A 1-listen review of Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’
The return of one of the most effortlessly skilled artists contemporary afropop has ever seen
The return of one of the most effortlessly skilled artists contemporary afropop has ever seen
For the past three years, Wizkid’s ‘Made In Lagos’ has been mythical moment in the making. Less than a year after his 2017 major label debut, ‘Sounds from the Other Side’, the afropop juggernaut announced the title of his following LP, setting the stage for a scenic rollout marked with its fair share of false starts. Somehow, the FC (as the singer’s Stan base is often referred to) and scores of afropop faithful have kept hope alive, even as Wizkid flouted rumoured release dates on several occasions.
Between the unwitting anxiety effected by the trickle of loose singles and our collective will to manifest ‘Made In Lagos’ into being, it sometimes felt like the album was a figment of our imaginations. When Wiz surprisingly pulled out ‘Soundman, Vol. 1’ last December, he was clearly pulling a fast one, temporarily tempering the anxiousness of the main event. With each following hint that ‘MIL’ was indeed coming soon, there was a justified amount of scepticism, until the release of two brilliant singles—the H.E.R-assisted “Smile” and “No Stress”—and the announcement of an initially confirmed album release date, October 15, 2020.
In solidarity with the demonstrations against police brutality in Nigeria, a cause Wizkid has been vocal about, the singer pushed the album back to November 22nd. Due to an impending leak, ‘MIL’ has been brought forward to tonight, which isn’t necessarily ideal, but very much welcome all the same. So, here we are, finally: it’s actually real. We at The NATIVE were privileged to get an early listen of the highly anticipated project a couple of weeks ago and we confirmed that it was indeed real and actually finally on the way. The expectations are as high as they’ve ever been for the singer born Ayodeji Balogun, however, if there’s one thing I love about 1-listen reviews, it’s that it forces you to contend with what’s in front of you, not what you think it should be.
The time for guessing is over, it’s time to get into what Wiz has been stitching together for years. Cometh the hour, cometh the man (and if you stick with us, there might be even more on the way). In usual 1-listen review fashion, we penned our thoughts with no skips, no rewinds and no fast-forwards. Every song has received real-time reaction.
This opening has upped my anxiety. That drop has me excited, Wizkid sounds so casually invincible. My headphones might be a little too loud but I’m too hyped to take my hands off this keyboard. Wizkid is talking that prosperity talk, deservedly so. “I go do anything for my family yeah”, Baba Bolu with the family man lyrics. Wizkid is a melody god, fuck. It might scan as a stale detail, but we need to appreciate it every time we can. This is me officially throwing out a Wizkid reggaeton album into the universe. I wish I had producer credits close to me, but whoever made this beat laced it appropriate. These horns are amazing, those piano riffs are immaculate and the bounce is just perfect. Great intro, let’s go!
“Ginger” (feat. Burna Boy)
Burna! Man, I’m hype. If they’re going to do this back-and-forth thing the whole time, I’m all for it. Reduced the volume a bit, this bounce has so much sauce. Wiz has settled into his salacious bag, his voice has gotten huskier and it’s selling that lothario appeal perfectly. “I’ve been making money, living reckless”. God, when? Afropop is the greatest genre of music, please listen to this bounce, you guys. It’s that perfect intersection between club-ready and isolated chilling with a romantic partner. My guy relegated Burna to the hook, I’m not even remotely mad. Sounds like a keeper.
“Longtime” (feat. Skepta)
Wiz and Skep, part two, streets been waiting. Skep has finessed the trademark Afropop bounce, he sounds so comfortable. I couldn’t find a quotable off rip, but that was a solid opening. Wizkid knows how to jump into a song, his presence is conspicuous without being disruptive. “Love wey I get for you pass any money” is the sort of line I’d imagine a KPMG employee texting Cuppy. This bounce tracks back to ‘SFTOS’, very afro-Caribbean and in tune with what’s fashionable in Nigerian pop music, which makes me wonder what made many people revile that album. I’ll have to revisit this.
A Wizkid song titled “Mighty Whine” is probably a little too on the nose, but I like the way this is going so far. The reverb on those drums are sticking out positively, I need to know who mixes Wizkid’s vocals, the person has helped create a perfect and recognisable aesthetic. Somehow, “Girl, I no come here to dim your light” stuck out to me, I like the line. Wizkid has been singing from a place of ease for the past few years, it’s obvious he’s been living the sort of enjoyment-filled, stress-free life one can only afford on a very deep bank balance. I really like this song, I see it as a fan favourite and even a potential big single.
“Blessed” (feat. Damian Marley)
Wizkid loves his horns, a lot. P2J definitely produced this, his drums have this recognisable character—e.g. “Anybody”. Damian Marley sounds so comfortable on this. “I do what make me happy and nobody can deny me that I’m blessed” is such a wonderful, wholesome flex. I’m not the most avid Damian Marley fan, but this is one of the rare times I’ve heard him this laidback, I really love it. For the umpteenth time, Wizkid knows how to inhabit a song with a casual authority. “The life wey I live so crazy, I pray say Jah go protect me” is an honest prayer. Wizkid should be the ambassador for living a life without any unnecessary problems. Is that Efya with the background vocals? Maybe, maybe not. This is a keeper.
“Smile” (feat. H.E.R)
The lead single. I liked this song when I first heard it, I didn’t feel like it was anything too special until I saw that heart-warming video that featured Wiz’s kids, beautiful Yoruba women and Suya. H.E.R is a feature killer, she knows how to match and elevate a pre-existing mood, just listen to “Slow Down” and “The Lay Down” as prime examples. She did a really great job on this, and shout-out to her for amplifying our fight against police brutality on Saturday Night Live. That bass guitar riff is redunkulous—it’s not a real word, but it’s an apt description. Yeah, this is a great hook, I see why so many people were gushing positively when this came out. Jam, definitely a keeper.
“Piece of Me” (feat. Ella Mai)
Guitars evoke beauty, man. This drum pattern is slightly unorthodox, one of the many details that has kept this album musically dynamic. I’ll take more r&b Wizkid, every day and twice on Friday nights. Ella Mai’s voice is so rich in warmth, it sounds like snuggling in the arms of a faithful, loving partner. I love how Wizkid has used these features, they’re working in favour of the song structures and keeping the album from feeling cluttered. “Piece of Me” is more of a deep cut, but I won’t be surprised if it picks up in the diaspora. Another good record.
This was the better of the two singles if you ask me. This guitar riff shimmers perfectly, and the drums are boisterous enough to make sure things are firmly sensual. Wizkid is great at plainly singing what he does to his women and the effect he has on them, generally. Remember when he sang about the audacity of fellatio in a tricycle, which was as funny as it was very catchy. The sort of confidence Wizkid sings with on this song only comes from knowing you’ve snatched a person’s soul—I’m assuming, kinda. This is a great sex playlist song, it’s blatant but it’s just so good. Keeper, forever.
“True Love” (feat. Tay Iwar & Projexx)
This is much folksy than what I’ve been hearing, it sounds like a nice change of pace. Featuring Tay Iwar on a song about true love is interesting, the guy mostly sings about the jagged edges and complicatedness of romance. His voice is an absolute delight, though, it’s soft enough to convey the Utopia of true love. “Na me and you go dey till sunrise” is a very Wizkid line, he’s very plain with his intentions. Tay is very much anchoring this song, but somehow you can feel that it’s a Wizkid song. You can’t fuck up a good bass guitar riff, this beat is really good. That’s Projexx, Wiz is putting guys on. Man, dancehall guys are capital-E explicit, damn. I remember those jokes after the FC made sure Wiz cleaned out Vybz Kartel at that infamous No Signal battle, those were really good times.
This organ is giving me church vibes, wedding vibes to be specific. Yeah, this is a primary example of “afro-r&b”, I really like how simultaneously mellow and bouncy it is. Wizkid sings the way Messi plays at his best, fluid and easily mesmerising. “The money dey my mind, but my loving pass this life” made me roll my eyes a bit, not in disgust though. “I wanna hear you say my name” is trademark Wiz, he’s always down to make sure there’s enough carnal to match or even outweigh the heartfelt. These horns are gorgeous. Will revisit this, sounds like a solid deep cut.
“Essence” (feat. Tems)
‘MIL’ has barely lagged, I’ve been consistently entertained. Tems! Jesus! This woman has a great voice, it takes me by surprise nearly every time. Her singing makes it so easy to fall into whatever she’s saying, damn. Wizkid makes love songs sound refreshing, he has a million of them but somehow he never sounds like he’s threading in place—more like it’s a function of what he really enjoys singing about. That vibrating guitar riff is giving me life, this beat is wonderful. At the start of today, I didn’t know I was going to hear Tems and Wizkid trading melodies, this is the highlight of my day so far. Keeper!
“Roma” (feat. Terri)
This is giving me “Joro” vibes, very Igbo folk indebted. Blaqjerzee has mastered this corner of afropop. Terri has one of the best debuts of this year, quote me anywhere. I’m guessing this is their first song together since “Soco”, and it’s on Wizkid’s album, which must be nice validation for Terri’s growth as an artist and Wiz’s ear as a mentor. I remember when Terri was looked at as a redux of his boss, he’s turning that perception around really nicely. I’m not that crazy about this song, but I really like that he’s putting in a strong showing on this song.
Penultimate song. London tag, one of my favourites from the past year-plus. “I dey my corner, I dey my lane” is one of the statements you could aptly use in describing Wizkid. This beat is colourful, London is one of the more intriguing maximalist producers around so I’d expect nothing less. Wizkid is hailing the hustlers, a man of the people. “Gyrate” is not exactly spectacular but it’s a good song, not sure how much I’ll be spinning it.
There’s some sheen to these keys, pretty much emblematic of how expensive this album has sounded throughout. Rags to riches Wizkid is always so affecting, remember “Ojuelegba”? Well, this isn’t that but I like how reflective and celebratory it is. “Dem no fit to run my race” is a strong declaration. This second verse is really good, it’s as honest as Wizkid gets, even if it’s not exactly specific. “Say we want no stress, we thank God for life” is a reiteration of this album’s central idea. These keys are gorgeous, the drums are solemnly joyful, and “Grace” is a befitting closer for one of the most anticipated albums of our lives.
If there’s anything ‘Made In Lagos’ reinforces, it’s that Wizkid is living THE life. This is an album loaded with plush moments from top to bottom, an overt representation of a man who’s living the life of a king—he has multiple women on call, he’s got big bank, and he’s comfortably taking care of those around him. He’s far removed from the days he was pre-empting himself as a superstar, and he’s no longer at the point where he’s aiming to stretch his ubiquity all over the continent and across the world. This is an artist who’s undoubtedly an international brand, one who’s enjoying the spoils of being one of African music’s greatest exports.
As much as ‘MIL’ roots Wizkid back to his humble beginnings, it’s mostly a nod in service of conveying the stress-free life he now lives. Between instant standouts like “Blessed” and “Grace”, the singer expresses his focus on relishing his blessings and taking life at his own pace. Considering how carefree, yet somewhat measured, he’s shown himself to be on social media, this central message isn’t entirely novel, but it clearly translates into a self-assured and highly enjoyable album.
This is fourteen tracks of sumptuous melodies, light-hearted themes, great features that work wonderfully well within the scope of the album, and consistently phenomenal production. Due to its standing as one of the most awaited afropop albums in recent memory, deliberations as to the quality of ‘Made In Lagos’ will fill pop culture discuss and clog the timeline in coming days, but the one thing I can say with some level of certainty is that, this album doesn’t break form with who we know Wizkid is: One of the most effortlessly skilled artists contemporary afropop has ever seen.
Listen to ‘Made In Lagos’ here.
Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter