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The brand Wizkid

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The brand Wizkid


Whiz Kids

AYODEJI BALOGUN, best known as Wizkid, is a musician who has been on top of his game. In this interview, he tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN what it takes to build his brand.
He was a little late for our appointment that sunny Thursday morning at Allen Avenue, Ikeja. I had actually lost hope, I had thought he would not show up. But I was wrong as he walked in briskly full of apologies. He was full of smiles and was excited to my little girl I took along with me.
Give it to him, famous hip-hop musician Wizkid has become a brand too important to ignore. One might not have associated some popular songs played on the airwaves to him. But truly, not a day is gone without at least one of his songs being played on air. His quality of music and video tells of a young man who has made a conscious effort to build a unique brand.
“Building the Wizkid brand really took me all I have,” he tells me as soon as our interview began. “Before I went into making music, I had what I wanted to be in my head. I imagined how I want my journey in this industry would be like. I definitely knew that I wanted to build the brand and not just the name as an artist. I had to get into some troubles sometimes but I do not like trouble and so I try to stay out of it I try so much but sometimes things happen.”
Born on 16 July 1990 and christened Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, his stage name Wizkid has stuck perfectly.  He started his musical career at age 11 with the release of a collaborative album with Glorious Five entitled ‘Lil Prinz’.  He said he formed a group called the Glorious Five with a couple of his church friends. The group dropped an album prior to dismembering. Wizkid later met OJB Jezreel, a record producer who prevented him from recording for a year. While visiting Jezreel’s studio frequently, he watched 2 Face Idibia record his song ‘Grass 2 Grace’ and watched Sound Sultan record ‘Jagbajantis’. A year later, Wizkid started recording. His first song featured OJB Jezreel.
However, he didn’t sign a record deal until 2009, with Banky W.’s imprint Empire Mates Entertainment. He gradually became well known in 2010 with the release of the song ‘Holla at Your Boy’ from his debut 2011 studio album, ‘Superstar’. His contribution to the Nigerian Music industry has earned him several achievements, including a BET Award, a MOBO Award, three The Headies Awards, two Channel O Music Video Awards, four Nigeria Entertainment Awards, a Ghana Music Award, two Dynamix All Youth Awards, two City People Entertainment Awards, and a Future Award. In addition, he has been nominated three times at the MTV Europe Music Awards as well as four times at the World Music Awards. He was ranked 5th on Forbes and Channel O’s 2013 list of the Top 10 Richest/Bankable African Artists.
As the quality of his music improved so did his fan base. And in February 2014, Wizkid became the first ever Nigerian musician to have over one million followers on Twitter.
Wizkid says he worries about sustainability of his brand and it is for this reason he has been working hard to keep. “I do worry about the brand and that is why I work endless and tirelessly day and night to make sure that the brand is good. Even when I am not here, I want to leave a legacy that people would follow. “
He says he is not just building Wizkid as a whole but he is building the Starboy brand too; A name he says in pidgin: “Na street give me the name Star boy they are my people.”
. “For every young producer out there to create their music and to push it, it is not been easy. “You know we just started and in like a year now my boys are nominated for producing for all the top acts in Nigeria. It is a great feeling. I just feel really blessed.”
The success of his brand has pitched him to be the brand ambassador for Hennessy, an international renowned cognac produced by Moët Hennessy which merged with Louis Vuitton in 1987, to create one of the world’s largest luxury brand conglomerates.
The 2014 edition of Hennessy Artistry saw him performed on stage with 2Face his fellow Hennessy brand ambassador. “I feel really blessed to be a part of Hennessey this year,” he says, “especially because 2Face is a part of it. 2Face is a legend in Nigerian music industry because he paved the way for every young artist doing it right now. It is just a great feeling doing it with him. I really just feel blessed because Hennessy is a big brand the Wizkid brand as well is growing every day.”

Whiz Kid with Tuface

When Wizkid was at OJB Jezreel’s studio many years ago watching 2Face recording his album, he never new fate would bring them together and that he will be equally as famous as 2Face. “2Face and I we have already being in the studio like four times before the Hennessy people contacted us. We have not put it out because you know 2Face is a very busy person and I am also always on the road. We never actually finished our tracks. This is the first time we are in the studio and putting out a great track and finishing it.”
Wizkid says ‘Jaiye’ is the most challenging song that he has ever written. “When I made ‘Jaiye’, I didn’t know if people would really be ready to accept the song. Hence I needed something to make it really special because the song is really special to me. So when I called Femi Kuti I was shocked because I didn’t think he was going to tell me yes straight away. I called him that day and we recorded the next day, so I had to go to the studio that night to start or redo the song to make sure it is not disappointing when he hears the song.”
And instantly, the song was a hit.  “The album right now people love the tracks and people keep discovering the tracks that they like,” he says with a broad smile. “I put out all the singles already like seven like you know I have ‘Ojuelegba’ out it doing well, Show me the money and it is doing well, lot of the songs off the album it feels really good because when I was trying to get the album there was a decision not to change my style too much, because I think people are now having this thing in their head were they feel since I am now working with international artist that I am trying to change which is not through because I am never going to change who I am and I can never change for anybody. When I made ‘Jaiye, Jaiye’, it was just a special song to me and I decided to develop it into an album.”
Wizkid grew up in Surulere, a middle class suburb in the Lagos metropolis. He romanticized Surulere in a song with the eponymous title. “I shot the video in Shitta, a place I call small London. That was actually where I grew up. But not Ojuelegba, because there are plenty places in Surulere. I just wanted to take that back to Shitta and as for Ojuelegba as well I will be going down there to shoot that part of the video. There are so many parts of Surulere that I have not said anything about the streets I used to walk or all the streets I used to go perform. There are so many streets and carnivals I used to go perform every December even at Lawanson, all year for free. I have paid my dues. There are so many stories that I will have loved to tell about my growing up at Surulere.”
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