Why you should know about Wizkid, Africa’s greatest entertainment export

On Friday, Wizkid released his much-anticipated mixtape (album), ‘Sounds From The Other Side’ and to the delight of his millions of fans and supporters, it is a delightful work of artistry from the self-acclaimed ‘Starboy’ of Afrobeats.

I had stayed up late reading reviews on Twitter and listening to snippets of tracks from the album and they were largely encouraging – the haters were fast asleep. I was grinning uncontrollably. What a feeling!

In my excitement, I almost forgot I was conversing with a friend on Facetime. She knew it was no use trying to wake me up from my euphoria. Before we said our goodbyes, she asked, “Why do you like Wizkid so much?”  At that moment, I realized I had never given much thought to why Wizkid is a big deal.

Listening to his albums repeatedly over the weekend, I have found I appreciate Wizkid even more! Here are my reasons:

Wizkid is an embodiment of the diversity of African cultures. He has evolved from being ‘just a Nigerian artiste’ to being an African artiste. It is not a small feat to boldly embrace other cultures and reflect their identities.

Why you should know about Wizkid, Africa's greatest entertainment export

Wizkid is the first African to sell out at Royal Albert Hall, London.

His catalogue of hits run across different countries on the continent and in the process, he has mastered the art of blending his delivery to be more inclusive and relatable to a wider African audience.

(This is not to claim there aren’t other African acts having similar effects – notable mentions are Diamond Platnumz, Davido, Mr. Eazi, among a few. They are doing very well but this is about Wizkid). On SFTOS, Wizkid collaborates with South Africa’s Bucie on ‘All For Love’ – a DJ Maphorisa produced track, and the seamless chemistry between Bucie and Wizkid makes for a delightful delivery.

Equally, it is important to acknowledge Wizkid’s unofficial ambassadorial image outside the African continent. He has consistently worked with some of the A-list artistes in the North American music industry, while infusing a genuine African sound.

The effect of this representation of the African identity goes beyond the entertainment industry. It feeds into a growing pan-African push in the Diaspora encouraging Africans to be proud of their culture and identity and appreciate that we can maintain our originality even while operating in a foreign space.

That Wizkid rose from a very humble past is no news to his ardent fans. Paradoxically, it was a remix to his hit single, Ojuelegba – a story about his sufferings and lowly beginning, which earned him his pivotal international attention. This grass to grace story exposes the raw talents and ingenious within the African continent.

Everything required to become a global brand with his art was first developed and established locally – with local producers, local collaborations, local competition that sharpened his skill and a local fan base. (My use of the term ‘local’ is no attempt to disrespect the creative talents within the Nigerian entertainment industry.

They are the pillars upon which numerous great talents have been exported to foreign audiences). It was all in-house, grown exclusively within Nigeria, and then the rest of the African continent. Wizkid’s success and global breakthrough should evoke pride and promote a self-belief within the continent that we have everything needed to develop and compete globally.

And of course, it is extremely important to appreciate the team he has surrounded himself with – Sunday Are, SarzLegendury Beatz (Mutay and Zei), Dumi Oburota, Maleek Berry, Del B, among others.

Much credit has to be given to their ability and willingness to adapt, compete and challenge their industry peers – both locally and internationally. Together, they have successfully built a brand on originality of culture and identity, and a confidence to promote that identity globally.

Through hard work, dedication, focus and, importantly, a good team, Wizkid has organically established himself as one of the new leaders of the Pan-African charge to promote the African identity to heights of creativity, originality and respect.

We can learn a lot from his successes, and hopefully, recreate an African narrative we can all be proud of. After all, he is a Starboy.

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