Nigerian singer, songwriter, and producer, Wizkid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, has a decades-spanning career, marked by numerous achievements and groundbreaking contributions to the music industry.
The Grammy award-winning artist has embarked on several successful international tours, selling out venues around the world. His energetic performances and charismatic stage presence have earned him a dedicated global fan base. Notably, he has performed at renowned events such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Essence Festival, and Afro Nation, further solidifying his status as a sought-after live performer.
Taking a quick look back in his career timeline, he gained prominence with his debut single, ‘Holla at Your Boy’, in 2010, which became an instant hit in Nigeria and beyond. His debut album, Superstar (2011), solidified his position as a rising star in African music, spawning several chart-topping singles. The album’s success marked the beginning of Wizkid’s journey towards becoming a global icon.
‘It’s not easy for me to properly articulate my evolution as an artist over the years. However, the evolution is in the music. My bodies of work reflect my growth and evolution. The sound is elevated, along with even my image. I invest time and effort into every element of my craft, especially those two. I’m always onto new music and am currently crafting a new album. It’s always an intense but fun process, because I take my craft seriously and love music.’
His last album, More Love, less Ego, released last year receiving rave reviews. The 13-track playlist features prominent guest collaborators such as Ayra Starr, Skillibeng, Shenseea, Skepta, Naira Marley, and Don Toliver.
His collaborations with international artists have been instrumental in expanding his global reach and exposing African music to new audiences. Notable examples include his feature on Drake’s hit single ‘One Dance’ (2016), which topped charts worldwide, and his contributions to Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift album in 2019.
‘I’ve always believed in collaborating. I actually enjoy working with other musicians. I like to hear different types of sounds, beats, productions, and vocals. It’s inspiring for my process overall,’ he says.
‘Collaborations have done a lot in my career. Some of my favourite records are those I’ve done with other artists, producers and DJs. I usually like collaborating with people I can connect with, both on a musical level or a personal one. Collaborating is important across the board. Audiences and their appreciation for the music grow that way.’
He has received numerous accolades and awards, both locally and internationally, for his exceptional talent and groundbreaking work. In 2017, he became the first African artist to win the Best International Act category at the British Music of Black Origin Awards, beating out formidable competition from around the world. He has also been recognised at prestigious events such as the Billboard Music Awards, BET Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards, and the Grammy awards, solidifying his status as a global music icon and ambassador for African music.
‘While the awards are great, my most significant career milestone has been just touching people through music. When I go to my shows and feel the energy of the people, I feel great. It means a lot to me that my music brings out such positive energy in the world,’ says the hit maker.
Beyond his accolades, Wizkid’s impact lies in his ability to infuse traditional African sounds with contemporary global influences, creating a distinct musical identity of infectious melodies and catchy hooks. Songs like ‘Ojuelegba’, ‘Fever’, and ‘Essence’ have become international anthems, highlighting his versatility and knack for creating chart-topping hits.
A balancing act
While his music has evolved over time, Wizkid has maintained his signature sound, balancing experimentation with new styles and staying true to his artistic identity. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time in the studio studying my craft, and I’ve mastered my sound. Part of that process involves experimenting with new styles, but it mostly takes understanding your brand and understanding who you are, and how the music connects to that person,’ he says.
He adds that when you have a clear understanding of your brand identity and values, it becomes easier to explore new genres, sounds, and artistic directions while maintaining a cohesive and authentic image. ‘I do believe that musicians need to experiment with different sounds now and then, because as a musician you always want to grow your audience – you want your music to reach as many people as possible. And different people like different elements and sounds, so by widening your range you’re guaranteed to add to your audience. However, it’s a balancing act and therefore important to strike a balance between creative exploration and staying true to the core essence of your brand.’
Despite achieving immense success in his music career at a relatively young age, he continues to push creatively. ‘I never get complacent – I’m always chasing more. I don’t feel like I’ve reached my peak yet. I know I have so much more to do. God has blessed me abundantly,’ he says.
‘Within this life, everything is always in a constant state of evolution. The music industry is constantly evolving, and I know that, creatively, I have much more to give. With this evolution comes more opportunity and chances in which to grow and discover something new in your talents and abilities.’+
Made in Lagos
Beyond his musical achievements, Wizkid has emerged as a symbol of cultural representation and African pride. Through his music and public persona, he has consistently celebrated his Nigerian heritage, showcasing the beauty and vibrancy of African culture to a global audience. Wizkid’s success has inspired countless African artists to embrace their roots and express creativity without compromising their identity, empowering a new generation of musicians to tell their stories and share unique perspectives with the world.
‘It’s a blessing to be recognised globally as one of Africa’s most successful musicians. I’m happy to push the culture forward. I work hard for myself and my family, and I’m glad that my career is reflective of that. But, I also go hard for our culture because I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. I believe in the power of our music on the world and what that influence could do for us back home.’
‘My culture has definitely influenced my music. I’m proud to be an artist from Nigeria and to be part of our ever-evolving music scene. That constant growth stems from innate traits that I think all Nigerians have, such as discipline and persistence. That’s what I’ve learned from home – just to keep going, continue evolving, and keep pushing forward.
‘When I interact with younger artists, they tell me that my music and journey has inspired them in their careers. That’s something I’m very proud of. I always want my music to touch people. If it inspires the next generation to do what they’re doing, then I’m satisfied.’
In recent years, African music has experienced an unprecedented rise in global recognition and influence. From the infectious rhythms of Afrobeats to the soul-stirring melodies of Afro-soul, and the vibrant sounds of Afro- pop, the music of Africa has captured the hearts and ears of listeners around the world.
Afrobeats, a genre that originated in Nigeria, has emerged as a driving force in the global rise of African music. It has captivated listeners worldwide with its infectious rhythms, catchy melodies, and fusion of African sounds with contemporary genres like hip-hop, R&B, and dancehall. The mainstream success of Afrobeats has opened doors for other African genres, paving the way for artists from different African countries to gain global recognition.
‘Afrobeats is the new pop! How do I view my role in contributing to this growth and development? Honestly, I feel I’m just another artist in the game. I grind and do my part to make sure I portray the continent in the best light.
‘I love working with upcoming artists. They always remind me of my early days in the industry. I love their energy! Music artists are taking more control – there’s greater capacity to connect dots for themselves. As more artists discover that and tap into it, the industry will continue to grow and at a faster rate.’
Beyond the music and future plans
Wizkid has been involved in several successful business ventures, including the Starboy Entertainment record label. ‘I got interested in entrepreneurship and starting my own business because I feel I have so much more to do, and more to offer to the world. My music affords me the licence to do a lot, so it’s only right that I explore. I also have more money to make. I’m growing, and so are my responsibilities.’
Having been successful in diverse areas, such as music production, talent management, and merchandise sales. Asked what skills are necessary to be a successful entrepreneur, and how he’s developed these skills over time, he claims ‘consistency and persistence is key. Just waking up and keeping at the grind everyday is the number one skill. I’ve developed this skill through my dedication to recording. I’m in the studio everyday religiously. I mimic this behaviour in almost every endeavour.
‘There are lessons that I’ve learned through my entrepreneurial experiences that I’ve applied to my music career. I’ve learned to be even more open minded and the importance of diversifying your income streams. My advice to anybody looking to build wealth outside their primary career is to never lose sight of your true talent or skillset, as this is what will take you far in other endeavours.’
He has also been actively involved in philanthropic endeavours, using his platform to support charitable causes such as education and healthcare initiatives in Nigeria. ‘What motivates me to give back to my community my desire to touch people, help them feel good, and live better lives. I’m working on some charitable initiatives that will be rolling out this year.
As to what we can expect in the future, he says, ‘professionally, I am busy working on a new album which I’m really excited about. Personally, I’m just working on myself and being a better man. My sons are growing up and I want to guide them best I can while they’re still under my wing. I’m not one for grand future plans – I let the music guide me and all my endeavours, and continue to push creatively. To stay relevant you have to stay busy and keep working. That’s what got me here, and that’s what’s going to keep me here.’