The Nigerian star, who supports the civil revolt against police abuse in his country, has released a fourth album, a melting pot of sounds from present-day Lagos.
Far from having grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, unlike his peers Davido or Burna Boy, Nigerian singer Wizkid, now 30, has been riding a wave of success since 2014, the year he released his second album, Ayo, which has become almost a classic of Afrobeats music – contemporary West African pop. “Wizzie” (another nickname) is the one Drake comes for to get a foot in afropop – so much so that the Lagos State native becomes the first Afrobeats artist to land in the Guinness Book of World Records (thanks to the track One Dance in 2018). Wizkid is also a native of Lagos State who has seen some of his singles certified “gold” in distant countries (Soco in Canada in 2018). He is also Naomi Campbell’s “darling”, who walks the runways, swaps with Vogue and signs collections and deals with multinationals such as Pepsi and, more recently, Puma
His Made in Lagos was expected in early October. But while life in the Nigerian capital was marred by violence following the civil uprising against the lawless Sars police unit, Wizkid chose to postpone the release of his fourth album as a sign of solidarity and to call for struggle and unity through the press – an unprecedented move from this non-rich kid who has always been careful to avoid political debate in his country. Made in Lagos was finally unveiled on streaming platforms at 11.11pm on 29 October. The album, with its sexually charged lyrics, is an ode to the city where Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (his real name) became the Wizkid star and reflects a profession of faith that the singer never ceases to proclaim: Lagos is where the best music in the world is produced.
In fourteen tracks full of the influences that are at the heart of the Afrobeats movement as it has emerged, from reggae to dancehall to the fluffiest R’n’B, Wizkid once again clarifies his path, carried by a saxophone with a warm and voluptuous tone. Unsurprisingly, the multi-awarded artist, both in Africa and in the United States, has surrounded himself with the finest Afrobeats producers from Nigeria and its diaspora: Kel-P, Black Jerzee, the duo Legendury Beatz, P2J and the Ghanaian Juls. In view of Starboy’s previous releases (one of his other aliases), some might judge this Made in Lagos as lazy, lacking in risk-taking and parsimonious. But these polished and unadorned productions, which focus on finesse rather than fatness, show something of a return to his roots.
Despite the myriad of guests, this is by no means what gives this latest album its panache. On Longtime, the Nigerian-born British rapper Skepta, his “brother”, is only featured at the beginning, and for less than a minute. On Ginger, the Nigerian prince of Afro-fusion Burna Boy is content with the chorus and the bridge. And if the singers Tems and Tay Iwar are given more space, it is perhaps because they are still unknown internationally. It goes without saying that with Made in Lagos, where he also invites the Jamaican Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and the American H.E.R., Wizkid is trying to prove.