Life and music career

1990–2010: Early life and career beginnings

Wizkid was born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun on 16 July 1990, in Surulere, Lagos. He grew up in an interfaith household with twelve female siblings. His mother is a Pentecostal Christian and his father practices Islam. 

Wizkid attended Ijebu Ode Grammar School. He grew up listening to King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti and Bob Marley. In a radio interview with Tim Westwood in 2012, he said his father has three wives. In another interview with Adesope of Factory 78 TV, Wizkid said he formed a group called the Glorious Five with a couple of his church friends. They managed to release an album prior to disbanding.

Wizkid went by the stage name Lil Prinz until 2006. He later met OJB Jezreel, a record producer who prevented him from recording for a year. While visiting OJB’s Point Beat Studios frequently, he watched 2 Face Idibia record songs for his Grass 2 Grace album. He was also present during the recording sessions for Sound Sultan’s debut album Jagbajantis. He cited Naeto C as one of the people who mentored and coached him when he was 15 years old. Wizkid inked a record deal with Empire Mates Entertainment in 2009.

He co-wrote “Omoge You Too Much”, a song from Banky W.’s The W Experience album. He also worked with Naeto C, Ikechukwu and M.I while developing his craft. In mid-2009, he dropped out of Lagos State University (LASU). He later attended Lead City University, but dropped out after completing two sessions.

2010–2011: Superstar

Wizkid began recording his debut studio album Superstar in 2009. He released “Holla at Your Boy” as the album’s lead single on 2 January 2010. The song nominated for Best Pop Single but earned him the Next Rated award at The Headies 2011. In addition to winning the award, he was awarded a 2012 Hyundai Sonata courtesy of the organizers. Its music video was nominated for Most Gifted Newcomer Video at the 2011 Channel O Music Video Awards.

On 2 April 2010, Wizkid released “Tease Me/Bad Guys” as the album’s second single. It was initially released as a freestyle rap. “Don’t Dull”, the album’s third single, was released on 6 December 2010. Superstar was recorded in English and Yoruba. It was released on 12 June 2011, by Empire Mates Entertainment. The album incorporates elements of Afrobeats, R&B, dancehall and reggae.

While working on Superstar, Wizkid collaborated with record producers such as E-Kelly, Jay Sleek, Shizzi, DJ Klem, Masterkraft, Q-Beats and Samklef. The album features guest appearances from Banky W., Skales, D’Prince and Wande Coal. It was initially scheduled for release on 14 February 2011, but was later pushed back. 

On 12 June 2011, Wizkid hosted a launch party for the album at the Expo Hall of the Eko Hotel and Suites. The launch party featured performances from Banky W, Skales, 2face Idibia, Samklef, Wande Coal, D’Prince, Olamide, eLDee, Jesse Jagz, Ice Prince, Lynxxx and Seyi Shay. Superstar garnered Best Album of the Year at the 2012 Nigeria Entertainment Awards, and was nominated for Album of the Year at The Headies 2012.

2012–2014: E.M.E tour, Ayo and other recordings

Wizkid toured London in 2012 and performed at the HMV Apollo on 4 June 2012. He worked with Banky W., Skales, Shaydee and Niyola to record E.M.E’s compilation album Empire Mates State of Mind (2012). Following the album’s release, E.M.E acts toured the United States. The tour kicked off in July and ended in September 2012. EME acts performed in several cities, including Houston, Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York City, Providence, Calgary, Atlanta, Washington DC and Chicago. On 12 November 2012, Wizkid performed at the BBC Radio 1Xtra Live 02 Academy in Brixton alongside Trey Songz, Tulisa, Kendrick Lamar and Angel.

Between 2012 and 2014, Wizkid recorded his second studio album Ayo. It features guest appearances from Femi Kuti, Banky W., Seyi Shay, Phyno, Tyga, Akon and Wale. The album’s production was handled by Sarz, Shizzi, Uhuru, Del B, Dokta Frabz, Maleek Berry, Legendury Beatz and Spellz. It was initially titled Chosen. According to MTV Base, the album suffered from a pushed back release date. It was reported earlier that the album would feature Don Jazzy, Efya and Olamide. 

On 6 September 2014, Wizkid revealed the album’s cover art and track listing. Prior to announcing plans for a second studio album, Wizkid had plans to release a mixtape in April 2013. In an interview with Ok!Nigeria TV at Disturbing Headquarters in London, he said the mixtape would be released in April.

He also said it would feature Wale and Tinie Tempah. Wizkid later announced that he would be releasing his second studio album on 12 June 2013. In an interview with HipTV, Banky W revealed the album’s title and commented on the albums delay. He also gave an estimated time-frame for the album’s release.

On 2 May 2013, Wizkid released the album’s lead single “Jaiye Jaiye”. It features Grammy-nominated Nigerian musician Femi Kuti. Wizkid told Showtime Celebrity he collaborated with Femi Kuti to prevent people from depicting him as an artist whose lyrics revolve around girls, cars and materialistic things. 

On 17 October 2013, he performed at the 2013 edition of Felabration, a yearly concert dedicated to Fela Kuti. The Del B-produced “On Top Your Matter” was released as the album’s second single on 26 October 2013. The song’s music video directed and shot in South Africa by Sesan. On 2 November 2013, Wizkid performed at the Guinness Colorful World of More concert alongside D’banj, Tiwa Savage, P-Square, Davido, Ice Prince, Burna Boy, Olamide and Phyno. The concert took place at the Eko Convention Centre in the Eko Hotels and Suites. On 23 November 2013, he performed at the Guinness Big Eruption Concert in Accra, Ghana.

In February 2014, Wizkid became the first Nigerian musician to have over one million followers on Twitter. In July 2014, Wizkid visited The Beat 99.9 FM studio in Lagos and told Toolz he had collaborated with Barbadian singer Rihanna. Wizkid was invited as a special guest for some shows on Tinie Tempah’s tour of the UK in 2014.

2015–2019: “One Dance”, Sounds from the Other Side and Soundman Vol. 1

Wizkid was involved in the writing and production of Drake’s “One Dance”

On 5 January 2015, Wizkid released the music video for “Ojuelegba”, a song that highlights the struggles he endured in the early years of his recording career. 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 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” at Brown’s concert in Durban, South Africa. 

Wizkid released “Expensive Shit”, an Afrobeats song built on light guitars, saxophone lines and acoustic percussion in May 2015; the song was reported as being a likely inclusion on the album. In July 2015, Wizkid announced on Twitter that Angélique Kidjo would be featured on the album. In September 2015, he said he was dropping his EP and postponing the release of his third studio album. He made this announcement on Instagram shortly after the conclusion of 2Face Idibia’s Fortified tribute concert.

On 5 April 2016, Wizkid became Nigeria’s first artist to be listed on Billboards Twitter Last 24 hours chart, following his guest feature on Drake’s Afrobeats-infused “One Dance” single, which charted at number 21. On 12 May 2016, the song reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it kept for 10 non-consecutive weeks. “One Dance” went on to become an international smash hit, topping the charts in 15 different countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France and Germany. The single became Wizkid’s first number-one single as a featured artist in these territories.

Wizkid released the promotional single “Like This” on 5 June. The song premiered on Drake’s OVO Sound Radio the same month. It was produced by Amsterdam-based Ghanaian producer DJ Henry X. Pitchfork writer Sheldon Pearce said the song is a “frolicking, summery jam that revels in all the work he [Wizkid]’s put in.” In May 2015, Wizkid joined Chris Brown on his “One Hell of a Nite” world tour.

He signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records in March 2017. Wizkid released his third studio album Sounds from the Other Side on 14 July 2017. Primarily a Caribbean-influenced record, SFTOS encompasses several other genres, including Afrobeats, EDM, R&B, and house. The album features guest appearances from Drake, Major Lazer, Chris Brown, Ty Dolla Sign, Efya, Bucie and Trey Songz. Its production was handled by Sarz, Del B, Spellz, Dre Skull, DJ Mustard, Major Lazer, and the Picard Brothers.

The album was made available for purchase and online streaming on several music platforms, including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer and Google Play. SFTOS debuted at number 107 on the US Billboard 200. It also debuted at number 58 on the Canadian Albums Chart. The album’s release was preceded by three singles: “Daddy Yo” featuring Efya, “Sweet Love”, and “Come Closer” featuring Drake. “African Bad Gyal” was released alongside the pre-order for the album on 9 June 2017, and “Naughty Ride” was released as a promotional track on 23 June 2017.

Wizkid became the first Afrobeats artist to appear in the 2018 Guinness World Records for his contribution to “One Dance”.

On 6 December 2019, Wizkid’s label Starboy Entertainment released the EP Soundman Vol. 1, centering mainly on Wizkid, and containing features from Chronixx, and a variety of other artists.

Endorsements

In 2012, Wizkid signed a one-year endorsement deal with Pepsi reportedly worth $350,000 U.S. He travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, with Tiwa Savage for a Pepsi commercial shoot. On 28 May 2013, Premium Times reported that Wizkid had signed a one-year deal with MTN Nigeria. The newspaper also reported that Wizkid’s Pepsi contract was renewed for two more years. 

In November 2013, Wizkid signed an endorsement deal with Guinness for the Guinness World of More concert, held at the Eko Convention Centre of the Eko Hotel and Suites on Victoria Island, Lagos. In June 2015, Pulse Nigeria reported that Wizkid had ditched MTN and signed a ₦128 million deal with GLO.

Record label and contract

Empire Mates Entertainment

In February 2013, Wizkid tweeted a subliminal message and tweaked his Twitter account. He also moved out of the E.M.E mansion in Lagos and acquired his own home in the Lekki Phase 1 area. Prior to Wizkid’s subliminal tweets, Banky W pacified fans by assuring them that nothing was amiss.

Furthermore, it was reported that troubles within E.M.E began as early as the E.M.E All Stars concert in 2012. It was also reported that money was at the centre of the controversy. On 30 April 2013, Nigerian Entertainment Today reported that Wizkid and E.M.E had reunited after contract negotiations. Wizkid departed E.M.E following the release of his second studio album and the expiration of his five-year contract. In a video interview with Capital Xtra in October 2019, Wizkid said he left E.M.E without any money.

Starboy Entertainment

The logo of Wizkid’s Starboy Entertainment imprint.

Wizkid established his label imprint Starboy Entertainment in March 2013. He revealed to Yvonne Ekwere of Silverbird Television that he planned on signing new acts to the label. In an interview with Showtime Celebrity, he said he had established his own record label to give up-and-coming artists a platform to showcase their talent. In April 2013, Wizkid signed Maleek Berry and Legendury Beatz to his imprint. His work credits with the Berry include “Lagos to Soweto” and “The Matter”. 

In May 2013, he unveiled photos of himself with the two musicians. Wizkid debuted the music video for “Caro” and announced the signing of L.A.X in August 2013. On 7 May 2016, Wizkid announced the signings of Efya, R2Bees, and Mr Eazi; he made the announcement following his performance at the 17th edition of the Ghana Music Awards. In 2018, Wizkid sign Terri into Starboy Entertainment, he made the announcement via his Twitter account. Wizkid has finally announced the 16th of July 2020 as the release date for his long-awaited “Made In Lagos” album.

Personal life

Wizkid has three male children with three different women.

Fatherhood controversy

In August 2011, Nigerian Entertainment Today reported Wizkid fathered his first child at the age of 21. After a thorough investigation, the newspaper concluded Wizkid impregnated then-undergraduate student Sola Ogudugu. When the story broke, close friends and associates of Wizkid did not confirm it because DNA results were pending at the time. 

Wizkid broke his silence on the story during several interviews. In an interview with a Nigerian Entertainment Today editor, he denied having a child. In another interview conducted in Ogudu-GRA, Lagos, he said he really did not want to find himself in that peculiar situation. In December 2012, Wizkid denied the baby scandal during an interview with Nonye Ben-Nwankwo of The Punch. In October 2013, he uploaded a picture of himself and his 2-year-old son, Boluwatife Balogun, to his Instagram account. The photo confirmed the 2011 report published by Nigerian Entertainment Today.

Feuds

Wizkid became engulfed in battles on Twitter with several artists, including his erstwhile boss Banky W and former label mate Skales. Other artists include Davido, Dammy Krane, Saeon, Tonto Dikeh, Samklef and blogger Linda Ikeji.

Fashion style

In an interview with Alex Frank of Vogue magazine in February 2015, Wizkid said he wears a mixture of street wear and traditional Nigerian clothes. He cited Pharrell Williams as one of his fashion style icons. Moreover, he revealed plans to establish a clothing line following the release of Sounds from the Other Side.

Awards and nominations

Wizkid’s contributions to the Nigerian music industry have earned him several achievements. He received an ASCAP plaque for his songwriting contributions to Drake’s “One Dance”.

Discography

Main article: Wizkid discography

Studio albums

  • Superstar (2011)
  • Ayo (2014)
  • Sounds from the Other Side (2017)

Compilation albums and EPs

  • Empire Mates State of Mind (with EME) (2012)
  • Soundman Vol. 1 (2019)

Notes

Wizkid began his singing career when he was 11 years old, in 2001. He recorded his first song with OJB Jezreel and also recorded a 7-track album under the stage name Lil Prinz.

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