In his decade-long career, Nigerian superstar Wizkid has risen from the bustling streets of Surulere—home of the late great West African music legend Fela Kuti, too—to take his place on the global world stage. Released late last year, his fourth studio album, Made in Lagos, is his most consistently mature and cohesive yet. Here, the singer tinctures his signature brand of Afrobeats with hints of R&B, pop, and reggae, producing a cocktail of songs that seamlessly traverses cultures. It’s ambient, breezy, everyday music. Commanding and measured, Wizkid’s clearly not the scrappy teenager he was when he first started.
When I catch up with the singer via Zoom at his London apartment, where he has been for the past year, Wizkid admits that the project represented an evolution. “We can make the ‘Soco’s’ and the party songs a billion times, but sometimes I just want to give the people a different type of vibe,” he admits. But it’s not only the singer’s sound that’s become more refined. Wizkid’s style choices have taken a step forward too. There are his famed fashion friendships with Naomi Campbell and Virgil Abloh; his collaborations with such brands as Nike and Puma; the Instagram fan accounts—some over 100k strong—documenting his every fashion move down to the tee. As an image-maker who speaks to millennials, Wizkid is aware that fashion is integral to stardom. “I intentionally spend as much time as I do on the music on my image as well,” he says.
Wizkid’s recent looks have certainly been eye-catching. From the minimalist Japanese workwear he dons on the album’s cover to the glittering white Telfar and Moncler moment of his video for the Burna Boy-assisted “Ginger,” the singer’s clothing tells a story as impactful as his songs. He has Karen Binns, the British creative director who’s worked with the likes of Tori Amos and Kanye West, to thank for shaping the album’s sleek visuals. Her references for Made in Lagos ran the gamut, landing anywhere from David Bowie to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. “The whole record is an endless love story, and I immediately understood what he needed to show when I listened to the album. I started thinking this has got to show the vulnerability of a man,” Binns says.
While Wizkid’s wardrobe might include spiffy tailoring from French fashion houses these days, he hasn’t lost sight of his roots. The singer still swears by his Nigerian tailor, who crafts vibrant traditional attire, known as agbada, to suit his tastes and those of his father, whose dapper style influenced him growing up. “I hope I can also inspire my sons in the same way. I see them try to dress like me sometimes and it’s fun to watch,” says Wizkid, 30, whose three boys are aged 10, 5, and 4.
Recently, Wizkid’s longtime friend Virgil Abloh created an tracksuit for the rapper to celebrate the lush Made in Lagos record. It captures the album’s homecoming message, transposing Nigeria’s green-white-green flag stripes on cloth. “He’s a great guy first of all,” says Wizkid of his designer friend, “and I like the fact that he stays him and he’s not trying to switch up to make people love his shit.”
As part of a new generation of young Nigerian talents speaking truth to power, Wizkid is always repping his hometown in Lagos, whether it be in collaborations with the city’s new vanguard of hitmakers, such as Tems and Tay Iwar, or on social media, where he has spoken out against the injustices faced by young people in his country. For Wizkid, Lagos is more than just home–it’s the place that first embraced him and his sound. “You get inspired by street style and things you see on a day today with people giving their geles [headwraps] from different angles and their agabadas,” he says, pausing then smiling broadly. “The style in Lagos is just top notch!”