The little prince of Afrobeats grew up, transfigured by the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. If his latest album “Made In Lagos” remains a pure entertainment product, the artist and the man have grown in maturity.
A priori nothing has changed. In his latest clip for the single No Stress, posted on October 30 on his Youtube channel, StarBoy TV, Wizkid appears with all the tinsel of the bling-bling Nigerian “player”: heavy necklace set with diamonds, huge rings, sparkling grillz, golden frames, chiseled abs. While he whispers “I’ve been waiting for tonight night night” while sipping a candy pink cocktail, we tell ourselves that the prince of pop has remained a carefree teenager.
Despite his 30 years, the star has also kept his youthful features and postures of a fashion-conscious teenager … In the same clip, we see him proudly sporting two handbags, one under each arm. And quite naturally, he plays the muse, on social networks, of ready-to-wear brands, shoes (Puma) or high-tech (Tecno smartphones).
Fist raised against SARS
The props and the sleek decorum of the clips hide a more complex reality. Because the news, brutal, has cracked in recent months the acidulous universe of Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, the real name of the artist, and delaying the release of the album a little longer. Made in Lagos, waited for months. As he shared on social media, Wizkid could not see himself throwing a pop record while his young fans fought in the streets to end police violence.
When you are young and growing up in Nigeria, there is no escaping violence! “
The number one Afrobeats (or number two, according to the sales figures of his rival Davido) himself actively participated in the demonstrations for the dissolution of SARS, this special unit of the police accused of violence and assassinations . Photos show him in crowds in London, fist raised, an “End police brutality” sign in his other hand. We see him announcing, on videos, the effective dissolution of SARS by the government. And he promises in tweets that the fight is only just beginning: “This is only the beginning of a new Nigeria! Young Nigerians !! Know your rights and fight for them! You deserve it. We all deserve it !! “
Wizkid as a political activist? Less than a year ago, we wouldn’t have believed it. In a recent interview for English-speaking Lagos-based radio The Beat 99.9 FM, he admits that the last few years have made him “grow”: “There are so many things that have happened to me, I have had the blessing of ‘having a new boy, I learned a lot of lessons, I had to deal with the pandemic, the craziest thing in the world… ”
The anti-SARS protests have also particularly affected him. He himself confides having suffered police brutality: “When you are young and you grow up in Nigeria, there is no way to escape violence! (…) It would be a great shame not to speak out against this scourge. “
Arm wrestling with Buhari
The artist gave so much voice that he was pinned down by the highest authorities in his country. In a tweet, Lauretta Onochie, personal assistant to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, called the artist a “stupid kid” and the accused “of gross ignorance, callousness and childishness. “In question, a reflection of the singer against the head of state, described as an” old man “and reproaching him for wishing a speedy recovery to Trump (then suffering from Covid) while he passes in silence the violence against the Nigerian youth.
This duel at the top between a leading musician and President Buhari obviously evokes another tutelary figure of Nigerian music: Fela Kuti. It is already the same Buhari who had thrown the “Black President” in prison… in 1984. And Wizkid is obviously not the only one to lead a standoff with the Nigerian leaders. Long criticized for their lack of commitment, all the stars of Afrobeats (Davido, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade…) rallied heavily behind the youth.
An album to escape
The political shock is such that one would almost forget the StarBoy album… Sweet, peaceful, Made In Lagos appears both out of step with the violence in Nigerian streets in recent weeks, and as a welcome possibility of escape. The careful production juggles between afro-pop and afro-swing in a deliberately vintage vein, where the saxophone (Fela’s instrument today adopted by all the new generation) is often put in the foreground.
As for collaborations, Wizkid summoned the best of the international scene: his compatriot Burna Boy, the Briton Skepta, the Jamaican Damian Marley … With the latter, also a father, he pays tribute to his children on the title Blessed and admits: “I will do anything for my family. “
Political titles? There are not any. Many songs, recorded in 2019 or at the beginning of the year, could not moreover bear witness to his recent commitment. Even today, in his interviews, the prince of Afrobeats admits not to see himself leaving in the studio to make a song against the government. “It would be a waste, he said in an interview for the Financial Times. Fela has done it so many times. Fela insulted the president who now heads the country. “
However, the singer’s metamorphosis lets hope for a renewed sound and more scathing titles. After hoping Made in Lagos for nearly a year, today we are eagerly awaiting the next Nigerian album.