In 2013, on the remix of Ice Prince’s hit song “Aboki”, Ghanian rapper Sarkodie sang “I pray Chineke go take Wizkid high” and it’s safe to say that little prayer was very well received in the high heavens because 7 years and billions of streams later, Wizkid is one of the most commercially successful African artistes in the world.
Evolving from “Lil Prinz” and developing his sound over time to the point where his soothing vocals and spontaneous melody are a Starboy trademark, Ayodeji Balogun has definitely paid his dues and earned his respects as music royalty.
With the same finesse he used to capture the attention of Nigerians on his debut song Holla At Your Boy, he has been able to sing his way into the hearts of a global audience.
Wiz on Family, Challenges, and Motivation
After his exit from Empire Mates Entertainment popularly known by its acronym “EME”, he began exploring uncharted terrains and experimenting with his sound and image relying only on God and family for motivation.
“My family has been my biggest motivation for everything that I do, my kids, right from when I had them to now more than ever, they are my biggest motivation [they mean everything to me]. Family is the number one thing for me, that keeps me grounded, that keeps me sane and makes me feel like a normal human being.”
The journey to the top didn’t come without challenges or difficulty but somehow he kept the course and did his best to follow through on the vision he had for himself.
“I never relented and kept on working, believing in myself and I still believe in myself more than anyone else. It’s just been years of hard work, belief, and the grace of God.”
Even with naysayers who were convinced that he was setting unrealistic goals for himself, he never sold himself short or shrunk himself to make anyone comfortable.
“I still get people to tell me that every day [laughs] I dream big, I dream very big. Like I said I just believed in myself and there’s nothing you can tell me that will change my perception of who I am or how I am or how great I could be”.
Wiz and The City of Lagos
Any Wizkid fan is aware of his affinity for the bubbling city of Lagos where every day comes with new opportunities and failures aren’t handled with tears but with the reaffirming chant ‘WE MOVE!’. From music at street carnivals to roadside cuisines and the ever-present buses and tricycles which give Lagos its yellowish feel, the city is truly a sight for sore eyes.
Growing up in Ojuelegba, a suburb in the Surulere local government area of Lagos played an important role in shaping Wizkid to be the man he is today.
“The music I grew up listening to walking down the street, the Fuji music that plays from the sound system of people that sell cases on the road, the Makossa that plays when your standing at the bus stop, it’s these experiences that influenced me to be who I am today, that’s what influenced my music and that ‘s why I don’t joke with Lagos, Nigeria, Africa [my home]”.
During the highpoint of the Covid-19 pandemic, he was unable to be in the city he loved because of travel restrictions due to the virus so he had to figure out imaginative ways to stay connected with home.
“I’m still very much in touch because it’s the same timing [you know], my family is still there and I talk to my people in Lagos every minute. It’s like I’m still there in Lekki, in Surulere, because I talk to people there every day.”
Boasting of one of the most dedicated fan bases in the world, Wizkid supporters tagged “Wizkid FC” are the real deal and they are responsible for constantly reminding the world of his growth as an artiste and the countless milestones and achievements he has earned using every tool at their disposal especially social media.
He is humbled and extremely thankful for them and doesn’t take their love and support for granted.
“I love them pass, I’m thankful and I appreciate everything, it’s impossible for me to reply to everybody but I appreciate all the love.”
For fans that have been celebrating his new album Made In Lagos even months before release, he has nothing but gratitude.
“I wanna take this opportunity to thank everyone that has been supporting the album and just talking about it in any way like I just want to appreciate you guys and I wanna say a big thank you to everyone. To my fans, I’m nothing and I wouldn’t be anywhere without you.”
Wiz on Politics and Activism
Wizkid recently made a 180 and took a different stance from his usual non-involvement in politics and socio-political issues. He took the bull by the horn and outrightly called out President Muhammadu Buhari for misplaced priorities and actively used his platform to advocate for change and police reforms.
He believes that there is no room for silence anymore and decisive action needs to be taken immediately.
“We can’t keep quiet anymore, now it’s past the level of sitting on the fence. I mean it’s 2020, and all these shouldn’t even be a conversation at this time”.
Even though because of his status, he might not be as directly affected as the average man in the street, he still recognises his privilege and maintains that it is imperative to speak up against injustice in all forms especially police brutality.
“I have cousins that go through this sh*t every day like I have family that have been harassed and they have their own stories so it affects me. My child is 9 years old, about to be 10 so he’s growing up and going out and if I don’t talk about these issues it’s like I’ve failed him
“It’s personal for me and I will continue speaking about it, any opportunity I get I will speak about it.”
On various occasions, he has had to call in from London and speak with police officers and other law enforcement officials over the phone to release members of his team being harassed in Lagos.
“Regardless of being in London, it still gets to me because on various occasions I’ve had my boys, producers, cousins or somebody call me to talk with policemen that have stopped them and make them understand that these people are being truthful and they’re working with Wizkid and that’s madness to me [you know] I’m being affected by it cos I have people in Nigeria working with me that have to be on the road and when they get stopped it affects them and ultimately affects me so I’m directly affected because they’re affected.”
Wiz on Made In Lagos
Starboy fans had been greatly anticipating the new album titled Made In Lagos and although he announced the official release date, the release had to be postponed due to pressing Nigerian political issues.
When asked about the delay in releasing the album, Wizkid explains that he makes tons of music, hence, there’s a need to add some songs and remove others. He changed the album 4/5 times because of the amount of music he makes. Speaking further about the album, he said:
“I think it was just me trying to make it feel perfect, I just wanted it to feel good. Now, it feels great, I feel good about the videos. So yeah, Why not now?”
With an album that has taken so long to make, the question of how the new album is different from the last [Sounds from the other side], arises. He’s confident that he outdoes himself every time he is in the studio.
“Every time I go to the studio, I try to make something different. I don’t go in the studio making something that made people dance yesterday. I’m not that kind of artiste. I try to better my craft, better my sound, and improve my mixes. That’s the kind of artiste I am. This album is just part of that growth. The elevation of the sound, a continuous story of my life”
The international hit song One Dance with Drake set the tone for most of his subsequent releases to be just as successful and the new album is not an exception. However, Wizkid in his unbothered nature, explained that anytime he puts out new music, he has no expectations. He just hopes people will love the music.
One of the most surprising music videos from Wizkid was the visual for his track “Smile” off the new album where his three sons were featured. When asked about how he felt having his 3 sons in a video. An emotional Wizkid said he felt great.
“One of the most amazing feelings is seeing your kids come together. For me, it was very important to put that out because I am a very quiet and low-key person and I am very much in my kids’ life but I am not the one to come and show you that yeah, I’m hanging out with my sons. I am not that kind of father, I chose this life, and they didn’t choose it. I try to raise them as normal kids as much as I can.”
He further clarified that having them in the video is not a show-off; rather, it is just important to show how much of a blessing they are to him.
Some artistes have songs they love, could be an old song or a new one, however, Star boy explains he has no favourite song because he has a strong attachment to all of his songs due to the energy he had put in making them. Laughing, he said, “I just hope people like it.”
Wizzy is no stranger to the continual open acceptance of his music. How does he know what songs to put out? He suggests “maybe I’m just lucky.” He further explains that he ensures he works hard on each song to make it perfect before putting it out. Obviously, luck without hard work is nothing.
He also shares that perhaps, the chemical x for a big hit to him, is when a song stays with him for so long [as long as 2 years], and it still sounds great, then he knows the world is ready to hear it.
Wiz on Legacy
Speaking about his thoughts on legacy and how he would want to be remembered when he is called up, he humbly admits that he tries not to think about it too much, but rather focuses on making the best of his time while he’s here.
“Those are things I don’t think about, I just know if you’re a good person in life and you do good and work hard, you will inspire people and you’ll never be forgotten. From music to other areas like the government, I believe you’ll be remembered for your actions and the life you lived.