FEBRUARY 19, 2016 6:00 AM By ALEX FRANK
Photo: Courtesy of Wizkid / @wizkidayo
Wizkid is pretty much the biggest thing in Nigerian pop, which itself seems to advance on the global music stage almost as quickly as the country’s economy, one of the fastest growing in the world. He scored a massive smash last year with “Ojuelegba,” an insatiable rags-to-riches hit with a shoulder-shrugging Afrobeat, which inspired Drake to jump on a remix (the two linked up after expressing mutual admiration over Instagram). “Ojuelegba” is prime and perfect Afropop, characterized by a shuffling, whistling charisma, an elegant rhythm, and a message of positivity and parties. It is distinctly Nigerian, yes, but also—in the way that all songs that worm their way around the world are—an inspirational anthem for many.
Wizkid, who at 25 years old already adorns Pepsi ads in his native country, has become almost as known for his trendsetting style as his sound, and his is a thoughtful and fun approach to wardrobe: clean lines and minimalism; a mix of fresh streetwear with traditional Nigerian clothes; and bold, bright accessories. When we Skype, he has paired a tunic tailored in his hometown of Lagos with a loose sweatshirt and big, bulky sneakers, an outfit that epitomizes his blend of the local and universal. In Lagos, he is so famous he can hardly walk around without being mobbed by fans, but in London, where he is currently finishing an EP, he enjoys the relative anonymity the city affords him, particularly because it allows him to partake in one of his favorite hobbies: shopping. Here, we discuss style with one of Africa’s biggest stars.
First thing I notice is you’re wearing Bape—are you a big streetwear-head?
Yeah, I like me some Bape, you know. But I wear anything to be honest. Adyn, Rick Owens, Givenchy, anything. I shop from everywhere. We’re talking with BBCto make clothes for my tour.
What’s the shopping like in Lagos?
I have local tailors out there who make me traditional stuff. So I get material from Lagos, and I have them make me pieces. I mix them up with whatever I wear. I have a whole lot of tailors. The fabrics are from different parts of Nigeria. We have the tie and dye from the western part of Nigeria. We get stuff from the north. I mix it up.
Do you wear a lot of traditional Nigerian clothes?
When I’m back home, all I wear is African fabric. All I really rock is the traditional stuff. That’s the in thing right now. That’s really coming back. Back in the day, our parents used to wear it every day, and they still do, but now it’s cool for wee young ones to wear it. It’s amazing. We’re doing it differently. We’re having it a little bit more fitted. We have styles on it, embroideries and stuff, by local people, made by hand, designed on it.
How would you describe Lagos style?
Lagos style is fresh and different. Even with the tailors, they get very innovative with their stuff, with the cuts. When my parents used to make the traditional wares, it was a little bit baggy. But now the tailors are able to infuse the European style, making it slim-fit. Lagos style is different, man. Innovative.
And tailors are everything in Nigeria.
One hundred percent. The clothes I make back home are
proper—properly fitted. Proper, proper. Tailors are A1 back home.
What’s your process when you get something made for you?
I design everything myself, and I get them to make it. I do a little sketch; sometimes I just sit down with a tailor and describe what I want. Sometimes we go back and forth, like, for days, trying to get it right. Sometimes it’ll take a day to make it, sometimes three, four days. I have a lot of tailors. If I want something made in 12 hours, it will be made in 12 hours.
Now you can get the expensive shit.
We thank God!
I notice that you’re almost never seen without a pair of sunglasses. How many do you own?
Oh, wow. That’s hard for me. I buy sunglasses every time I travel, just pick up a pair at the airport. Ray-Bans are my favorite. They’re ready to go. And I lose them every time. My friends take them away from me, but I love it.
Did I see on Instagram that you met Christian Louboutin?
Yeah! And I have a lot of his shoes. I rock everything from high-end fashion to skateboard stuff. We were just at the store getting some shoes, and he walked in. And I was like, That’s the guy! Like, Oh, you owe me some checks, boss.
What do you like about his shoes?
The shoes are comfortable and fashionable. I can rock them for my shows or just chilling.
I notice you love a bright, colorful shoe.
Well, I’m actually doing white right now. But I like colorful shoes because most of the time I wear black, so I want it to be where my shoes are popping. I’m wearing Harrods shoes right now.
Everything is super-clean with you.
Fresh, fresh, fresh. That’s how I like to keep it. It’s hard for me to wear the same thing twice.
You’re also not afraid to wear really skinny jeans.
No, I’m not afraid to wear skinny jeans! Yeah, I don’t care, man. I rock skinny jeans!
What’s your closet situation like?
It’s mad. I have my little cousins in my house all the time taking my stuff.
Would you ever do your own clothing line?
I’m hoping to release a clothing line after my EP, planned for April. It’s going to be tracksuits, T-shirts, hats, and African attire as well. I’ll have a special line for traditional [clothes] with my tailors. Taking Africa to the world.
It’s important to you to do this for Africa.
Yeah, it’s a lot of responsibility. Even for my T-shirts, I’m having the real African prints used as the design on them. I’m getting them locally made in the villages in Nigeria. The proper, proper materials.
Do you have style icons?
I love Pharrell’s style. It inspires me. It’s not about the brands, you know, it’s how you put them together. Everything he rocks, he makes it look so good.
Tell me a little bit about “Ojuelegba,” the song that made you famous the world over last year when Drake hopped on a remix. What was it about that song that made it so fresh?
We kept it original. The beat—it’s Afrobeat but mellow. And the message behind the song is so powerful and strong. Every African who hears that anywhere in the world is going to be able to relate to it. It’s just me talking about Ojuelegba; it can refer to any hood you are from, any beginning. Now to where I’m at. It’s a song of where I used to be, where I’m at now, and where I want to be. I want to be a positive force. Keep your dreams alive, keep working. It’s a positive vibe. The old and young love it.
Ojuelegba is the name of a neighborhood, right? Why is it important to you to shout out where you’re from?
Ojuelegba is where I grew up. It’s crazy, rough, tough. That’s what built me into what I am today. The streets of Lagos are definitely different from anywhere else in the world. Making it out of there is just madness. You have to experience it. You have kids on the street hawking, just the hustle and bustle. If you stay in the car and drive past Ojuelegba, you will feel the vibe and you will feel the hustle. It’s a very, very, very, very important place to me, because it’s where one of the studios I started recording is [located]. I was there every day of my life for like three, four, five years.
Where do you live now? Are you clubbing? Is Lagos the place to be?
I live in Lekki now. There are new clubs popping up every day. We go to places like Escape, Sip, and it’s madness. December is the craziest time to be in Lagos. I just left there, so I’m pretty exhausted from going hard. Africa is the next thing right now. Talking fashion, music, anything—Africa is on top of all that.
Photo: Courtesy of Wizkid / @wizkidayo
Mailing address: Friends of Nigeria, c/o Warren Keller, PO Box 8032, Berkeley, CA 94707