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Made In Lagos… The Evolution of Wizkid

If you listen to the album with the expectations of a cultural narrative about living in or growing up in Lagos, you would be thoroughly disappointed, and for no fault of the artist. Made in Lagos is Wizkid’s latest and fourth studio album, and is a bold evolution of his musical identity. At first, the switch-up is shocking, but the truth is we all saw it coming.

Wizkid begins the 14-track project baring an exciting Afro-Reggae rhythm titled Reckless, where he notes on his confidence over negativity. The song puts you in a groovy mood and keeps you anticipating the lyrical wonders he could possibly unleash in this project.

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Track two opens up with Burna Boy’s exciting Afro-pop vocals, “If you want make I ginger you, give me the Kokoro (Keys),” and it unlocks an energetic and flawless harmony between the duo; unmatched by their previous collaborations. They, unsurprisingly, sing about a romantic interaction with a lover.

The Made in Lagos sound-train travels further to another fan-favourite, Longtime, which enlists UK-based Nigerian rapper, Skepta, to touch on another love narrative, expressing his affection for his lover. Most of the album’s songs revolve around the same subject matter of romantic/sensual love, as is seen in eight other songs – Mighty Wine, Smile (with H.E.R.), Piece of Me (with Ella Mai), No Stress, True Love (with Tay Iwar and Projexx), Sweet One, Essence (with Tems), and Roma (with Terri). There are a few unique songs, in terms of content-direction, such as Blessed where he enlists Jamaican Reggae-veteran, Damian Marley, in a thanksgiving/memoir song; as well as Grace and Gyrate, where he collectively reflects on his stardom reality and the sacrifices it took.

The entire album feels very relaxing, sensual, and it unusually projects Wizkid in a very emotional state. From the low-toned, whispery, and lullaby-like vocalisation, you can also tell that Wizkid worked hard at resisting the pressures that came with meeting public expectations and ended up producing a body of work that best represents his mental and emotional state on this album.

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Melodically, it is a professionally polished project. Wizkid enlisted sound-whiz such as the American-based London Holmes, P2J, the British-Ghanaian Juls, as well as Nigerian-based Telz, Kel P, BlaqJerzee, Sarz, and Mutay. The album’s sound is very experimental and deliberate, refining the best of Soul, RnB, and Pop to make an Afro-fusion rhythm that harmoniously complements the Wizkid-persona that is portrayed on this album.

The album also reflects Wizkid’s lyrical growth; every song embodies well-balanced songwriting and a confident lyricism. The lyrics are delicately and bluntly shaped to express his emotions, constantly choosing self-expression over self-censorship.

Flipside, the album has some drawbacks. Firstly, it feels incomplete, as if something(s) were amiss. If it were not Wizkid, whose musical journey, from his beginnings (under EME music), to his international growth (after Ojuelegba’s release) to his die-hard fan-base (WizkidFc), is symbolically attached to Lagos.

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Lagos, then a project that deviates from paying odes to this famous city of his birth and growth, would be welcomed and accepted as a personal project. For four years, Nigerians have eagerly anticipated this project, after they accepted Sounds From The Other Side (Wizkid’s third studio album, which also signified the beginning of his sound re-direction with its much international appeal).

The title of the album is also a bit distant from the actual message behind the album. However, these flaws cannot put Wizkid on the gallows, as he primarily has creative freedom as an artist. The album might have been made by a Lagosian, but it was not certainly made for only, or mostly, Lagosians; neither was it made by only people with experiences of Lagos living. There is a deliberate sound-refinement to balance both the Western and Local appeal on this project.

However, while it is not the duty of the listener to dictate the type of art the musician can create, it is also inevitably important, as an artist, to influence projects that appeal to the audience. For some reason, the Nigerian music audience has started growing voracious appetites for experimental and content-diverse sounds.

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Many listeners expected Wizkid’s evolution to be more diverse with the content, especially with reflecting the life and times of Lagos people. However, Wizkid’s evolution is more intimate, artistically abstract, and emotional.

Made in Lagos remains a very important project that will redefine Wizkid’s legacy, for a very long time; because after 11 years of remaining commercially and culturally relevant, your art naturally begins to become an artifact (as is the case with TuBaba, Asa, DBanj, Don Jazzy, among others). It is a delicate project because the ultimate Key Performance Indicator of the album is not its streaming numbers; rather, it is the replay value of the album, in the long run.

As Wizkid stays true to his nature and travels inwards emotional terrains, only time can tell if this album would resist the tides of time in its sojourn to longevity.

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