In the latter parts of 2012, a Wizkid purely driven by musical momentum got into the studio with Sarz - a producer creating his own brand of afro-pop/dance. At the time, Sarz claimed to be working on an album that has since joined Dr. Dre’s ‘Detox’ in the abyss.
Wizkid begged to record the freestyle he had done when the beat got played for him. The result was a song titled, ‘Samba (Beat of Life).’ After launching in January 2010 with ‘Holla At Your Boy,’ Wizkid was on an unreal run that took into the early parts of 2013. 2012 saw the thick of it and at the time, everything he touched was a Basquiat painting - brilliant art.
However, times have changed. The Nigerian soundscape is going through another evolution and trying to find its sound. In 2012, ‘lamba’ was the order of the day and songs would blow up purely off Wizkid’s name. Just have a good beat, the right flow, and cadence - you might be in. Now, nobody has the formula.
Wizkid is not that 2012 artiste anymore - he has grown and gotten influenced by more things than we can imagine. More importantly, January 2020 will mark his 10-year anniversary in Nigerian music - he has tried. Now, he is showing worrying signs of an artist that has plateaued and one who is not properly evolving to stay in touch.
Instead, he keeps coming up with familiar formula that we have seen from him. It’s fine if we keep getting familiar outputs that work, but we aren’t. It seems he doesn’t even realize he keeps giving us the same thing.
He realizes the need to evolve - he keeps working with different producers, hoping to switch the sound, but the result has simply remained the same. Blaq Jerzee, London and Kel P worked on this project, but the result is still unimpressive. It seems Wizkid keeps selecting the same types of beats.
Asides the odd attractive use of guitar, violin, trumpets or saxophones for melodies here and there, the beats are mostly flat and familiar.
Even worse, it seems self-doubt has inevitably crept in. Fans expected Made In Lagos, his long-promised fourth studio album. Instead, we got SoundMan Vol. I, a project by Wizkid but credited to Starboy for business reasons.
Importantly, on the business side that doesn't involve label drama, this is the Sounds From The Otherside moment all over again. Then, Wizkid seemed scared to call it an album, so he called a 12-track project an “EP.”
Now, it seems he wants to test the waters and not have the burden of a potentially-failed project, so he credits a 7-track EP to his label. The EP also seems like a cash-grab that comes just in time for Detty December like Wizkid has done in recent times. 2017, it was ‘Manya,’ a collaboration with Mut4y. 2018, it was ‘Fever’ and ‘Master Groove.’
After a forgettable start, the former only got successful after Tiwa Savage featured in its video as lead model. The narrative tied into rumours of a relationship between the two and fans went haywire. Well played, Wizkid. The song was successful, but it still wasn’t a hit. Now, it’s SoundMan Vol. 1. Featuring Wizkid.
Equally, the EP is an experiment by Wizkid. For Made In Lagos, he is testing the ground with songs and whetting fan appetite. However, this EP might just do more harm than good.
SoundMan Vol. 1 is a lyrical improvement on the nonsensical ‘Joro,’ but it’s still very flat music that conveys no excitement. ‘Jam’ features Chronixx and it promises so much, but delivers so little. Lyrically, Wizkid tells a good story, but the sonic pleasure of prime Wizkid is missing. The beat also seems reminiscent of ‘Ghetto Love’ and ‘Joro’ - nothing new.
‘Blow’ is the ‘vibe’ template Wizkid has been on since mid-2018. The ‘vibe’ was first felt on ‘Fake Love’ and this beat follows that template. It’s a forgettable song. ‘Cover Me’ is the best song on this EP.
Produced by Kel P, it sounds like a mix of Burna Boy’s ‘Gbona,’ and ‘Sweet Love’ by Wizkid himself, but cut from Fela’s afrobeat template, it conveys some measure of sonic pleasure. As Kel P is now known for, the saxophone and guitar melodies are so pleasing.
With a heavyweight feature, ‘Mine’ is a reggae tune that might do well in the Caribbean. But here in Nigeria, it’s just a terrible song. Sadly, it’s also the best bit of songwriting on the EP. It’s generic songwriting, but it’s still the best.
Like clockwork, we are back to ‘vibe.’ This is not a bad song, but it just falls incredibly below the level of brilliance Wizkid needs. ‘Ease Your Mind’ feels like the most authentic Wizkid song in a while. It is very introspective, but built on a seemingly incomplete beat. ‘Thankful’ is just very forgettable.
I sympathize with Wizkid. He seems to be caught at a crossroads where he is trying to see what works. He has never been this creatively bereft in 10 years. But at the same time, he seems to be a victim of his own success. He has been so successful over the past 10 years that people now hold him to a standard.
However, that is the price of stardom. Fans have a short attention span and they constantly need to be impressed. If you want to remain a star, you have to pay the price of stardom and that is to constantly impress listeners. Wizkid has not managed to consistently do that over the past two years.
Asides ‘Soco’ and ‘Fake Love,’ ‘Baba Bolu’ has mostly had successful songs more than hit songs. Even though this EP is a mediocre experimental cash-grab tailored for Detty December happenings, it will be successful. Wizkid has been a star for 10 years and has amassed a large albeit aggressively erratic following - Wizkid FC.
Thus, whatever he pushes is unlikely to flatly fail. It will do reasonable numbers and make conversations of ‘flop’ hard to have. Asides being successful, the EP could also help Wizkid understand what fans want and what they don't want while helping him soundtrack Detty December.
SoundMan Vol. 1 is not poor, but it’s still mediocre music that conveys no excitement. Wizkid has gotten stuck in the gyre of ‘familiar music’ tailored to radio, and he needs capable hands to help him get out of it.
• 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
Content and Themes: 1.3/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 0.5/2
4.3 - Near Fall