Opinion: On the Music That is #MadeInLagos

By Jane Efagwu

When Wizkid suddenly tweeted that his next tweet will be the official drop of his long awaited fourth studio album, I kid you not, I had certain doubts in mind. What was going on? Was this the moment? Somebody pinch me! Rightfully, Twitter was going nuts over the surprise announcement but I refused to fully believe it. This shameful doubt organized a call to my fellow Starboy FC members because we were the core fans who low-key feared that it could just be Starboy doing normal Starboy things.

I mean, he is Wizkid for God’s sake. We think he can do music however, whenever and it will pop severely. Whatever him and his team were cooking up, one thing was sure- everywhere must definitely stew. E no get how. That was why when I first heard the project, I wasn’t even surprised. He had done it again. For any dedicated observer of the Starboy’s decade old magic, you would know that “it” changes from time to time. Single to single. Era to era. Ayodeji Balogun’s career has been a thrilling movie where the watchers are constantly dazed yet inspired by how often the entertainer is able to top himself over and over and…

The arrangement of the tracks on Made In Lagos is quietly poetic as it is peacefully progressive. Like every life or career journey, it starts out “Reckless” and ends with “Grace”, a silent point made by Starboy regarding his current position in his music and music worldwide. This point echoes loudly throughout the project as we hear a peaceful and permanent replacement of the expected way of delivering Nigerian music with the continuous championing of a new dawn in album creation: creating genre bending music that dare to take up spaces bigger than a genre box or even your radio set.

With his last LP, Sounds From The Other Side (2017), his innovative delivery faced heavy criticism from the Nigerian public.The UK and the U.S ate the project up but Nigerians remained tongue tied. What happened? A timeless album that was grossly misunderstood because of its renovation of the Afropop genre. This same approach to sound heavily punctuates MIL but what’s different this time is instead of misplaced criticism, all we hear is thunderous praise for its effortless delivery. What changed? When did Nigerians start to fully embrace unconventional, refreshing approaches to the beloved Afropop genre?

The music on Wizkid’s fourth studio rollout crosses and merges dominant cultural influences on Starboy’s ever changing sound over the years. He reimagines modern day Afrobeats alongside fellow genre giant, Burna boy while acknowledging his extended family in the U.S. and the UK with features from heavyweights like H.E.R, Ella Mai and frequent collaborator and ‘brother’, Skepta and exploring his old soul by kicking back senior citizen style to jam spiritual raggae with Jr Gong himself, Damian Marley. This he does while hosting the popping new kids on the Nigerian block: Tems, Terri and Jamaican newbie, Projexx, a valid endorsement for their promising catalogues.

One move that seals the project and lends it its cohesive flow is his clever choice of producers. Starboy employs the award-winning P2J as executive producer as well as other hood family acts like Sarz, Blaqjerzee, Mut4y and balances it up with British composers like Juls and Kill September. This cross country family affair births 14 solid tracks that have inspired ecstasy for the notoriously versatile Afro sound and how far it can be pushed, bent or merged to create nothing but magic.

However, some Twitter critics have maintained that while the album is titled Made In Lagos, it is regrettably not made for Lagos. With honey tracks like Sweet One which serves as a perfect play for a sunday evening stroll to one of the many beaches in Lagos and the enchanting, alté raggae merge that is True Love, a fitting dance ballad for a light intimate session with a lover on a beach house balcony over looking the waves, it is hard to understand where that take comes from. You can almost picture a dimly lit beer parlor complete with its regular cast and crew, spirited drinks exchanging hands and the Terri contribution, Roma, playing softly in the ambience while steaming pepper soup fingers your nostrils and lifts your spirits.

The album has been aptly described by its listeners as “rich people music”. Not a lie at all. To create this empowering effect, the creator employs his signature lush velvet saxo that lends an easy air of affluence to the songs and we all know that if it’s one thing about affluence, it is that it’s certainly not for everyone. You can feel this on the spiritually charged Blessed, where Damian Marley breezily samples his unique wealth (of experience) as he explores the unbeatable knowledge of self, the joys of fatherhood, a burning passion to do better and of course, great gratitude to be able to live this life.

This vibe runs over to the next track, Smile, a guaranteed anthem for positive vibrations while acknowledging life’s battle throughout the years. Smile comes from a place of relaxed reflections which ultimately leads to unconditional acceptance and gratitude for where you are right now. Clocking 30 this year, the track is dedicated to his three beautiful kids. Some might call it a simple dad move but followers of his journey especially his controversial fatherhood would agree that this is his own way of owning his shit loudly. Took him long enough but we’re glad he’s finally there.

With #MadeInLagos, Wizkid popularizes his signature effortless approach to everything. Usually mistaken for lazy, this style champions the less is more mantra and places strategy/smart work above hard work. From the second album cover which features a muted color palette that instinctively creates a warm sensation that somehow makes you want more than you’re seeing, to his cool and cohesive execution on an intro track ironically titled Reckless, he seems to never lose his chill and still manages to make several points throughout the album.

Infact, it is because of how relaxed he sounds that makes his lyrics more believable. No Stress isn’t just the second promotional single off the project, it’s actually a perpetual state of mind for the entertainer. He coyly samples the Lagos struggle while reminding us why we’re struggling in the first place. Why are women selling ‘cold mineral, cold pure water’ under the hot sun in the first place? Fela’s “suffering and smiling” is remixed to sound like: “say the people dey suffer but they smile for face but if Starboy talk Dem say Starboy craze” on Grace. Even dragging Nigerians and their government is done in the most chill way possible. No stress indeed.

For where Afropop is right now, an album like #MadeInLagos is nothing but a cheat code to the cutthroat game. It might feel so fresh and irresistible right now but we all know good music ages like fine wine and only gets better with time. The days are coming when we’d listen to it in time capsule style and the sonic wave will hit us a bit harder than it does now. When its true essence would make us smile. But for now we enjoy, we gyrate and we stream the project on every platform as we all beam with pride to be from the city that never sleeps.

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