His state debut, Sounds from the other sidestruggled to make a dent commercially. His contract with Sony requires that he continue to play for a global audience and make music that doesn’t work to connect locally at home. To get around contractual restrictions, he works with producers and DJs who appear as invested guests on their records to launch records in the Nigerian market. Even more complex is the ever-changing scene in Lagos, with a new group of musicians like Omah Lay, Fireboy and Joeboy pushing the boundaries of the genre and redefining the local sound. WizKid’s legacy is certain, but in 2020 he is a king threatened by debris.
Made in Lagos dispels these doubts over 14 tracks. Here he’s finally balanced the formula to bring together great pop songs, domestically and internationally, that can compete with one another across cultures, and an underlying theme that embraces his roots. The project is dedicated to Lagos, Nigeria’s bubbly creative hub that has historically been the beating heart of the African art scene. It is the home of WizKid, the place where he was born, raised and first accepted. It’s not his first love letter to his hometown: his earlier ode to the popular Ojuelegba neighborhood brought Drake into his life and launched his crossover campaign. He continues to embrace his people in art and action: as young Nigerians around the world took part in the recent #EndSARS protests against police brutality, WizKid delayed and joined in his album release, marched with fans in London and became a vocal advocate of the Social media.
Made in Lagos is tight in its sonic approach, but for good reason. While previous projects were oversized cocktails of club bangers and experimental activities, WizKid’s measured attitude to his fourth album betrays a refined maturity. Its sounds are familiar, its delivery sure. And the sincerity bleeds through the songwriting. “Inna inna inna, I know you say they pray for my downfall / I’m still a winner,” he claims early on as horns wander through the winding melodies of “Reckless”. Wizkid’s delivery of patois and pidgin English interpolated with lush saxophone immediately sets this apart. He has refined his approach and finds consolation in exploring the intersection of two sound cultures: Lagos exuberance meets Jamaican rhythms.
For a project dedicated to the Nigerian city and country, the core of Made in Lagos underlines the cultural exchange between Africa and the Caribbean. For generations, the music of Lagos has had a healthy island influence. From reggae to dancehall to soca, local creatives in Lagos hack and mix music across a wide range of island sound cultures. Lagos may have given birth to WizKid, but Kingston provides the inspiration.
A real intercultural explosion takes place in the jump and deep drumming of “Mighty Wine”. You are immediately transported to a late night at a small club on Victoria Island, their bodies circling with joy. Damian Marley’s gratitude and introspective verse make “Blessed” a hymn to match the windy sunsets that drive through the incessant honking of cars on Lagos Island. On the ground, Lagos may be a city of struggle and shadows, but its heart is ambitious and to survive its horrors one must be blessed. WizKid captures the feeling of fleeing on the hook: “Say tonight, man, don’t stress. Tonight, me and my boys say we’re going jam gbedu. ”
Other employees raise their records and play with their strengths in a variety of ways. YOU are redirecting flowing positivity into romance to fan favorite “Smile”. The mid-tempo reggae production met local criticism when it was released in July for its cultural distance and simplicity. A poignant music video may have tempered that attitude, but throughout the project, its familiarity feels right at home. The openness of Ella Mai makes for the perfect duet and brings a slow fire to the outstanding “Piece of Me” by R & B. “Meet me for the lobby o, I know nobody can satisfy you,” brags WizKid. A highlight is the sunny infusion of alternative Nigerian singer Tay Iwar with tropical fun over lush instrumentals on “True Love”, while aspiring singer Tems continues her steady rise with a sultry appearance on “Essence”. Despite a pedestrian choir, Burna Boy is still ringing the party on “Ginger” amid rolling drums and exaggerated promises to a lover. Skepta is reliving its success with “Bad Energy” in “Longtime”, and although the new collaboration is uncomfortable, a little déjà vu can be excused.
Made in Lagos doesn’t pretend to dig deeper than escape and a bit of symbolism. Love and gratitude drive the matter forward, with rich approaches to their mid-tempo production. With 10 years of African success, WizKids Game is changing its artistry for greater global reach. The beauty and novelty inside Made in Lagos is a consequence of this metamorphosis. For African artists pushing for crossover success, a full takeover of the Hot 100 by Afrobeats remains the holy grail. WizKid’s latest version is a great addition to make this a reality.
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