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Ashley Okwuosa: Wizkid, Ojuelegba & the Effect of International Collaboration

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In the wake of last weekend’s surprise re-release of Wizkid’s Ojuelegba featuring Drake and Skepta, the Internet was abuzz with praise, excitement and for most Nigerians, pride. Although this is not the first time that a well-known Nigerian artiste has collaborated with an international artiste: Davido and Meek Mill or Wizkid and Tyga ; but this, this took us all, at least me by surprise.

Drake is one of today’s most commercially successful artists with over 30 top 10 hits on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop charts. (And one of Canada’s greatest exports.) Wizkid, on the other hand, has been immensely successful both in and out of Africa. So it kind of makes sense why this is such a huge deal.

But in the midst of all this hype, I couldn’t help but wonder what this really means for the Nigerian entertainment industry. For me, what makes this collaboration so monumental is the coming together of two successful artistes from two different countries, with two different musical backgrounds; it’s a sign that good music has no boundaries. What makes me even more proud is the fact that Wizkid has continued to reach new heights as a Nigerian artiste signed to a Nigerian label while making authentic Nigerian music. As Nigerians, we are not confused about his allegiance, and as he has continued to invest his talent and resources into the Nigerian entertainment industry, his work has continued to speak for itself.

When I think about Nigerian music, I can’t help but reminisce about Mo’hits. The now defunct label that consisted of legendary hit maker Don Jazzy, D’banj, Wande Coal, Dr Sid, D’Prince and Kayswitch. They pretty much ran the music scene and it’s safe to say that at one point, we all bellowed their famous prelude “It’s Don Jazzy, again” at the beginning of any of their hit songs. 5 albums and countless hits later, the record label disbanded under very suspicious circumstances in 2012. It was a sad day for Nigerians everywhere that had once gyrated to “Booty Call” or feigned street bravado to “Who Born The Maga.”

But in the midst of the breakup, a development that seemed like truly great news had unfolded; D’Banj would become a full-fledged member of Kanye West’s record label G.O.O.D Music.

Although we were still heartbroken at the demise of Mo’Hits, we were excited to see what D’Banj was going to do in Ammuricah. It was a feeling of pride; our local champion had been discovered by none other than Kanye West. Damn, we had made it and D’Banj was going to lead us to the Promised Land.

Well 3 years later, D’Banj has given us a 5-second cameo in the G.O.O.D music anthem, Mercy, a Sony Music Entertainment Africa deal, a newly formed record label, DB records and a slew of endorsements. These are great, but if we’re comparing Wizkid and D’Banj in terms of social relevancy, Wizkid is pushing over 3 million fans on the 3 main social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter); and while D’Banj isn’t that far behind, Wizkid has a more active following. People anticipate Wizkid albums and collaborations and it’s not just Wizkid, but the new crop of Nigerian artists like Davido and Tiwa Savage. D’Banj on the other hand cannot touch these artists’ numbers and views.

I would like us to think, what would have happened if D’Banj and Mo’hits never parted ways? Okay, Dorobucci would probably be a different song. What would have happened if D’Banj spent more time cultivating his way back when her had fan base, and kept on making the music we loved him for.

I’m not opposed to change, but it seems like the change that we are seeing with D’Banj is a misguided attempt at rebranding himself as something he isn’t. Instead of the critical acclaim he’s expecting, he is alienating the fans that supported him from the beginning.

In my opinion, D’Banj’s relevancy has waned because we don’t recognize him anymore. He is like that uncle that gets a visitor’s visa to America, spends a couple months and returns with a misplaced American accent and clothes that are two sizes bigger than his actual size. This packaging is unnecessary and it hints at a larger problem that plagues our society – the need to be validated by people overseas. We have told ourselves that once we make it “there” we are set, but that’s obviously not the case.

This Wizkid and Drake collaboration is a big deal, but not for the banal reasons that we celebrated the D’Banj and Kanye pairing. It’s a big deal because Drake didn’t come to us to discover this African artist and take him out of his element in hopes of making him a superstar. He appreciated the music because it was GOOD, point blank.

The song is named after a slum in Lagos where Wizkid grew up, in typical grass to grace fashion, Wizkid croons about hustling his way out of his past life over a trance inducing melody that will have even the most uncoordinated person attempting a slow whine. Enter Drake who continues the thread by proclaiming his unwillingness to stop taking over charts and pretty much being Drake, Nigerian born, Skepta closes out the song with a poignant tale (No, it really is a tale. It’s almost 2 minutes long) about growing up as a poor Black boy in London. What makes this collaboration so great is the continuing thread that runs throughout the entire song which is three different men all-talking about their versions of the same story. That’s what a healthy collaboration is: appreciating our differences, acknowledging our similarities and finding a way to make something great out of it. Wizkid didn’t need to become anything that he wasn’t and the song and message will still resonate with his audience.

What I hope is that as we continue to grow as a country, we continue to amplify the things that make us “us” and ultimately make us great, and in turn, the right people will appreciate. Like they say, real recognizes real.

Ashley Okwuosa is a graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. At Rutgers University - Newark, she was the executive editor of the schools first student run magazine, Scarlet, where she covered campus news and events, fashion and entertainment. She also spent some of her time writing about beauty on both Ebony.com and Beauty High. She is also the curator of Understanding Feminism for The Non Feminist , a website dedicated to redefining the ideology associated with feminism in today’s popular culture. Website: - http://ashleyokwuosa.weebly.com

27 Comments

  1. Hey

    July 13, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Beautifully written.

  2. jd

    July 13, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Brilliant! Very well written Ashley! This is so true. Although you did not t really touch Drakes aspect of a completely different interpretation of the song as his lyrics sounded off which did not do good justice .. but anyway this was very well written.

  3. Uju

    July 13, 2015 at 7:59 am

    The article is titled Wizkid and Ojuelegba so where from the long tirade about Dbanj?

    Apart from that good one.

  4. Ebiere

    July 13, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Once again, DBANJ is mentioned *sighs*#canyallmoveon already!

  5. carina

    July 13, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Dbanj is being called.SMH.

    Ck jacob blog for fiction stories.

  6. Gistyinka Blog

    July 13, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Very interesting piece and am happy for Wizkid progress in recent years. He’s doing fine for his career but he still need that person that will help him nurture is dream to greater height.

  7. Kehiinde

    July 13, 2015 at 9:06 am

    I can’t help but get confused at the writer calling dbanj “local champion ” when are we going to be free from this mental slavery of thinking our own export is the local one?

  8. Gracee (@prettishiye)

    July 13, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Well said…

  9. amy

    July 13, 2015 at 9:42 am

    My wizzy baby.. Am soooooooooooooooooo happy for u… More grace

    • Jhennique

      July 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Oh hez now “your wizzy baby”

  10. eyong

    July 13, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Actually, articles like these bother me a bit. Not because I don’t thinkit is great that Wizkid is actually collaborating with drake, but because of the WESTERN glorification. I swear, in all of Africa, no other country craves western validation like Nigerians. I was scrolling through my Instagram and Wizkid was along giddy posts about the drake remix like he was a kid who just got his Christmas gift early. And of all the people I would like to see Drake collaborate with, like Brymo, people who like drake put a lot into their music, somehow wizzy gets to trop. Granted he is the bigger star, but his music is mediocre at beat. Olu Legba or whatever is one of the very few good songs from his album, and if he becomes the face of African Music in America, I fear they won’t take him swoon sly at all. He is lyrically deficient, and I hate the ‘yaga’ thing. Every song ‘yaga’ or ‘I’m making money Na God dey bless me o’ or ‘whine for me go down low’ literally go through his album and almost every song has those sentences in it. Smh.

    • eyong

      July 13, 2015 at 9:49 am

      Forgive my mistakes, iPhone autocorrect is a b**ch!

  11. bruno FIERCE

    July 13, 2015 at 10:15 am

    why are u attacking dbanj?

    nigerian musicians, america dey hungry many of u, what u don’t know is, american music industry isnt the the most profitable anymore. american musicians dont make money like they use too, now streaming has been invented.

    so all of u nigerian musicians who’s dream is to break into the usa music market, u better open ur eyes.

    featuring american rappers wouldn’t give u a breakthrough into the usa music market. so if u like, feature all the rappers in the world.
    nigerian musicians don’t understand music and music business and how it works.

    lady gaga has talent, she can sing, she can dance, she knows how to write catchy pop songs, she knows how to shock people, she plays the piano, she has a huge fan army? but still her last album was a mega FLOP.
    nigerians musicians, non all of u know how to sing or dance or write catchy pop song or even have a huge fan army etc so what makes u think someone like u and ur mediocre music and ur below average talent will be successful in america.america where the music industry is very competitive. u better stay in nigeria and continue making ur nursery rhymes music.

    only few nigerian musicians like omawumi or nneka (she’s popular in the uk and Europe already) can have a breakthrough in america. this may come as a shock by terry g also can have a breakthrough in america.

  12. EllesarisEllendil

    July 13, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Your degree was well earned,

    “clothes that are two sizes bigger than his actual size. “-dated reference LOL. They come back with tight fitting clothes these days. The accent thing though will never die.

  13. biddy

    July 13, 2015 at 11:30 am

    sorry o but ojuelegba is not a slum.
    Great article tho

  14. Loritta

    July 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Abeg make we hear word. Who be wizkid? If he likes let him feature all the whole of the American/Canadian Musicians. He won’t break in to get the fame he wants. Charity they say, begins at home. Everything na gradual process. He should first of all cover Africa his root. PSQUARE REMAINS THE LEGEND OF MUSIC IN AFRICA AND EVEN THE ENTIRE WORLD. They have featured the likes of Akon(Senegal), J.Martins(Nigeria), Tiwa Savage(Nigeria), Don Jazzy(Nigeria), Bracket(Nigeria), Tuface(Nigeria), Mokobe(Mali), Matt Houston(France) etc before gradually featuring the likes of T.I, Jeramine Jackson and others.

  15. Toyosi

    July 13, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    You slayed with this article Ashley. Well done girl 😉

    • Des

      July 14, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      Wow

  16. Winston Balagare

    July 13, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    The saddest part of this whole discussion is that rapper Wale’s name is rarely, if ever, mentioned. It’s as if he doesn’t exist.

  17. TOLU

    July 13, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    well written, and mostly true…
    however, ojuelegba IS NOT a slum! infact, not one “slummy” place around.
    Also, I totally agree with eyong on the depth of whizkid’s music. seems like he kinds gets lucky all the time (for lack of a better word) but of course, many atimes, luck is opportunity meeting preparation, so perhaps opportunity is still lacking for the likes of brymo who TRULY make good music.
    and about the whole western validation, i dont think it’s fair to put it in the ass licking way as we sometmes do. its jsut because these people and their have recognition across hundreds of countries , and so, then a whizkid or davido collaborates with them, it automatically exposes their music to these over hundred other countries.

  18. Honey

    July 14, 2015 at 5:17 am

    I swear that was my first thought. Wetin consign D’banj na. Abeg leave my Dapo o, he’s in a league of his own, on a different path. The most popular indigenous African artist of this generation, recent hit or not.

  19. Whitney

    July 14, 2015 at 9:49 am

    This is an epitomi of creativity. I mean this is something that is beyond our imagination but yet a reality. Music is evolving. This song is a great piece of international collaboration of 3 different musicains with there different backgrounds and different music. The binding of this music has created a new era,a new evolution and a new beginning of music. This article written by Ashely stated facts.

  20. Kim

    July 14, 2015 at 9:56 am

    3Million Followers on Social Media Platform??? Who told you that one??? Please get your stories accurate. His twitter is just 1.6M, IG is 700-800k. Don’t know about Facebook.

  21. Imani

    July 14, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Well done Ashley u killed it man Omo we dey say drake perform with wiz kid ah Omo we dey life man fashi the fact that septa dey Omo drake na so we dey life man

  22. Whitney

    July 14, 2015 at 10:55 am

    This is an epitomi of creativity. I mean this is something that is beyond our imagination but yet a reality. This is a great piece of International colloboration of three different artist with different bacgrounds and different styles of music. The binding of these artists has created a new era, a new evolution and a new begining of good music. Ashely’s article stated facts.

  23. Amuriken rascal

    July 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    First off. Why is Dbanj even being compared. Is that why we are here? Secondly, why do us Nigerians feel like we have done something big or made it when we are featured with someone of the western world that clearly dropped one of their mediocre/weakest lines on a feature (mind you they really do this depending on who you are and your geographic location) *hint hint*; can’t we be great without them? I hope we are not ignorant of the fact that drake was probably paid for this feature and did not call upon wizkid like “yo, I gotta blaze a hot track with you weezkeed”. It’s all about the money. Some are known to do mediocre lyrics for features with naijas because regardless of how wack the lines are we will still pay cuz its “drake”, I mean ccme on when they can save their best lines with features from ross or the weeknd and get paid a grip more and gain more fans. No hate, the song is a great song without any feature, just pointing out the obvious because I expected more; or wait… not really I mean cuz what does drake have to do with ojuelegba? it’s kinda ironic . Should have featured an alaye with talent from ojuelegba or something . Would’ve been way nIce

  24. abubakar usman

    August 9, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Ashley I love piece. I v had similar thoughts on D’banj. I’m so happy someone else is watching and writing.

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