With ‘Essence,’ Wizkid is Poised For A Grammy Award
- Nigerian artist Wizkid has just been featured alongside other artist on Billboard’s 2022 Grammy Preview issue, highlighting the artists, issues and trends that will define awards season.
Since 2016, when Drake featured him alongside Kyla on his smash hit “One Dance,” Wizkid has been changing what a career can look like for an Afrobeats artist. In 2019, producer P2J — a frequent collaborator of both Wizkid and Beyoncé — recruited the Nigerian superstar for Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” (also featuring young Blue Ivy Carter and SAINt JHN) from The Lion King: The Gift. Both songs yielded Grammy attention for Wizkid: a nomination for album of the year as part of Drake’s Views and a win for best music video for the latter.
“He creates a safe space in his musical world because it’s really about love, romantic love and positive vibes. And you can dance to a lot of it,” says Tunji Balogun, who guided Wizkid’s career as executive vp A&R at RCA for four years before recently departing to become Def Jam CEO. “The texture of the music is very adaptable, so it kind of hits the sweet spot culturally.”
Wizkid has been one of the strongest proponents of those artists, starting his label in 2013 with the express purpose of sharing his spotlight with them along with his many collaborators and friends. And now, with “Essence,” that spotlight has become much wider. As the world emerged from the COVID-19 shutdown and started dancing again, “Essence” became part of its soundtrack and, with help from a remix featuring Justin Bieber, crossed genre lines to top Billboard’s R&B, hip-hop, rhythmic and world charts. Coming up on the one-year anniversary of its release, it reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and became the first song with lyrics in Nigeria’s Yorùbá language to debut on the Global 200 chart, with 269 million on-demand global streams, according to MRC Data.
It could also be Wizkid’s Grammy breakthrough — proof that he has moved beyond needing an English-speaking pop star to bring him along for the ride and can now reciprocate. (Plus, the last time Bieber joined a territory-spanning hit, the Recording Academy responded pretty well: three nominations for “Despacito,” including song and record of the year.