Nigerian singer/songwriter Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (aka Wizkid) began his career in music when he was just 11 years old. His first record, Lil Prinz, was recorded in 2001 in collaboration with a Glorious Five, a group consisting of Balogun and his friends from church. In 2006, he started pursuing music full-time, at first collaborating with various Nigerian pop acts including OJB Jezreel, Naeto C, and Banky W. By 2011, he was ready to record his debut studio album as a solo artist: Superstar was released via Empire Mates Entertainment to great critical and public acclaim across Africa, propelling him to stardom in his home country. After multiple delays and label disagreements, Balogun released his sophomore album titled Ayo in 2014. This second studio album had a multitude of guest appearances, including a spot from Femi Kuti. It also featured Balogun’s global breakthrough track “Ojuelegba.” Not only did the single cement his status as one of Nigeria’s biggest pop acts, it was also picked up and remixed by Drake and Skepta, thrusting Wizkid into the international spotlight. In return, Wizkid appeared on Drake’s 2016 smash single “One Dance.”
In March 2017, it was announced that Wizkid had signed a major deal with RCA and Sony International, which released his third LP, Sounds From the Other Side , later that year. A handful of singles appeared in advance of the album, including “Daddy Yo”, “Sweet Love” and “Come Closer”, and were successful; the latter is certified Gold in the UK.
Following his impressive international campaign, Wizkid has refocused energy on his Starboy imprint in Africa. From releasing viral records like “Soco” with his affiliate acts to securing significant partnerships with brands such as CIROC & Nike, Wizkid has solidified himself as a millennial pioneer for African entertainment. However, notable moments such as his on/off runway appearances with Naomi Campbell, his 2019 feature on Beyonce’s “Brown Skin Girl” and his two-time sellout shows at the o2 Arena prove Wizkid’s movement to be one of lasting global impact. In 2020, he will release his fourth full-length project titled Made in Lagos .
Mariah The Scientist
Atlanta R&B singer/songwriter Mariah the Scientist arrived on the scene in 2018 with her indelible debut project To Die For, and now she’s signed to RCA Records with a new project, titled Master, executive produced by Tory Lanez. Mariah the Scientist’s preparing to open herself up to more people than ever before—and maybe she’ll assist listeners in discovering themselves in the process, too.
Born and raised in Atlanta on a steady diet of classic R&B ranging from the Temptations to Boyz II Men, Mariah graduated high school a year early and eventually went to college in New York City with her then-boyfriend—but she quickly found that higher education didn’t quite fit her personality traits: “I’m an introvert, so I didn’t enjoy the college experience.” After that relationship dissolved, Mariah met someone new who shared an interest in the wavy, hard-to-define music of R&B scion Frank Ocean.
That Valentine’s Day, she hit up a Queens studio, wrote and recorded two songs on her own, included them on a playlist that featured some of Ocean’s favorite songs, and booted up the whole thing on an iPod for her partner. “He never even listened to it!” she exclaims, cementing the relationship’s eventual end—but her friends heard the songs and liked what they heard. “They were telling me, ‘These songs are great songs. You should consider this as a career.'”
Encouraged by her peers’ enthusiasm, Mariah worked on more music and eventually put out To Die For as a project in January of 2018. Around this time, her attention started to stray from school: “I started becoming more interested in what my music could be.” Against her parents’ wishes, she dropped out of college, leaving all of her belongings back in her dorm room and decamping to Atlanta to strike out on her own.
As Mariah continued to hone her musical craft, her music made its way to Toronto R&B artist Tory Lanez, who got in touch on Instagram and offered some
musical mentorship. Inspired, she went out to Miami to work on music with him: “I just examined him and what his life was like.” Mariah eventually joined him on tour as she continued to work on new music (“I learned to be self-sufficient as far as my creative process was concerned”), but eventually road fatigue set in. “I was becoming frustrated about being around men so often,” she explains, and she decamped to Miami to put the finishing touches on her latest project. “It was beautiful and complete, and I never imagined I’d be able to put it together myself.”
A bidding war for her next project began, concluding with Mariah ultimately signing with RCA earlier this year. “They understood my music,” she explains regarding the decision. “They didn’t want me to be your average R&B type. They were cool with me being myself.” Her new project, Master, carries a deep personal connection that defines the emotive nature of her music as a whole: “I’ve let emotions and relationships master who I was. The idea of love and who I was with—they’ve become my master of some sort, directly or indirectly, when I should’ve just been myself. Now that I can acknowledge that, I can be my own master.”
First single “Beetlejuice” is the perfect introduction to the Mariah the Scientist experience—a swirling, lovely concoction drawing equally from Ocean’s genre agnosticism, OutKast’s slow-drip hip-hop approach, and the diaristic openness of SZA. “It’s very detailed,” she states while discussing the main themes of love-gone-wrong central to the song. “You put me on this pedestal and you made me feel like what we had was great, and then once you really got me, it wasn’t what we wanted it to be. It’s just life—it’s not like relationships going sour is anything that anyone anticipates.”
Then there’s the evocative new-wave splashes of “Reminders,” which Mariah originally made in her college dorm room while documenting the dissolution of her first love. “As our relationship started to decline, I didn’t want to do anything because everything outside in the world made me think of that guy,” she reminiscences. “It gets graphic about how bad it can really get. Everything that glitters isn’t gold. The hook is about how you really kill off someone’s confidence when you really get into it with them—you say something you don’t mean, and you kill off the security in themselves even if you don’t mean to do that.”
In the end, Mariah describes Master as “about being the realest I can be. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to write a song that isn’t about something that really happened to me.” And she hopes that through hearing her own personal and musical explorations, others can find something out about themselves as well: “I’ve certainly been imperfect, but that’s okay. As much of the bad that I talk about in my music, look what it turned into. I want to promote active honesty with everyone around me, including myself. You don’t have to be led to find
guidance. You can go out there and be uncertain, but it’s better than never knowing.