OPINION | How Wizkid is taking over the world

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Wizkid performs at The O2 Arena in London, England.  (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)
Wizkid performs at The O2 Arena in London, England. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)
  • Wizkid boasts over 32 hits, more than 70 music awards, four albums, and sold-out concert worldwide.
  • Like many, his rise to fame can be characterised by objectifying women in some of his lyrics and music videos.
  • Unlike some other Nigerian popular musicians, Wizkid understood the power of transnational collaboration. 


The global appreciation of West Africa’s Afrobeats music has grown significantly in the last decade. Afrobeats stars are touring the world, racking up record sales, winning awards, and collaborating with big-name international artists.

Seven of the nine African artists nominated for a 2022 Grammy Award – one of the world's most sought-after music awards – are West African. Most of these make music driven by Afrobeats sounds.

Afrobeats is a broad, generic term for African contemporary popular music with rhythmic and harmonic influences of West Africa’s highlife and Afrobeat traditions and Euro-American funk and hip-hop.

For the 2022 edition of the Grammy Awards, Nigeria's Wizkid was nominated twice – for best global music album and best global performance. Wizkid won his first Grammy Award in 2021 for the video of Brown Skin Girl, a track he made with US superstar Beyoncé.

The 31-year-old stands out as a leading Afrobeats artist from Nigeria whose music has already made a significant sway on the charts of many countries. Wizkid boasts over 32 hits, more than 70 music awards, 50 singles, four albums, and sold-out concert performances across Africa, Europe, and America. As a result, he commands a fan base of more than 30 million combined followers on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

His songs straddle the rhythmic texture of Nigerian pop that connects with West African diaspora communities across the globe. And when it comes to his career, he set his eyes firmly on America and strategically propelled himself to global fame.

Career

Wizkid was born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun on 16 July 1990 in Surulere, Lagos State, Nigeria. He started singing and recording music at 11 in the Glorious Five group. He joined Empire Mates Entertainment record label in 2009.

The songwriter, singer, and performer worked hard in the early days of his music career in Nigeria’s highly competitive industry. In one of his hit songs, Ojuelegba, he narrates his experience at Mo'Dogg studio in Lagos, where he toiled for a better life. He became famous in Nigeria in 2011 after releasing his debut album titled Superstar. The album opened up many more live performance opportunities.

As a young star who foresaw his music traveling beyond Nigeria, Wizkid seized every opportunity to make connections across the music world. For instance, when US R&B star Chris Brown (also famous for allegations of sexual violence against women) performed in Lagos in 2012, Wizkid was with him on stage and subsequently collaborated with Brown on the song African Bad Gyal.

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

In 2016, transnational appreciation of his music grew after he collaborated with Drake, the Canadian singer and rapper. It is a popular opinion among Nigerian music analysts and journalists that Wizkid’s collaboration with Drake marked the genesis of his global appeal.

He has since collaborated with top-notch American stars such as Beyoncé, Akon, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj.

Sexism

Wizkid's music career has not been without controversy. Like many, his rise to fame was characterised by objectifying women in some of his lyrics and music videos. I have argued elsewhere that the sexual objectification of women has been a valuable strategy for publicity and serves to enhance his social status and commercial viability in the Nigerian popular music industry.

Wizkid is particularly accused of emphasising and objectifying female bodies in the songs In My Bed and Expensive Shit. The public outcry culminated in the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation banning In My Bed in 2015. Despite this, his local and international appeal continued to grow.

Pop's promised land

Wizkid has won more prestigious local and international music awards than his Afrobeats peers. He has more than 100 nominations in different categories of music awards. Some of his big wins include 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 awards for Best African Act, and three Billboard Music Awards – and that 2021 Grammy.

For Africa, especially Nigeria, America is the popular culture promised land. To make it in America is to conquer the pop world. And a US Grammy is the most cherished music award. Following the global spread of West African migrants that consume and promote Afrobeats, the music will continue to gain more listeners worldwide as more people yearn for new sounds from Africa. Likewise, the demography of its global consumers on Youtube and Spotify grows as top record labels – such as Sony and Universal Music – sign up and promote more Afrobeats artists.

Propelled by the growing spread of Afrobeats, Wizkid has achieved global fame through a strategic set of music goals throughout his career – and has boosted his image by courting controversy and big-name collaborators, infusing Western pop with African flavour in the process.

The Conversation

Samson Uchenna Eze, Lecturer, University of Nigeria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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