WurLD: Thriving In Lagos, Nigeria’s Busiest Ghost Town

2 years ago, Sadiq Onifade packed his bags in Atlanta and moved to Lagos to follow a dream. In a city where sinners are life’s winners, standing straight has been a battle.

“I am seeing a refusal from the industry to support me,” WurLD says as he reclines on a sofa, stirs his hot chocolate and takes a careful sip. His opener throws me off. Sitting in his mom’s Lekki home on Lagos Island, the Nigerian singer is busy with the demands of release day. His phone is omnipresent as he tweets to fans and monitors their reception of his art. ‘AFROSOUL,’ is his newest project and the extensive roll-out requires his attention, but also has him thinking deeply about a lot of things. This is the third time WurLD has gone through this process in 14 months, but this is the first time I have seen him troubled. This is not the version of him I am familiar with.

In the two years since becoming friends with Sadiq Onifade, he has never complained about anything. But right now, he rattles off his first complaint. It’s not COVID-19 that’s getting to him. It is the music industry.

“Does the industry think you are becoming better than them?” I ask. He responds immediately–his eyes still fixed on his beverage. “It’s not about being better than anyone,” he says. “It’s about adding a different perspective. There are so many gems among African creatives that I love and respect. Yet at the same time, I feel like I’m different, and adding my own value to the culture in general. And a lot of people are choosing not to support. People that can create more visibility but are choosing not to support me.”

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“Does the industry think you are becoming better than them?” I ask. He responds immediately–his eyes still fixed on his beverage. “It’s not about being better than anyone,” he says. “It’s about adding a different perspective. There are so many gems among African creatives that I love and respect. Yet at the same time, I feel like I’m different, and adding my own value to the culture in general. And a lot of people are choosing not to support. People that can create more visibility but are choosing not to support me.”

When WurLD speaks, his sentences flow and he often uses flowery descriptions that conjure vivid imagery for the listener. This powers his art. In 2016, I discovered the blue-haired singer on Soundcloud and Youtube. Handsome with silky vocals, exquisite songwriting abilities and an aura of mystery, WurLD was a man confident in his uniqueness. The outsized confidence was hard to miss, but the smooth personality took the edge. I watched him croon ‘Show you off’ on-screen, a song with Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire, and was captivated. It is no wonder the record put him on the map. Somehow, the song slipped into underground Lagos playlists then to other African music hubs, working its way into markets with scant promotion.

While Africa was being introduced to WurLD, Europe had already embraced his gifts. “My first success was in Poland, my music broke into Eastern Europe in 2015,” he tells me. Based in the US then, he became a prolific songwriter, penning songs for artists, and hustling to get into the right rooms in Atlanta. He worked with Timbaland, Mario and B.O.B. He even signed contracts with major labels as a songwriter where he participated in creative songwriting marathons. In 2015, WurLD went certified Gold with his Sony Music released track, “Follow You” with Polish DJ, Gromee. When the plaque arrived by mail from Poland, it was shattered and needed glue to hold it together. “It’s the first of many certifications,” the singer told himself.

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