Wizkid uses 'Made In Lagos' to chronicle personal topics in an evolved and calm manner [Album Review]

Made In Lagos’ is Wizkid’s most cohesive body of work - both topically and sonically.

Wizkid to feature Burna Boy, Tems, Terri, Ella Mai, Skepta and more on 'Made In Lagos. (Starboy/RCA)

When we finally got Made In Lagos on October 30, 2020, that 18-minute conversation felt like a playbook for the album. In those moments, he was calm, playful, articulate and peaceful. He has also lost his boundless energy of the early 2010s. He moved gracefully through the stairs of life and seemed relieved that his Oddyseus was finally coming home.

Made In Lagos is the brainwork of a man who only makes music to feed his fans and satisfy his love for the craft. He doesn’t seem driven to prove a point where he takes unnecessary risks. This is Wizkid operating by his own rules and finding unique ways to excel at that reality.

Just like that Beat 103.6 FM, ‘Blessed’ featuring Damian Marley is emblematic of this album. It encapsulates everything that ‘Made In Lagos’ thematically, sonically and topically represents. But what really stands out is Wizkid’s take on his own evolution, wins, losses, pleasures and his peace.

Marley sings, “I might be rough around the edges, maybe yes. I keep it nappy and I do what makes me happy and nobody can deny me that I'm blessed…” That might seem cocky and spoken from the mouth of Marley, but it echoes Wizkid’s state of mind.

Wizkid later sings, “Man, I’m feeling blessed o. Say tonight, me and my guys, we go jam gbedu…” He then goes further to highlight the tenets of his calmness.

Sometimes, it is not perfect, but ‘Made In Lagos’ represents growth, ease and the perfection of failed experiments from his previous two bodies of work, Sounds From The Other Side and the terrible, Soundman Vol. 1.

At 30, he has also evolved and grown accustomed to being family-oriented. In the video for ‘Smile,’ he featured his three sons. On interview circuits, he has gushed over his sons and his family-based orientation. On ‘Blessed,’ he expressly paid homage to his kids and on ‘Reckless’ he sings, “And I go do anything only for my family…”

In July 2017, Wizkid capped off an incredible one year run with the release of his third album, ‘Sounds From The Other Side.’ While the album charted inside the Billboard 200 and opened Wizkid and the larger Nigeria to another audience, the album was fundamentally flawed as it significantly alienated Wizkid’s fan base on the home front with its Caribbean sounds.

While ‘Sweet Love’ has since aged like fine wine, ‘Come Closer’ and ‘African Bad Gyal’ are slightly divisive. After that album, Wizkid never remained the same as a person and as an artist. He became more withdrawn, aloof and frozen in time as his music crawled into a mid-tempo flirtation between lo-fi Afro-pop and Afro-Swing.

He also spent less time on social media and even lesser time in interviews. With Jada Pollock, he also had his third child, Zion in the same year.

His topical conversations also got more constrained and he seemed to focus on his comfort and topics that represent happiness to him - women, love, sex, money and peace. While that was a problem for a while, it wasn’t a problem on Made In Lagos as those topics become alluring. During that interview with The Beat 103.6 FM, London interview, he calls himself “lowkey.”

He alludes to all the above on ‘Blessed’ as he sings, “My brother make you know. Life wey I dey live, say I dey live am on the low… See, I just wanna hold onto my corner with my lady, make she cool me down…

On Reckless, he also sings, “My baby tellin' mе to pose for the media. I got a bеlief, I don't talk my sh*t…

If Wizkid was wide-eyed and aspirational on Superstar, appreciative and introspective on the substantial parts of Ayo and bland for earth-shattering substance on ‘Sounds From The Other Side, life has since shown him unsavoury shades.

In 2018, he made two records; ‘Bad Energy’ with Skepta and ‘Fake Love’ with Duncan Mighty. While he basically sought to highlight and treat negative energy on those two songs, he’s too ‘Blessed’ to stress on ‘Made In Lagos,’ despite also highlighting bad energy.

On ‘Blessed’ he sings, “I dey pray for my enemies… See, I don't wanna talk about the things wey go really really make me down tonight. See, I don't wanna talk about the things wey go, wey go, make me frown tonight…”

And on ‘Reckless’ he sings, “I got a reason I got so much to give. Showered in blessings, now my cup’s runnin' over. I no dey give a man, more than what he deserve ‘cause they still dey bite the hand wey dey feed them…”

Sometimes, he also pays his detractors no mind. On ‘Grace,’ he sings, “Man I no dey look nobody, feel sey i feel fine yeah and I stand real tall and I send no one…” This is because he knows that he’s blessed and that, “Dem nor fit run my race…”

And why wouldn’t he? He knows where he is coming. On ‘Reckless,’ he goes, “If I tell you all the days I had to sacrifice…” On ‘Grace’ he again alludes to his journey, “Say you no believe what my eyes done face…” But then, he recognizes a need to be grateful. On Blessings, he sings, “Got so many blessings, I dey count all night…”

While he seems mature, he still has a tendency for petulance as a way to deal with detraction. On ‘Gyrate’ he sings, “If they wan test yeah, all their man go fall…”

Throughout ‘Made In Lagos,’ the woman and a good time are the key focus that originate from Wizkid’s aloofness, calmness and carefree nature. Even when Wizkid talks about serious topics on ‘Reckless,’ ‘Blessed’ and ‘Grace,’ the topics found a way to devolve into themes of a good time.

On ‘Blessed,’ he goes from a serious topic to sex-filled chatter about the good life. Also on ‘Reckless,’ he literally goes from family orientation to chatter about his sexual prowess, “And I go do anything only for my family. I got the thing that make your body do the nuh linga, make your gyal come through, makin' plays all night…”

It’s not entirely his fault. After all, he’s a staunch member of the Yoruba demon council. He had earlier gushed over the influence of women over him, “Gyals dem never give me bad energy…

On the Afro-fusion/Afro-swing ‘Sweet One,’ Wizkid develops into a full-blown lover boy, complete with brazen statements and sprung adlibs. As the saxophone and melodies collide for heavenly rhythms, he declares his affection for a woman who says “yes” to him even though she has money on her mind.

With H.E.RSmile,’ Wizkid celebrates womanhood on a well-written R&B track. The ‘Mighty Wine’ of the beautiful ‘Roma’ sends Wizkid crazy. ‘Roma’ particularly sounds like something women will love, but ‘Mighty Wine’ seems like something the album could have done without.

Bruh, aside from the fact that ‘True Love’ is a disturbingly psychedelic Afro-Fusion, Highlife-Fusion and Afro-Bashment record that could soundtrack kush-filled romance beside the beach, Tay Iwar and Projexx killed it. It also contains explicit sex talk.

It then got wilder, more explicit and more vivid on the Afro-pop record, ‘No Stress’ - which made more sense as part of this album, and ‘Ginger’ with Burna Boy. The R&B/Bashment of ‘Piece of Me’ with Ella Mai also discusses sex as proper mekwe music. When it all feels like it had slowed down, ‘Essence’ comes on in its supreme chronicle of sensuality.

Guys, Tems went into beast mode on a happy record with beautiful songwriting. Frankly, it’s one of the best Nigerian songs of 2020. The way the beat also merged Alte R&B with Afrobeats into one sound is amazing. Jesus Christ!

Make no mistake, Wizkid also loves money. But it’s quite interesting that money doesn’t form a core part of his topical discussion. It’s only in selective moments like on ‘Grace’ that he alludes to money. He sings, “Money on my mind, me never waste time, yeah…”

On ‘Gyrate,’ he then pays tribute to weed - another thing that keeps him sane and helps him have a good time. He sings, “Me and my people let the thing dey burn. Say we dey together through the fire or storm…”

It also seems the weed is a coping mechanism that helps Wizkid to stay happy. On Grace he sings, “I dey burn my zoot, and I run my race… And I keep it so cool, keep my mind real sane...”

‘Made In Lagos’ doesn’t drift far off those elements. It is also built on that mid-tempo flirtation between lo-fi Afro-pop, Bashment, Afro-fusion and Afro-Swing.

While speaking with Osi Suave on Beat FM, Lagos on October 30, 2020, he said he didn’t create ‘Made In Lagos’ with an ‘album mindset.’ He also told The Beat, London that neither did he set out to create club records. While the album sounds like what Wizkid has consistently put out since ‘Manya’ with Mut4y, he finally got the balance right.

Instead of sounding too distant, the overall sound of this project is built on Afrobeat - not Afrobeats - elements with a creative use of horns - saxophones and trumpets - as well as guitars punctuating every record with freshness. The album also contains elements of R&B and Show Dem Camp-esque Palmwine music.

In fact, the Juls-produced ‘True Love’ was screaming for verses from Ghost and Tec. Maybe that’s because the first ‘Palmwine music’ record Show Dem Camp made was produced by Juls. FYI, that record is ‘Feel Alright.’ But in totality, where Show Dem Camp’s overall Palmwine music is more Highlife, Wizkid’s sound here is more Afrobeat.

While the album’s overall feel suggests that it is still tailored to the UK and the Caribbean, it is also very African. ’

That said, the beats to ‘Ginger,’ and especially ‘Mighty Wine’ and ‘True Love’ lacked something. ‘Gyrate’ also feels like a filler, compared to other tracks on the album. ‘Longtime’ then shares excessive similarities with ‘Bad Energy.’

The opening seconds of tracks like ‘Reckless,’ ‘No Stress’ and ‘Smile’ are also impressive. It’s also quite interesting that a lot of the songs on ‘Made In Lagos’ feel like they were recorded between the early parts of 2019 and now.

Wizkid has never been the greatest songwriter, but songs like ‘Smile,’ ‘Reckless,’ ‘Blessed,’ ‘Grace,’ ‘Sweet One,’ ‘Piece of Me’ and ‘Essence’ feature some expressive songwriting. However on ‘Reckless,’ ‘Blessed’ and ‘Grace,’ Wizkid is unable to stay on topic.

Nigerian music has moved past the era where 'lamba' took precedence over good songwriting. Gen Z determines a lot of what obtains and those kids listen to a lot of psychedelic and emo music which are very substantiated. That means they have a greater expectation of astute songwriting and the entire soundscape has slowly conformed to that standard.

Wizkid's songwriting has to be better. Even on 'Essence,' you could tell the gulf in class between Tems' pen and Wizkid's pen. While some will argue that the difference is due to their respective styles and that might be a point, Fireboy is a pop star and he's a good songwriter. Wizkid might chalk it all down to his desire to simply remain himself and that will be fair.

However, great songwriting can’t be overstated. That said, his pen game on 'Made In Lagos' is an improvement on his two previous projects, but Wizkid’s songwriting is still based on insipid subtexts and cliche expressions.

The way he delivered “Jam gbedu” on ‘Blessed’ and “I need your body for a long time…” on ‘Piece of Me’ is also quite rough around the edges.

The branding for ‘Made In Lagos’ revolved around Lagos and Wizkid’s personal evolution into a man and a father. First, the ‘Lagos’ branding might have been slightly over-flogged. While Wizkid can name his album ‘Made In Lagos’ because he’s a Lagos boy to the bone, only a few things about this album scream Lagos and even those things are subtle.

Afrobeat is a denominator that runs throughout the album. But even that is diluted by Afro-fusion, Afro-swing, Bashment, Dancehall and Highlife. Yes, we did get the ‘hawking in traffic’ moment on ‘Blessed,’ but it wasn’t enough to make this album ‘Lagos.’

During his interview with The Beat 103.6 FM, London, Wizkid said he wanted this album to be very "Lagos." But on playing this album, that was a misinformed statement. Where is the Lagos, please? We need an answer.

In like manner, the branding of Wizkid’s growth as a father, person and man is resonant, but it also comes with a lack of acknowledgement for how he’s fallen short in the past.

That said, ‘Made In Lagos’ is Wizkid’s most cohesive body of work - both topically and sonically. ‘Superstar’ might be a classic and ‘Ayo’ might have more hits, but ‘Made In Lagos’ is way better than ‘Ayo.

The sonic and topical diversity on ‘Superstar’ - especially - and ‘Ayo’ are a blessing, but that diversity was better executed on the former than the latter.

On the other hand and despite its flaws, ‘Made In Lagos’ is smooth, enjoyable and cohesive. Wizkid is also at his calmest, most methodical and most clear-eyed. The album art for 'Made In Lagos' is also creative. That said, some parts are more memorable than others. Sadly for a lot of people, those less enjoyable part will be unsavoury.

Welcome back, Ayo. It took a while, but you’re here. ‘Made In Lagos’ looks like it will age well as long as ‘Afrobeats to the world’ subsists. We’d have to wait and see what becomes of it when that wave slows down.

Download 'Pholo' by Rema ft Wizkid below;

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.5/2

Songwriting and Themes: 1.2/2

Production: 1.6/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.5/2

Execution: 1.4/2


7.2 - Victory


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