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9 Things You Need To Know About WizKid

From guest features with Drake and Bieber to winning a Grammy with Beyonce, WizKid is the original StarBoy. 

by Ben Boddez

Photo illustration by Erik Grice

As multilingual music from every continent around the world continues to work its way into North American culture, Nigerian dancehall and Afrobeat singer WizKid is one of the many hailing from Africa who have already made a big impact on the charts. The young star is riding a new wave that includes artists like Burna Boy, DaVido, and Mr Eazi

With the deluxe version of his record-breaking latest album, Made In Lagos, and a new remix of his hit single, “Essence,” featuring Justin Bieber, WizKid is poised to become the continent’s leading voice in sharing the exciting new Afrobeats style with the world.

Here are nine things you need to know about the rising star that is WizKid.

1 | The Glorious Five

WizKid, born Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, got his start as a successful musician from an early age. Formerly known as Lil Prinz, WizKid formed a group called The Glorious Five at the age of only 11 with four friends he met while attending church. The group’s first album sold 10,000 copies in his native country of Nigeria, its success a sign of things to come for the young superstar. 

2 | One Dance

Ever the trendsetter, hip-hop icon Drake was the first to introduce WizKid to Western audiences when he reached out to him for a feature on his hit single “One Dance.” Arguably one of the most influential songs of the past decade, the track opened the floodgates for dancehall and Afrobeats to start working their way into mainstream pop music, the genre’s trademark rhythm patterns becoming inescapable. The song landed WizKid in the Guinness Book of World Records, formerly holding the title of Spotify’s most-streamed song. 

3 | Africa Is Charting

When WizKid’s fourth studio album, Made In Lagos, originally dropped in October 2020, it quickly broke several streaming records among African artists, becoming the first African album to debut on Spotify’s Global Album’s Chart. The album racked up 100 million streams in only nine days and picked up numerous accolades, landing on many year-end best-of lists including NME, The Guardian, GQ, Clash and a number one spot from British Vogue

4 | The Next Despacito

Made In Lagos’ fourth single, “Essence,” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 17, 2021. Although quite a few albums in the Afrobeats genre have made appearances on the famous magazine’s albums chart as interest in the style grows, the track’s appearance made WizKid the first to bring an authentically Afrobeats song to the singles chart in the United States. When Bugatti Biebs jumped on board for a remix, the song shot into the top 20. Perhaps WizKid is looking for a repeat of that “Despacito” magic. 

5 | Original Starboy

Long before The Weeknd hijacked the name for an entire album cycle, WizKid’s fans have affectionately referred to him as the Starboy – so much so that it became the name of the label he runs, Starboy Entertainment. The label features some of Afrobeats’ most promising talents, including acts like Mr Eazi, Maleek Berry and production duo Legendury Beatz, who have all associated with some of the biggest stars on the other side of the Atlantic already. 

6 | Just Do It 

When WizKid teamed up with fashion supergiant Nike for an exclusive jersey emblazoned with his Starboy logo and the colours of the Nigerian flag, he simultaneously dipped his toes into the world of philanthropy by announcing his intent to use all of the proceeds from sales of the jersey to help with building schools in Africa. While focusing primarily on his home country of Nigeria, WizKid says he hopes to build a school in all of the continent’s 54 nations. 

7 | Style & Substance

WizKid’s work with Nike is far from his first foray into fashion. He names Pharrell Williams as his style icon and plans to put out a full clothing line in the future. WizKid describes his personal style as a mixture between modern streetwear and traditional Nigerian clothing, and has previously walked the runway as a model for Dolce and Gabbana. 

8 | Beyonce

WizKid picked up his first ever Grammy Award earlier this year, for his contributions to the Beyonce track “Brown Skin Girl” from her music film Black Is King that accompanied the live-action Lion King movie. The song won the award for Best Music Video. With countryman Burna Boy picking up an award on the same night, the two became the first Nigerians to ever win one of the coveted golden gramophones as a solo act. 

9 | International WizKid Day

WizKid has an official holiday in one of the last places you’d expect – the frigid state of Minnesota. With a government proclamation stamped with the state’s official seal, former governor Mark Dayton declared October 6th “WizKid Day” in his home state. On the release, Dayton dubbed him “one of the biggest cultural influencers of our time” and proved his worth to his state’s residents by pointing to him being the first African to sell out Minneapolis’ Skyway Theatre.