There is a scene in “Concussion”, the Will Smith movie in which he plays, a Nigerian neurologist whose pioneering research established a link between dementia and mental health issues suffered by NFL players and the head crashing injuries they suffer during their active years. In that scene, Will Smith, or Dr. Bennet Omalu politely asked the woman who’d become his wife, if he could kiss her after a night out dancing. ‘Can I Kiss You’. A simple yet profound request for consent and a true confirmation of his credentials as a gentleman. Of course, she obliged.
I didn’t know of WurlD till this past Decemeber when I first encountered him on the Afrochella stage. As I sat on my couch at home watching proceedings on TV, this dyed hair singer was introduced on stage. My initial reaction was dismissive. But, as soon as he began performing ‘Contagious’, his 2018 afrobeat single, my attention was piqued. There was an artist with a charm. His performance led to a praise on twitter. Someone responded to my tweet, with his name. That led me to finding out more about him and his music.
Born Sadiq Onifade, the Nigerian artist belongs to this new wave of artists whose musical composition blends various genres. His music is often described as a fusion of Afrobeats, RnB and Electro Dance Music (EDM). This is clearly felt on “Show You Off”.
Released in 2016, ” Show You Off”, upon listen carries the edge of a song made in 2018. It’s soothing, mellow, groovy. An enchanting tune that is built around a soulful R&B groove, touched with subtle EDM inflections and a contagious afrobeats feel.
WurlD’s afrobeat(s) appreciation comes from his roots as an African, specifically Nigerian, where Fela Kuti’s music was placed on a pedestal in most households. Like most young kids who grew up in the 80s, R&B was one of the genres that shaped their teenage years. His years in the US also shaped his appreciation of the genre. WurlD was not just a consumer of rnb and soul music, he was an active participant as well.
In 2013, WurlD found himself in the studio with American R&B crooner, Mario, as part of a writing crew crafting songs for a project that was never released. Fortunately for WurlD, one of the songs he penned for Mario – Love, Sex and Drugs- got leaked.
”I did, it was interesting, I was working with Mario on his last album with RCA records, the album never really came out, but one of the songs I actually wrote for him came out, a song called ‘Love, Sex, Drugs’, they actually leaked the record and we did like almost 8 songs on the project, I was part of the songwriting crew on the record“.
“Show You Off” carries a soothing, irresistible charm. The songwriting is excellent; the delivery is calm, refreshing and the production by Shizzi and Walshy Fire, part of Major Lazer, renowned for their work in the EDM circuits is world class. (This is evident in how the two year old song still sound fresh, with many warming up to it). In a recent interview with Pulse Nigeria, WurLD explained how the song came about:
“That song is special because Shizzi had the music already and I met with him through a friend of mine, Kingsley, and when he played me the record, I loved the Fela vibe in it, I created the record over like a week, I shared it with a friend of mine that knew Walshy Fire, he heard it, added some things and it was done.After the song was done, people around me were like this song has to go out and I paid attention to the energy of about 20 people around me and since it went out, it has been everywhere”.
Apart from its sonic appeal, “Show You Off” endearment comes from its lyrics. WurlD confesses to his lover how much he’d show her off to the world. Over an inviting piano, guitar and live recorded African drum section with a running play time of 35 seconds, WurlD draws you in; before his first words even pour over the beat. (The opening of the song brings into sharp focus Burna Boy’s “Ye”. There’s an unmistakable similarity. Same goes for the “ladida” renditions which does strike a chord with Rex Omar’s “Dadadida”).
“I’ll be honest/ I know I’ve been lost/ But, I’m still tryin’/ Don’t stop shining your light on me, make I glow”. It’s not much about the honest, confessional lyrics but the manner of delivered. The hint of vulnerability, desire and acknowledgement of the feeling of the good tidings love brings him is apparent. WurlD does not wish to lose it.
Like Will Smith in “Concussion”, the Atlanta based crooner seeks the consent of his lover, asking if she ‘minds if I show you off?“. This request comes after promising to be “good, cool‘ and not ‘in a rush to take you home’. WurlD, at this point is your quintessential gentleman who prefers to treat his lover in the manner she wants to be treated. Unlike some men who decide for their ladies – whether the women are comfortable with the idea or not- WurlD hands that responsibility, partially to his lady.
Though one could argue this routine of being nice is typical of guys with a desire to woo a girl of their interest, WurlD’s two versed song provides the perfect silhouette on how to treat a lady. It must be emphasized that, love is the primary theme in which his songs hinge.
With his background and musical exposure over the years, WurlD has imbibed a lot of influences which radiates across his music. “Show You Off” is a fusion of afropop, R&B and EDM inflections. On records like “Contagious” (2018) afrobeat/ Fuji musical elements foam across its sonic landscape. His latest single, “Paranoid” (2018) is a nod to afro-dance music, the Sarz produced “Trobul” (2018) rides on an afropop wave. “All I Need” (2017) leans heavily on EDM. And “Mother’s Prayer” bask in R&B vibes.
An apparent quality in almost all his songs is that, it carries a soul. WurlD is artful with his singing, expressing the exact sentiments dictated by the theme of the song. And by that, effortlessly transports the listener into this bubble of emotions he is exuding.
WurlD and his crop of new wave acts – Odunsi (The Engine), Nonso Amadi, Santi, Ric Hassani, Lady Donli among others- seem poised to extend further the road charted by the two waves of artists before them- the 2face- D’banj – P-Square wave and Wizkid – Davido – Burna Boy class of artists. The experimental attitude of these new crop of artists is one of their strongest possession.
WurlD’s talents are not in dispute – a producer, excellent songwriter, good vocals and of course, experimental. His rise within the scene is gradual- usually a good thing as the pressure isn’t overbearing and also, an opportunity to grow ones fanbase organically. It’s just a matter of time before he shines brighter than the colourful dyes he uses in his hair. The WurlD is his to own.