I have seen some negative reviews about Wizkid’s new work “Sounds From the Other Side” on social media. Many say the album sounds too different from what Ayodele Ibrahim Balogun is known for. That it does not cater to what his fans already know. They were just short of saying the sounds were too foreign.
SFTOS is a mature album (or mixtape, depending on who you ask), and it is ready for the international market, especially the US.
So let us discuss the implication of “Sounds from the other side” in a little more detail. For the neutral analyst, the release of the album is symbolic.
If we cast our minds back, to 2012, Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo, popularly known as D’Banj and as @ on Twitter, ran into Kanye West inside Dubai International Airport. As the story goes, D’ Banj, being a man of guts, stood up from where he was sitting in the business lounge, and approached Kanye, considering that “all die na die”. This was on the back of his blockbuster jam “Oliver Twist” which was already bubbling under and ready to explode unto the international scene (outside Africa).
As the story further goes, at that meeting, D’Banj told ‘Ye he wanted to break into the US market. Part of the CV that he showed Kanye was the work he had done with Snoop Dogg on “Mr. Endowed”. Kanye was convinced.
That was how D’Banj got on G.O.O.D Music, and Oliver Twist became a global hit. D’Banj was ready to take Naija music and crossover to the US market.
Sadly, that project did not go far.
At this time a young Wizkid was getting ready to finish his contract with EME Music. The young man was restless. He was eager to set out on his own and have more control over his creative process and its products (that is the thing about youth, always ready to disrupt and experiment).
What we do not know is if it was D’Banj’s attempt that encouraged him, or he was already having dreams of blessing lands outside Nigeria, outside Africa, with his gift of music.
So to kick start the achievement of his international dreams, Wizkid took a different approach. He did not “make” one friend, like D’banj did with Kanye. He made many. He became friends with Skepta, became friends with Drake. He also became friends with Chris Brown, and became friends with Tinnie. He made a lot of “international” friends. In hindsight, he knew exactly where he wanted to be.
His friendship with these people from the other side began to reflect on the types of sounds he was playing with. It appeared in his music.
The US market is the ultimate market for music, and to break into that market you need US radio. To get on US radio you need influence. The US market had also began to acquire a taste for what is now called Afrobeats. Clubs were beginning to play it, and love it. Ojuelegba had reached some ears in the UK and America, and they loved the sublime nature of what they heard. Drake also loved it when he heard it and wanted to work with Wizkid, the man credited with that song. “One Dance” was born. So also was Wizkid’s popularity in America.
His voice got on American radio and he knew it was time to begin the real crossover.
‘Sounds From the Other Side” is an experiment by Wizkid. If it succeeds, Nigerian music, nay, African music, will benefit immensely from it. DBanj began the serious move, Wizkid is moving the baton even further.
Will it cross the musical finish line? Well I think SFTOS is solid enough as a musical work to do so.
See our review of Sounds From The Other Side here.