By Osagie Alonge
After releasing his debut album ‘Superstar’ Ayodeji ‘Wizkid’ Balogun hasn’t looked back. Scoring number one hits, collaborating with international acts, winning world recognized awards and working up his way to A-list status, his nickname ‘Starboy’ might now be looking like an understatement.
In this exclusive interview with NET, the 22-year-old tells us about his experiences performing overseas, working with Akon, Wale, Young Jeezy, and why he feels he’s with the best team.
In one word, describe what the past year has been for you?
Blessing, it has been a blessing.
After the release of your debut album ‘Superstar’, who made decisions to go on tour or travel out of Nigeria?
I feel like everything just happened. It was funny because everything kept on happening, there was nothing we planned for, it was just God. Big shout out to my fans as well because after I released the album, I was getting calls from all over the world for bookings. I could say it’s by my hard work, though. Of course everyone else is working hard, but you just have to have that x-factor, and that’s what has been pushing me on.
Where did you enjoy performing the most, the UK or US?
It was a totally different experience because in the UK, we have a lot of Nigerians living in one community, but in the US people are scattered all over, you have some people staying in New York, Minnesota, New Jersey. That’s the difference. Everywhere I went to, it was a different kind of love, because some people didn’t even think that I would come for the concert, because they felt like ‘why would Wizkid come to Minnesota or some funny place in the United States?’ It was a just a different experience for me.
How was it, working with the likes of Akon, Wale, Kardinal Offishall, The Game and Young Jeezy?
It was crazy, because I was at BET, then I was invited for a dinner. Wale has always been my friend, and [I’m also friends with] Bu, who’s Akon‘s younger brother. He came there with Young Jeezy and introduced me, and that was how I started work with him. When we recorded the first song, everybody loved it, [and] before I knew it The Game came in and heard the song and said he had to jump on it. We booked another session for the next day, then came back and recorded. Chris Brown and every other person came through, and it was a great feeling. I felt blessed.
Do you think not having a specific genre as an artiste has helped you have an edge over Nigerian artistes?
I wouldn’t say I have an edge over all other artistes because everybody has their own talent, but I’ll just say it’s my thing. It’s something God has blessed me with and I have worked very hard with it. It’s not just that I sit down and it comes to me, I try to surf for inspiration, and I think it has really helped me to be the ‘Wizkid’ that I am. People don’t get surprised by what I do, they feel like I can come up with any style, so it has helped me.
So which other international artistes have you worked with that we don’t know of?
I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag because people know almost all the ones I’ve worked with, so I will keep the others a secret till the time comes.
How did you find time to record your forth-coming album while you were busy on tour?
I am a workaholic, I’m a studio rat. In London, after the concerts I went back to the studio to do my thing,. It’s the love for music that keeps me going.
What is the energy behind you recording and performing?
It’s just because I love it. If you love your job then it’s no longer a job. It becomes a part of you. I don’t complain about doing my job, and my fans show me a lot of love.
What do you think is behind all this growth after your first single ‘Holla at your boy‘?
Firstly, it’s God, because everybody works hard, but it’s whom God has blessed that excels. So I just feel he is the one behind all these things happening, and also the fact that I have a solid team behind me handling my business.
What is the difference between when it was just you, Banky W, and Skales in the EME crew, to the new family now?
It was Banky and I even before Skales (Laughs). The dream at that time was to build an empire, bring some artistes, and build them on the same platform. It’s just a dream coming true, and it’s something we have always wished to do. We just made sure we built the empire, [and] I just thank God that everything is working out well. EME has always been about how good you are, not how well dressed you are.
Banky W postponed his album for the team to release the compilation; would you ever take that bullet for the team?
I [also] didn’t release an album this year just because of the EME album. I was supposed to release an album on June 12 this year, [but] I put that aside, which is a big sacrifice for me. For someone that works hard like I do and [has] a lot of materials, yeah, I’ve taken a bullet already (Laughs).
How was the experience recording the EME album?
It was easy. From day one it has always been about ‘what do you have now, let’s put it together and make something crazy.’ So when we were recording the album it was exciting. I’m glad we made it happen.
What does the wizkid brand stand for?
It stands for an ambitious young man who is trying fulfill his dreams. A lot of people come to me and say they want to be like me, I just feel overwhelmed by it and I’m happy and thank God.
Do you feel at the top of your career?
I am not anywhere close right now, I’m just starting. Every day when I wake up in the morning I feel like ‘what am I going to do today?’
You were nominated at the Channel O Awards but didn’t win. How did you feel?
I didn’t feel anyhow, I have gone through a lot of awards that I didn’t win at all, which is no stress for me. My fans still show me love and I have a couple of other awards, so I’m good with it.
Have you turned down any sort of endorsements?
I have turned down a couple of endorsement because the business is not want I want to associate myself with; I’ve got Pepsi right now.
Where did the rumour of you leaving EME come from?
We have heard that news; I guess some people thought of saying something funny.
Why did you part ways with your manager Osagie Osarenkhoe?
It was a business decision, because the brand is growing. She’s still working with a couple of other EME artistes to push their brands. She is still part of the team, we just needed more hands.
How has working with your new manager Godwin Tom been?
It’s been great.