Wizkid Reflects On The Past And Revels In the Present On The Overindulgent “S2” EP – Patrick Ezema

Four years after he released the original Soundman Vol 1 EP under the Starboy name, Wizkid’s sequel, S2 is just about as experimental, this time leaning towards Dance and Amapiano to innovate on conventional Afropop.

Wizkid glides on this in the decadent gallop he assumed for More Love Less Ego, and retains some of the reflective celebration that enlivened Made In Lagos. His message switches between reflecting on the days of his humble beginnings and bragging about the reality of his resplendent present, and sometimes these contrasting stories lie on the same track separated by a chorus.

Three years ago, he was at the forefront of African music’s global resurgence, after a decade of persistent globalisation efforts eventually culminated in Made In Lagos and its standout, “Essence.

At the peak of his powers, Wizkid sold out the iconic O2 Arena in a mere twelve minutes, later adding two more dates by popular demand and selling them out as well. Post-Made In Lagos, Wizkid has relaxed his foot on the pedal. His reprise, More Love Less Ego, arrived a year after MIL’s Deluxe, but on that album, Wizkid did not return in the mode of the world-conquering global artiste. Instead, he was like a boss on a sabbatical, enjoying a well-earned victory lap and indulging in his choice pleasures. He carries this leisurely swagger over into S2, so its brightest moments come from Wizkid artfully fitting into its exquisite production, but not actively elevating it.

On “Diamonds, the second of four tracks on this project, he reiterates that “Diamond no dey force e self to shine”, referring to his own laid-back approach to music that has brought him this much success. He takes the metaphor of diamonds a step further, speaking about how the roughness of his early upbringing—”I be repping for the ghetto long time e don tey/ So many things I been take for the pain”—was a necessary refining process to attain the good life he enjoys now.

Wande Coal joins him on “Ololufe, a returning-of-the-favour after Wizkid’s feature on Wande’s “Ebelebe. The referee once more is P.Priime, and Wiz and Wande take turns spinning round his Dance-Amapiano production, as Wande Coal lists a number of female names, proclaiming each of them to be his Ololufe, his lover.

And it is not likely that these names—“Olayemi,” “Funke,” “Titilola” and “Folashade”—belong to the same woman, like Adekunle Gold who artfully embedded Simi’s names at the outro of his 2014 ballad “Orente. No, these men, unlike the love-struck Gold, are simply channeling their inner Yoruba demon.

On “Energy, Wizkid is in the same gear, drifting through a production that, contrary to its name, is actually the most relaxed on the project. Wizkid is at the pinnacle of his self-indulgence slurring his luscious lines on the chorus, but as this is the same spirit that powered his last album and half of the one before it, it paints him as un-evolved and repetitive.

Here he sings about picking up women of both the “Orobo and “Lepa variety, and making it last “all night long”, a quote that, if applied to a Google search beside his name, will produce at least three of his previous songs.

Here, at least and thankfully so, Wizkid passes up on his famed (or infamous) ‘she tell me say’ line, but it hilariously finds its way back into the EP anyway, sung by Zlatan in his resplendent verse for “IDK”. But it will go unnoticed for most because this track is the album’s sharpest, and the duo make for an unlikely fine pairing. On this track, the UK duo, The Elements, take the reins from P.Priime, and the soundscape they build is a throne for Wizkid to recline on.

Big drums underline every pompous syllable from the Starboy’s lips—“E don tey, now we don turn kings/ We don turn king, everyday balling” he sings—while a harmonious choir bears his words aloft on the strains of rich horns.

S2 is an elegant, progressive composition, like its prequel from four years before, so Wizkid in that sense, ensures that his legacy as the Soundman remains intact.

His status as African music royalty, however, has not been helped by two consecutive projects which while basking in his highs fail to surpass them.

**Patrick Ezema is a music and culture journalist whose work has appeared in The Culture Custodian, NATIVE Mag, The Republic and Afrocritik.  Follow him on twitter @EzemaPatrick

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