Wizkid and the conundrum of the global sound

Sounds from the other side is for all sides

Though Wizkid hasn’t always dominated the Afropop genre, his infectiously catchy discography  makes it hard to argue against his recent rise to global prominence. With a growing audience following his feature on Drake’s “One Dance” and his RCA-backed latest album, Sounds From The Other Side , Wizkid has enjoyed international coverage —a feat that other African artists of this generation have struggled to accomplish. But while his fame spreads across the globe, his Afropop sound apparently seems to be stretched too thin to be distinguished as such.

Complex’s “Everyday Struggle” in an unprecedented turn of events from critiquing Kendrick’s intrusion into other genres, acknowledged Wizkid’s SFTOS album. Joe Budden who appears to have thoroughly enjoyed the album, chastised Americans for appropriating the Caribbean sound but not patronizing the artists who make them. And though the other presenters were quick to correct him and remind him that Wizkid is from Africa, Joe typically got defensive and asked if they’ve heard the album; “It Don’t Sound Like Nigerian Music”.

To be fair, Caribbean music does have its root in Africa and Afropop typically has a lot of influences including the occasional Caribbean steel drums and atmospheric melodies. Wizkid’s SFTOS album pushes the rhythmic harmony a few steps further as he employs international dancehall producers, Major Lazer for tracks like “Naughty Ride”. The Caribbean sound on the tape is both distinct and familiar for a global audience and with the cheeky “Sounds From The Other Side” album title, he politely consolidates for fans back at home who were probably expecting a more Nigerian sound.

However, most forward thinking music analysts already predicted this switch to more international sounds with the growing rate at which music is being streamed around the world; anyone from anywhere in the world can put their music on the worldwide web to be listened to across the globe. For artists trying to make music that will leave a global impact, international sounds have to be incorporated and Drake laudable multifarious sound is proof with all 22 songs from More Life featuring on the Billboards top 100.

Wizkid may have gotten international recognition through his Afropop releases but to truly imprint himself in the global soundscape, he has had to tweak his sound and infuse more familiar pop sounds. The challenge for him and other Afropop artists will be to find the perfect balance between Afropop and chart-topping sounds. On “Daddy Yo”, he was able to blend Afropop and his natural language and culture with the bounce and slither of current-day US chart pop for the EDM number. His adventurous genre-bending maneuvers on the album have helped him dip his toes in the waters of the international soundscape and sell gold in Canada with “Come Closer”.

What’s most interesting however is how the trend isn’t particularly new. Afropop has always been influenced by the US charts especially with regards to Hip-hop and R&B. We’ve seen artists like P Square who began as Michael Jackson copycats and Olamide’s “Eni Duro” directly inspired by Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”. But lately, the charts are more partial to electronic dance music and Caribbean sounds and for international perception, their influences need to be represented.

You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu

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