We talk to the afro-fusion singer about his vivid musical account of the fast life in Lagos, Nigeria.
Ayo Ayoku is a Nigerian-American singer and songwriter on the cusp of stardom. Better known as Wani, he first hit the limelight when a number of singles from his debut project, the 2018 EP Lagos City Vice, quickly caught considerable buzz. What was the attraction? His unique musical style. Wani incorporated samples and interpolations of early 2000s Nigerian classics into his production and lyrics, leading to a style of music that was both fresh and nostalgic at the same time.
Wani is adept at fusion, with most of his songs being blends of afrobeats, dancehall, and contemporary R&B. His songs hardly ever take a single shape, and the ability to deliver afrobeats and dancehall tunes that are original in every sense of the word but still reminiscent of classic tunes Nigerian music fans know and love isn’t a skill many artists have hacked. Many have attempted it, but Wani has it down to a tee. His latest project is titled Lagos City Vice 2, and it’s the second and last installment in the series. Nine tracks long with features from ShowDemCamp, Buju, and PrettyBoy D-O, Lagos City Vice 2 is a melting pot of all the sounds Wani is known for, and more.
Wani's music is an embodiment of the Lagos lifestyle, told through the lens of a young man taken by debauchery. His life is the fast life, and it’s evident in the stories he tells. The project immerses you into his world, where you experience his version of existence—the degeneracy of Nigeria’s economic capital, complete with the parties, the drugs, the women, and all its accompaniments. However, in Lagos City Vice 2 Wani explores his creative abilities and his narrative even further, such as displaying vulnerable affection in “Jailer,” and emotional introspection in the closing track “God Bless the Child.”
We sat down with Wani to discuss Lagos City Vice 2, the creative process behind it, and working with Buju. Check out the conversation below.
Image courtesy of the artist.
Why did you decide to make Lagos City Vice 2 instead of an entirely new project?
The thing is I had announced that I was going to drop a sequel to Lagos City Vice. Trust me, this is the last installment of that whole Lagos City Vice thing. I thought I’d like for the sake of following through and the people who were holding me accountable because I already announced it a while back, I just had to give them the sequel to it... a continuation of the story.
Listening to the project, I could literally hear and feel the Lagos lifestyle in it. The fast life, the girls, the money, the weed, all of that. Is that Wani giving us a window into his own lifestyle?
One hundred percent. It’s so crazy, like I was just having a convo with my friend this morning. He was like “Bro I thought you were capping about your life but I’ve been around you for the whole of December. Everything you say in your music is the life you’re living.” I’m like yeah man [laughs]. For every artist, if your goal is authenticity, subconsciously or consciously your music is gonna be a representation of the life you’re living. You can’t really escape it too much. Especially in the hip-hop or afro kind of space, you can’t really be singing about the lifestyle and not partaking in it. I’m very happy you said that though, because that was the goal, to translate. Everybody’s Lagos is different, but this one is my own version.
What can you tell us about your creative process behind making the project?
There are some songs there that are like three years old, there are some songs there that I made like two days before the project came out. I wish I could have dropped it a bit earlier, but the pandemic happened and then I was just not in a space to make music. Everybody was at home, so it’s like what’s the point of party music? That’s the point where records like “God Bless the Child” came, like super reflective records. It was a very drawn out process, but I’m happy I followed through and put that shit out, because I need to move on to the next chapter for sure. Lagos City Vice 2, this is just a project to tell the people that yo everyone who has been waiting and all the fans who have been patient I’m super appreciative, here’s this project, get ready for the next one.
Tell us about the producers you worked with on Lagos City Vice 2.
Bro, I work with the best producers man. I worked with my young g Trill Xoe. He’s from a collective called 44DB. They’re like the Internet Money of Africa. These boys are crazy good. They’ve worked on everybody’s project, from D-O, Ladipoe, everybody’s project. There’s Adey. Adey is the pioneer of this whole alte sound. I worked with Bizzouch. Bizzouch did some of Omah Lay’s stuff from his first project that are really good. I don’t want to forget anybody. Steph made “God Bless the Child”. Steph, that’s Buju’s producer. Ransom Beatz, those are my YouTube beats guys. I’m still very much a YouTube beats person [laughs]. People think it’s taboo that I go on YouTube and find beats, but bro it’s working for me and I’m not fixing anything that’s not broke. Wonda Magik, he did a couple of Boj’s records back in the day. He did “Level” and “Faaji” for ShowDemCamp. The next project, Trill Xoe is heavily featured on my project. I can’t wait to start rolling that out as well. Shout out to all the producers. They don’t get enough credit down here, so me when I get a platform I always want to big them up, always.
What’s your favorite song on Lagos City Vice 2?
[Breaks out into song] "F*** me on the first damn night you a grown ass girl, nobody, brown skin girl ya my chargie!" I like “Grown Girl” man. That’s what I’ve been on for the past three weeks. “Grown Girl” and “God Bless the Child.” They just sum up everything I’m feeling right now.
WANI - Times Two ft. Buju [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com
Let’s talk about “God Bless the Child.” What’s the story behind the song?
That’s just my anxiety of getting older, not necessarily reaching the benchmarks that I wanted to reach at the certain time I wanted to reach them. Just the anxiety that comes around doing music as a full grown man. The fear of failure, you know what I mean. But just having faith that okay you’ve come this far, you’ve seen so many signs that it’s gonna work, you’ve seen so many signs that it’s working, cause you’re getting paid, but it’s just that fear of will it ever turn to something that I can make sustainable. So all my fears I just push them into that record. The family aspect of it, my mom and my dad, that whole dynamic of saying that "yo just trust me, I’ve got the family." It’s my own plan to make sure the family is good, and I’m not going to stop until we get there.
This track just took a hard 180 bro. I think that’s why people love it. Niggas DM me like “Bro I was crying when I heard the song” I’m like bro what? When I made it in the studio, I was crying too so, you know what I mean? I feel like as an artist if the emotion you feel translates to how to the fans feel, then you’ve done your job as an artist, as a writer, as anything, if you can get that same emotion, if you can replicate it in somebody else. It’s a very vulnerable record. It’s one of the things that helps me, because I don’t drop too many visuals. So these kinds of vulnerable records allow my fans to have a peek into my life without me having to do too much. I always try to make sure I keep one of them on the project.
Tell us about working with Buju.
He’s a sicko man. That guy is too good bro. [Laughs] This guy literally goes into the studio and he freestyles hits. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life bro. We have like a couple records. We have “Company,” we have “Times Two,” we have a lot of unreleased stuff that we’ve done together man. Hopefully we can try and do a joint project. But bro, that guy is something else. He’s too good. There are not a lot of people that I’m washed by their talent, but that guy is a sicko for sure.
Did you feel any pressure to meet up to the success or critical acclaim of Lagos City Vice?
Even though it’s a sequel my goal with the project was never to catch any lightning in the bottle twice, because those kinds of moments come very rarely. Lagos City Vice, I liked it for what it was. Lagos City Vice 2 is a sequel but it’s not an attempt to try and top any classic or anything like that. How do you really classify what is better though, because the numbers on Lagos City Vice 2 have already passed the first project, but people felt and loved LCV1 more. LCV1 was its moment, LCV2 is gonna be its own moment, and we’re gonna move on to the next one without looking back.
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