The name Wizkid is right now about the hottest in the entertainment industry in Nigeria. The young man, whose real name is Ayo Balogun, speaks on how he met Banky W, his plans, the deal with Akon and his speculated rivalry with Davido.
You dropped the Thank You single some days ago. What was the motive? - After having a successful year and touring the United Kingdom and the United States and going everywhere for shows, I feel it’s just right that at the end of the year, I say thank you to my fans that have shown me love and support. I know it’s just my little way because I can’t go to everybody and say thank you; so I decided to do a song and appreciate my fans and friends.
2012 has been a wonderful year for you. How do you feel? - I’m thankful to God and my fans; they’ve bought my CDs. I’m just on my first album and I’ve done a lot with it. I feel so blessed and I know it’s the grace of God, the support of my fans and my hard work.
People always commend your stagecraft. Looking at you now, you look very different from what we used to see on the stage. Is there anything you do to boost your performance? - When I’m on stage, it’s different from when I’m just Wizkid. Once I step on stage and get the microphone to perform my songs, the energy I feel from the crowd is enough to get me going. It’s different because this is what I love to do; so it’s definitely going to be different from who I am. It’s not that I’m a loud person or that I jump up and down, but in my performance, I always give my best.
Why do you always re-echo your past in some of your songs? - Because I want people to know. A lot of people see me and they don’t think I’ve gone through anything tough in my life; they see me and feel I just woke up one morning and started making money. Not a lot of people saw me when I was walking the streets of Surulere. So I need people to know that I didn’t just get things for free. Nobody gave me anything, my parents gave me nothing. This is something I did for myself. I took a loan from my friends, I jumped my books for loans and nobody saw that part of the hustle, and I think it’s just relevant for me to point it out so that my fans will be sure of where I came from.
Did you really envisage this sudden success? - I was working hard and preparing myself for the success that would come. I wasn’t thinking I wanted to be bigger than anybody; I just wanted to be able to feed myself and my family, live a good life and make music – which I love to do.
When did you finally decide you were going to do music? - I started when I was 11 years, in church; and from then on, I’ve been in love with music, and everybody in my family knows that. I dropped an album in church. I performed in church. I go from church to church for performance. I did a couple of concerts and later, when I told my parents that I wanted to take music serious, they refused. They told me if I wanted to do this professionally, I had to stay in school. I had to stay in school and again do music professionally. So, it was like a double task for me. I’m thankful to God for where I am now.
Starting from the church to secular music, what was the transition like? - If you listen to my songs, you will see I’m always thankful to God. My relationship with God is private; it’s between me and God and I don’t feel anybody should come and judge based on what I do. The music I make is for the pleasure of it. The music I make, I thank my God as well.
You said your parents wanted you to go to school. When are you fulfilling that? - I’ve fulfilled it already. I was in university and I left in my second year. Before I left, I was doing very fine academically and my parents had no problem with that; but when the music and the brand became bigger, I couldn’t stay in class because people were mobbing me. It got really crazy and I don’t think there is any university I will go in Nigeria without getting mobbed. So, I just had to take a break from school and focus on my music for now.
Meeting Banky W was a turning point in your life. How exactly did you meet? - We met at the show. It was a friendship thing, and later he said he thought we could do business. We started talking. There are some things you can’t really explain. We started flowing and I think that was how God planned it to happen.
Listening to your music, one will easily experience a blend of different genres of music. What can you call your biggest musical influence? - My biggest musical influence is definitely Fela. Everytime Fela gets on stage to perform, you can’t hear his song and not be blown away. So, I just felt I wanted my own song to be a little different. I grew up listening to a lot of songs; my dad played a lot of Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. So, growing up [the influence], was just kind of subconscious. It stuck to my head. This has really helped me because I draw inspirations from songs I listen to and create my kind of music.
What are you working on now? - My second album is ready. I’m waiting for us to finish the campaign. I’m going to drop my album next year; it’s ready. I’m always working, so I have ready-to-go songs a lot. I think this new album will be a better album than what we had last year. Sometimes when I listen to some of my songs, I feel like I should have done it better; but there is still time for that.
Are you still working with Samklef this time around? - I work with everybody. The reason Samklef had more songs on my album last year was because I chose all the songs I recorded with him. Though I worked with other people, the songs I did with him were the ones I really liked. Samklef is my guy and I work with him and I still work with a lot of people. I work with anybody that has a good beat.
Don Jazzy tweeted that you were in the studio with him. Is this part of what to expect? - Yes. My first single I’ll drop in January is produced by Don Jazzy.
What’s the experience with him in the studio? - I’ve known Don Jazzy since I got into the industry. He was there when I performed majorly for the first time on stage and we’ve been friends since then. He is like a brother, and for us to just be getting into the studio together is something long overdue. We’ve been trying to work together for years, I feel great.
Wizkid is a very popular name at the moment. How have you been coping with the fame? - Sometimes I feel bad that I can’t walk on the streets freely; I feel bad I can’t walk like the normal boy I was in Surulere then without attention. But for me getting acknowledged based on my hard work, it’s a good feeling and I know everything is a blessing.
Celebrity’s life is always considered as ephemeral. Are you putting something down for the future? - Every smart person will do that. Investment is very key and I know I’m not going to be jumping around as Wizkid for the rest of my life. In 10 years’ time I might not be doing this if I know I’ve made a lot of money. I wouldn’t be jumping on stage. I can stay in my house and produce music. Investment is key; so I’m doing that. I’m doing a lot of merchandise next year, but the real business is very personal.
How will you discipline yourself from making fame and money get into your head? - I know what it feels like not to have [a presence]. I grew up like that, and for me to now have it and start acting up will mean I’m a fool. I think it would be senseless for a boy like me that works hard to make money, to blow it. It’s a personal decision I took for myself; it’s how I grew up and I won’t say I’m Wizkid and go and jump off the bridge or do something crazy. I love what I do and I understand it. I can’t allow anything to get into my head.
Can we take a peep into the EME family? You live together? - We used to live together, but we don’t live together anymore. But we work together and use the same studio everyday. The relationship with EME is crazy; our work ethic is mad because we are always working.
For someone that works hard, how do you relax? - I don’t get enough rest, but I try to sleep anytime there is chance. Right now, I don’t think it’s time to sleep, because I’m still trying to build a brand globally. My relaxation time will soon come.
What’s really the relationship with Akon? - It’s a work relationship and a friendship. Akon is like a big brother to me. When he heard my stuff, it took us a year to actually finish all the documents. We’ve been talking for a year back and forth, signing law documents and so on just to make the stuff works. I feel Akon came at the right time because when he heard my music, he just wanted to work with me when he realised how talented I am. And I went to America to work with him as well. We did a lot of collabos. Our relationship is very cool and I feel he sees a younger me in him. There is a new album coming out, Stardom, which I featured in.
Fame comes with women. How do you manage yours? - Same way all other artistes manage theirs.
It can’t be! - I show love to everybody. I’m not stupid.
You once mentioned your mum was the only woman in your life. Is it still like that? - Yes. I’m still very single. My mum is still my girlfriend; till I find that woman I can call mine.
Who are the people you look up to in the industry? - D’banj and Tuface are my biggest inspirations ever in the Nigerian music industry, and the only people I do shows with a lot in the industry. Definitely, I have to perform before D’banj or Tuface. I look up to them and watch their performances. It motivates me a lot. Tuface is a legend; I grew up listening to him when I was in secondary school. I was following Tuface, and for me to be performing on the stage right now with him is a blessing.
What’s your relationship with your peers in the industry? There is some talk that there is a rivalry between you and Davido. - I think it’s the media and the fans that are trying to create what I will call an entertainment. There is nothing like that in Nigeria right now. When I came out, everybody was comparing me to Wande Coal, until now that they all know me as Wizkid. If they compare me to him, it means I’ve done well.
Don’t you feel challenged? - I’m still making money and getting shows, so why should I be bothered about anybody’s success? I’m very straightforward and the sky is big enough for everybody to fly. You get your money and I get my money. Before now Tuface was there and he was collecting money, now I’m collecting money too. Will Tuface be mad at me for making money? It’s not possible.