It’s when the instrumental on Blessed opens, all smooth on the saxophone and clean chords, that I knew WizKid had done it. I can’t say I anticipated a body of work of this calibre from the Lagos native. Though the under-appreciated project he dropped back in 2019, ‘SoundMan Vol. 1,’ is certainly indicative of the sound that travels through the seams of ‘Made In Lagos.’ Tracks like Jam ft. Chronixx, Blow ft. Blaq Jerzee and Electric ft. London are infused with Reggae and RnB in what feels like an attempt at finding new pockets within Afroswing. In ‘Made In Lagos,’ these attempts mature this sound to a point of complete ownership.
WizKid manages to create a seamless project without going down the expected path of matching the melody at the end of one record to the beginning of the next. Each song flows into the next, a testament to intentional sequencing gone so right that it would have one believe he recorded the project in order. Reckless, the talking drum & saxophone filled album opener, sets the tone for the rest of the project without revealing to us everything it has to offer immediately. Followed by the anticipated collaboration with the African Giant himself, Ginger, a record that sounds exactly like what one would imagine a collaboration between Nigeria’s two biggest artists would. Lazy in it’s confidence and yet so rich in melody that a spiritual feeling fills the room immediately. The song kicks up the key at around 2:46 in typical Burna Boy fashion, building into something that feels so big and freeing.
Skepta makes his appearance on what is probably the most upbeat record on the project, his contribution on Longtime is both predictable and effective; complementing Wizkid’s simple delivery and lyricism. Ella Mai also delivers the chorus in Piece Of Me very comfortably, although what she brings verges on repetitive. Wiz Kid’s verses break up the song creating something really breathable in feel.
All the features compliment both the sexiness and maturity Wiz approaches this project with, however Tems’ contribution to the stunning Essence makes the record arguably one of the most memorable. Along with Damien Marley’s exceptional opening to what is possibly my favourite song on the project Blessed; both feature artists find ways to have their respective songs stand out from the rest.
Wiz and Damien take turns speaking positive affirmations about their lives and thanking God for their children, leaving you with the feeling of an answered prayer: light, giddy & grateful. Tems joins the track clearly ready to prove a point. The confidence seeps through her vocals with the unique tone I’ve come to love and as she sings, “You don’t need no other body,” in the hook, I can’t help but fall in love with it.
Even within the sea of featuring acts, Wizkid manages to stand strong on his own on records like the aptly named Mighty Wine, which seduces the listener with a ridiculously sexy saxophone in the background and sensual lyrics emphasising exactly what this record is made for. Wiz goes on to flex his cadence on the hit single No Stress, an underrated favourite of mine, as it sits at the heart of the album. With the brief sample from Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’, the song feels exactly like it’s title.
Then there’s True Love produced by the one and only Juls who sets the bar very high where layering quality is concerned. The high hats sit comfortably on a quiet bass and the ever present saxophone; I’m blown away by his talent for the craft. This record is only further elevated by Tay Iwar and Projexx putting their entire foot into the delivery of their respective verses.
‘Made In Lagos’ runs the risk of being monotone, depending on how you choose to look at things. I would argue that every song brings something individual, however that individuality isn’t always riveting, with songs like Sweet One and Roma fading a little bit into the background at times. However, this feeling is brief and quickly rectified with a perfect length at 14 songs; any more, and boredom may have been given room to settle. The closing number Grace is appropriately placed at the end, during which Wiz speaks about his journey and the things he feels are important to him. It’s laid back, simple and ties a bow around the project, making up in lyrical content where it lacks melodically in comparison to stronger records.
I think how you end up feeling about Made In Lagos vastly depends on the way you prefer your WizKid. If you like him staying within the lines of what defines Afrobeats as a genre, similar to his debut ‘Superstar’ or the critically acclaimed ‘Ayo,’ then you are likely to be mildly disappointed. This album is different and the title may prove to be slightly misleading in that sense. However if you have grown to fall in love with the artist WizKid has evolved into, a fusion of cultures without directly relying on one inspiration more than the other, this album is perfect. You hear him consistently choose to take the time to explore depth over range, and through this we learn that WizKid has clearly found a sound he’s comfortable enough to to spend time perfecting.