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WurlD at the crest of self expression

A one-time outsider takes center stage as WurlD releases his latest album My WurlD With U solidifying his rank as a hitmaker and experimenter ready to bring his many fans together on a single project. Interview. 

In 2016, WurlD broke into the music industry as an outlier with “Show You Off” featuring Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire. The record, at the time, defies the industry’s status-quo of high-tempo progression. “I had no second-guesses. I just wondered how long it’ll take for people to catch up to this frequency,” he says. The idea of synthesizing genres to create a fresh sound was in its trial phase when WurlD, a Nigerian in the diaspora, created a by-product of Afrobeats and Soul.

The singer, born Sadiq Onifade, spent his formative years in Mushin, Lagos before moving to the US where he started as a professional songwriter, having worked with Timbaland, B.O.B, Trinidad James, Mario, and others. For a people hardly receptive to nonresident talents, WurlD maneuvered his way into African hearts with his emotive storytelling, sublime vocal delivery, genre-bending wonders and turquoise-leaning aesthetics. “Compared to a lot of my peers in the Afrobeats community, I’m one of the very few artists that became accepted in Nigeria without having to return first,” he admits.

He prowls after that success with the ‘Afro-Juju’- inspired “Contagious”, before hitting a new career high with, I Luv Girls With Trouble, where he joined forces with Sarz. It remains one of the most critically acclaimed projects and collaborations in 2019. I Luv Girls With Trouble was nominated for Best African Album at the South African Music Award alongside Davido, Sha Sha, and Isabel Novella. They also earned nominations for Best R&B Duo at the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA); Best R&B Album and Best Collaboration at the Headies. On the songwriting front, he’d struck gold with “Blow My Mind” by Davido and Chris Brown, “Sweet in the Middle” off Davido’s album which also features himself, Naira Marley, and Zlatan. These successes at differing levels would prove WurlD’s expansive sonic palette and tip him as an ‘artist of many fan bases’. “My plan is to bring everybody together [at the tour] because people are going to come for different songs. When they come to see me live, they’ll realize what they’ve been missing on the other side,” he says.

WurlD recently shared his debut album, eponymously dubbed My WorlD With U, which pictures the soft-spoken singer at the crest of defenseless self-expression. “It felt like I was sharing too much at some point but it was necessary”. The project houses standout records like “Make It Snow”, “Gucci”, “Stamina”, alongside guest features such as Sho Madjozi, Major Lazer, and Sarz. 

In this piece, the singer takes PAM on a first-hand experience into his world and everything in between.

WurlD – Stamina feat. Majorleague Djz & Luudedeejay

You came into the music industry as an outlier at the time. Did you have second-guesses making music the way that you did?

I had no second-guesses. I just wondered how long it’ll take for people to catch up to this frequency. I’ve always just been patient and wondered how long it’ll take people to catch up. It’s like knowing the vibe is special and fresh and what drives me is putting new vibes into the universe because everything else is being done. I just always want to find ways to introduce new things. I’m only excited at studio sessions when I feel like I’ve come up with a new melody, vibe, new way, or range than what I’d done before. That’s one thing I strive for. Even in the new album, there’s a new range in my sound on every song.

It’s like knowing you have something special that’s sure to catch on eventually…

Exactly. Like when I released “Stamina” and “Spunk” last year. The former is familiar while the latter is a whole ‘nother swing of R&B, Afro, some Hip-Hop, etc. It’s crazy to see that people have been listening to it, which means they’re slowly catching up. Patience is my game. I had to be patient because I’m always bringing something new and when you introduce something new, you have to be patient.

This would be your debut album after three EPs. Is there a reason it took this long?

Everything is a journey. I wish I did this earlier but this is perfect timing.  I’m glad to have differentiated myself with past projects over the years. I’ve done Afro-fusion in the past and I still do but this time, with a little more range. I’m sharing certain frequencies that people have not heard in my previous projects. It’s like the old vibe meeting the new ones. With this project, I’m also talking a lot more about myself and exposing my true flaws for the first time. This is my most vulnerable project because the conversations are internal and more self, compared to the others. It felt like I was sharing too much at some point but it was necessary. I believe people will find a lot of themselves in the project because of how raw and human I am on it.

The project has interesting anecdotes. You can actually picture a scene with each record.

Yes, it’s like a 3D experience but audio-wise because in every song – from “Gucci” to “Overthinking”, “No Easy Love” – there’s a lot of self-love, finding self, and trying to be your best version. That is really me and I want people to see themselves in me and not just some blue-haired guy that looks and sounds the way he does. This time, it’s about being a human and showing people that I’m just as flawed and trying to figure it out like everyone and that’s okay.

You’re excelling as a great songwriter and artist with records to prove. Do you go the extra mile to balance Wurld the artist and Sadiq the songwriter?

With songwriting, I’m very specific with the artist that I create with because a lot of people don’t understand the narrative of creating music. I would like for people to understand the power and value of lending your craft that you’re great at because that’s part of giving to the universe. My energy is channeled towards connecting with creatives that share mutual respect – free from any industry gimmick because that makes it weird and diminishes the art and free love of just doing music. Like, it was great working with Asa on “Oceans”, Davido on “Blow My Mind”, “Sweet in the Middle” etc.

Do you realize that you’re an artist of many fan bases?

Absolutely, my fans are split. My I Luv Girls With Trobul fans are split from the Love is Contagious and Afro-Soul fans. For the first time, I may have brought them together with My World With U. Time will certainly tell.

Certainly, My Wurld With U, in its own right, unites these fan bases but is there a way to better drive it home?

The tours; because that’s where we’ll trick everybody and make them a big family. My plan is to bring everybody together because people are going to come for different songs. When they come to see me live, they’ll realize what they’ve been missing on the other side.

“These Days” takes me places. How did you go about creating with Dami Oniru?

That record had so many phases to it. I created the song first, then the music, and got with different musicians to create an extended version. The record is originally 6 minutes of just pure vibes, serenity, and it’s a live song. It got to a point where I needed female vocals to heighten its spirituality and Dami Oniru came to mind.

What was the creative process of My Wurld With U like?

Interestingly, I didn’t know it was time until the pandemic kept me still and helped me harness what I really wanted to do. I created a lot of the framework during that period because putting out the right energy to the world was important. I started the project with a number of commercial songs, about 20 records with a range like “Press”, “Something to Lose”, “Shine”  etc. I ended up keeping 4-5 of them on the album because I wanted to balance the story and depth. I wanted it to feel personal; that was important.

You went in on “Make It Snow”. Tell us something about the record that we probably don’t know.

Shout to Spax. “Make It Snow” is probably one of the most provocative records that sounds like a PG-13. Picture this, “when we come together, we make it snow”. I wanted to create what happens when you connect with your significant other and when you both climax together, you’re making snow. Everything that you experience in the song, is the highest feeling of what climax feels like and I didn’t start creating the song until I felt at the highest level of just feeling.

You also had the Atlanta to Lagos interlude. Does that connection hold any significance to your being as an artist?

Everything. Compared to a lot of my peers in the Afrobeats community, I’ll say I’m one of the very few artists that left the US and became accepted in Nigeria because Nigerian and African consumers can be difficult. Also, unlike others, I started in America and learned how to create music in America, not Nigeria – amongst the R&B, Pop, Hip-Hop, Country sounds around me. It also helped that I left Nigeria when I’d understood the grassroots and that helped me a lot when I returned because I didn’t have to start from scratch. When I moved, I never stopped speaking Yoruba or Pidgin, all I did was adjust to the new culture in America but I never lost my Nigerian/African background. Learning to create music in Atlanta, and now Nigeria has been interesting because I’ve found myself trying to make sure people see me as pure as I am.

Which of the records mean the most to you?

All the songs actually. It just depends on the conversation that we’re having. Lately, it’s been “No Easy Love” because I’ve been thinking about how love and friendship find us, how we’re born into a family and it’s natural. Then, you’ll find somebody that you care about, somebody that you want to love, it’s natural but you have to fight and prove yourself. You have to work to protect it; you can’t be relaxed or do things that hurt them and say you love them. 

That’s some perspective. Which was more challenging to make?

“Shine” was surprisingly one of the most challenging to make. From a technical and musical standpoint. Shout out to Dot Da Genius, also a Nigerian-American producer who produced Kid Cudi’s last album and worked with Kanye West, Lil Nas X, etc. He helped bring my vision to life. I almost didn’t put “Shine” on the album because I didn’t feel like we had a good final version of it. Shizzi came through with drums and there! I also love the version of Sho Madjozi that people get to hear on the record. 

Having come this far in your career, what matters to you most at this time?

I just want to connect with people in the truest and purest form. I’ll be in tour mode soon. I have all these projects and the new album to share an experience with the people live on stage. I’ve been patient with this and I think it’s time. The narrative will change itself because the conversations used to be “Wurld is underrated” but I’m happy we’re here now.

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