In 2010, when 2Face Idibia announced that he would be re-releasing his third studio album The Unstoppable for his international audience, the amiable singer received near-unanimous support from his peers.
The new project had fresh songs with foreign artists but that wasn’t the main talking point, 2Face slapped a retail price of N1,000 on The Unstoppable (International Edition) album, which was 5-6 times what the average CD was going for then and, sadly, still goes for now. 2Face was the biggest singer in the country at the time but it was easy for his fellow artists to swallow their pride to get behind him when he made this move because they could see how it would benefit them directly. If The Unstoppable (International Edition) album did well in the market, they too would be able to make more money on CD sales – a rising tide lifts all boats.
Wizkid released his major label debut, the Sounds From the Other Side EP/mixtape last Friday. It was another major label release in the US by a Nigerian star this year, if you include Jidenna’s The Chief and Wale’s SHINE, but the first from one whose career started here – our very own. Ordinarily you would expect a groundswell of support from artists showing solidarity with Wiz and posting the SFOS artwork on their social media but the truth is, the support from the local artist community has been extremely underwhelming so far. Wizkid’s peers seem unable to be longsighted and see that – just like with 2Face and The Unstoppable album – a rising tide lifts all boats.
While I’m sure they have their reasons for not supporting SFOS, honestly, it doesn’t matter because this moment is bigger than Wizkid or them. If they cannot see how Starboy’s success thus far was the main catalyst for mainstream America taking notice of Nigerian, and African, music, then they probably won’t see how his continued success will keep this momentum going and open even more doors for everyone. You’ll be amazed how a simple post on social media can spur fan engagement, raise awareness and drive sales in blind spots of the internet that RCA’s torchlight hasn’t reached yet. That way, they can help to make sure SFOS doesn’t go the same way as Jidenna’s The Chief and Wale’s SHINE and our music culture doesn’t take 3 losses in a row.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that those two projects incorporated a lot of our music and culture, Africa is now seen as the next frontier for the big labels and Nigerian artists are leading the way. Adam Granite, Sony’s president of Northern/Eastern Europe & Africa outlined last year that the company would focus their efforts on Africa and they’ve been signing African talent to their label like a football club with new Arab investors. It’s obvious they see untapped potential on the continent. But never mind Africa as a whole, Nigerians at home and in the diaspora have the collective economic power to make Wizkid look like a million bucks this week and ensure that RCA/Sony’s Afropop experiment isn’t cut short prematurely. If Wizkid, the most promising singer from this part of the world fails, then what chance do the other artists have at succeeding?
If SFOS doesn’t sell units, it could have a negative ripple effect on artists like Ayo Jay, who’s also on RCA but, guess what, is one of the artists who hasn’t shown enough support for SFOS yet. It could also have an effect on artists like Tekno and Ycee who have deals with Sony’s African division and also, on Wizkid’s arc-nemesis Davido who is also on Sony Music and who – according to reports – didn’t put up good numbers for his debut project Son Of Mercy last year.
The sales projections for Sounds From the Other Side should have started trickling down by now, after all we know that American-Moroccan rapper French Montana, who also released an album on Friday (Jungle Rules) is on track to sell 13-18k album and should debut in the Top 3 on Billboard, so the fact there is no news on SFOS at all is already an uncomfortable situation. But we still have time, we’d have to wait till Billboard release the official sales report at the end of this week before we press the panic button.
We all still have a chance to put Nigerian music on the map commercially. This article is therefore a call for everyone to go out and buy Sounds From the Other Side album on iTunes and any music platform it’s available on, streaming is fine but sales is the key, so that when the numbers do come in at the end of the week, Wizkid charts as high as possible. A lot is riding on this project’s success, it’s okay to have opinions about the music and to voice your displeasure on Wizkid’s creative direction, but if you want more opportunities like this for our artists, put your money where your mouth is and support regardless.
We always boast about how we are the most populous black country on the planet, well it’s for us to go out and pull our weight commercially and prove that we, as Nigerians, are not just big for nothing.