Wizkid is a featured artist on Beyonce’s recently released ‘Lion King: The Gift’ album and of all featured artists, his appearance on the record ‘Brown Skin Girl’ also featuring Beyonce’s daughter Blu Ivy has gained the most popularity. Notwithstanding this glorious feat, there are many red flags that seem to suggest that Wizkid’s career is in jeopardy of a steep decline if he doesn’t pivot, soon. The red flags include his Instastory today telling his fans to expect music from him in five (5) years. See screenshot in image accompanying this post. These red flags is precisely why I am asking the very important question of, “what’s really going on with Wizkid’s career?” Here are the red flags that are of concern:
1. No Album since 2017: Wizkid released his Freshman studio album titled ‘Superstar’ in 2011. In 2014, he followed up with his Sophomore album titled ‘Ayo,’ which featured one of his biggest records to date, ‘Ojuelegba.’ By March 1, 2017, and coming off his 2016 success as a featured artist on Drake’s ‘One Dance,’ Wizkid announced that he had signed a multi-album worldwide deal with RCA Records/Sony Music International. My view was that the RCA/Sony signing was a bad move. For me, there was no reason to be tied to a multi-album deal when he was already gaining global critical mass; and technological innovation afforded an African artist of his caliber to leapfrog into an innovative business model where he could broker highly favorable distribution or licensing deals with the majors.
I did not believe that receiving a “seven-figure” advanced as it was rumored he received was worth the restrictions a traditional deal i.e. restriction of the release of his masters worldwide, and giving up the ownership in his master recordings to Sony for set periods or the length of the copyrights.
Post signing of the Sony/RCA deal, in a February 2017 interview with Music Business Worldwide (a popular industry publication), RCA executives at the time, Peter Edge and Tom Carson, explained their goal was to market and promote Wizkid worldwide. It sounded great.
On July 14, 2017, Wizkid released an EP of some of his unpublished works recorded from 2014-2017 under Starboy Entertainment Ltd. (his company), titled it ‘Sounds from the Other Side’ and allegedly granted an exclusive license to Sony/RCA for the manufacturing, promoting, and distribution of the album in all territories, except Africa. The license also gave Sony/RCA the rights to sell his album on their label. In exchange, Wizkid allegedly received a one time licensing fee, with subsequent proceeds of performance and sales of the album going exclusively to Sony/RCA. The idea was to use the album to begin breaking Wizkid into mainstream American market.
What actually happened? Let’s just say the album was one of the most poorly marketed and promoted projects for an artist of Wizkid’s caliber. There was no true strategic and proper introduction of Wizkid to mainstream America, no touring, very limited press appearances at best, no concerts, nothing.
While the album had features from American talents such as Chris Brown, Major Lazer, and Ty Dolla, the most popular record on the track, at the time, seemed to be ‘Come Closer’ featuring Drake. Wizkid shot a music video for the record that was released on April 6, 2017, under his own label; and immediately everyone noticed the glaring absence of Drake in the video. It was a big let down for fans and the push of the EP. The obvious question became who paid for the video? Technically Sony/RCA should have guaranteed a certain commitment including expenses for the video, but it was rumored that Wizkid footed most, if not the entire bill for a very expensive video. The video was supposed to help Wizkid crossover into mainstream as a main artist, not just a featured artist assisting American celebrity artists. It did not.
By mid-2017, it became clear it was an expensive proposition for Wizkid to remain in the U.S. when he could earn a much higher revenue from his live performances in Africa, without Sony/RCA receiving any proceeds from such revenue. It is my opinion that this realization is what may have motivated Wizkid to cancel his pre-scheduled tours that was to be produced by African Diaspora promoters and return to Nigeria/UK. Since April of 2017, we have neither seen nor heard an album from Wizkid.
2. No Touring: The last tour we saw from Wizkid wasn’t even his own. It was Chris Brown’s ‘One Hell of a Nite’ tour in May 2016, of which Wizkid was an invited performer. Please note that the one-off concerts Wizkid currently performs in a few cities in the UK, and a few countries in Africa is not a tour. Moreover, touring for Wizkid is most likely an expensive proposition under his multi-album worldwide deal because he will need tour support from Sony/RCA, and such support comes in the form of a recoupable advance from any royalties the label owes to him under his contract.
3. No solo singles: Wizkid has stayed primarily in Nigeria and appeared as a featured artist on the records of many emerging and a few established African artists. He has no solo single projects of his own and to me, it would seem that at some point, he must know that it becomes a problem if he is not churning out his solo projects for his fans. Today, Wizkid put out an Instastory announcing that his fans should not expect music from him until five (5) years from now. His announcement, even if intended to be some joke that he may later recant, clearly shows there is an issue with his career.
4. Too many ‘Brown Skin Girl’ problems: First, as an aside, it is unclear Wizkid’s collabo with Beyoncé will rake in a lot of revenue. As of July 28, 2019, the album was said to have sold over 50,000 copies, only, in its first week. In addition, of that amount, approximately 11, 000 represented physical album sales. So arguably, the verdict is still out on how successful the album will be and his specific record. But assuming it is, he may have a problem, depending on the contract he signed with Sony/RCA, with receiving any royalties anytime soon. As a general rule when it comes to traditional record deals, the larger the advance, the less likely that an artist will see actual royalty payments by the time all applicable deductions (recording costs, living expenses, producer’s fee, video, independent promotions etc.) are made. So, it will be no surprise if his ‘Brown Skin Girl’ royalties go straight to the label. Also note that he is only a performing artist on the record, and does not receive any composer credits/royalties.
Second, ‘Brown Skin Girl’ is a great song deserving of great notoriety, but it is ironic that one of the performers of the record is Wizkid. This is because Wizkid has been plagued with too many “Brown Skin Girl” problems that seem to get worse each year. The list includes:
- Claims by the “brown skinned” mothers of his children that he is a deadbeat father.
- Actual threats of physical assault on a “brown skinned” Nigerian blogger (Linda Ikeji) turned media mogul that he disagreed with.
- Allegations by journalist Osagie Alonge that Wizkid physically and emotionally assaulted his prior managers. If true, it means he also assaulted one of his “brown skinned” woman manager. Alonge later recanted his story citing threats made to his family as the basis.
- Recently and prior to the release of Beyonce’s Lion King Album on July 19, 2019, Jada Pollock, his “brown skinned” manager and mother of his third child released an official statement on her Instagram page alleging that Wizkid physically abuses her, and she was officially terminating her artist-manager relationship with him.
- Perhaps assessing the enormous opportunity Beyonce’s album could present for Wizkid, and Pollock (she is a director and shareholder in his company with over 75% shares in Starboy), she recanted her story and claims her account “was hacked.”
While I question the ethics and fiduciary duty observed on the part of Jada Pollock in owning over 75% shares of Starboy Entertainment Ltd., all while straddling the roles of manager, lover, and director, it doesn’t change the fact that there is a consistent theme that emerges with Wizkid. It’s a theme of a man who appears, per the allegations, to be comfortable threatening assault or undermining the strength of “brown skinned” women. I can therefore only imagine the type of scrutiny that will come his and Beyoncé’s way, if Beyonce actually made a music video to promote the record.
Beyonce’s daughter is on the record, and presumably, in a day and age of zero tolerance for assault/threats against women, it would beg the question whether she conducted her due diligence before putting Wizkid on this record. Also, while Wizkid has allegedly been able to silence the aforementioned accusers, if in fact the allegations are true that he has a propensity for violence/assaultive behavior, it is only a matter of time that he will have to deal with such personal and career crisis under the watchful eyes of the world.
5. Well Ms. Uduak what about Wizkid’s Nike, Ciroc and Daily Paper merch deals? First, I’d like to see the percentage split with the aforementioned brands and Wizkid? Perhaps it is a 50-50 deal but I highly doubt it. Second, what is the percentage split with Wizkid and Sony/RCA for his merch? This means when Nike, Ciroc, and Daily pay him for their one-off collabos, how much does Sony/RCA get from that cut? Third, how much are his business operational and personal expenses (Starboy Ltd., his lifestyle etc.)? Fourth, his music is what drives and attracts these brand endorsement deals. The idea that he will stay five years without putting out new music or an album, yet remain a brand ambassador for these global brands is a stretch. To begin with, I believe these brands are getting more out of his deals than he is with them. Wizkid has created market access to over a billion citizens on the continent, and it is no surprise that these global brands quickly sell out on products he is affiliated with.
Folks, the point is there are many red flags, in addition to issues such as missed and canceled shows that suggest all is not well with Wizkid. In 2018, Wizkid was a no show for the two consecutive shows he was booked to perform at Coachella.
So, “what is the moral of the story” as we like to say in Nigerian/African verbiage:
- African artists, I know it is hard but stop looking for the west to validate your artistry and worth. Know your value and surround yourself with people who know who they are so they do not pressure you into bad deals.
- If you get yourself into a bad deal, get a smart entertainment lawyer to help you see what your options are, if any, in getting out of the deal.
- For the advisors to African artists, especially if you are of African heritage, give good advice and make sure you check any inferiority complexes you may have at the door so you don’t project it on our talents; and pressure them to sign bad deals. You hurt them and our entire young and fragile ecosystem when you do.
- Also, advisors, don’t stand on the sidelines when you see a train wreck happening, or about to happen. There are values unique to our heritage that are not worth discarding all so you can brag that you got a record deal, in behalf of our talents, with a major. We earned global recognition without the majors, and forced the global music industry to take notice, solicit and reenter our markets. Let’s come to the negotiating table with that confidence and be willing to walk when a bad deal is offered.
- As Africans while we have our problems, one key value/heritage we must be proud of and that must translate into the deals we broker is putting our community first, especially when clearly appropriate. Don’t leave our ecosystem in a mess just because you are exclusively looking out for you, only.
That’s it from me. Comment in the comment section below or hit me up on my social networks @msuduak for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or @africamusiclaw to let me know your thoughts.
What do you think is really going on with Wizkid’s career? I’d love to hear your views.
Some of Our Achievements
Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
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