MIL OR Made For Lagos – Ayodeji Balogun’s Ticket To Global Dominance?
The past few weeks since Wizkid’s Made In Lagos album release have been a mind bender for the global music industry as well as a conversation starter in the local music space.
For the enlightened music critic, the album is in one sentence ‘a cohesive single note music guide’.
Without mincing words, MIL lectures you on every strong music standing, from the lyrics, down to the sound offering, attitude, confidence, technicality, and pure sensuality.
On the other hand, to the closed-eye, enthusiastic Afrobeat curator, MIL is a tad to harsh on the already bottom-hugging IQ.
Wizkid’s probably given Africa it’s boldest intro to any album with his RECKLESS lines.
A sneer at his doomsayers and a stern rebuke, confirming that it’ll be disastrous to wish for his downfall.
He brags profusely with “I no dey give any man more than he deserves, cause they still dey bite the hand wey dey feed them”.
These are the words of a man accustomed to being revered, and who surely expects nothing less.
Ayodeji goes on to give a braggadocio account of his lifestyle, the self acclaimed winner continually stunting on his naysayers.
As much as he revels his glory as an Afrobeat frontliner, he touches briefly on the importance of his close family. Ayodeji Balogun is clearly an unrepentant loner who’s confident in his art.
GINGER is an interesting attempt to create a vibe that resonates with Afrobeat fanatics, a costly mistake.
One that contributes to an early backlash but turns out an effective tempo-setting track in the currently fast-paced Zanku dominated Afrobeats headquarters.
Here’s what lecturer Wizkid implied; You can still make a Zanku hit by substituting all the noise and violence with groovy Jamaican-Afrobeat blends and the exhausting background explosions of Founder, Zlatan with impeccable sound and a very supportive and obedient Burna.
He toasts his girl in the typical proud manner of the Yoruba demon, lyrics designed to bring out the devil in both sexes. Ayodeji doesn’t pretend not to be a bad boy, he just wants his girl to give him the bad girl vibes right back.
“See my party no dey stop till the daylight, before you run go dey shayo make you think twice, if na smoke you wan smoke see we dey tight, omo malo go, see we live nice.”
He also gives her a bit of cautionary advice, telling her not to do too much alcohol, which is a pretty sensitive advice to slot in within the song. It is subtle advice for ladies while chilling with adult men, the vibe may be going quite smooth and enjoyable, but it makes more sense to not get too intoxicated. However, for ladies who prefer smoking to alcohol, Daddy Yo has got them completely covered.
LONGTIME is an attempt to recreate a classic collaboration; Bad Energy, because what is success if it cannot be replicated. Already, much of Wizkid’s international success can be credited to his long-time friendship with Skepta, a friendship which has seen him earn the 12th Biggest Song in the world of 2015 according to The Fader with One Dance a track which features Drake and Skepta.
Wizkid and Skepta’s groovy feel good track, Bad Energy was one of the biggest collaborations out of Africa in 2019. It was a classic hit both here in Nigeria and in the United Kingdom and it was testament to the incredible chemistry between these two phenomenal artistes.
Long time’s hook is beautiful, this is Ayodeji having another lover’s tryst with his long-time partner. He gives a smooth account of what happens in relationships that are built on genuine love.
“She say, Badman you make me feel so fine, fine, fine o, Every likkle wine, seen a perfect wine, wine, wine, Nobody fine pass you tonight, night, night, Say na me and you go dey till we get no time o”
For someone who’s gone through so many backlashes on social media for his lack of lyrics, Ayodeji Balogun is definitely giving your favorite lyricists out of Africa a run for their money on MIL. Although his lines are not so sophisticated, he understands just how to drive his point home; no matter what he’s talking about.
On MIGHTY WINE, Wizkid’s beginning to show his musical dexterity and knowledge of sound. He makes an astonishing statement with his ability to create vocally-competitive tracks like Mighty Wine without doing anything extra aside from being himself.
He gets increasingly comfortable on the track, as it progresses, coaxing and guiding his lady to bless him with her widely acclaimed mighty wine. This time, his lover is an exceptional dancer and he wants a taste of the experience.
Already, Wizkid hosts an impressive catalogue of saxophone-laced hits, an instrument which has unofficially become one of the most influential in Afrobeats as it was one of Fela’s favourite while he was alive. BLESSED is a classic jam with a sprinkle of Damian Marley genius at the heart of it, dishing out some raw, lyrics that’ll have you appreciating God for his blessings.
Ayodeji Balogun has always been very appreciative of the shot he got to stardom, not only to everyone who’s contributed to his journey but also to God, who he believes is the reason why he’s got so much. For someone who boldly warns his naysayers to get off his case on the intro to this 14-track rendition, he’s found a sonically pleasing way to make God happy once again.
Blessed isn’t just a great track, it is a strategy; and a pretty smart one at that.
It is very important to note that while Afrobeats is arguably the fastest-rising music industry in the last decade, the chances of getting a certified global hit may still be slim because of varying factors such as the dominant pidgin lingo, and the current audience base. However, songs like Blessed give you an edge, given that they tackle universal concepts and is rendered primarily in the English language.
Blessed is one of the few thematic songs on the album, and armed with Damian Marley to validate its penetration of a wider audience range, the sky is just the beginning.
SMILE is another impressive collaboration, a heartfelt rendition that gives a proper insight into the power of a smile. It is a powerful collaborative effort with H.E.R and shows off Wizkid’s ability to render vocally tasking songs without any issues. Like other tracks on the album, Smile is equally dedicated to a phenomenal woman, one that Ayodeji is willing to do anything to feel her love.
“I could be your substance, It’s easy when the love don’t hide, No, I Had to learn from my mistakes, Company creates companions”
Wizkid’s deep love lines can only draw inspirations from personal experience. They can be the most relatable lines, and they portray him as the typical Yoruba unrepentant playboy.
Smile is preceded by PIECE OF ME; an equally slow-paced but powerful rendition of a love tale between two lovers who’re getting intense and trying to figure out the best way to make love without hurting one another. The chemistry between Wizkid and Ella Mai is pretty obvious, and for the first time in the album, someone else is taking the lead on the story telling, leaving Ayodeji to enjoy himself.
It’s a short piece, but one that is definitely targeted at keeping lovers engaged for a long time to come. He’s laid back on this track while his girl asks him to take a piece of her.
NO STRESS, on the other hand, is Wizkid recounting his experiences in the hands of a particularly sweet lady without any baggage. It is no news that dealing with women, especially in this part of the world, can be a handful. But when you meet a lady who’s got no stress, everything simple smoothens out.
His girl in this case is an independent, strong woman who can take care of herself and her needs. She just wants some love, which is everything he has to offer and he’s willing to give more than enough as long as nothing more is expected of him as he doesn’t wants no stress.
TRUE LOVE is probably the richest song on the album when it comes to lyrics. Wiz features alte-gang poster boy and talented artiste; Tay Iwar and Projexx on this powerful record.
From the collaborations that Wizkid made on this album, it is apparent that serious research has gone into the preparation for the album. Tay Iwar is your alte go-to when it comes to deep, raunchy, love-inspired records and Wizkid definitely used that to his advantage on MIL. A lot of work has gone into the production of the record, and you can taste the perfect delicacy of Jamaican goodness and Afrobeat genius in a body of work.
ESSENCE almost got kicked out of the album, if not for an early leak that made Wizkid and his team work on a reshuffle and brought the single back on the project. Tems is an astonishing Nigerian singer and record producer with a decent amount of self-produced hits since she made her way into the industry.
Essence is another seductive piece that is powerful enough to spark relationship rumours between the duo if a video is shot for the track, but equally lazy enough to suggest that it is nothing more than music chemistry.
After giving the project multiple plays both in the real world and in the dream world, it is safe to say that Essence is the last powerful record on the project. Although other tracks like ROMA with Terri, GYRATE and GRACE are all beautiful records and are present to guide the project to the end, they’re simply decent songs meant to keep the album enjoyable and not particularly adding any cultural, or thematic value to the rest of the project aside from GRACE which is an equally universal subject.
As far as sound is concerned, Ayodeji Balogun wasn’t joking when he revealed that he dedicated three years to curating the right sound for his project. Although the project is considerably made up of single-note records, Ayodeji places a premium on his sonic offering.
Every record on Made In Lagos was created with just one thing in mind, Target Experiences. It’s an album that already shows the potential to give you unending goose bumps but what makes it really stand out is the sensuality of the beats. Prior to and after the release of the album, Wizkid has given more than enough accolades for his work on the project, P2J, a U.K based record producer.
The Made In Lagos project is so special that you do not need to hear Wizkid’s voice on a track to get sexually turned on, especially on powerful tracks like Piece of Me, Mighty Wine and True Love.
Although Wizkid has never advertised himself as Nigeria’s most prominent cross over artiste, this project establishes him as one of Africa’s most brilliant music export. He’s not just made music that introduces Afrobeats as a premium music offering, he is consciously shaping the Nigerian and African narrative with his projects, one song at a time.
Another impressive stride by Wizkid with MIL is his cognisance of the emerging audience structure in Afrobeats. Whether current players admit it or not, at the moment, there is no individual musician that can make music for all audience demography within the country. With the emergence of younger stars like Rema and Fireboy, it is increasingly hard for industry giants like Wizkid and Davido to hold everyone spellbound with their songs like in the past.
In time they would have to evolve, and let go of some of their core fans especially the younger ones for the emerging Afrobeats stars.
Ayodeji‘s understanding of this fact is seen in how he has made an album strictly targeted at young adults. In 2010, his release of Superstar helped to create a younger fanbase for African musicians, ten years later, that demography is no longer young anymore and he’s evolved just as much as his audience.
Made in Lagos was made with his core fans, good music and technicality in mind. This isn’t just someone cooking up some records and creating music for the sole purpose of hit bangers.
Ayodeji has offered Afrobeats the genuine rebirth that it seeks. Heavy is the head that wears the crown; and MIL is testament to the fact that the best albums don’t necessarily need to house the biggest names in the world.
He understands the point of conscious beauty in any project, and Wizkid makes an attempt to not just make music, but also introduce a product that’s aesthetically pleasing to the body and soul.
Good Content Will Always Sell Itself.
Ayodeji Balogun earns an impressive 8.2/10 for Made in Lagos. Here are the criteria that earn him the privilege in no specific order.
Sounds ‘Connoisseuring’ – 8/10
Lyrical Dexterity – 7.5/10
Technique – 7/10
Collaborations – 8/10
Aesthetics – 8/10
Written By – Bisi-Taiwo Chukwumerije