Although most of North America only recently became familiar of WizKid through his remix single "Ojuelegba," featuring grime artist Skepta and Drake, and the Canadian rapper's subsequent megahit "One Dance," the 27-year old Nigerian artist has been creating music for years. He released his debut album, Superstar, in 2011, and sophomore album Ayo in 2014. WizKid quickly rose to become the poster child not just for Nigerian music, but Afrobeat across the continent.
Afrobeat, a genre born out of highlife, Yoruba music and jazz, has become more popular as it's evolved to include different styles: hip-hop, reggae and dancehall, particularly. Serving as his major label debut, Sounds From the Other Side represents just that — a mash-up between traditional Naija music and popular sounds from the other side of the world. Tracks here like "Sweet Love" and "Sexy" are rooted in highlife beats, and mimic the mystifying sounds of Fela Kuti, but it's not long before the album becomes cluttered with American artists.
While Major Lazer infuse "Naughty Ride" with a dancehall beat (albeit diluted), Chris Brown jumps into a nondescript West Indian accent for the reggae-based "African Bad Gyal." Ty Dolla $ign's appearance on both "One For Me" and "Dirty Wine" edge on the 'exotic song' blueprint rather than something original, while the Trey Songz-led "Gbese" is hardly memorable.
WizKid is at his strongest when he sounds a little more authentic. South African house legend Bucie joins him for the jazzy "All For Love," while Ghanaian singer Efya provides an infectious hook for "Daddy O" that only hints at the vocal gymnastics she's capable of.
Sounds From the Other Side hits the mark for catchy summer anthems, and pays tribute to the sounds that have subsequently carried Afrobeat across the world for the past few years. So while it knocks on America's door just a few too many times, it's worth it for the highlights, on which WizKid stays true to African music. (Starboy / RCA Records)