Admittedly, before he joined the ESSENCE team in our Financial District office, Nigerian rap superstar WizKid, wasn’t in the best mood.
After a day of endless press, the 26-year-old was tired and probably sick of answering questions. But as he sat in our bright Hudson River-facing villa with his small team of handlers, dozens of staffers entered the room to welcome him.
“Wow,” the RCA-signed artist said, immediately perking up. “Just being in a room with beautiful women. I just want to thank you guys for support throughout the years.”
The visit was on the precipice of putting out his fourth studio project, a mixtape titled Sounds from the Other Side (due July 14). The summer-themed mix of music is the talent’s self-proclaimed introduction to the Western world to his infectious blend of Afro-pop.
“This is like a little playlist for summer. I did a little bit of collaborations with international artists, people you’re familiar with, people with familiar names, and familiar sounds. And I fused them together with my sound and my producers and we were able to come up with this new tape. So, we have the first single out already, ‘Come Closer’, featuring Drake. It’s doing all right.”
Coyly modest, the Lagos-born talent is best known on this side of the Atlantic Ocean for dominating last summer with Drake’s “One Dance” and his own “Ojuelegba” remix with Drake and Skepta.
If anyone knows how to make a summer-music splash, it’s this guy. And on his much-anticipated mixtape he’s got Chris Brown, Drake, Trey Songz with production from Diplo and Legendury Beatz.
“Every song on it has a different vibe,” he said about the two-year recording process for the mixtape that was done as he met casually artists while traveling. “I didn’t force it, I didn’t call nobody up like, ‘Yo. I want you on my record.’ Nah. We met up and it was just natural, organic. It’s nothing forced.”
His inclusion of Western artists to expand into a new market is as much calculated as it’s sonically exciting. Artists like Fela Kuti and Hugh Masekela set the blueprint for such transitions, and Wizkid born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, is well aware of his special place in millennial music.
“To be honest, for me it’s very exciting because it’s not just for me alone. But what we’re doing right now, it’s going to create a whole love for Africa. I’m not the most talented person out there in Africa, I just have my chance right now.”
“So whatever we do, it’s for us all. Whatever comes up. We just create a legacy, try to open the doors, and play our own little part the way we can.”