September 2014! Wizkid released the Ayo album. The album’s title in Yoruba means “Joy” and it hit itunes and cd vendors at traffic lights in Lagos on the 14th of that month. I was in a musical lull and nothing on the radio excited me so a week after its release I decided to purchase the whole album – a whole $9.99 to Apple. I hardly buy music so I was proud to have done so especially by an African artist whose discography I could vouch for thus far. Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun or Wizzy as he calls himself was signed to Banky W’s Empire Mates Entertainment, often shouted out as “Ee Em Eezay”, for his first 2 albums and dropped this third album on his own record label – Starboy Entertainment.
For this album I had nothing to anticipate, knew nothing about collabos or behind the scenes workings so I adopted my First Listen strategy. I listen to the album from the first track and go by my gut reaction. Dance if I want to dance, pretend hum along or skip forward when need be. Although I ended up skipping some songs more because of my mood than the audial aesthetics I remember on the first round listen thinking Man! Every single song can stand on it’s own two feet. There were no filler songs, no songs that sounded too similar to each other. Wizkid could have chose any one and released it as a single and it would go!
My favorites right off the bat were Ojuelegba and Omalicha. I gave the album a listen several times over and if you ever catch me singing to Ojuelegba you might think me a serious yet conscious Lagos babe. With Omalicha you might think I wrote it….for my wedding playlist….in my head.
Almost seven months later the song is being publicly jammed to by the likes of Alicia Keys, her husband Swizz Beats and his fineness, and the Son of the Heart of Africa (Congo) Serge Ibaka. It was also recently remixed by Aubrey Graham most recently known as the ender of Meek Mill’s career via 2 time diss track releaser, recently buffed up former Degrassi actor, 6 God, Canada’s most famous citizen and altogether l’uomo universale – Drake….and a British rapper whose music I have yet to explore called Skepta. All of these instances are not such a big deal in an of themselves, but ALL somehow happened within the last month. HOW? The contagion effect. Sometimes we can put in all the work, and it is important that we do, but never really have control of where it ends up. For whatever the promotional strategy Wizkid adopted after the release of his album in September to now, something happened somewhere along that course whether deliberate or accidental to get that one song out of the 19 to where it is now.
For the many others who are dancing, tapping their feet and singing along to Ojuelegba, a song about the struggles and come up from a town in the local government area of Surulere on the mainland of Lagos along Ojuelegba Road, a mother’s prayer and gratitude, may more African artists inspire Ayo/joy to those who hear their music. May their rhythms and whatever the artist had to say on that day for that track go across the continent and beyond to minimally make those that listen feel good. May the feet, hips and vocal chords of those that hear loosen and sway. May our hustles, whatever they may be, be blessed. May our tipping points happen.