searchsearch
For The Record: How Wizkid Elevated Nigeria & Propelled The Ascent Of Afrobeats With His Star-Studded Album 'Made In Lagos'

video

For The Record: How Wizkid Elevated Nigeria & Propelled The Ascent Of Afrobeats With His Star-Studded Album 'Made In Lagos'

A potent mix of Afrobeats and R&B, Wizkid's 2020 album 'Made in Lagos' further accelerated the already-unstoppable surge of Nigerian music throughout the world

GRAMMYs/Mar 24, 2022 - 07:52 pm

What binds artists as diverse as H.E.R., Burna Boy, Skepta, Ella Mai, Tay Iwar, Projexx, Tems, Damian Marley, and Terri? They all appeared on the breakout album by Wizkid, Made in Lagos.

In years past, it perhaps would have been unlikely for a Nigerian act to be the gravitational center for cross-genre luminaries — from reggae, from R&B, from grime. But these are the 2020s, and Afrobeats is colossal right now. And Wizkid is at the vanguard of this deluge of creative expression.

Outside of the music itself, the best part of the Afrobeats explosion is that it virtually never waters down its roots — it exists to elevate the continent that birthed it, and its community of forward-thinking music makers. That's what Wizkid highlighted while promoting his radiant fourth album, 2020's Made in Lagos.

"I'm unapologetically Nigerian, I'm unapologetically Lagosian," he told Vogue. "And when I say I'm here for my people, I mean it."

Thus, Wizkid encapsulated the essence of Made in Lagos, which shook the pop music firmament with tracks like "Smile" and "No Stress." His "Essence" received the royal treatment via a remix with Justin Bieber, and basically took over 2021 summer playlists. But the whole album overflows with pop riches. Featuring the most sumptuous elements of Afrobeats, R&B and Caribbean influences braided into one, Made in Lagos further established Wizkid as a global pop dynamo and helped hasten the rise of Afrobeats worldwide.

The album's ripple effect was keenly felt: At the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, which air Sunday, April 3, Wizkid is nominated in two categories: the newly debuted Best Global Music Performance ("Essence") and Best Global Music Album (Made in Lagos: Deluxe Edition). Several of his fellow nominees in those categories — Angélique Kidjo, Femi Kuti, Burna Boy — are African, which isn't lost on Wizkid.

Read More: 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List

"I'm African. I ride for that. And I live there. I grew up there. That's me," he told Rolling Stonein 2021 in a GRAMMY Preview interview. "If the world can pay attention to one artist from Africa, why can't they pay attention to all? That's the mentality I've got."

After releasing his first two albums, 2011's Superstar and 2014's Ayo, on Nigerian label Ayo Mates (the latter was a co-release with his own label imprint, Starboy Entertainment), Wizkid made his stateside debut with 2017's Sounds from the Other Side. Despite sizable firepower and appearances from artists like Drake, Major Lazer and Ty Dolla $ign, it wasn't quite the commercial breakthrough it was designed to be. Undeterred, Wizkid decided to make another big swing — inspired by the city that made and shaped him.

Granted, Wizkid had rhapsodized about Nigeria in song before. "Ojuelegba," a percolating, Yoruba-sung track from Ayo, was named after a Lagos neighborhood and explored Wizkid's experiences and growth against its backdrop. And his public gestures in solidarity with Nigeria go beyond music: Wizkid has joined the throng of young Nigerians in the #EndSARS protest against police brutality, even delaying new music in solidarity with the cause.

But it all comes back to Wizkid's artistry. And with such a rich vein of feeling and expression to mine, why not blow up the concept of hometown pride into an entire album?

From the opening moments of Made in Lagos, it's clear that Wizkid has consolidated his approach, honing his artistry to appeal across oceans and cultures. His lightly Auto-Tuned cadence on "Reckless" is intoxicating, gliding over a shifting rhythm and flecked with saxophone. "Got so many blessings, I dey count all night/ Yeah, starboy make a move, no man take my shine," he sings, seeming grateful for the gift of life.

On "Ginger," Wizkid teams up with Burna Boy, another member of Afrobeats aristocracy, to promise an all-night function, so you don't have to rush: "Say my party no dey stop til the daylight/ Before you run go dey shayo/ Make you think twice/ If na smoke you wan smoke say we dey tight." Other highlights include the acoustic-guitar-inflected "Piece of Me" — featuring English singer/songwriter Ella Mai — and the luxurious, hip-shaking "True Love," a platform for Nigerian performer Tay Iwar and Jamaican artist Projexx.

But the centerpiece is inarguably the steamy love ballad "Essence," featuring a commanding performance from rising Nigerian singer Tems. The song made big waves on its own, but the Bieber-assisted remix rocketed it to global recognition — even making history as the first-ever Nigerian song to hit the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 9. Rolling Stone named "Essence" the best song of 2021, saying it "offered the best vision possible of our eternally shrinking world: at once local and global, intimate and universal."

As a whole, Made in Lagos was a spectacular success — not only did numerous American outlets deem it one of the best albums of 2021, but it debuted on the Spotify Global Album Chart and went on to shatter African streaming records. The Afrobeats scene continues to grow by the day — giants and emerging stars like Olamide, Davido and Joeboy are roaming the landscape. But really, Afrobeats isn't a competition, or a popularity contest — it's a common purpose.

With Made in Lagos, Wizkid didn't merely ask for a spotlight on him — because of its titanic success, the light shines ever brighter on the place that made him. These days, the tectonic plates of pop music have shifted to elevate Nigeria, rendering the country visible from all directions. Because of this conspicuousness, the global music community can band together to celebrate this national fount of musical brilliance. For that, we can all thank Wizkid.

Get To Know The First-Ever Best Global Music Performance Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs

N.W.A Are 'Straight Outta Compton': For The Record

N.W.A's DJ Yella, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

news

N.W.A Are 'Straight Outta Compton': For The Record

What started as an attitude that helped put Compton on the map grew into a worldwide music revolution celebrating the streets

GRAMMYs/Jul 26, 2018 - 11:05 pm

A debut album that landed like a sledgehammer, 1988's Straight Outta Compton has become a legend in its own right. The featured N.W.A lineup was Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and MC Ren. The album was produced by Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, and released on Ruthless Records, the label co-founded by Eazy-E and N.W.A manager Jerry Heller two years before.

Although it sold well initially, its landmark status rested on the controversies surrounding its gangsta lifestyle themes and attitudes. Its provocative tracks described the world N.W.A knew through their own eyes, including the title track, which elevated the group's hometown of Compton, Calif., "Express Yourself" and "Gangsta Gangsta." The album also included "F* Tha Police," which resulted in the FBI and U.S. Secret Service sending threatening letters to Ruthless Records and the group's banishment from many venues.

Credited as one of the most influential hip-hop records of all time, in 2015, Straight Outta Compton the film appeared, dramatizing the 1988 impact of the album, with Ice Cube portrayed by his son O'Shea Jackson Jr. Confrontations with law enforcement and antagonism based on "F* Tha Police" form a core element of both the 2015 drama as well as the drama on the streets that has never stopped.

Among the album's many aftermaths, Eazy-E died in 1995, Ice Cube went on to produce and star in his extensive filmography and the adventures of Dr. Dre touch on many other histories, including those of Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. Meanwhile, in recognition of its critical importance to music history, Straight Outta Compton was inducted into the Recording Academy's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as well as the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

Catching Up On Music News Powered By The Recording Academy Just Got Easier. Have A Google Home Device? "Talk To GRAMMYs"

Everyone's A VIP At Clive Davis' Pre-GRAMMY Gala: From Travis Scott To Jimmy Jam To Brandi Carlile

Travis Scott

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

news

Everyone's A VIP At Clive Davis' Pre-GRAMMY Gala: From Travis Scott To Jimmy Jam To Brandi Carlile

Pass through the velvet rope at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles for an exclusive look at the star-studded 2019 Pre-GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 12:27 am

On Feb. 9, on the eve of Music's Biggest Night, the 61st GRAMMY Awards, artists from across genres and decades gathered at the glitzy Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. for the 2019 Pre-GRAMMY Salute To Industry Icons.

Less than 24 hours before the big red carpet walk today, the likes of current GRAMMY nominees Ella Mai, Dua Lipa, Diplo, Shaggy, Alice Cooper and Weird Al Yankovich, and GRAMMY winners Melissa Etheridge and Quincy Jones, brought their vibrant energy and killer looks at the annual celebration hosted by the Recording Academy and Clive Davis. Onlookers tried to spy the glam looks on the red carpet as they peered into the hotel's glass—we'll let you past the velvet rope and walk it with us as at this exclusive music industry event.

Dua Lipa & Ellie Goulding | Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

This year's who's-who of music gala celebrated iconic industry veteran Clarence Avant, known as the Godfather Of Black Music, as the honoree of the evening. Like event host and fellow legend Davis, he helped launch the careers of many great artists, working with the likes of GRAMMY-winning greats Bill Withers, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis of The Time.

The video celebrating Avant had countless heroes such as Former President Barack Obama, Jones, Diddy and JAY-Z sharing how much they love Avant, the powerful impact he's made on their lives and music, and how he always knows the right thing to say. Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow introduced him with a fitting complement, and a huge one given the company they were in: "You're the ultimate music person." The Time properly brought the funk on stage to celebrate Avant with a performance of their '80s hits "The Bird" and "Jungle Love," dancing as if no time had passed.

Current GRAMMY nominee Travis Scott set the mood opening the evening's performances with "Goosebumps" and "Sicko Mode," while sisters and fellow nominees Chloe x Halle brought home a rousing cover of the late GRAMMY-winning Queen Of Soul Aretha Franklin's "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves." Brandi Carlile, another current GRAMMY nominee, returned to the stage to join the duo, along with past nominee Valerie Simpson and Broadway star Keala Settle, ending the evening on quite the high note.

Chloe x Halle | Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Other musical guests for the evening included current nominees Bebe Rexha, Florida Georgia Line and H.E.R., along with past nominees Jazmine Sullivan and Ledisi, plus GRAMMY winner Rob Thomas. Sullivan and Thomas offered a powerful duet, belting out Aretha and George Michael's "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)."

As the evening rolled on, Davis made sure to highlight all the countless legends in the room, as the crowd continuously burst into applause and often up on their feet to celebrate the likes of music greats Barbara Streisand, George Clinton and Dionne Warwick, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Apple's Tim Cook and even former-L.A. Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Don't forget to tune in to the 2019 GRAMMYs live from Staples Center today. Start with the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. PST/3:30 ET, then follow us to the red carpet at 2:00 p.m. PST/5:00 p.m. ET—both will be live streamed right here on right here on GRAMMY.com.

Then the moment you've all been waiting for, the 61st GRAMMY Awards, hosted by 15-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys, will air live at 5:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. CT on CBS.

GRAMMY Nominees In Their Own Words: Brandi Carlile, H.E.R., Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monaé & More

Burna Boy Wins Best Global Music Album For 'Twice As Tall' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

Burna Boy accepts his 2021 GRAMMY

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

news

Burna Boy Wins Best Global Music Album For 'Twice As Tall' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

The Nigerian powerhouse Burna Boy takes home Best Global Music Album at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2021 - 12:28 am

Burna Boy won Best Global Music Album for Twice As Tall at the Premiere Ceremony of the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. This marks his first career GRAMMY win. They are the first winner of the recently renamed category, formerly known as Best World Music Album. Watch his heart-warming acceptance speech below, given in English and Yoruba.

His album bested fellow nominees AntibalasBebel Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar and Tinariwen

Later, Burna gave a fire performance to close out the Premiere Ceremony, featuring two Twice As Tall tracks—watch it here.

Stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for all things GRAMMY Awards (including the Premiere Ceremony livestream), and make sure to watch the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, airing live on CBS and Paramount+ tonight, Sun., March 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Check out all the complete 2021 GRAMMY Awards show winners and nominees list here.

Watch Burna Boy Slay With Performance Of "Level Up," "Onyeka" & "Ye" At 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony

5 Essential D'Mile Productions: Silk Sonic, H.E.R. & Others
Producer D'Mile

Photo: Monhand Mathurin

interview

5 Essential D'Mile Productions: Silk Sonic, H.E.R. & Others

'An Evening with Silk Sonic' producer D’Mile revisits his career milestones and discusses his blockbuster 2021, which included back-to-back GRAMMY “Song Of The Year” Awards and multiple hit collaborations.

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2022 - 03:02 pm

"He is a genius. I don’t feel like most people realize how much of a genius he actually is" producer D’Mile asserts when thinking back on his most popular project to date with Bruno Mars.

But prior to the formation of Silk Sonic, longtime friend and bandmate Anderson .Paak implored Mars and D’Mile to come together for a session. "Once we realized we were doing a group project, I think it was easy for all of us to know what kind of vibe it was going to be," D'Mile says. 

"Leave The Door Open,'' the GRAMMY-winning product of the trio’s collaboration, became a hit for its groovy R&B bridges and velvety vocal harmonies — and D’Mile’s career skyrocketed. Now, he is a creative backbone behind many top artists, infusing discographies with blues, jazz and neo-R&B, while engineering for Beyoncé, Jay Z, Lupe Fiasco, H.E.R. and others. Long before earning a clutch of awards, D’Mile was disciplined in a musical household.

Dernst Emile II, a.k.a. D'Mile was born to two esteemed Haitian musicians —  vocalist Yanick Étienne and Dernst Emile, an established music arranger and instrumentalist —  with a wide global lineage and appreciation of the music of the African diaspora. Coming up in Brooklyn,  D'Mile learned the piano from his father, and would hear his mother sing jazz and Haitian konpa around the house.

"They would always work together," the 37-year-old music producer bashfully remembers over Zoom, chuckling. "My dad [still] gives private lessons to this day. I was just always around instruments my whole life — the jam and recording sessions. I feel like I am just a younger version of him." 

A young D'Mile inherited the musical aptitude of his parents, nurturing his musical roots while keeping his ear close to the ground as his career blossomed. "One of my first [producer] placements ever was actually Mary J. Blige in 2005," D’Mile reflects bashfully. That single was the title track on Blige’s 2005 album, The Breakthrough, which won the GRAMMY Award for Best R&B Record.  

Nearly two decades into producing music, D’Mile applies artists' personal experiences to the music they create together, tailoring their sounds as a reflection of who they are, at the moment he meets them. "I just do what I know when I feel right in my heart," D’Mile says, shrugging his shoulders. "[But] when I do a collab with an artist, I try to speak to who they are through the music."

That insight, and ability to cohere an artist's essence with contemporary culture, has led to many hit-making moments. After having compulsive thoughts of quitting music over the past decade, D’Mile ignited an artistic flare at the beginning of the pandemic and a plethora of gold-plated accolades was on the horizon. 

From 2020 to 2022, D’Mile experienced highs that accelerated career’s trajectory. At the 2020 GRAMMY Awards, D’Mile received seven nominations for his work on Lucky Daye’s debut album, Painted and H.E.R’s second album, I Used To Know Her. Following the police murder of George Floyd, D'Mile channeled racial tensions into H.E.R.'s "I Can’t Breathe"; the song won the coveted GRAMMY Award for Song Of The Year in 2021. That same year, D'Mile won an Academy Award for Best Original Song ("Fight For You") in the motion picture, Judas and the Black Messiah.

D'Mile's star only continued to rise in 2022. At the 64th GRAMMY Awards, the producer took home three golden gramophones for his work on Silk Sonic's "Leave the Door Open" — including Song and Record Of The Year. A testament to his production expertise and wide-ranging ear, D'Mile was also nominated for his efforts on Christian/Contemporary song "Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)."

"I am not saying my first accomplishments haven’t hit me yet, but it is just unbelievable sometimes to think of all of the good things that have been happening in my career recently," D'Mile reflects.

The Los Angeles-based musician is nourishing the nucleic basis of R&B, creating an environment for upcoming and celebrated artists to rejoice and evolve. The producer shared memories from some of his favorite collaborations with GRAMMY.com. 

Joyce Wrice - Overgrown

Executive produced by D’Mile, Joyce Wrice's 2021 debut album is an exquisite gift to R&B buffs. The bluesy 14-track Overgrown is a delineation of nostalgic 90’s R&B and hip-hop, with pitched vocal highs and emotional lows.

"The first time Joyce and I met in the studio, I was picking up on who she is as a woman and her vision for Overgrown," says D’Mile. "I got close with her and I would gather information off of what she would play me. I feel like when I make music, that's me kind of examining who you are."

Throughout Overgrown, the San Diego native sings about the pains of healing from heartbreak and unrequited love. The album is also a celebration of womanhood, where a confidently independent Wrice embraces the mental strength she discovered while finding herself. 

Buddy - "Happy Hour"

Compton-raised rapper Buddy released his sophomore album, Superghetto, in 2022 and D’Mile produced one of the most popular tracks from the project. "Happy Hour" is an ode to letting loose and treating life as joyously chaotic as ordering a drink at a crowded bar on a weekend night.

"Buddy and I created this song a couple of years ago," D’Mile recalls, thinking deeply about the track's origins. 

The single can be seen as a sequel to T-Pain’s 2007 anthem, "Bartender" — and fittingly so. Adds D'Mile, "T-Pain hopped on the track maybe a few months before it was released. I can’t take credit for getting that feature on the song, but it did make all the sense in the world."

H.E.R’s "Fight For You," "I Can’t Breathe" & I Used To Know Her

In 2021, D’Mile got together with longtime collaborators H.E.R and singerTiara Thomas to create socially-charged songs that highlighted the atrocities of police violence against Black Americans.

"The creation of these songs started with a conversation," D’Mile says, smiling as he reflects on the trio's tight bond. "H.E.R and Tiara were talking about what was going on in the world. H.E.R. is an artist that really cares about people and cares about what's right."

D'Mile recalls that H.E.R. picked up a guitar and played "I Can’t Breathe." "I remember tearing up when I first heard the song and I just knew exactly what I needed to do to help."

The producer also assisted on the tearful tune "Could've Been," which was also born from this session and later appeared on H.E.R’s second LP.

Victoria Monét - Jaguar

D’Mile had his hands in all processes behind the production of Victoria Monét’s debut album, Jaguar. The supersonic 2020 project is a funky unification of fun R&B with sultry pop melodies.

While Monét has penned lyrics for Ariana Grande, Nas, Chris Brown and others, Jaguar was the Georgia native's first full-length foray as a solo artist. The performer, dancer and recent mom is also using D’Mile’s musical compositions on her next album. D'Mile says he's excited for Monét’s next musical chapter, which incorporates her experiences with motherhood and more sass.

"We dug a little deeper. She is an artist that I feel really comfortable with," the producer says of Monét's forthcoming record. "There might be a couple of songs that you wouldn’t expect from her, and then there are songs that are just incredible records."

Silk Sonic - An Evening With Silk Sonic

The breakout group of 2021 were undoubtedly the nostalgically catchy vocal duo Silk Sonic — a project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. D’Mile executive produced the entire An Evening With Silk Sonic album, which swept the 64th GRAMMY Awards.

D’Mile related immensely to Bruno Mars, who is also a producer, and found commonality in .Paak's interest in older R&B originals from the likes of Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder. The stars finally aligned in 2020 when Anderson reached out to D'Mile about a collaboration.

"It took us two years to create the vision and we all just kind of love that era of music [that Silk Sonic is emulating]. That's what we grew up on," D’Mile reminisces. "'Smoking Out the Window' was a song that Bruno and Anderson sat on for five years until the right moment came. It feels like a blur because we were just having so much fun together."

10 Essential Vangelis Albums: Remembering The Electronic Music Pioneer