After amassing a significant UK and African fanbase in the wake of his acclaimed 2011 debut Superstar, Wizkid’s international profile began to rise in earnest. He toured the U.S., garnered industry co-signs, and began to prepare his next project, working with a varied collection of pop and hip-hop talent. The eventual product of his efforts—his 2014 sophomore album, Ayo—feels more indebted to West African musical tradition than its predecessor. Ayo was Wizkid’s first proper primer in his seductive, pop-forward distinctive brand of Afrobeats—the kind that went on to make him a marquee star on any continent. The track that kicked off this ascent, at least in North America, is “Ojuelegba,” a tribute to Wiz’s upbringing in Lagos, featuring an bouncy and dense rhythm track citing Yoruban music and pirouetting synth-horn counterpoint. The hook was undeniable; the feel totally singular. Drake and Skepta’s remix the following summer would introduce Wizkid to a whole new listenership. Many of Ayo’s standout moments find the singer and rapper addressing his hometown roots directly. Lead single and opener “Jaiye Jaiye” features a prestigious turn from Femi Kuti, a member of one of African music’s true royal families. The saxophonist’s fierce and soulful playing mingles with the thicket of synths as Wiz sings triumphantly about overcoming adversity and creating a better life for himself and his family. With cameos from Tyga, Akon, and repeat collaborator Wale alongside a formidable roster of hometown talent, Ayo is a crucial document of the increasing sophistication and pliability of the evolving Afrobeats style at large. Nigerian-born rhythms and stylistic flourishes give the album a foundation that makes its outlier moments—the post-Timbaland radio-rap groove of “Murder” or the reggae-inflected ballad “Joy”—feel like welcome surprises rather than self-conscious experiments. If Superstar was Wizkid taking a spread of world pop styles and lyrical postures for a test drive, Ayo is the moment he sublimated and synthesized them, forging a sound that would become inimitable across subsequent releases.

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