Three years after his debut, WANI is back with his incredibly catchy blend of sounds, looking to once again capture our ears and hearts.
Three years ago, WANI flew from Chicago to the bustling city of Lagos, 500 dollars to his name and a couple of songs in his hard drive, hoping to build something out of nothing. It’s the classic come up story. Moving to a new city, hoping to lead a better life. He had no clear plan or strategy, all he had: a finely groomed sense of melody, an enduring adoration for Y2K records, canorous vocals and relatable tales. These munitions in his arsenal are what he’ll use to craft his debut project “Lagos City Vice”, a 6-tracker tightly packed with wistful records that mostly evoke the nostalgia of the 2000s. With no music videos, marketing budget or detailed rollout strategy, tracks like “Instaman” and “China Designer” still quietly found their way into many’s playlists ー a huge testament to WANI's undeniable talents ー, instantly stamping his presence and earmarking him as one of the most promising new faces in the game.
Today, years after his debut, the Washington-born singer is gearing up for the release of the sequel to Lagos City Vice, due on the 19th of November. Much has changed since his breakout — he now boasts an ever-expanding fan base, millions of streams and some notable killer features. His hair is also visibly longer. “I really took my time to put together this project,” WANI tells me at a private listening for his forthcoming album at the Bounce HQ. “I’m not really a singles guy, I feel like singles are just a small part of me you know, a small part of the larger story I’m trying to tell”. LCV2, however, took more time to come together than WANI would have expected. “Level”, a coming of age track saturated with glorious horns was recorded about two years ago. It’s one of the oldest tracks on the project. The process of completing the album was slowed down when the COVID-19 pandemic rocked and slightly unsettled Wani ー like it did most ー and he lost track of the direction and sounds he was crafting for the project. But not too long after, he managed to pick himself back up, tracing his inspirations and finally finishing the project.
Speaking about his inspirations, WANI is an ardent student and lover of records from the noughties. He constantly pulls from the archives, sampling familiar melodies and interpolating lyrics from several old numbers. On “2face Riddim”, the opening track from Lagos City Vice, he masterfully spins 2face’s classic anthem “Keep On Rocking” into a laid-back, R&B-inspired track. The hook for “China Designer” is built around lyrics from Baba Dee’s magnum opus “Sodi E”. “I really love sampling”, WANI tells me succinctly. It’s a huge part of his appeal. He mixes the sentimentality of the old with the effervescence of the new, into a fine cocktail of unique sounds. It’s this same blend that he approaches his new project with.
For Lagos City Vice 2, WANI mostly treads familiar territory ー sonically and thematically ー but he was also sure to challenge himself, occasionally moving out of his comfort zone. For instance, “Smoke Out The Window”, an energetic cut holstered by boisterous production is far from what you’ll expect from the Lagos-based singer. “It’s the most experimental song on the project,” he tells me. “I made it for kids who wanna rage at parties, at shows.” While he attempts experiments, he still mostly entrusts the production to familiar faces and close collaborators: Higo, Adey and Trill Xoe. He was also heavily involved in the production of the project: “I feel like I was in my Diddy bag for this project. I know how to make things sound nice. For example, I had about 4 producers work on “Jailer”, I knew what I wanted it to sound like and I made sure to take it to all the right people so it’ll come out right.” he explains to me. This punctilious approach is what he applies to his songwriting as well. “With LCV2, I really tried to show my versatility. Not just with my sounds or the beats I sing on but especially with my songwriting”
WANI takes much pride in his pen game and rightly so. He writes relatable tales that are soaked in melancholy. It’s another one of his endearing qualities. He’s not a one-take or freestyle artist, he likes to take his time to write down his verses. “Grown Girl”, the opening track pointedly places him as an unbridled libertine and he owns that narrative with pride. “Fuck me on the first night, you’re a grown-ass girl” he sings, without an iota of remorse. Even the vivacious “Smoke Out The Window” is filled with personal lyrics that address a past relationship. Perhaps, the most well-written and personal song is the brooding closer “God Bless The Child”. It touches on his inhibitions, vulnerabilities, challenges and much more. “If I never make it with this music shit, I’ll always remain proud that I made this song,” he says, visibly emotional. “This song made me cry when I was making it” he adds.
The singer’s album is out soon and he doesn’t seem unnerved in the slightest. He obviously has some doubts, but he mostly remains assured and cool. For him, he just wants to sit back and gauge what people rock with and what they’re not too crazy about. He’s clearly confident and proud of what he’s been able to achieve but he’s already looking to his next project, a project that he firmly believes would be his best yet. “These songs are simply soundtracks to my own world,” he tells me right after we round up the listening session. They serve as backdrops to his complicated relationships, his drunken nights, his fantasies and much more 一 his Lagos City Vices.
Featured image credit: Oluwapelumi Andikan Edwin