Album Review: Wizkid – Sounds From The Other Side
Mixtape Title: Sounds From The Other Side
Release Date: July 14, 2017
It’s been an eventful year for Wizkid, the 27-year-old Nigerian pop star; from featuring on the hitherto most streamed song of all time, One Dance, to several magazine covers, becoming a known quantity to western tastemakers. Sold out mini tours followed appearances on top radio shows; the audience at home watched with increasing wonder as one of their own made himself comfortable on the world stage. Sounds From The Other Side is his first release since the crossover. Long promised, it’s a 12 track, 40-minute “mixtape” with a host of features.
The mixtape is a mash of different genres including a polite exploration of Afrobeats on the Spellz produced ‘Sexy’, a digital Afrobeat production that flattens out the expected raw energy on such joint. This one is a hat tip to Western hipster, a deliberate festival number which lends itself to band assisted live performance. Though muted, Naija is running through the mixtape; with Sarz, who had uncredited production work on the monster smash One Dance, on the deck with “Come Closer” – The production zenith of the mixtape and Del’B on Nobody, a slow tempo dancehall number, a real sing along delight. Major Lazer chips in with the infectious Naughty Ride, a flip on Bob Marley’s ode to cultural and self-assurance. The highlight of the mixtape comes with Picture Perfect, a joint which finds Wiz on his almost believable romantic tip.
Sounds From The Other side isn’t so much about the music as it is a representation; repping the other side might have been a more apt title. Wizkid’s presence on the international stage evidences the maturation of a scene that has been vibrant but commercially underground. He’s been learning though. His serendipitous collaboration with Drake has clearly influenced this record, even down to its feel of being a collection of singles, a playlist of his status as the darling of the hipster crowd on the lookout for the new cool thing. Given its title, expectations were high on the mixtape presenting the Nigerian sound to an even broader audience. With RCA’s might and connect behind it, the stage was set. Instead, the music isn’t revelatory – For the uninitiated listener, this isn’t the album on which Afrobeats as a sound is unfurled.
The record is a collection of songs that chart the artist’s travails from ‘Ojuelegba’ to now – There is no musical ‘reportage’ of the “other side”; no overarching sound or feel, which is to the mixtape’s detriment. The ‘other side’ is essentially the listener, people to whom he gives a musical account of his growth in the last 18 months, from showing Trey Songz around in Lagos, to recording Naughty Ride with Major Lazer on his trip to LA. The upside of Wizkid’s ascent is his confidence on tracks with his more famous American peers, as on African Bad Gyal, he pulls Chris Brown into his vibe where Brown delivers a Naija light verse on the fun track.
His relationship with Maphorisa with whom he recorded the Africa wide smash, Soweto Baby. All For Love, the collab with Bucie betrays very little chemistry. The joint sounds like a welding of two disparate records for the purpose bringing the ‘African’ sound. It’s not a bad record by any stretch but given the heft of the star featured, much was left in the booth.
It’s easy to say how much better this record would have been were it crafted as the coming out of a newly global, already mega famous Nigerian pop star. Instead, it’s as if he expected you to be familiar, and ‘we’ are. But, SFTOS isn’t necessarily for those pining for another ‘home’ record from Wizkid. He’s in search of greener pastures, a more cash ready audience whose palette isn’t ready for the undiluted spice of Nigerian beats, or so the record labels would have us believe. The home crowd will be content in taking delight with his exploits; a deserved, organic rise as a feature in (American) urban pop culture.
The inevitable conclusion though, is that a trick was missed here. Wizkid came to the consciousness of a new audience through an Afrobeat-lite record, Ojuelegba, a YoruEnglish ode to a small Lagos town. The audience is perhaps more ready than Wizkid himself realizes. That said, there are Billboard-ready songs on the record, the aforementioned Naughty Ride taps into the already familiar commercial Dancehall vibe, as did the Reggaeton flavoured, Efya-assisted Daddy Yo.
SFTOS is middling, bar a few tracks, but it ultimately isn’t about the mixtape; this moment will be judged by the tracks which make the charts, joints that move the needle in mainstream culture. And to his credit, Wizkid appears to have given himself a fair shot with at least three bonafide US radio friendly tracks in Naughty Ride, Daddy Yo and Come Closer. How he does might determine, in the short term, RCA and other big record labels’ interest in the commercial acceptability of Afrobeats. He’s already sailed the hurdle of familiarity, here’s to wishing him and Nigerian Afrobeats much success.
album “mixtape” is rated 6/10.
You can follow the writer, Tola Sarumi on Twitter :- @AfroVII