Arts + Culture
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Fawaz.

Meet Fawaz, the Artist Behind Wizkid’s 'Made In Lagos' Artwork

We talk to the Ghanaian-born artist about his creative process, working with Sarkodie and Stonebwoy, and how Wizkid has motivated and mentored him.

Ghanaian-born Fawaz understands the influence of art on music. Through his precise, clever designs, he’s grown to become a voice in the cover art space. In the last three years, his designs have been utilized by Wizkid, Mr Eazi, Sarkodie, Shatta Wale and a host of celebrities.

Discovering his artistic gift in high school, Fawaz started out by creating fan artwork for some of his favorite globetrotting stars. A few like Sarkodie noticed. “One day, Sarkodie was about to release a song,” Fawaz recollects. “His designer wasn’t available to do the artwork, so they contacted me to design it. I did it, he posted it and I felt so confident about my craft.”

In 2018, Fawaz’ art would get to Wizkid, who reposted it and went on to replicate it as merch. The relationship between the two has since deepened, with Wizkid enlisting Fawaz as his go-to creative designer. And when the Nigerian superstar’s monumental album was due for release, he would turn to Fawaz to create the sleek, minimalist Made In Lagos album cover.

Below, the artist talks about his journey so far, meeting Wizkid and his relationship with the Starboy.


It’s been a hectic last year for you. You went on tour and achieved your dream of designing the album art for Wizkid. How did this all start for you?

I started this as a playful thing in high school. I was just trying to design for artists. For me, I’ll just take pictures and create [something] using [them]. Everyone around me knows one of my favorite artists is Sarkodie. I was a big die-hard fan. Me, I always had it in mind that even as a fan, you should have something to offer to the artist. So, as a Sarkodie fan, I should offer something from the creative side. I began by designing for him. I’d post fan art, he’d see it then retweet.

Then one day my moment came. He was about to release a song and his designer wasn’t available to do the artwork. So they contacted me to design it. I did it, he posted it and I felt so confident about my craft. I was like 'f-ck it, I can do this art thing.' From there on, I had this realization and self-belief that I could be successful at it. I started pushing myself out there more and reaching out to a lot of artists trying to work with them.

Wizkid's Made In Lagos cover designed by Fawaz.

In 2018, you posted a design you created for Wizkid. It went viral and Wizkid recreated it for his merch collection. How did you go from that artwork guy to being a part of the team?

I’m always retaining this mindset of: if you want to work with someone so bad, you should have something to offer to the person. No one wants to be with someone who doesn’t have anything to offer. After I did that viral artwork, I persisted on working with Wizkid. I reached out. Even though I knew for a fact that at that point he had a lot of graphic designers and, perhaps, a lot of people Iike me trying to design for him, it didn’t stop me from reaching out.

I was able to do "Commando" and "Fake Love" for him. My real goal with Wiz was to design his album cover. And God is just wonderful. Grace is just something you can’t take out of a person. Personally I didn’t even see it coming. He just asked me out of the blue. I didn’t even plan it.

Artists most times can be indecisive. They know what they want, and you try to translate them to designs. Have there been times when artists refuse what you’ve done for them?

Funny enough I haven’t had an artwork rejected by an artist before. I understand every artist I work with. I don't have to listen to all your songs to know what kind of vibe you want. When an artist tells me they want an artwork, say "Fake Love" for example, I’m picturing it in my head: definitely it’s all about love.

All I see for the artists I work with happens on that first try. Let’s say I do an artwork for you the first time, other times we have to work again, I already know what I’m creating for you. Maybe some have asked if I could adjust the font and all that. But I’ve never had an artist decline my artwork before. It’s never happened.

Stonebwoy's Angloga Junction cover designed by Fawaz.

Is there an cover you’ve created that has a surprising background story?

That would be Stonebwoy’s Anloga Junction. I was creating a rollout for Stonebwoy and, at that time, we were going back and forth on how to create the album artwork. We kept having people sending ideas and all of that, and Stonebwoy didn’t like any of them. I remember trying something to see how it goes. I took the picture. And the story is: Stonebwoy is the boy leaving the village to go to the city. If you see from the artwork, he’s finally come to Anloga Junction with his jukebox. On the back cover, he’s in a motorcycle on his way to the city to take the music out there. That was how I came about the artwork.

What’s the relationship between you and Wizkid? You’re like family.

For me, I’ll say Wizkid is an amazing mentor to all of us who work with him. Wizkid motivates us to do better. Everything you see us do for Wizkid is down to his motivation that makes us do our best. Behind closed doors, he’s always advising us. He knows we’re young, he on the other hand is matured. He’s been there, he’s done that. He never wants us to go on the wrong path. He’ll always put us in our place and make us know that the work we’re doing isn’t just for ourselves, it’s for everyone. It’s for everyone to see and be like 'wow this stuff I saw is amazing.'

The artwork for Wizkid encapsulates the mood, feel and texture of the tracks. How was it created?

We did that artwork in a day. I remember creating it online. Me and Langmia. He sent over the pictures and we worked magic together.

Wizkid Ghetto Love cover designed by Fawaz.

What’s your approach to creating? What do you do when you’re about to take on a new project?

I work in a very weird way. I don’t research albums. I don’t let other people’s works define my approach. I just sit down and process everything I want to do. If you see me work, you’ll find me weird because you don’t know where I get my ideas from. My creativity has no secret. For example, if I create an artwork, it’s more like a blessing rather than a challenge. When I create I don’t remember how I create. After I create, I cannot recreate it again. That’s how I am.

First time you got a major paycheck, what did you do with that money?

I invested in myself. I invested in my craft. Bought a new laptop and after that upgrade was when I started making more money. When you make money, you need to upgrade the materials you use to work. You cannot make money and then still use the same old tools. If you want your work to be better, you need to invest in it.

What’s the best advice you’ve got from Wizkid?

Wizkid will advise you to be versatile. You cannot be at one place your entire life. You got to keep it moving. You cannot be comfortable having 100,000 dollars. You have to double it up. You have to keep making more work. Personally, my life is moving. I’m not lagging. I’ve listened to him and everything he said is impacting my life. He’ll always urge us not to be comfortable at where we are. Always try to get more, do more, do better.

Mr Eazi One Day You Will Understand designed by Fawaz.

Sarkodie & Akan All Die Be Die designed by Fawaz.

Mr Eazi and Tyga Tony Montana designed by Fawaz.

Mut4y Afrosummer Vibes Vol.1 designed by Fawaz.

Sarkodie Can't Let You Go ft. King Promise designed by Fawaz.

Boys Kasa designed by Fawaz.

Wizkid Canada tour 2019 designed by Fawaz.

Starboy Fest merch designed by Fawaz.

News Brief
(Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Wizkid)

Wizkid Sets His Eyes On Yet Another Album

The Nigerian superstar teased a new album titled, SeiLess.

Just weeks after dropping his album More Love, Less Ego, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, popularly known asWizkid, is already teasing a follow up project.

On November 26th, the “Bad To Me” singer shared with fans on his Instagram story that he was working towards an upcoming album. According to the Afrobeats sensation, the name of the new album will be Seiless.

"New Album ‘SeiLess’," wrote the Afrobeats heavyweight, with a string of emojis.Although he didn’t share any other details about the project, it seems as though he is actively working to kickstart the creative process and go from there. Or it could all be a simple play on words for naysayers to say less.




The singer, who is known for his laidback disposition, told GQ in a French-conducted interview that before kickstarting a music project, he always starts with the name of the project, and hones in on being intentional first before anything else.

“When I know what I want to call the album and what I want to say, I start creating the music,” said Wizkid. “And most of the time, when I’m working on an album, there’s a moment where I give up on it. The most important thing is to be intentional. For Made in Lagos for example, I wanted people to know where I come from and who I am. With More Love, Less Ego, I want to share a message of love and make people vibrate. Love should be the greatest religion in the world. I believe that everyone can love each other, for real. My message is love one another and take care of your neighbor.”

The 32-year-old recently played a huge show at Madison Square Garden, becoming the second Nigerian artist to headline the renowned New York venue. His More Love, Less Ego tour will officially kick off on March 3, so it will be interesting to see if his new project will be available by then.

The show will debut in the south, with an opening performance at Houston’s Toyota Center. He will also stop in Dallas, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Phoenix, and other cities before wrapping up the tour on April 7, 2023.

Interview

Interview: Sarkodie Tells Us Everything About His Latest Album ‘JAMZ’

We talk to Africa’s most decorated rapper about his eighth studio album—which is filled with experiential sounds.

Sarkodie is a veteran as far as African rap is concerned. That status comes with certain privileges that artists of a different stature might not be able to experience in their full measure, one of them is the liberty of total and complete creative freedom. At the present stage of his career, Sarkodie is not bound by expectations, formulas, or the need to create music that caters to markets or tedious stipulations outlined by major labels or investors.

The Ghanaian star has done it all, from 30-track albums to rap-focused EPs, strings of bar-heavy freestyles, and much more. JAMZ is the Tema native’s eighth studio album. “The name explains itself, it’s jams.” Sarkodie tells OkayAfrica. “I started taking some trips, going on vacations back to back with the family and the team, and I was inspired by just taking time off to just enjoy life and these are the type of records I would want to listen to when I’m on such trips and just having fun. So that’s what inspired the whole project.”

Sarkodie’s albums are known for being laden with diverse sounds with rap at the core, but this time around he had a different mission. He describes the JAMZ album as a “playlist.” It’s the kind of music you can kick back and relax to while on vacation or out or a night of spirited partying—songs you can vibe to and enjoy. However, although that was the overall outcome of the project, it wasn’t necessarily the plan when he started making the album.

“I don’t necessarily try to set the tone for a project when I’m about to record one,” he explained. “For other people it might work, but for me it doesn’t. The album has to create itself. Subconsciously the music just keeps coming, and before you know it I realize oh that’s a project. It’s not really something I planned, it just happened. And mostly my music comes in the certain state that I’m in. That’s what dictates the type of sounds that I go for. So that’s how the project was formed.”

Sarkodie.Photo: Samuel Mironko

On JAMZ, Sarkodie worked with his producers MOGBeatz,GuiltyBeatz, DJ Coublon, Atown TSB, and Masterkraft behind the boards to bring the album to life. Speaking on his creative process while working on the project, Sark illustrated how he went about making the songs on JAMZ using the album’s lead single “Labadi” as a case study.

“I love how Labadi came about. Coublon sent me the beat and I didn’t even write anything back to him because I was so moved by the beat and I started writing. So I got lost in it and I wrote the first verse 'All my beautiful ladies we could link up.' I like to listen to producers and know where they were and what they were thinking when they produced the beat, because that helps me and I think it’s very spiritual. Because they could be in a space and sometimes I wanna tap into that. If it’s too off I can do something else, but it’s always right to tap in with the producers and know where they were when they produced it. So I hit him back and I was like ‘What were you feeling when you were producing this?’ He was like boat rides, 'beach vibe, all-white party,' and I was like ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ Because that’s literally what I wrote. I literally wrote boat rides, all those things. So I was like that’s very spiritual. So that song is very personal to me. That’s why it was the first single, because I believed in it so much.”

Another standout track on the album is the song titled “One Million Cedis,” in which he featured a relatively unknown Nigerian singer called Ink Boy. Speaking on the song, he explains how he spotted the emerging talent and how the collaboration came to life.

“Ink Boy is a superstar in the making. On thing about me is, I’m really about the music. I’m not about the gimmicks and the trends and clout chasing and all those things. I don’t do that. So whoever sang the music, wherever you’re from, if you suit the music and I love what you did, that’s what I’m gonna go for. I was in Nigeria and I had a couple artists and producers in the building. Rexxie, Masterkraft, Joeboy, incredible artists, Phyno, everybody was there."

Sarkodie - Labadi feat. King Promise (Official Video)www.youtube.com

"We created 'One Million Cedis,' and this kid was just in the corner making melodies. I was like 'yo lemme hear that,' and he came closer and I loved it. I was like put this on. He wasn’t even sure that I was gonna do it, and I was like I like the way your vocals are and the melodies you’re going for, let me hear how that would sound on it. Even Masterkraft was asking if I was sure, because he knows I could call on anybody that I want to get on the record. But I was like 'nah, this is exactly what I want.' Also, that can pass to be one of my best records [on the album] as well. It made me rap how I want to rap at this point of my career, it’s very calm, dark, but still very commercial. So Ink Boy is somebody I just met. He came with the Nigerian comedian Father. He was with him and I spotted him, and I know he’s gonna go far.”

As to whether the kind of music you hear on JAMZ is what his creative direction is going to be like for the foreseeable future, Sarkodie prefers to leave that to fate.

“It’s hard to tell. I’ve never been that type of person that tries to force something to happen. We have structure as far as business is concerned, yes. You have to be specific and you have to be calculated on things you wanna do. But I need the creative side to be as organic as possible or I’m not gonna feel right within me. If I say 'this is what I’m trying to do' it never really works for me. There are a couple records that I did that on and as dope as the records were, because my spirit was not behind it the songs did not do what we thought it could do."

"But anything I do organically works. So I’m not gonna say this is gonna be what you’re gonna hear, but if I go back to listen to all my projects I noticed one thing. I get tired, fatigue is the word I use. I get fatigued on a certain sound if I overdo it. This project, since I’ve done a lot of afrobeats, amapiano, chill vibes I know I’m gonna be tired. I will have to refresh my mind so I can come back. It’s definitely gonna be something different. I don’t know what it’s gonna be, hip-hop, highlife, whatever but it’s gonna change. Definitely.”


Sports
(Photo by via Getty Images)

The Other African Footballers in the World Cup

There are five African teams in the World Cup, but there are at least 54 players on other teams who were either born in Africa, or have African ancestry.

Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are the five African teams in the World Cup in Qatar, but there are at least 54 players on other teams who were born in Africa or have African ancestry.

This is, of course, the result of the African diaspora, the movement of people from the continent towards the rest of the world. But the stories of how African players or their families got to the other side of the world are not always so stereotypical as one might imagine. The world cup, besides a month of football, is also a way to find out about how humans move through the world. Here are a few:

One of the most talked about stories in this tournament is that of Breel Embolo, who was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, but represents the Swiss national team and refused to celebrate after scoring against his country of birth last week. Embolo scored the only goal in the 1-0 Switzerland victory. It was the first goal he ever scored in a world cup, and the video of it went viral. But it wasn’t because of his technique, it was because he refused to celebrate.

Embolo moved to France when he was six years old because his mom, who had separated from his dad, went to study there. She met a Swiss man and married him, and the family eventually moved to Switzerland when the now Monaco forward was still a kid. So when he scored for his adopted country against Cameroon, he decided to stop and hold his arms up while his teammates celebrated around him.

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Music
Photo: Adama Jalloh.

Watch Stormzy's 'This Is What I Mean' Video Featuring Amaarae, Black Sherif & Ms Banks

Michael Ebenezer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr. popularly known as Stormzy recently recruited a star-studded entourage of artists to feature on the music video for “This Is What I Mean.” The record features Amaarae, Black Sherif, Ms Banks, STORRY and Jacob Collier.

Following the release of his third studio album This Is What I Mean last week, Stormzy worked with his video team to bring the song to life.

The body of work consists of 12 tracks and also features appearances from Debbie, Sampha,, and more. The new album's single, "This Is What I Mean," is a P2J, Knox Brown, Joel Peters, and PRGRSHN-produced joiny that fully highlights Stormzy’s music ingenuity.

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