With the Coronavirus pandemic upending traditional music industry structures globally, artists, their management and record labels have had to figure out alternative ways of getting their content out to the fans. The internet has been useful, so have streaming platforms and social networks.
Wizkid’s long teased fourth studio album, Made in Lagos arrived smack in the thick of the pandemic induced restrictions. Since his major label debut with 2017’s Sounds from the Other Side, Wizkid has maintained his perch as the de facto leader of the Afrobeats-to-the-world movement. No mean feat considering he has repeatedly had to fight off competition from the likes of Davido and Burna Boy.
Dropping an album in these times- especially for an artiste without the global might of say a Beyoncé or Taylor Swift- is an exercise in adapting and moving with the times. Team Wizkid seems to understand this as they join forces with YouTube Originals to put out a new issue of the A Day In The Live series.
The special 3-hour live stream is a production from the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, a $100 million investment with a purpose to amplify, elevate and champion Black voices and perspectives. The final hour is an exclusive live concert where Wizkid performs material from his new album as well as from his repertory.
The idea of A Day In The Live which went live on the 19th of November is timed to promote Wizkid’s album yes. But it is also a rare opportunity for fans and voyeurs alike to come closer to the megastar. This unusual access comes in the form of a peep into a typical day in the life. Holed up somewhere in London, Wizkid and his team, comprising some of the people who constitute his kitchen cabinet trade barbs and stories with host Julie Adenuga. The team members include producer/singer Maleek Berry, Wizkid’s manager cum mother of his youngest child, Jada Pollock and even his domestic staff.
Adenuga is an instantly engaging host as her sparkling personality and familiarity with her subjects come across in many delightful ways. While she doesn’t quite get the famously reticent superstar to reveal any surprising or fresh details, her playful prodding provides an inviting atmosphere for Wizkid and his team to let a bit of their guard down. Their warm conversations hint of family, genuine connections and maybe even some sycophancy.
Wizkid’s shy, awkward personality does not lend itself to must see viewing and without Adenuga, the first half of the special wouldn’t work. This is evident when she disappears for a long stretch midway and Wizkid has to carry the whole thing himself. He is unable to. The lengthy (and frankly extraneous) stretch in the car as Wizkid rides to the venue of the live concert is probably an opportunity to take a measure of what the man is like from close quarters. It does not quite come off as conceived.
Wizkid discusses the upcoming show, takes a few calls, mumbles something about Adekunle Gold dropping a new album and makes a half-hearted show of reaching out to his first child, Boluwatife. Even when the discussion moves to the #EndSARS movement that swept the country in October- he was a notable online participant- Wizkid’s feeble attempts at engagement appear forced. A reminder that despite his Twitter activism, he is still the man who said recording protest music would be akin to wasting studio time.
Thankfully, this sequence interspersed with behind the scenes bits from a recent video shoot as well as the photoshoot for the terrific Made in Lagos album art. Some of the creatives involved in the process share their experience working with Wizkid on the Made in Lagos project.
Adenuga returns to speak with members of the live band just before Wizkid is ushered in and it is on the stage that he becomes every bit of the Starboy once again. Starting out with Smile, his duet with H.E.R, Wizkid runs through some of the favorites from the new record. Surprise guest, grime rapper Skepta- also the elder brother to Julie- shows up for Energy (Stay Far Away,) and Made in Lagos track, Longtime.
Against a constantly shifting chromatica background and backed by a terrific band, Wizkid stays in charge and pulls off perhaps the finest performance of his career. There weren’t grand gestures- unless you count his adding #EndSARS to his Ojuelegba mix- or big shifts but Wizkid engaged with the music and the space thoughtfully and as precisely as can be expected for a performance directed at a virtual audience. The concert alone was worth the price of staying tuned for three hours.
Produced by Electric Robin (a Banijay UK company) and Fly On The Wall Entertainment, A Day In The Live feels like something designed and executed for a global audience by British creatives who proceed to strip Wizkid off signifiers to his Nigerian heritage.
Yes there are creatives like the Adenugas and Meji Alabi who straddle both Nigerian and British identities but the artifice and coolness that plates A Day In The Live would have given way if effort had been made to incorporate angles from his Lagos support system as well as the home based creatives who know him well. This could have painted a more discerning picture of the man behind the Starboy armor.
His album is after all titled Made in Lagos.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.