Friday, April 29, 2016 6:02 am
By Chinedu Achebe
When the lineup of artists who will be performing at the Essence Festival this July 4th weekend was released in March, I saw the usual names like Kendrick Lamar, Maxwell, Mariah Carey, and many others.
But when I saw that Wizkid (Ayodeji Balogun) would be there, I literally signed off the website and logged back in to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. For most black Americans, the name Wizkid means absolutely nothing. But for Nigerian Americans like myself, I was excited to see a Nigerian artist that I listened to get some recognition from the black community in this country.
Wizkid dropped his first album in 2011 and has had hits like Pakurumo and Pullover. But his single, Ojuelegba, was one of the hottest tracks of 2015 and the remix with Drake helped bump up his status outside of Nigeria. Wizkid is also featured on Drake’s new single, One Dance.
The timing of Wizkid’s mainstream ascendance comes during the changing of the guards in the Nigerian music industry. Artists like the duo P-Square(Peter and Paul Okoye), who are twin brothers, along with Dbanj (Oladapo Oyebanjo) and his former producer and record label partner Don Jazzy (Michael Ajereh), helped in revolutionizing the Nigerian music industry almost 10 years ago. Before they came along, when any one thought about Nigerian music the only person who came to everybody’s mind was the Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti. But with classic songs likeNo One Like You and Chop My Money from P-Square and Fall in Love andOliver Twist from Dbanj, Nigerian millennials finally had artists who expressed the style and sounds of their generation.
During the years of 2007-2013, P-Square and Dbanj sold tons of records and performed to sell out crowds all over the African continent and did some shows in Europe and the U.S. as well. But now that P-Square and Dbanj are in their mid-30s, the 25 year old Wizkid will now be looked upon to be the global face of the Nigerian music industry.
Even with all of the pop success of Wizkid and other artists like Ice Prince (Panshak Zamani) and Davido(David Adeleke), Nigerians still have artists who capture the spirit of Fela in their music. No one person embodies that more than Seun Kuti, Fela’s son. Seun uses his music to talk about political and social issues the same way his father did. His single, Black Woman, is Seun’s love song to black women discussing the various struggles that they deal with on a day to day basis. The woman who is featured on that track with Seun is another Nigerian artist by the name of Nneka. She has been dubbed as the Nigerian Lauryn Hill. Nneka usually has a deep social conscious message connected to the lyrics of her songs. I went to a concert that she had in Houston a couple of years ago and she put on a great show.
Asa is another Nigerian artist that is putting out good quality music as well. She has a more folksy/soul tone to her songs in the same vein as artists like Macy Gray and Erykah Badu. A couple of my favorite tracks that I like from her are Jailer and Fire on the Mountain.
Even with all of the talent that these artists possess, the real question is whether black Americans are ready to buy into Nigerian music. It is interesting how Rihanna’s blending of R&B and dancehall reggae is now seen as nothing out of the ordinary. But people forget that hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t until Beenie Man’s hit single, Girls Dem Sugar featuring Mya which came out in 2000 did people began to really embrace dancehall reggae music. He was then followed by Sean Paul who took the genre to an even higher level with songs like Gimme the Light and Like Glue.
One can only hope that Wizkid and other artists like him can have that same type of influence on Nigerian music. In the meantime, me along with most Nigerians will enjoy Wizkid’s moment and just wish for more continued success for all of our artists.
*This article was originally published by Huffingtonpost.com . It was titled: Wizkid and the Emergence of the Nigerian Music Industry