Ten years ago, a 19-year-old singer left fans debating if the song ‘Holla at your boy’ was sung by a Nigerian. In the smooth tune with western-infused lyrics, the singer urged listeners to wave at him when they saw him drive by. It was bold, fresh and a hit.
The song, produced by DJ Klem (Knighthouse) and Vebee, is the first single from his debut album Superstar, during his years of deal with Empire Mates Entertainment (EME).
It was the perfect introduction to Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka Wizkid. Seeing then label boss, Banky Wellington drive Wizkid and Skales to a school, in a music video that did not seem Nigerian, imprinted an aspirational image in the minds of teenagers who saw themselves in this singer.
Little wonder he became a sensation immediately after. In January, 2020, that song has turned 10 and the generation that grew up with Wizkid’s music remembers with nostalgia all the memories ‘Holla at your boy’ created for them.
They do not hold back on social media and suffice it to say that Wizkid has the largest and strongest fan base for an African artist.
For 10 years, a generation, about to turn 30 have grown up listening to him, following and trying to understand his mystique while extoling his musical ability. Everything Wizkid breathes on is a hit, his fans make sure of that.
Three children, many collaborations with international stars including Beyonce, international deals, several awards and multi-certified hits later, Wizkid has evolved. He is still a physically small person but his influence, as an artist and an African voice, has grown exponentially.
He was the first ever Nigerian musician to have over one million followers on Twitter, a feat he achieved in 2014. His videos on YouTube has millions of views with ‘Fever’, released in 2018 garnering over 46 million views and the more recent video ‘Joro’ has over 22 million views.
He has won many awards and gained recognition and nominations from prestigious avenues like MOBO, The Headies, BET, MTV, Grammy, World Music Awards, and many others.
Wizkid is currently one of the richest artists in Africa with a net worth of 20 million dollars. He currently has the biggest music deal yet by an African music act with his 2016 deal with RCA Records.
Following the hype of ‘Holla at your Boy’ in 2010, Wizkid released more fire songs and pushed several musical collaborations that stunned fans. He lived up to his name. While fans were beginning to get used to domestic Wizkid, ‘Ojuelegba’ happened.
The song, a simple tune laced with meanings incited new fire among existing fans and created new ones. One of such new inductees was Drake, who went on to collaborate with Wizkid. This significant move remains a critical moment in history that solidified the crossover of Afrobeats into the international scene.
The song’s official remix features vocals from Drake and Skepta; it premiered on OVO Sound Radio in July 2015. Wizkid first announced that he was working on a new album during a visit to London in October 2014.
He later revealed ‘African Bad Gyal’ as his collaborative single with Chris Brown and said it would be the lead single from his third studio album. In April 2015, both Wizkid and Chris Brown performed ‘African Bad Gyal’ together at the latter’s concert in Durban, South Africa.
In 2016, Wizkid achieved international recognition following his collaboration with Drake on the global hit, ‘One Dance’, which reached number one in 15 countries, including the U.S, UK, Canada and Australia.
The song also made him the first Afrobeats artist to appear in the 2018 Guinness World Records.
All these and more international work culminated into a level of influence that only few artists globally have been able to attain. His cult-like fan base can be likened to the Beyhive (Beyoncé’s fan base), which explains the success of his collaboration with Beyoncé on the song, ‘Brown Skin Girl’.
The catchy, Woman-of-Colour Ode is a gift that keeps giving, perhaps it is following the name of the album it was featured in called, ‘The Lion King: The Gift’. Wizkid is credited with the widespread influence of Afrobeat in the international scene.
In a December, 2019 article, Billboard wrote, “Currently, Afrobeat is the next international sound sweeping pop music. Major stars like Kanye West and Rick Ross have all collaborated with Afrobeat acts. Drake’s 2016 international hit ‘One Dance,’ once the most-streamed song on Spotify, featured Nigerian Afrobeat artist Wizkid, who would go on to sign with RCA Records in what became the biggest record deal ever for an African artist.
“This past July, Beyoncé released ‘The Lion King: The Gift,’ the soundtrack album to the 2019 ‘Lion King’ remake, which featured African and Afrobeat artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi and many others. With major labels like Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group betting on Afrobeats, all eyes are now on Africa.”
It is true that ‘Ojuelegba’ is the song that drew the attention of the international scene but for the die-hard fans, who were teenagers and young adults in 2010, ‘Holla at your Boy’ remains the song of the decade. Wizkid still wants you to holla at him but he is now Starboy.