Wizkid is first and foremost his own person, with full liberty to take any artistic decision he pleases. It is the freedom to exercise this liberty that has earned him several plaudits in world music after coming from humble beginnings in Ojuelegba.
Last Friday, Wizkid surprised us with the release of “Money & Love” off his new album, More Love Less Ego. It was a surprise because when it comes to Wizkid’s releases, we are usually left with a lot of teasing and fake dates for new drops. So, you can imagine the scramble with which everyone opened their streaming platforms at midnight on October 28th, itching to understand the new piece of the never-ending puzzle that is Wizkid. A couple of hours later, there were contrasting opinions on whether the record was good enough to start with and if Wizkid is finally entering his washed era.
This was the same case with “Bad To Me”. It has probably been the longest-running discourse since he released Sounds From The Other Side. Since Osagz’s tasteless rant about his dedication levels and alleged drug use, conversations about Wizkid have bordered on ridiculous as fans continue to project hypothetical standards and present arguments devoid of any form of nuance. Like most types of music, not everyone will relate to it, and people have found it difficult to come to terms with the evolution of his sound.
This is a normal reaction from fans when it comes to their dearest artists. I don’t blame anybody for that. But most of these reservations are based on things other than the music, as they are rooted in an attempt to gatekeep one of Nigeria’s finest-ever exports and a disconnect between his new mind-state and his audience’s. It is common for people to condemn what they don’t understand.
Up until recently, there was resistance to slower Afrobeats records. At the time it was released, Sounds was generally frowned upon, and it turned into a niche project enjoyed only by a select few. The project was not a mainstream success but it was a cultural reset; one whose value was only realized several years later, especially as its release coincided with the era of “pon pon” music popularized by Davido and the rest of DMW. Whether we want to admit it or not, Sounds was prophetic, and set the tone for Afrobeats’ pivot to a global outlook.
We all remember that interview in 2017 when Wizkid spoke about “the next album”, which turned out to be Made in Lagos. The project turned out to be everything he said it would, and much more. Which leads me to ask the question: if we never fully understood then, what makes you think we would fully understand now? How have we, as the masses, proven that our understanding of artists’ mind-states is anything beyond the surface level?
I’m not saying Wizkid is now Aristotle, and his lyrics are too far-fetched and philosophical. I’m saying he’s clearly not where he was a few years ago. I understand that fans live vicariously through their favorite artists’ music, listening for the things that relate to their personal mind-state — things they want to hear. Made in Lagos came at the right time when tensions were high in the world, so it made sense that it was easily accepted. I’m not sure a lot of people relate to spreading more love and less ego.
Anyone who knows their onions understands that feeling and sound go hand-in-hand. Wizkid’s tropical era started way back in 2017 but has taken different forms since then. Even though Sounds, Soundman Vol. 1 and Made in Lagos have a similar vibe, each project has a distinct feature that can be heard and felt through the pace of the rhythm and the progressions on show. You can hear it on “Money & Love” as well. I don’t want to get too nerdy about it, but it’s all pretty obvious.
As for how Wizkid feels about what we think, I don’t know, I’m not him. But here are some facts: he is first and foremost his own person, with full liberty to take any artistic decision he pleases. It is the freedom to exercise this liberty that has earned him several plaudits in world music after coming from humble beginnings in Ojuelegba. If I were him, I wouldn’t care.
For someone of Wizkid’s standing, these conversations are bound to happen. I don’t like to side with opinions that sit on each end of the scale, because overhype is just as bad as excess condemnation. Let’s just wait till the project drops, okay?