performances.

Wizkid seized every opportunity to make connections across the music world as a young star who saw his music spreading beyond Nigeria. For example, when US R&B star Chris Brown (also known for allegations of sexual assault on women) performed in Lagos in 2012, Wizkid was on stage with him and later collaborated with Brown on the song African Bad Gyal.

Wizkid, unlike some other popular Nigerian musicians, understood the power of transnational collaboration and worked hard to align his music with the structure and texture of American hip-hop and R&B. In a 2019 interview, he stated that he did not make music to become an African superstar.

Following his collaboration with Drake, the Canadian singer and rapper, in 2016, his music gained international acclaim. Wizkid’s collaboration with Drake, according to Nigerian music analysts and journalists, was the catalyst for his global appeal.

He has since collaborated with Beyoncé, Akon, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Nicki Minaj, among others.

Wizkid has received more prestigious domestic and international music awards than any of his Afrobeats contemporaries. He has received over 100 nominations for music awards in various categories. Artist of the Year at the 2021 Apple Music Awards, two BET Awards for Best International Act, three Soul Train Music Awards, an MTV Europe award for Best African Act, three Billboard Music Awards, and that 2021 Grammy are among his notable achievements.

America is the popular culture’s promised land for Africa, particularly Nigeria. Making it in America means conquering the pop world. And the most coveted music award in the United States is the Grammy. Following the global spread of West African migrants who consume and promote Afrobeats, the music will continue to grow in popularity as more people seek out new sounds from Africa. Similarly, the demographics of its global consumers on YouTube and Spotify are changing as major record labels like Sony and Universal Music sign up and promote more Afrobeats artists.

The music career of Wizkid has not been free of controversy. He gained popularity amid concerns about the objectification of images of women in some of his lyrics and music videos, similar to many of his contemporaries in the field. I have previously argued that using sexual objectification of women as a publicity tactic has been effective in raising his social status and ensuring his financial viability in the Nigerian popular music sector.

In particular, Wizkid is accused of emphasizing and objectifying female bodies in the songs Expensive Shit and In My Bed. The Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation banned In My Bed in 2015 as a result of the public outcry against the sexist messages in his music. Despite this, his popularity on a national and international level kept rising.


Ireoluwa Orija
Ireoluwa Orija
Ireoluwa is a graduate of Human Anatomy. He is a writer, poet and a content creator.

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