Introducing Wale In The Wild With Wale Oloworekende

A new column digging into the boisterous tapestry of Nigerian pop

Hi, my name is Wale Oloworekende.

Growing up, the only music I listened to was Nigerian music. When I say Nigerian music in this regard, I mean the primordial fusion of R&B, Rap, and Reggae laid over rudimentary instrumentals that floated on TV programs like Primetime Africa at the turn of the 2000’s. While I often say that I grew up in silence, that picture is not entirely accurate. I was raised with books and music or, more accurately, Nigerian music. My first memory of melodies came courtesy of 2Face Idibia’s wildly-successful ‘Grass To Grace,’ his sophomore album that housed Nigerian pop cornerstones like “No Shaking,” “4 Instance,” and “If Love Is A Crime.” In addition to 2Baba’s effervescent bangers, I delighted in songs like Zule Zoo’s “Kerewa”—a song that admittedly I should not have been listening to, but I listened to anyway—and the bombastic ghetto gospel of the Danfo Drivers, African China, and Daddy Showkey. 

As I grew older, my relationship with Nigerian music deepened to reflect the realities of my immediate life. I saw shards of the truth of how I lived in the music and verbosity of DaGrin. There was candour, artistic fire, and bravado, yes, but if you stripped the music away of all these elements, there was fear. The subtle type of fear that ponders how one’s life might turn out when you’re basically trapped in a community where you can’t see too many people that have gone on to do life-changing stuff. Of course, we know how the DaGrin story ended and many oral historians can pick a line through how Olamide emerged as the spiritual scion of indigenous rap following ‘Grin’s passing. These days, it is almost canonical history to trace a line from Olamide’s era-defining run to the rise of other indigenous rappers like Reminisce, Phyno, Lil Kesh, and, more recently, Zinoleesky and MohBad. 

Last year, The NATIVE shared a definitive history of the rise and origin of street-pop and what struck Dennis and I the most about the sub-genre was how much street-pop is for better or worse the history of the city that birthed it: Lagos. Street-pop moves to the pace of Lagos’ jagged hoods and reverberates with the hedonistic desires of the children that these hoods raised because the identity of the city is imprinted on the people who make music in homage to Lagos. The truth is that music is a sociological tool that means different things to different people in different cities. 

Late last year, Tami,  the Managing Editor at The NATIVE, brought up the idea of immersing myself in the cities that form the boisterous tapestry of Nigerian pop and telling their stories across formats: text, audio, and visual. As we approach a critical junction in the international proliferation of our own thing, it is important to keep rigorous records and provide contextual knowledge about the people, places, and communities that are powering this omnivorous meld of Pop, Reggeaton, EDM, and House that we now call Afropop. We want to know the story behind Port Harcourt’s contribution to wider Nigerian pop, we want to understand the critical role that Benin City has played in widening the talent pool of our nation, and to better understand the new sound of Highlife powering its way out of Nigeria’s East. We hope that you stay with us and enjoy following us down these rabbit holes. 

Listen to what I’m listening to on Wild’s Gems below.