Superstar, the debut album of Nigerian popstar Wizkid (real name Ayodeji Balogun) turned five this month, on 12 June.
It is an important album. If it was not entirely ground-breaking, it’s because Wande Coal’s Mushin2MoHits showed up a couple of years before. Still, Superstar extended what was possible within Nigerian pop. Before long, songs from Superstar entered the Nigerian club corpus.
There is some debate on who exactly discovered Wizkid, with Banky W positioned as the popular discoverer and OJB Jezreel, before his death, claiming otherwise. The matter may have to depend on what constitutes a discovery. Is it signing an artist to a label, as Banky W did? Or is it meeting and encouraging a young artist before he ‘blows up’, as OJB presumably did? In any case, Wizkid has his own label now, named StarBoy Entertainment after one of his nicknames.
To grasp the extent of his success in the five years since Superstar, it should be recalled that he has now signed a couple of African artists, all based in Ghana, onto his expanded StarBoy Worldwide Entertainment. These signed artists include the very successful R2Bees.
His reach has been extended even further. This year he has appeared on 'One Dance', a song by Drake, one of the biggest music stars in the world at the moment. He has performed onstage with Chris Brown. He has recorded a song with R.Kelly, British act Tinie Tempah and the Holland-based DJ Henry X. Recently, Wizkid has been photographed with the producer Swizz Beats, who months ago was seen dancing to his hit song 'Ojuelegba'. Wizkid has said that the American and himself have recorded a song together. On the local scene, he has done a song with newcomer Kiss Daniel.
These are recent successes, all of which had a beginning. In the list below, Music In Africa looks back to before Drake. What are the songs that established Wizkid as a pop artist of immense promise? Below we count down 5 of those songs, all from Superstar:
5. 'Tease Me / Bad Guys'
The most clearly derivative song on Superstar showed the audience that with little, Wizkid could do a lot. The beat was familiar and the core lyrics to ‘Tease Me’ could perhaps take up a single line. And yet, in the hands of Wizkid, it became a hit. For better or worse, a pattern was established: Give Wizkid a good beat and he'd transform it to a hit with the barest of lyrics. Over and over, the same method would yield the same results.
4. 'Oluwa Lo Ni'
Superstar was essentially a dance album concerned with girls and parties and the famous trip from grass to grace. Somewhere in the middle, though, ‘Oluwa Lo Ni’ showed the album could hold some God-centred meditation. With the benefit of hindsight, ‘Oluwa Lo Ni’ appears to be the forerunner of the retrospective smash hit ‘Ojuelegba’. The song was an indication that there is more to the Star Boy.
3. 'Don’t Dull'
On 'Don’t Dull', Wizkid took the slang of the time to radio. The song depends on Wizkid’s adaptation of fuji singing and producer Samklef’s percussion-based sound. Today ‘Don’t Dull’ as slang is dated but the song can still cause some chaos in clubs. A video for the single was never shot but it remains a fan-favourite. Just get good speakers and increase the volume.
2. 'Holla at Your Boy'
‘Holla at Your Boy’ is the quintessential song of early Wizkid. Released as a single a year before the Superstar album dropped, it proclaimed a major talent. The song’s crisp video, shot at a private university in Nigeria, proclaimed to viewers and fans that this major talent was in good hands, Banky W's. In a few years, he would leave those hands, setting up his own record label. Fortunately, the talent remains.
It was quickly established that Wizkid could make magic with pop music. With ‘Pakurumo’, a pop-out fuji song with hints of the talking drum, Wizkid established that he could do wonders with other genres as well. On his sophomore album Joy, afrobeat and highlife would come into play. By then though, ‘Pakurumo’ had already shown that the man’s great melodic gift could do almost anything it wanted. The song implores only girls named Tolani, Funke, Halima and Folake to the dance floor. But that hardly matters. Boys named Kelvin and girls named Ifeoma were already dancing. Soon boys and girls, men and women from across the world would join Wizkid's party.