Exploring The Prospects of Wizkid’s Forthcoming Album ‘More Love, Less Ego’
the 'Made in Lagos' follow-up has been defined by a familiar mystery
the 'Made in Lagos' follow-up has been defined by a familiar mystery
More Love, Less Ego: with these four words, Wizkid has commanded the attention of his global audience, a much-heralded follow-up to his classic ‘Made In Lagos.’ Last month makes it two years since its release, and where doubts arose initially, its current status as a scene-shifting album is very much unanimous. We have seen Afropop projects afterwards crafted in that style, a slowed sensuality revolving around genres like R&B and Dancehall.
Since ‘Sounds From The Other Side,’ Wizkid has proved capable of bridging sounds from the diaspora and Nigeria, as he shares his refined sound and vocal deliveries between both sensibilities. When the Tems-assisted “Essence” took off, it was a different kind of “Afrobeats” hit song—no dig to its Nigerian roots, but it was a record that could have been made elsewhere; its famous chorus was faintly reminiscent of Celine Dion ballads, while the rhythm had Caribbean undertones.
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Way before ‘Made In Lagos’ dropped that October day, its words were firmly planted on the minds of expectant listeners. This was done through posts from Wizkid himself, those from close-by associates, rumours about potential collaborators, but of the music not much was heard until it was time. Close control is a practice favoured by the world’s biggest artists and with Wizkid, operating at a time when many Nigerian pop artists readily share snippets for promotional purposes, the anomaly of his fierce protection makes for more excitement.
To this, you could point to precedents for how ‘MLLE’ has been packaged thus far. With ‘Made In Lagos’ having enjoyed a two-year dominance, and some records like “True Love” and “Piece Of Me” not completely tapped for its audio-visual prospects, Wizkid has the long game’s luxury. He’s certainly earned that, after successfully rebranding himself since he appeared on the scene. No easy task has this been, given how quickly sounds transform and superstars die, losing the fire which once ignited their myth. Wizkid has grown in private, somehow staying ahead of the game while staying in it.
For the laid-back ‘MIL’ vibe, few people could have predicted it. Obviously when it dropped the sonic precedent was ‘SFTOS’ but there was an unmistakable alliance between the sound and the life Wizkid was living. While the under-appreciated LP was too itinerant in its scope, and Wizkid’s lifestyle wasn’t as available as it is now, it was harder to place the album fully in perspective. The times play a huge role in the popularity of musicians, and this is just one instance where it does.
In the three years between 2017 and the release of ‘MIL,’ the colourful edge of Nigerian pop was still present in his music. The Highlife-tinged “Manya” formed the core of that era, a collaboration with producer Mut4y which began Wizkid’s close alliance with producers. It’s also telling that the hits which followed were all collaborations: “Oshe” with DJ Jimmy Jatt, “Nowo” with Spinall, “Kana” with Olamide and “Energy (Stay Far Away)” with Skepta. The uber-popular “Fever” was the follow-up, its strengths in no way reduced by the arguable opinion that the starring of Tiwa Savage as the video’s diva accelerated its acceptance.
It was also at that point where Wizkid’s songwriting began to come under focus, with some being of the opinion he didn’t possess his lyrical strength of old. Admittedly, I shared the opinion at the time, but only mildly because while I thought he could do better, there are many ways to be an intelligent songwriter. Wizkid might not be your typical sad poet, but he’s able to fill the spaces of his lush sonics with a kind of singing that works only for him. As he continued to deliver on archetypical Afropop songs throughout 2019 and 2020—during this time he released and featured in “Totori,” “Ghetto Love,” “Joro” and “Arizona”—it must have made sense to drop the ‘Soundman Vol. 1’ EP and he did, under Starboy Entertainment.
That was a neat wrap-up to his era of pomp. The Wizkid who followed soon after recognised his position as an OG, and created music to fit the attendant lifestyle. Pop music in Nigeria has a tendency towards slowing down, just as the R&B-inspired bops of the early 2000s replaced the dominant Reggae/Dancehall sound in the preceding decades. Just as the Highlife-indebted sound of Juls and Mr. Eazi slowed the upbeat Pon Pon sound some six years ago, just about the time South African genres made new headway into the centre of Nigerian Pop.
Wizkid placed one foot forward with “Smile” and never looked back.
The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm Road, London, played host to Wizkid’s listeners last month for an exclusive listening experience for his new studio album. Updates on social media came some hours after the whole event was done, suggesting that phones were sealed at the entrance. Asides the fact Wizkid’s superstardom is at an all-time high, he’s always merged that with a dedication to his craft and production. Just as his music moves towards a peculiar neatness, he works to make the live experiences similarly enjoyable.
the attendees was Daisy, a member of our community who resides in London. Over WhatsApp voice notes, she affirms that it was a large gathering. Queues went long into the street, but inside the arena was quite immaculate in its arrangement. The chairs formed a circle around the main stage, which pulled intimately towards the construction so everyone felt really connected to him. The lights went from blue to red, setting a mood that we can slightly expect to pre-empt the album’s records which Daisy describes as “very sensual [and] very vibey.” He performed with a full band, everyone from saxophonist to bassist and guitarist present; Wizkid has always been a trailblazer in this regard, his early songs like “Pakurumo” and “Jaiye Jaiye” attuned to the urgency and agency of live music.
Wizkid’s fashion was very much on point too, wearing a fitted blue suit and jewellery on his first outfit, then swapping that for an all-white later on. Mostly, he performed his already-released songs, and when he premiered about five or six new songs from ‘MLLE’ the crowd went wild. There’s a record with Ayra Starr, and there were loud cheers when she got on the stage to perform alongside Wiz. “That really lifted the mood as well,” says Daisy, “People were really dancing.” And yes—their phones were sealed in tight bags and with the exception of a few who were able to pop theirs open, everything went uncovered.
“I really enjoyed that because it just allowed us to be in the moment and not be on our phones,” she says of the choice, and speaking of her overall impression to the event, “I really loved it and I liked the exclusivity of it, like allowing his fans to experience the album first. I felt that was very thoughtful”.
As the album release date moves closer, DJ’s and friends of Wiz are said to be hosting exclusive parties around the world, from Lagos to London, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Ghana and many other places. We can also expect motion-style promotional techniques, bringing the MLLE experience to the streets as poignantly as it pops off in the bars and lounges. What’s obvious though, is that Wizkid will employ his role as a cross-cultural ambassador to fine effect. Inspired by a quote from a prominent Black author, ‘More Love, Less Ego’ will be a movement as much as an album.
— TBW. (@TeamBigWiz) September 28, 2022
Backtracking through the ‘MLLE’ trail, the potential features already teased on the album have been varied but believable, from Ayra Starr to Don Toliver and Skepta. There’s another less-obvious Nigerian collaboration, oiling Wizkid’s Caribbean connection, a record features not one, but two exciting Jamaican artists. With the ‘MIL’ features of Projexx, American R&B musicians Ella Mai and H.E.R., and Nigeria’s alt-pop savant Tay Iwar, Wiz has proven adept at ceding the limelight for the overall quality of his records. His curatorial skills come in full glare then, a dominant edge in the artistry of many great musicians throughout history.
In all of this, it’s expected that Wizkid will again attempt to shift the needle of his sound and by virtue of his impact, perhaps the sound of mainstream Afropop. The wheels have been set in place, and from now, we can only roll forward. When one considers the thrilling vivacity of the ‘Made In Lagos’ run, it’s a very exciting prospect to watch the unfurling of this one because, once again, Wizkid SZN is upon us.
Pre-save ‘More Love, Less Ego’ below.