From Lagos to legend: Wizkid wunderkind

25 Jan 2018

When Wizkid released the track Jaiye, Jaiye in 2014, with a guest appearance from the saxophonist Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, it was a bold claiming of the musical legacy of Nigeria’s biggest musical export to date.

Now with his star power and influence on the music scene, WizKid is on his way to securing an enduring legacy for himself as a legendary Afrobeat singer, but from a very different background.

Where Fela was born to a life of privilege among Nigeria’s elite, with a mother who was one of the country’s independence movement leaders, WizKid, like many of the new generation of Nigeria’s superstars rose from the streets and relative obscurity.

On Ojuelegba, one of his best-known tracks, WizKid - whose real name is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun - celebrates the area of Lagos that made him, and where he encountered his first struggles to make a mark with his music.

He first emerged on the scene in the late 2000s, initially performing in church under the name Lil’Prinz.

BUSTIN’ INTO THE BIG TIME

After changing his stage name to WizKid, he honed his skills through collaborations with a who’s who of the Nigerian music scene, and in 2009, got signed to R ‘n’ B star, Banky W’s label, EME records.

His debut album, confidently titled Superstar, was released in 2011, with hit singles including Don’t Dull, Tease Me and Pakurumo. By 2015, when the UK MOBO Awards came calling with a nomination for “Best African Act”, WizKid was already an established global African star, selling out shows in the UK, the US and elsewhere.

The remix of Ojuelegba by Canadian artist, Drake and UK grime artist, Skepta, cemented his ascendancy as Africa’s most prominent popular musician.

The success has continued with more award wins and nominations, including clinching “Best International Act’ at the 2017 MOBO Awards.

In 2018, he’s scheduled to appear at Coachella alongside Beyonce and a host of other acts.

MAN OF THE MOMENT

With a global reputation solidified, WizKid is consolidating his reputation as one of the most influential artists in Africa and beyond, by launching his own label to nurture young talent.

In December 2017, WizKid made good on the label’s ambition, extravagantly signing a young rap artist, Hamed, on stage during his concert.

With a record label, six-figure endorsement deals and global influence, Nigeria’s star boy has definitely become Africa’s global man of the moment.