Wizkid: Interview Exclusive

Afrobeats is having a moment. Listen to any of the big pop hits from the last couple of years and you’ll notice that. Kanye West mixed the sound with house on “Fade” (2016), while Rihanna’s “Work” (2016) rides on rhythms heavily influenced by it. Even Justin Bieber and Ed Sheeran have gotten in on the act, with both “Sorry” (2015) and “Shape Of You” (2017) putting their inspiration front and centre. For Wizkid, aka 27-year-old Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun from Surulere, Nigeria, the rest of the world picking up on his continent’s culture and creativity is reflective of the message in the music itself. “I’m definitely all about just spreading good vibes and that’s a lot of what our African music is – giving you that feeling,” he says. “It moves you and if more people across the world vibe to it, that’s a great thing.”

Wizkid got his big breakthrough internationally last year on Drake’s omnipresent 2016 record-breaker “One Dance”, but he’s been making music since he was 11 years old and a part of the group Glorious Five. Originally starting out as a rapper, he was inspired by Snoop Dogg, but says he made the switch to singing after hearing the likes of Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, and having his “worldview broadened”

Since then, he’s released two albums (Superstar and Ayo), and collaborated with some of music’s biggest names, including Major Lazer, Tinie Tempah and Zara Larsson. He’s big mates with Skepta and looks set to have a similarly meteoric rise as the Tottenham MC has experienced in the last couple of years. That’s partially thanks to his recent mixtape Sounds From The Other Side, which keeps Wizkid’s collaborative streak going strong and includes some of his best tracks yet, like the sultry, “Naughty Ride” featuring Ty Dolla $ign or the irresistibly club-ready “Daddy Yo”. Work on the rising star’s next project is already well underway. “I don’t think I can ever stop making music,” he says. While he’s not giving away too much about it yet, he does promise two things: “good vibes and positive energy”. If he keeps making music as warm and infectious as his catalogue so far, he’ll be the radiant king of the Afrobeats world (and beyond) in no time.

 

What is the first album you remember falling in love with, and how did you get into it in the first place?

“It was back in Nigeria and the artist was Snoop Dogg. I remember I had been hearing his music and I was determined to get my hands on the CD and hear every track myself in my own time – and not on the radio. I bought it and I fell in love with music from that point on.” Has that record influenced what you’re doing now? “I think so, yes. I say this because at first, I was actually rapping so he was a direct influence. These days I am inspired by all types of music. I listen to everything.” You started out rapping instead of singing.

Why did you switch?

“I started listening to more music. I had already been inspired by people like Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, but you know when you hit that age where you want to hear all the music from every part of the world? My mind would be blown.”

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How important is it to you to bring the sounds of Africa into the mainstream globally and help people appreciate the music the country both creates and inspires?

“There’s definitely an Afrobeats/Afropop movement or just a growing love for African music in general and I’m just glad to be a part of it. I don’t think I’m the leader or anything like that. I’m just doing my part.” You’ve collaborated with everyone from Drake to Tinie Tempah.

Who have you been most star-struck around?

“I don’t really get star-struck because every time I get to create with anyone from anywhere, I see it as a blessing. I just feel a tremendous amount of pride. Before I get in the studio or make music with anyone, we have to vibe. I do what sounds good, and feels right and original.” Sounds From The Other Side features a lot of collaborations.

Do you find you work better with other people?

“Well, the tape was really all about bringing different sounds and styles of music together, so I collaborated a lot with producers back home like Sarz and Del B from Nigeria mixed with American producers like DJ Mustard and Major Lazer. Artists like Chris Brown, Trey Songz and Ty Dolla $ign feature alongside Efya from Ghana and Bucie from South Africa. I like keeping an open mind, so I’ll work with anyone where I can vibe with their style and they can vibe with mine.” Skepta put Drake onto you and has supported you a lot.

You describe him as a brother. Is there part of you that wants to do your best to make him proud of you?

“Skepta! That’s a real brother right there. One of the realest. I have so much respect for him, what he does, and how he does it. We’re definitely proud of each other.”