This project is a victory not just for Wizkid or Nigerian music but one particularly for the music fans, the ones who helped the artiste grow.
The much anticipated International mixtape from the star boy Wizkid, Sounds From The Other Side was finally released in the early hours of Friday, 14th July 2017. The 12 track project which parades bangers like Daddy Yo, Come Closer, Picture Perfect, All for Love and One for Me boasts of collaborations with some of the biggest international names like the 6god Drake, Ty Dolla Sign (who featured on two tracks), Trey Songz, Chris Brown, DJ Mustard and Major Lazer with additional vocals from some of Africa’s finest voices Efya and Bucie. Wizzy was also smart enough not to totally displace the sound team that earned him recognition in the first place- hence he retained the services of Nigerian beat-makers like Sarz, Legendary Beatz, Spellz and Del B in carving that distinct African sound.
Let’s be clear, this was a gamble and Wizkid was not about to embark on this journey unprepared. Prior to the album release, Wizkid began to do media tours on major international platforms where he said so many right things and a few wrong ones. It had been a while since the Starboy featured on any radio/TV station back home so his interviews were as welcome as that of our presidential chat. He also released as much as five singles testing the market and preparing the audience for the direction he was headed with his new sound.
It was going to be unapologetically dancehall with a lot of reggaeton and Caribbean feel; and even though he had rode on the wave of being compared with Afrobeat Icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti, his music was not designed to follow that path.
He also got engaged in a social media war with fellow artiste Davido, which got the fans engrossed and talking. Whether you agree with how he went about it or not, he was winning. And then the shows in various cities began to roll in: he performed at the popular UK music festival Wireless before a crowd in the hundreds of thousand. He held a ‘free’ show at The Curtain Arena in the UK which served as the album listening party where he brought acts like Skepta and Burna Boy on stage. In addition, he had a concert in Brussels and has lined up several more including performing at four stadiums in Nigeria before the end of the year as he continues to spread his sound across the world.
The process was well planned and the activities synched accordingly. He got the right buzz and the world was took notice. A new international name had been born, fully crossing the borders with his music and this time he had done it almost all by himself, a path many had in the past attempted but failed.
After signing his international deal with SONY Music Entertainment/ RCA Records in 2016, many were sceptical as to what this meant for his career. We had been here before with Nigerian artistes sealing International deals and ended up with nothing to show for it. Big names like 2face, P-Square, Darey in their prime made so stillborn attempts whilst of recent, the likes of Seyi Shay, Burna Boy, Patoranking, Davido and Dbanj all toed this path but none of these deals have really set the landscape ablaze.
Davido had also secured a similar deal with Sony Music as Wizkid. although the terms were slightly different. His EP however, Son of Mercy which was in 2016 failed to meet expectations.
Sounds From The Other Side is undoubtedly the biggest offering from the Nigerian pop scene. The project which opens up with Sweet Love, is packed with fun, groovy and club anthems from Picture Perfect to African Bad Gyal with Gbese, Nobody and Sexy already emerging as early fan favourites.
Whilst many have opinions about the mix-tape lacking in certain aspects- for example: a record detailing tales of his journey or one with a message to inspire his young African listeners; I daresay that at this point, his success story alone is enough to encourage and motivate anyone who has a dream and aims for bigger things.
From being told by a certain ‘Solo’ that he was never going to blow to becoming unarguably Nigeria’s biggest pop export, from recording in OJB’s small studio in Surulere to performing on the greatest platforms worldwide; Wizkid owned his narrative. His place as a legend in the music industry might remain arguable to some but very few will doubt that his feats will be imprinted into the sands of time of Nigerian music.
This project is a victory not just for Wizkid or Nigerian music but one particularly for the music fans, the ones who helped the artiste grow, the thousands who ‘holla-ed at him when he drove by’ and the many more who have always supported the music.
It is also a victory for every Nigerian artiste who have helped build the structure upon which Wizkid has emerged and a story of hope for the upcoming ones that persistence does pay- if only you are willing to put in work. The Nigerian pop scene is having its moment of fame and this one is bound to last beyond just 15 minutes. You all can thank Wizkid for that.