International Music Review – Ojuelegba by Wizkid ft Drake and Skepta (Nigeria)
About a week ago, Drake posted a picture with popular UK Grime/Hip-Hop artiste, Skepta, on instagram while on his Wireless Festival stopover. The interest generated from the Nigerian community- both at home and those for whom Peckham offers a cultural re-union- wasn’t the new friendship the biggest rap star in the world has with one of Nigerian heritage, but eyes were fixed on the caption: Thanking god for a life I can’t explain.
The caption takes a line from Nigerian Pop star Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, one of the biggest hit songs rocking the airwaves- not only within the Nigerian musicscape, so big that Ghanaian wordsmith Sarkodie hopped on it—though the song’s an ode to Wizkid’s city. Repping one’s city floods Hip-Hop streets from Nas’ NY State of Mind, to TuPac’s California Love, to Eminem’s Detroit vs. Everybody, and rappers make sure to carry it on their backs like their town football’s jersey.
Other genres don’t take the backseat on this: Miriam Makeba wrote Soweto Blues, Bon Iver sang of Calgary, Coldplay’s Cemeteries of London. Ojuelegba, Wizzy’s hometown, a place where he reminisces—his growing up, his come-up and struggles as a studio rat, the squalor he tried to overcome, the hope that binds the city together.
The Afrobeat production opens with a Nuthin But A G Thang-sample, mesmerizing enough to send to an era almost-forgotten. The days of Fela & Africa 70 or Fela & Egypt 80, the horns strong enough to raise hair, ears and feet; the days of big bands, big bum ladies sending audience into a frenzy, big hearts wide to receive politico-teachings under The Shrine’s roof with a blunt and a will to survive despots- Ni Ojuelegba, they know my story/From Modox studio, I been hustle to work.
Wizzy takes the first toke before passing it to Drizzy. This is indeed an unexpected remix, as there was no notice to alert before its showing- no controversy in the form of Sark-AceHood’s New Guy. Stories have it that, while on tour, Skepta played Drizzy the song and he loved it! So, what happens when the 6God loves a song? Cue Migos’ Versace, ILoveMakonnen’s Tuesday. He, like Crooked I, as a rap god gives it a holy feel (Holyfield) and they bite ears. In a time when it’s recreational to target rappers (and, no, I’m not referring to a slew of diss records), with Hip-Hop recently losing Hussein Fatal, Lil Snupe (Meek Mill’s protégé), Chinx Drugz to the gun, and other celebrities shot with e-bullets (see Tyga and his alleged tranny love, Osi Umenyiora and cheating scandal), Drake reflects: All I ever needed was a chance to get the team hot/Only thing I fear is a headshot or a screenshot.
Drizzy doesn’t take too long to make his presence felt, though one hoped for more of his crooning. Skeppy takes a drag (literally and figuratively) before kicking things off. He brings memories of Uzo Aduba’s Late Night With Seth Myers interview where she talks on identity, culture shock and acceptance, racism (no matter how subtle): I wanted to be called Zoe […] She was like ‘why?’ And I said because no one can say Uzoamaka. And […] she was like, ‘If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky, and Dostoevsky, and Michelangelo, then they can learn to say Uzoamaka.’ He raps of his own experiences- When I was in school, being African was a diss/Sounds like you need help saying my surname, Miss– and, like Uzo, his mum gives the wisdom to overcome whatever racist slur. Skepta is more expressive and touches on his background, hustle, successes and continued struggle of his community. He lets the smoke clears before thundering: I had to tell my story ‘cause they’d rather show you black kids with flies on their faces on the television.
Not a jab at photojournalists such as Kevin Carter, who were/are humane to bring to the fore developmental problems faced in Sub-Saharan Africa, but those who are obsessed with poverty porn and so objectify malnourished kids for their work catalogue and pseudo-NGO status. For those who’d rather believe what western media says on Africa (BTW, Africa’s a continent not a country for your safari and lost-human discovery), this should keep you unsettled.
But, gladly, for those who love music- and go wherever the sound takes them as long as it’s good- this song should keep you warm! Africa is not just a continent of wildlife and a fun spot for cool pictures, it is much more than the landscape—it’s a continent of people rich in culture (music, food, hundreds of languages, art and craft, books), enterprise, creativity, brilliance, ideology, resourcefulness, people and, yes, strive for greatness.
Review by Udochukwu Ikwuagwu