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The allure of being Wande Coal

Wande Coal runs PAM through his multi decade-long career, from Mushin to Mohits, his lasting influence on Nigerian pop’s newest stars, and his highly anticipated album.

Oluwatobi Wande Ojosipe, popularly known as Wande Coal, is critically acclaimed for setting the tone of contemporary Nigerian music with his debut album, Mushin to Mohits, released in 2009. The project would catapult Wande Coal to one of Nigeria’s biggest pop stars, spawning smash hits like “Ololufe”, “Bumper to Bumper”, “You Bad” among others. The singer remains one of the biggest winners in the history of Headies – Nigeria’s biggest music awards – in a single night, winning five categories including the highly-coveted Best New Artist also known as Next Rated

Over a decade later, Wande Coal keeps proving his mettle. In 2018, he was crowned Best African Contemporary Artist for “Iskaba” and has since maintained the streak with giant hits like “So Mi So”, “Again” and most recently “Come My Way”, the Amapiano-leaning number that soundtracked the just-concluded ‘detty December’ rave in Nigeria. According to him, “I wanted to inspire people with my journey of being nothing to now becoming something”. The forthcoming remix features Davido.

Wande Coal’s career took off in 2006 after signing to the now-defunct Mo’ Hits Records helmed by Don Jazzy and D’Banj. He was also a founding member of Mavin Records before exiting to float his own label, Black Diamond Entertainment where he’s looking to groom and launch a new crop of artists. “I remember coming from the streets of Mushin where everything is rough and you get inspired by situations that you go through. I know there are a lot of talented artists out there with similar experiences who can also deliver magic to the world”, he says.

Coal is gearing up for the release of his third studio album, six years after Wanted. The singer, in high spirits, likens the project to an update in a professor’s curriculum for people to draw inspiration, having experienced different things over the years.

Wande Coal – Come My Way (Official Video)

Before anything, a Wande Coal concert is long overdue.

[Laughs] I’m considering that this year after my album is out. It’ll only make sense to have more music out before a concert. The last one was in 2018 and it sold out. 

Congratulations on the success of Come My Way. The record makes such a bold statement. What were you going for while making it?

I wanted to send a message and as you’ll have it, the record touches on different things. It expresses gratitude to God for all he’s done for me, while explaining how negative people would not want you to get to where you really want to be. I also wanted to inspire people with my journey of being nothing to now becoming something.

Especially with a classic project like Mushin to Mohits. How do you feel about making such art, now twelve years down the line?

Honestly, that album makes me very proud of myself because it depicted my journey from my past to where I’m presently at. I feel like the greatest when people call it a classic. I’d also give props to Don Jazzy for producing those records. It was magical and spiritual for me because it’s my debut and it’s able to set such standards of vocals, delivery, melodies that’s still referenced till this day. I see a lot of people taking different stuff from the album and refining it to make their own record, and it’s working. My goal is to not just work but also support other artists by creating, writing with them etc. No man is an island.

Safe to say it meets expectations of yourself and the team while making it.

Quite frankly, Don Jazzy and I probably knew it’ll stand the test of time. You know, Don Jazzy is something else. Asides being a phenomenal producer, he’s a damn good writer and more. It’s like two good heads coming together to do something great. I’m glad God put me in that position to be able to deliver what the new generation’s music would sound like in the future.

Exactly! The likes of Wizkid, Davido, Fireboy have cited you as an influence.

Honestly, I’m glad to be able to inspire any talent and sound coming out now. Before coming into the industry, I had this urge to change something with the sound; how people write, approach and deliver music. I feel blessed and humbled.

Everyone could hear Wande Coal on “Peru”.

[Laughs] Interestingly, Shizzi, the producer, has always been my producer – way before his affiliation with Davido – and he understands music too well. I can understand Shizzi and Fireboy going into the studio and coming out with a banger. If anything, I was prouder.

Really, what is it like to be Wande Coal?

Being Wande Coal is a lot of stress yet fulfillment.  Being cited as an influence to different levels of new generation talents from the Wizkids to the Maleek Berrys, Fireboys is not something that I take for granted. I’m equally happy to support in the way that I can. However, my ultimate fulfillment will be to have hundreds of new generation talents signed to Black Diamond, where I can train them. 

That would be insane.

Right. It’s high up my bucket list. I would go into the street and find these artists myself because I remember coming from the streets of Mushin where everything is rough and you get inspired by the surroundings and situations that you go through. I know there are a lot of talented artists out there with similar experiences who can also deliver magic to the world. I’m trying to get into that space, look for these artists, sign and make them happy. 

Your last album was six years ago. What’s the vision like with the forthcoming project?

Basically, to change the game still – in a good way. I’ve pushed myself with this project and people will get to see a different side of me because I decided to do things I’ve never done with my voice, melodies, harmonies, lyrics and message. Trust me, nobody has ever heard the songs I have on this project. 

Can you describe some of the sounds in the album?

For real, I can’t explain because the sounds are so great, I don’t think I’ve done anything like that. It’s a different record, I’ve never done anything like this in my life and I’m excited about it. 

Wande Coal – Again (Official Video)

What has the creative process been like?

I’ve since worked with the likes Kel-P, Spiritual Vibes, Rexxie, P.Prime etc. I also worked with Dunnie. She is the first female producer I’ve worked with in my life – ever! She produced a masterpiece on the project. I wish I could let my fans hear these records already. We made three major records almost immediately we got into the studio. It was magical. I was shocked because I had never seen a female producer that good. It’s so crazy that she can also sing. It’s crazy, honestly!

We can’t wait for the tracklist. How does this project compare to the others in your discography?

I’m confident about this one because I’ve grown over the years. As a professional, I know my sound inspires a lot of people, so this project could be likened to Wande Coal as a professor who’s updating his syllabus. It’s like constantly trying to update my OS with each release because I expect people to learn different things from it, take whatever they want and use it. That’s how I see music.

Being the highly-revered pop star that you are now, would you say anything to a much younger Wande Coal?

Sure. Fame is crazy and a different ball game. You could be normal for a long time and when fame comes into your life, it changes everything and how you relate with people – family, friends etc. If you allow it, it gets intoxicating, and that’s not how it ought to be, but because you were never popular before then. Now, I’m wary of letting anything get to me because where I came from is always in my head. I’d gone through so much to get here, so I’ll keep working and creating music because if I wasn’t doing that, nobody would know me in the first place.

Listen to Wande Coal and his lasting influence in our One Dance playlist.