Superstar At 10: Wizkid’s prophetic calling card that became a classic

Superstar’ is one of the few undisputed classics that Nigerian music has seen in the last 10 years.

'10th anniversary report card of Wizkid's debut album Superstar'

Produced by Kraftmatiks, the record was meant to feature DaGrin, but one thing led to another and only Wizkid got featured because Abaga was particular.

A Trap record in 2008, ‘Fast Money, Fast Cars’ stole hearts for his empirical view and the beef it started between its maker and then Kennis Music artist, Kelly Handsome.

Away from the bigger issues of that time, Wizkid caught people’s attention. His thinned vocal expression showcased his youth and the freshness of his identity and artistry, and people naturally gravitated towards him.

But the man who had recently changed his name from Yung Prince was so obscure that Alaba mixtape makers often misspelled his name as Whizkid.

Speaking with Kraftmatiks in 2020, he says, “MI knew what he wanted and he was always particular about putting Wizkid on that record.

Wizkid was also already around EME at this time and Banky W, the label’s co-founder was Abaga’s guy, who wanted to give a platform to his burgeoning talent.

Thus, Wizkid got plugged into the machinery. Even before he blew, his artist development and roll-out were rock solid. The artist got rolled out as much as the music.

Buttressing that point, DJ Klem who produced ‘Holla At Your Boi’ says, “I think the EME deal was locked quite early in his career because Banky took him everywhere!”

Word on the street is that Niyola was the conduit between Wizkid and Banky W. J

ust as expectation for his music grew, current head of OneRPM Africa and CEO of TheZoneAgency, Osagie Osarenz started managing him.

Temi Gomez adds, “Osagie [Osarenz] who was his manager at the time, took him to all the cool spots; Sway Bar, Sundays At The Beach, Taruwa… People were meeting him and he was networking, which he was really great at. He was also collaborating a lot with artists because people liked him, his energy and his chemistry because he pushed everybody.

He hung out between Temi Gomez and Rogba Aromiro-led Knighthouse, Banky W’s EME and Capital Hill Music, owned by legendary cinematographer Clarence Peters.

Shortly after, Wizkid was featured on a song called ‘Nuffn Like Me’ with T-wizzle, Eva and Mo-Cheddah.

Earlier in 2021, Peters told Pulse Nigeria that, “I could have signed Wizkid, but he was always so around that it didn’t occur to me. When he then signed to Banky, I couldn’t really object because all three labels [Capital Hill, Knighthouse and EME] belonged in the same circle and we constantly worked together.

The original version of ‘Holla At Your Boy’ was produced by someone else, but Osarenz wanted something different.

She got DJ Klem, who was then a Youth Corps member in Abeokuta to reproduce the now popular version.

The record was mixed by Temi Gomez, who now manages BBNaija Lockdown winner Laycon.

Klem recalls, “Osagie picked me up from Festac and then in Surulere. We ran into traffic on our way to Knighthouse so Wiz and I ended up sharing an Okada [laughs].

‘Holla At Your Boy’ was heavily inspired by SE7EN’s 2009 teen pop record, ‘GIRLS’ featuring Lil Kim.

The record was the perfect introduction to Wizkid and a masterstroke by Banky W that tapped into Wizkid’s teenage brand.

Its video was shot in a school setting with the stunning Sophie Momodu as female lead while Banky W played dad.

Celebrities like Ice Prince made a cameo in the video while wearing Ama Kip Kip shirts and riding BMX bikes. The video endeared Wizkid towards a young millennial audience who accepted him warmly. The current version of that is how MAVIN intentionally markets Ayra Starr and Rema to younger Gen Z audiences.

The first strain of Wizkid FC was birthed, but it was the branding that really stood out.

Tease Me’ took Wizkid from the classroom to a strip club and from white t-shirts to a jacket. Banky W also went from dad to the man who introduced him to a strip club. ‘Pakurumo’ then catapulted Wizkid further into the Nigerian mainstream as an Owambe-themed video starred Funke Akindele, who had just released her groundbreaking movie, Jenifa.

If ‘Holla At Your Boy’ secured the boys and girls, ‘Tease Me’ touched on the ‘Bad Guys’ or men, the R&B loosie, ‘Gidi Girl’ which was produced and co-written by DJ Klem secured the women.

One thing that everybody Pulse spoke with said about Wizkid at 19-20 was that he knew what he wanted, worked tirelessly and knew he was going to be great.

Samklef told Pulse that a song like ‘Don’t Dull’ was made in one hour after Wizkid refused to leave the studio with Piper till he got inspired.

Samklef, who also produced the most songs on Superstar, met Wizkid through Skales.

I think ‘Superstar’ was great because Wiz stopped waiting for the label and started doing stuff on his own.

"He would always call me to check on my schedule and free time to book a studio session. He would always say, ‘Baba we go blow… we go buy our own house’ and stuff like that.

On June 12, 2011, EME released ‘Superstar’ to pandemonium and incredible sales.

The groundwork, artist development, networking, branding and roll-out that they did turned Wizkid into a flagship artist.

The artwork for the album was designed by Osa Okunkpolor, known on social media as Osa Seven.

Songs on the album reiterated Wizkid’s ‘Superstar’ vision, his hardwork and his humble background, which he wore on his chest like Superman’s sign.

The album’s opening track saw Wizkid’s name get chanted by the imitation of a mob like he was a genuine Superstar,’ not a rookie who was yet to even win Next Rated at the Headies.

Track two [No Lele] was kicked off by Masterkraft’s percussive madness, but Wizkid’s homage to his roots, 'Ojuelegba, Shitta!' aligns with Wizkid’s line, “From grass to grace, I’m going higher o…” on ‘Say My Name.’ On ‘Oluwa Lo Ni,’ he also sang about God’s promises to him in Yoruba; that God told him that he would live long and be prosperous.

While he hailed his own work ethic on ‘Say My Name’ by saying “Now I’m in my zone, boy I’m going in on any beat,” Wizkid’s constant restatement of his ‘Superstar’ status goes beyond quality A&R and cohesion with the album’s title, Wizkid was prophetic, almost like he saw into his own future. This was more than a boy who simply had dreams, he was assured.

On ‘No Lele,’ he openly declared that, “I go be number one, as a born champion no lele…” and he was right. Today, he’s the greatest artist of his generation, a Grammy-winner and global superstar with a Billboard No. 1 hit to his name.

Sometimes on the album, the journey of his assuredness and growth can also be traced. On ‘Say My Name’ he asked people to, “Just holla when you see me.

But by ‘Wad Up’ he sang that about people hollering by themselves, “Even the guys dem see me for street, dem say I too dirty so no wad up/But right now when dem see me pass all of them want tell me wad up…”

While this might indicate that both songs were recorded at different points of Wizkid’s life, their respective placement on the album and the overall topical cohesion of the album is down to quality A&Ring by Banky W.

Unlike Made In Lagos, which has a set sonic pattern, ‘Superstar’ has layered and diverse sounds, tied together by Wizkid’s talent, adlibs, style and documented hunger.

He was unique; the product of Wande Coal’s spirit of Lamba and Tuface’s panache as well as Banky W’s R&B leaning, Wizkid and his debut album were rounded.

His entrance and the entrance of street-friendly acts like Timaya, Terry G and more into the industry led Nigeria’s obsession with vibes and Lamba over astute lyricism.

Even though ‘Superstar’ might be Wizkid’s most lyrically accomplished album, he still wasn’t the most lyrical; he heavily utilized his adlibs and subtexts to pass messages.

Nonetheless, that style made him a progeny of standards in Nigerian Afro-pop.

From then, loads of young talent wanted to simply sound and sing like Wizkid, who became the template.

In 2020, Rexxie told Pulse Nigeria that, “I am from an era where everybody tried to imitate Wizkid; the “Iyeh yeh yeh” or “Oh no oh oh” era [laughs].”

Like Wande Coal, he was also aided by Yoruba sounds like Fuji, Apala, Juju and more.

On ‘Pakurumo,’ he manipulated his voice like a Fuji or Apala artist to deliver his verses.

All the while, he made party records for the cool kids and the Nigerian dancefloors [Scatter The Floor].

He also produced the classic wedding record, ‘Love My Baby,’ which many still use for their weddings.

He also gave shout-outs to his comrades on records like ‘EME Boyz’ and ‘Shout-out.

All this could have only been possible with the help of his producers; Samklef [six songs], Masterkraft [two songs], Jay Sleek [three songs], DJ Klem [two songs], E Kelly and Ghanaian producer, Q Beats.

The success and template for ‘Pakurumo,’ which linked Wizkid to the mainstream scene, was birthed by Samklef’s need to create something Fuji related. Thankfully, Wizkid aced it.

According to DJ Klem, the album also achieved something else, “In the end, that album was a defining moment for a lot of the producers that worked on it - including already established names like Masterkraft and Jay Sleek. It was an iconic project.”

Wizkid also formed a unique synergy with all his producers.

Samklef said, “Wizkid and I aligned. He wanted to create something different and I wanted to create something unique, so we worked perfectly. My confidence levels were high because I had produced Simi and Durella. Even though I was at Covenant University at the time, working with him took me to another level.

Sounds that produced records like ‘Don’t Dull,’ ‘EME Boyz,’ ‘Scatter The Floor’ and ‘For Me’ were particularly pristine.

‘For Me’ was Jay Sleek’s specialty of blending Eastern EDM riffs with Afro-pop percussion. ‘For Me’ might be the best song on this album, but it was severely betrayed by bad sound engineering.

After ‘Superstar,’ one can argue that Wizkid’s swashbuckling high energy and high-pitched vocals sort of started slowing down.

A lot of that is due to the maturation of his vocals and his need for evolution as he got older [Made In Lagos], but he also got richer and never looked back.

Nigeria’s modern pop sound was defined by four major albums; Timaya’s True Story, 9ice’s Gongo Aso, Wande Coal’s progeny, Mushin To Mo’hits and D’Banj’s The Entertainer.

Timaya collated and defined street sounds in different forms, 9ice was for the Hip-Hop influenced pop sounds, M2M was the main progeny of our current pop sound while ‘The Entertainer’ was Hyperpop at its finest.

Some argue that ‘Superstar’ belongs in that conversation and it’s not completely unreasonable, but it doesn’t exactly hold water.

Superstar’ is a direct product of M2M and therefore can’t be classed with those albums. What we can say is that ‘Superstar’ could be the dark horse of that conversation because it defined a lot.

More importantly, ‘Superstar’ is one of the few undisputed classics that Nigerian music has seen in the last 10 years.

All the songs on the album - even the ones with no singles branched out on their own and became hits overtime. It started an impeccable three-year run for Wizkid where gold was the product of everything he touched or even breathed on.

‘Superstar’ or in particular, ‘Holla At Your Boy’ was the origin of Wizkid FC, Africa’s most powerful fan base and one of the most powerful in the world.

His songs appealed to young, impressionable millennials from the Nigerian lower class to lower middle class backgrounds, with working class parents.

They related with him and he became the first superstar that rose before their eyes. In a way, most people in my generation are Wizkid FC in some remote way.

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