WurlD sees himself as a Vessel of the Universe; a pointer to his dedication to maintain fluidity of music and of self.
We can’t separate music from people, but sometimes it is easy to think music comes from a vacuum. Music lovers usually let personal preference and demand blind them from understanding the humanity of the artist. Everything you hear in a song comes from a source; a collection of experiences and feelings that can’t be replicated. People create music, and music inspires and heals people – united in a sacred cycle that can never be broken.
The Amapiano tour organised by Spotify emphasised the siamese relationship of the two entities. It soon became apparent that music is nothing without emotion. It is nothing without the artist’s trials, successes and deepest thoughts. As a product of culture and experiences, the artist is a mouthpiece whose voice activates the thoughts and emotions of others who gravitate to them. Regular people don’t hang around popular artists on a normal day, so having WurlD on the trip with us sprinkled some stardust on the occasion.
I first ran into him at breakfast on the first day of the tour. Apart from his striking blue hair, WurlD does not go out of his way to stand out. As time passed, he came out of his shell, lending his energy to the rest of the team before occasionally disappearing into thin air. Such is the personality of Sadiq Onifade; sometimes he’s here and other times he’s not, but engaging with him leaves a lasting impression. His music has had the same effect. WurlD’s enchanting vocals won him plaudits after the releases of Love is Contagious and I Love Girls With Trobul. He embodies the product of a dual upbringing, a pointer to his fluidity of music and of self. As he observes, he gives back, and that is why his music is an extension of who he is as a person.
We eventually got acquainted on Day 2 at Chaf Pozi, after the tour of Soweto. After enjoying the food and amazing beer, WurlD and I settled on the balcony overlooking where the rest of the team sat. He took care to watch out for dusty seats to avoid stains on his flowy, white pants that his print, lavender-coloured jacket sat on top of. The breeze was nice, and WurlD was in high spirits.
This interview is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
WurlD: I like interviews like this; casual conversations. As it should be.
Bounce: Right? This is how I do all my interviews. Artists are people and they should feel like people. I know people add the “Wurld” factor when they talk to you, do you like that?
You get used to it. You gotta get used to it. You need to know how to respond without being… weird. I had to get used to compliments, I’m an introvert.
You are! You’re very “off the grid”…
But nowadays, the industry requires you to be in people’s faces. For me, if I ever get in people’s faces then I’m 1000% comfortable in my own skin doing that. If I’m not you won’t see me trying to trend. I’d hate myself afterwards if I did.
I feel you. I’m not the type to bring out my phone and record everything going on, either. How have you enjoyed the tour so far?
I’ve been here for… I’m losing track of days. What’s today? Tuesday? I got into SA on Saturday, we left on Friday because of the elections. It’s been good. It’s been calm.
What’s a typical day for you?
A typical day is so calm. Workout in the morning, I usually record before speaking to anyone.
I record sober. Mornings are the most clear times. I try to catch up on as much recording and writing at that time because I wake up with a fresh mind and fresh ideas. Before the world wakes up and starts sending me emails about industry stuff.
Before you have to be Wurld to the world.
Exactly. The gym is usually at like 10, 11? At that time the gym is calm.
In some places, the gym is crazy at 11!
Yeah, in some places. But it’s still not as crazy as 7 or 8am. At about 12, I’m back in the studio and at 2pm I’m done recording for the day. Working in the evening, I can be distracted because I’ve done the hard part in the morning.
You’ve not put out music in a while.
People say that and it’s crazy because I intentionally put 19 songs on the last album. It was a bit different from previous projects because I’m evolving and I want to show people the range of my work. For me, that was a lot. The last song I released, “Free (Sounds for Healing)”…
I love that one.
Thank you! I was going through an episode where everything was… I was struggling.
And that’s what inspired the song?
Yeah. People see me like, “oh Wurld, you’re so calm”…
But they have no idea what’s going on.
Like, the madness is here [points to his head]. I just find ways to calm the madness but for the first time, that madness came rushing. It was post-pandemic.
It seems like there was a lot of suppression and after the pandemic, it all blew up.
Exactly. Everything I was suppressing came rushing in at once and I was scared because I felt an episode of what I see people go through that makes them commit suicide. Yo… it’s crazy o. You gotta protect your mind bro. I came out of it and I’m grateful, because some people don’t.
More people stay in those feelings than the ones who don’t.
Yes and it affects their families, their relationships, their work… I created that song sober because of how I wanted to feel: free. I felt like I didn’t have a vision, I felt lost… I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t have motivation or inspiration for shit I know people that, even the way they smoke weed is different. They stay high 24/7. I’ve never created any song under any influence.
That’s interesting because your music has psychedelic elements.
I’m a spiritual person, not religious at all. I tap into things naturally that some of my artist colleagues have to tap into by smoking, but it takes a lot of quietness and knowing yourself.
I came into the scene because I saw something different to what was happening in Nigerian music. Before I came, Nigerian music was fast-paced.
You’re one of the people who slowed it down.
I was writing songs for Mario, B.oB, country music guys… that was my reality. That was until Shizzi moved to Atlanta with Davido and they happened to be in the same neighborhood I was in. A mutual friend introduced me to Shizzi and that’s how I did “Show You Off”.
How did you meet Walshy Fire?
I met Walshy after that. Walshy brought Major Lazer on board to do the brand marketing: they put it on their IG, their Twitter, everything. I was the first African artist to work with Major Lazer. That’s why a lot of the people in the Islands know the song.
So, being in South Africa now, what kind of feeling does Amapiano give you?
It’s spiritual. You don’t even need lyrics. For me, I fell in love with SA House music then Amapiano came along and it’s just beautiful. I see Amapiano as the African version of European house music; the only difference is European house is fist-pumping. Africans, we have rhythm. The bounce. I love where it’s going, I think international artists are going to start working on it, we’re gonna hear more conversations about it, we’re gonna get more lyrics and vocals.
You say international artists will tap into it but Nigerian artists already are tapping in; I mean artists from the Afrobeats genre.
Let me let you in on my vision. I put out “Free” because I saw what the rest of the world will start to do with Amapiano. It’s going to become more lyrical. You’re gonna get really big lyrics on Amapiano and some people will think the genre originated from somewhere else. There’s going to be lyrics that everyone can understand, and they’d be able to feel the music as well.
I’ve not heard you on a lot of Amapiano records. What do you think your relationship with the genre could be if you made more?
I made a couple, I did “Stamina”, I did “Free”. But I’m making more. I’m working on a dance album. I’m working on an Afrobeats album.
So you’re working on 2 albums?
I’m working on 4 projects. Sarz and I are doing I Love Girls With Trobul 2, we’re almost done.
That’s crazy. How do you handle switching between projects and the mind states that come with them?
I don’t think I’ve said this a lot, but when I was working on I Love Girls With Trobul, I was working on Love Is Contagious at the same time. Both projects came out in 2019.
Yes! Contagious came out first. Is this your thing to work on multiple projects at once?
Yeah, it’s weird. At the time I was doing Love Girls, “Show You Off” was the only Afro-fusion song I had. In LA when we were making “Trobul”, he (Sarz) was just playing me vibes…
He told me about how he made the beat for “Trobul” from scratch with you.
He said to me, “I thought of you and made this vibe.” It’s simple, if you listen to “Trobul” it’s very simple.
Not a lot of drums too.
I recorded it. The next day, he came by the studio and it was done. I told Sarz let’s do a joint album, and that’s what birthed the project. At the time, I wanted to create an alter ego. So, Love is Contagious is WurlD Peace, while I Love Girls With Trobul is Trobul WurlD.
What’s the difference between WurlD Peace and Trobul WurlD?
WurlD Peace is Zen. This is me, clear in this mad world. Trobul is when you see all my flaws shining. It was an alter ego project for me. The way I recorded, everything was just different.
What about I Love Girls With Trobul 2?
We have a few singles coming out ahead of time but it’s nothing like before. I listened to the songs and I thought God is so good to us. I feel like people are going to hear it and be like “what the fuck?”