NATIVE Exclusive: WurlD knows that he’s here to stay

We spoke to the velvet-voiced singer/songwriter about the deluxe edition of 'AFROSOUL' (EP) and the lead-up to his proper debut LP

In May, WurlD dropped ‘AFROSOUL’, his third EP within the span of thirteen months. Consolidating his prowess for sublime vocal delivery, emotive writing, and expanding on his colourful sonic palette, the 7-song set was WurlD’s latest statement, and a resounding on. “You know, ‘AFROSOUL’ just confirmed that I am here to stay”, the singer recently told me, with an exclamatory tone in his voice.

‘AFROSOUL’ was as much of a celebration of the fans WurlD had accrued with preceding EPs, as it was a final notice to any remaining unbelievers who held doubts about his abilities. Where ‘Love Is Contagious’ ambitiously melded his western pop sensibilities with African grooves, and ‘I Love Girls With Trobul’ paired him with exquisitely layered afro-house meets electro-pop production by prolific afropop savant, Sarz, ‘AFROSOUL’ found WurlD embracing and exhibiting the African facets of his artistry even more. “The project was more afro, more pidgin; the project was me showing more of my African-ness,” he explains.

Although the project is six months old — which seems like a lifetime ago consider the pandemic and civil unrest that has dominated this year — WurlD isn’t moving on from ‘AFROSOUL’ just yet. Today, the singer has released a deluxe edition of the project, which includes two new tracks: “Bossy”, which features a stellar 16 from UK-based rapper Kida Kudz and an unorthodox but memorable appearance from Cuppy, and the Tempoe-produced “Chop & Pray”.

“I released ‘AFROSOUL’ during lockdown, we didn’t really get a chance to celebrate the songs,” WurlD says of the decision to reissue the EP with new songs. “Also, I felt like I wasn’t really ready to release the album and my fans should definitely get new music.” Both new songs reinforce WurlD’s mastery of spinning romantic narratives into catchy bops, with the singer’s velvety voice earnestly gliding over bewitching grooves.

In the lead up to ‘AFROSOUL (Deluxe Edition)’, we caught up with the singer to talk about the new release, immediate future plans and the situation of his debut album. Our Conversation, which follows below, has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.

NATIVE: The world has been quite turbulent since you dropped ‘AFROSOUL’. How have you been coping and what things did you learn about yourself?

WurlD: I realised that I’m actually an inside person, I spent most of my time inside. During lockdown, it felt normal for the most part, I was always in the studio recording; I’m a studio rat. I realised I spent like 90% of my time inside, because there’s a studio in my house, and most times I travel with my home set-up. Also, the importance of being close to family, spending some of that time with them has been a blessing. It’s kinda helped in preserve who I am as a person and with my career. Before Covid, I had some balance in my life, but during Covid, I realised it wasn’t there and I was just trying to figure things out within myself. Then I was just like, “do what feels right”.

What did you think ‘AFROSOUL’ did for you within the context of your career?

You know, ‘AFROSOUL’ just confirmed that I am here to stay. With the previous projects, some people might have felt I got lucky or whatever, but the thing is, I was actually working on these projects at the same time. Everything is intentional, and ‘AFROSOUL’ for me was a celebration, a celebration of my fans, and musically, I just wanted to celebrate Nigeria and Africa. The project was more afro, more pidgin; the project was me showing more of my African-ness. These songs, from “National Anthem” to “Story” to “Wayo”, have my African side on them. I wanted my fans to see another dimension of myself and appreciate it, and I think I did that. I’m very grateful for all the support, I cherish that. Like now, I consider my fans in whatever I’m creating.

Why are you choosing to drop a deluxe edition of the project six months later?

You know, this isn’t something that’s really popular in Nigeria, but I’m a very detailed artist with a wider perspective. Living in America, seeing how things are done, everything is very intentional and stuff like this is celebrated like a new release. I released ‘AFROSOUL’ during lockdown, we didn’t really get a chance to celebrate the songs. Also, I felt like I wasn’t really ready to release the album and my fans should definitely get new music. With the pandemic and all the other stuff happening, this year feels like a double-year, and the fact that the project came out in May feels like I released it a year ago. Since it’s not time for the album, I felt like the best way to drop new music was to repackage ‘AFROSOUL’, to add two more songs that I’m very passionate about, just to get people to have a good time.

What do you think these two songs add to the arch of the EP?

Here’s the thing, I know what my fans like. I have different types of fans, I have the “Show You Off” fans, and I have the “Ghost Town” fans too, and this EP kind of catered to those guys. I know there are “Trobul” fans as well, and I think they felt left out of the project. So, this is me acknowledging that – being an artist by showing range to my music, and it was like, “this is the middle”. These were the two songs I would have added, because I had them in the can all along as well. It was just about combining these different facets of fans and catering to them all at once.

Do you enjoy actively thinking of satisfying a fan base that understands that diversity?

Yeah, I enjoy it and I think it’s a blessing. It’s important to have range and fans that appreciate it, I come from a background where I learnt to make different types of music. But one thing that fans will understand more is that these are my ideas, and I’ve even recorded most of the songs for the next year. I’m getting close to a full album, and I’m putting my best forward while learning as I go. The album is not going to be one-sided, at most two-sides, but I don’t think it will show all three sides. Some fans may not get what they like the most, but they will come to realise that WurlD is always going to be WurlD, from the concept, the lyrics, the delivery; my execution is always going to be of the highest quality.

How did you come to work with Kida Kudz and Cuppy on “Bossy”?

I actually got in Kida’s DMs. I’ve been a fan of Kida Kudz from the “Jiggy Bop” record, for me I love his tone, I love his voice, it’s unique. When I messaged him, he literally replied in like five minutes, like, “yo, WurlD, I’m a fan, I’ve been listening to your tunes”. I was a bit surprised, and at the time I had “Bossy”, so I just asked him to get on it. I sent him the record, he pushed it back almost immediately and it was great.

If you listen to “Bossy”, it’s a visual song, I wanted to paint a scenario, and Cuppy was the person to bring that out, since she seems like the kind of person that lives what the song is about. I didn’t just want it to be anyone, the feature is very unorthodox. I and Cuppy on a song might not be ideal on paper to many Nigerians, but what they’re missing is that there’s so many ways to collaborate with people without diminishing each artist’s value. There’s so many ways to do it, and this is just one way.

Yeah, and it reminds of the skit (“Nobody Wins (Interlude)”) from ‘ILGWT’.

The skit gets wilder and the conversation gets wilder, right? It’s all part of it. We don’t do enough skits in this region. Like, this is entertainment and this is part of it, keeping people entertained with not just good music. I wanted it to be like this is some real life shit, like this depicts how women can love you and want you to be there, but they have options if you’re not forthcoming. Nowadays, women flex their autonomy and they do have more options. There’s even one line on “Bossy” where I sang, “I’m one of your many types, but tonight I’m the only one on your mind”. The skit just makes the theme and experience of the song much better.

Interesting. It makes me want to ask how you write, like do you go with the flow or are you always intentional about your themes?

Yeah, I like to go with the flow, the beats, the vibes, the energy. Conversations are also really important to me, a song can have a theme but conversations help in making sure they’re detailed, even if it’s a fun record. For example, “Mad” is such a catchy, fun record, but if you listen very well to it, it’s highly conversational. For me, I go with how I feel, I take in my surroundings, I observe people around me, I listen to friends because I want to make sure my music communicates with people.

Has being focused on being an artist affected you writing songs for other artists?

No, I’m always open to collaborating with artists in that capacity. I actually have a song coming with BOJ, we worked on a couple records, one on his EP and he did one for me on a future project. I’ve been working with different artists in Nigeria whose work I love, just doing writing sessions with both established artists and those on the come-up. For me, I’m just very focused on my narrative and goals, I don’t just look for artists to write songs for, but I do reach out to artists that I’m a fan of, like, “I’m working on something, what do you think about it? Maybe we should do this together?” If they sound good, then I’m all for it.

You’ve worked with Sarz and Shizzi, it really doesn’t get bigger than those two in Nigeria, but which other producers would you like to work with, that you haven’t already?

I’m working with a lot of them now. You know what, I like Rexxie. I love what he does, and it will be unorthodox. Rexxie does a lot of the street anthems, but I know that if I work with someone like that, I’m going to bring out a new side to him. He probably already has it, but I could be the artist that helps unlock it on a bigger level, because he clearly has amazing vibrations already. Off the top of my head, he’s the only one right now, and we probably will be working very soon.

You’ve been talking about setting up the album, how far away are you from putting it out?

I think the album is close, but the timing of the release is one thing I’m not sure of yet. The release is part of the process, and we’re still adding and editing stuff every day. But the bulk of the album is ready, I’d say probably 80% of the album. Before then, I have a lot of collaborations coming, like the stuff I’ve done with Asa. We haven’t decided how much of the stuff we recorded is coming out, but I’m excited for people to hear what we did. Basically, it’s a lot of collaborations, from Diamond Platinumz to a lot of people I worked with when I lived in Atlanta, who’ve gone on to become some of the biggest names in that scene. You guys are going to be hearing a lot of WurlD, from Afrobeat to Trap, just fusing the vibes and I’m always going to be experimenting.

Dennis is a staff writer at the NATIVE. Let me know your favourite the Cavemen songs @dennisadepeter

ICYMI: Read Our Best New Music Special On WurlD’s ‘AFROSOUL’