“I“n July 2010, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook had exceeded over 500million users. Similarly, in 2009, media reports showed You Tube had surpassed over 100million users, and registered billions of page views per day. Currently, statistics on Twitter users show the social network has over 22million users, with an average of 10-15million active users.
As phenomenal as the aforementioned numbers are, the bigger phenomenon has been the ability of many, especially child/young stars in the West and Asia, to use social media networking sites to propel themselves and their careers to the top. From Canada’s Justin Beiber to the Phillipines’s Charice Pempengco, young stars have leveraged social media to amass a huge fan base and rake in millions of dollars in revenue.
In contrast, Africa has had a harder time producing young talents who have been able to leverage social media to help take their careers to the top. The challenge for Africa is partly due to the fact that age has been a big obstacle for young talents to break into Africa’s music industries, much less think to leverage social media.
Enter Ayodeji Balogun aka Wizkid whose entrance on Africa’s music scene is stirring things up and creating a path for future young stars to follow. Wizkid, often compared to Justin Bieber is creating a big movement on and offline.
At age eleven (11), Wizkid whose love for music began in his church choir, recorded a song with one of Nigeria’s music icon OJB Jezreel. His recording with OJB Jezreel gave him the push and initial name recognition he needed to subsequently record an EP with seven tracks which he released in his church in Lagos. In 2006, with much support from his family, friends and local fan base, the young artist formerly known as Lil’ Prinz changed his name to Wizkid and pushed even harder. He became a “studio rat” as he calls it and in Nigeria’s emerging music industry, got to rub shoulders with some of the top names in the business stopping to take notes from notables like Ruffman, Naeto C and Ikechukwu aka Killz.
By 2008, all of his hard work and efforts began to pay off. Wizkid found his own distinctive music identity and voice and collaborated and with even more prominent artists in Nigeria. Wizkid closed out 2008 with a bang when he collaborated with one of Nigeria’s foremost rappers M.I on M.I’s “Fast Money, Fast Cars” on M.I’s “Talk About It album.” His style caught the attention of thousands including the savvy musician and business man Banky W.
In 2009, Banky W made one the of smartest business moves in Nigeria’s music industry by signing Wizkid to his record label, Empire Mates Entertainment. The rest, as they say, has been history. Through it all, Wizkid continued to develop his audience through social media, among many mediums, and today boasts a following most artists, established and emerging, would die for. The young artist who is currently a Sociology major at Lagos State University recently released his Freshman album ‘Superstar.’ He also took time out of his very busy schedule to grant this exclusive interview to Ladybrille’s Elfonnie Inokon. “Wizzy” shares with Ms. Inokon a lot about his career, girls and of course, social media. Enjoy!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Hi Wizkid, how are you?!
Wiz Kid: I’m very well thank you.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: We are delighted to have you feature on Ladybrille Magazine. You’ve been quite busy haven’t you?
Wiz Kid: Yes. It’s been a little hectic following the release of (my) album. We thank God.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: We are looking forward to a delightful time with you but before we get to the gist of it all, introduce yourself. Tell us a little about yourself, who is Wizkid?
Wiz Kid: My real name is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun. I turned 21 on the 16th of July this year (2011). I’m from Ogun state. The last child and only boy in a family of 6. I’m a performing artist and a student.
LADYBRILLEMag.com: We see all the ladies and their crushes on you. Who was that beautiful girl in the “Holla at your boy” video?
Wiz Kid: Sophia Ramal, my friend, she’s also a model.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Are you two dating?
Wiz Kid: No we are not, we are just friends
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Speaking of crush, who was your first crush?
Wiz Kid: hmmm…my first crush was some girl I knew when I was very much younger. (Smiles)
WIZ KID, SUPERSTAR ON THE RISE
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Laughs) (You are not telling) Okay, let’s talk music! When and how did you first discover that you have a talent for music?
Wiz Kid: I grew up listening to lots of songs and discovered I could sing for real like when I was 8.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: We know you have told this story to many in (Africa) and the UK. But for our USA audience, tell us how you got your break into the Nigeria’s music industry?
Wiz Kid: I think it all started building up from when M.I featured me on ‘Fast money fast cars’, one of the songs off his ‘Talk about it’ album. I eventually got a deal with EME and started working with Banky W. (Smiles) and then my first single ‘Holla at Your Boy’ dropped and that was it….
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You just had a major album launch and your family came out to support you. Have they always been supportive of your music career ambitions?
Wiz Kid: Initially, my family didn’t get why I’d rather do music over everything else, my dad especially. [T]hey tried to get me to focus strictly on school and stop singing but eventually they heard my songs and fell in love with my music
LADYBRILLEmag.com: One of the influential mentors in your life that you have shared with the press, over time, has been your label executive/boss Banky W. (Tell us about that relationship?)
Wiz Kid: I respect Banky W so much. It’s hard to find someone who is as focused, committed and loyal as he is.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Your success seems overnight. What do you think it is about you that has made you emerge from the thick crowd of upcoming artists to become such a sensation in such short period of time?
Wiz Kid: I believe it’s been a combination of efforts from me, my management and label; and the grace of God.
WIZ KID ON THE — USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA & SUCCESS IN MUSIC
LADYBRILLEmag.com: In 2009 you got signed to EME records and we are not through with 2011 and you already have over 225,000 devoted fans on facebook and about 60,000 followers on Twitter which are pretty impressive numbers for a new artist. Many established artist within and outside Africa can’t even boast of such numbers. Would you say that social media/networks have helped in boosting your career and success?
Wiz Kid: Yes it has. . .social networks have given me access and a platform to relate with my fans in and out of Nigeria. It has also helped me share my music.
LADYBRILLEmag.COM: For a lot of Ladybrille artists who will read this, tell them how you have used social media (twitter, facebook etc.) to build your brand within Nigeria, across Africa and now globally?
Wiz Kid: I (relate with my fans). I put my singles up for free download and share the links as far and as much as I could online.
LADYBRILEmag.com: How would you describe the Wizkid personal brand or the “Wizkid Superstar” brand as you are popularly referred to?
Wiz Kid: Wizkid is just a young kid trying to make a difference out there.
LADYBRILLEmag.con: You are still so young. Does this get overwhelming sometimes? How are you handling fame and all that comes with it; money, girls and let’s just say all the unavoidable temptations? (Laughs)
Wiz Kid: I can’t lie it gets overwhelming ohh…but na God ohhh
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Your fan base is quite diverse, ranging from young ladies who simply love your “swag” “Mr Holla at your boy” to young men who enjoy the energy your music brings to the dance floors. How do you manage to cater to your diverse fan base?
Wiz Kid: Through my music. . .I try to make music that everyone can enjoy, no matter your background. If you listen to the album, there’s a song for everybody.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: We believe it is important for artists, themselves, to connect with their fans, especially through social media. Do you personally communicate with your fans through social networks/media or do you have someone who does this for you?
Wiz Kid: I handle my Twitter account myself and my management helps coordinate the Facebook fan page and other media.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Got it. You know Ladybrille is big on fashion. How would you describe your personal style?
Wiz Kid: Casual and simple.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Some people have tagged you the “Nigerian Justin Beiber.” Justin Beiber found fame through You Tube. What do you think about that comparison?
Wiz Kid: I am Wizkid ohhhh! I’ve got my own style and Justin Bieber has his too. I believe we are both great artist and it’s great to be compared.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You’ve got an upcoming USA Tour. Tell Ladybrille Wizkid fans a bit about the tour and where they can purchase tickets.
Wiz Kid: The tour has been cancelled for some reasons beyond our control. My sincere apologies on behalf of my team to you all.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Awww. . . we are sad!) Where do you see yourself, say 3-5years from now, where’s Wizkid the Superstar headed?
Wiz Kid: To great places oh. There are projects that I hope to initiate as time goes on, by God’s grace.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
Wiz Kid: Maybe playing professional football (soccer). (Laughs)
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Two last questions! What American or UK acts would you like to collaborate with?
Wiz Kid: Chris Brown or Tinie Tempah
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How does it feel to be Ladybrille Man of the Month, especially at 21!
Wiz Kid: I’m 21 and I’m still the youngest Ladybrille Man of the Month. . .love it. (Smiles)
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (smiles)Thank you Wizkid! Oops we forgot to ask. Any special words for your fans?
Wiz Kid: I love you guys, thanks for the love and support. There’s no Wizkid, without you guys.
-Interview by Elfonnie Inokon
-Introduction by Uduak Oduok