A few weeks ago, Nigerian superstar and young OG, Wizkid released his third album to major trends and conversation. While the album is polarizing, its reception has been more positive than anything Wizkid has released in the last three years. Fast forward to November 19, 2020, Wizkid stars in a four-hour set on ‘YouTube Originals.’
For context, the last YouTube Originals episode featured celebrated supergroup, Major Lazer. For further context, one-third of Major Lazer is a legendary American DJ/Producer called Diplo. Other honorees include Justin Bieber, Michelle Obama, David Blaine and Paris Hilton.
But here, Nigeria’s very own Wizkid features on a special that lasted for more than three hours.
When history is being documented, moments like this might take a backseat to ‘greater’ moments like Wizkid’s alley-oop on Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single, ‘One Dance,’ Burna Boy’s widespread celebration, media love and Grammy nomination or Davido’s silver plaque for ‘Fall,’ but it’s moments like ‘Original’ that really show how far Afrobeats and its biggest stars have come.
Wizkid on YouTube Originals is the internet equivalent of a special on major late-night American TV. Even though late-night American TV is prestigiously ingrained in white American culture, YouTube is open to a much larger audience. As the event went on #WizkidLiveYT became the number one trending topic worldwide.
It is also on par with performing at most international spectacles - the world watched and Wizkid was at the forefront of this ride. When Made In Lagos dropped, it debuted in the top 10 of Spotify’s global album charts alongside albums by global superstars like Sam Smith and Ariana Grande.
Three songs from the album debuted in the top 10 of the US iTunes Chart. While none of these superstars is yet to have an independent US Billboard Hot 100 top 40 record, they are definitely global superstars now. That’s why Burna Boy’s album didn’t have a Nigeria-focused single, why Made In Lagos is geared towards a Caribbean and European audience.
It might have taken Davido’s A Good Time three years to accumulate one billion streams, Wizkid even longer to accumulate two billion streams on Spotify while it took Lil Baby only three weeks to accumulate one billion streams for My Turn, but times have still changed.
Four years ago, Wizkid on a YouTube Originals episode couldn’t have happened. Wizkid is now a global superstar who is getting some superstar treatment in a large conversation.
If there was ever any moment to show how Wizkid has come as an artist, it was this. More importantly, this is a victory for Afrobeats and where it could be headed. Wizkid has always been a totem of representation in his Nigerian - nigh African - generation and this was a spectacle that proved to be an ascent.
On the show, Wizkid was a father, an artist, a celebrity and a fashionista. Aided by his son, Zion, he was calm and collected at different points of the special. Julie Adenuga - with shockingly long locs - supported the show as pseudo-anchor before her older brother and Grime legend, Skepta aided Wizkid to perform, ‘Bad Energy’ and ‘Longtime.’
On his way to the event, Wizkid discussed his peers like Adekunle Gold and Tekno. He then hugged his stylist and praised her trusted impeccable taste. Adenuga, a DJ and OAP then chatted with Wizkid’s drummer for the night. Props went round and the stage was set.
Dressed in an all-black outfit, shades and grills - his new obsession, he thrilled fans with song after song. The stage was a bed of flipping lustre, Wizkid was a man beloved by all around him. Arguably, the moment of the night was when the digital board behind Wizkid changed into the Nigerian flag.
It went hand-in-hand with Wizkid’s conversation on his way to that venue for his performance. He lamented the ongoing situation of things in Nigeria and his mood switched from giddy to morose within seconds. While the drummer and the backing singers were brilliant, the stars of Wizkid’s performance were the saxophonist and the white guitarist.
It showed that Wizkid rehearsed for the event and had even trained his vocals.
As the night celebrated the continued rise of Afrobeats, it also subtly pointed to the subtle westernization/Europeanization of Afrobeats and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. At this rate, British Afrobeats seems to be taking the lead over the actual sound from Africa. It seems like everything major occurrence with Afrobeats these days is tailored to foreign markets.
This reality is also aided by our superstars. On the night, Wizkid’s accent was even distinctively non-African. We might point to COVID-19 and everything around it, but the entire environment of that YouTube Original episode was far more British than it was Nigerian. Yes, superstars cannot be held back.
Like any human, they are more concerned with conquering unconquered realms. However, in a bid for unprecedented success, the origin must not be ignored. The biggest win from this ‘Afrobeats to the world’ moment should be about how it significantly benefits the markets back home and how it reflects organically home.
While Wizkid discussed Adekunle Gold and Tekno, a moment presented itself for Wizkid to shine some light on some young Nigerian artists - even the niche/underground ones. He doesn’t owe it to anybody, but as a young OG, Wizkid is stepping into the realm of a kingmaker and kingmakers crown kings.
Equally, the Boluwatife moment and the conversations formed around it seemed inorganic. A Day In Live: Wizkid is also a very questionable tag. However, that can be forgiven.
But when all is said and done, Wizkid is a real winner on the night. Even the downsides of the special cannot remotely measure up to what the night means in the grand scheme - a grand win. One fully expect this moment to be cloned by others for branding purposes, it was spectacle that's worthy of admiration.
This is what dreams are made of…
You can watch the full set below;