In Talks With Wani: If you’re gonna prioritise consistency, then you have to de-prioritise perfectionism

Afoma Andrea

By Afoma Andrea

Afoma Andrea

11 Feb 2022

Growing up around music, it was only inevitable that Wani would make a transition into the music industry.

Appearing on the scene in 2018 with EP ‘Lagos City Vice’, the young star has quickly amassed a loyal online following thanks to his transatlantic flavour – “I dropped that tape and everything just kind of started bubbling from there”.

Indeed! If a theme song was ever needed to represent the diaspora, Wani is the first choice. Born in Washington DC with his school years spent in London before settling back in Lagos, Wani has smartly suffused his influences with the current Y2K R&B revival- “I pull influences from so many, like different random places. I even surprise myself sometimes”. 

Following encouragement from both his peers and fan base to take his music to the next level, he has since dropped the second instalment of his Lagos City Vice series. Playing out like a soundtrack to his life, the project is transparent in the struggle of navigating life as an independent artist. Pegged to be one of the most significant RnB projects to come out of Africa this year, the 9 track EP has all the right ingredients to become a timeless body of work. 

Earlier this month, we caught up Wani over Zoom for a quick chat on what it means for a song to be ‘timeless’ and which UK artists he has his eyes on. Tap in below to see what he had to say! 

Three years in making .. Why did it take so long

The putting of the project together didn’t really take that long. But like, when I first dropped Lagos City Vice I and it went viral I was like damn. As soon as the project dropped I was already like started hinting at the second one, which is surprising that it came out in 2020. I was just growing as an artist because you know Lagos City Vice I, I had no expectations for it and the project kind of took on a life of its own. So during that period, I was just learning what I liked about being an artist, what works for me, what didn’t work for me. I feel like Lagos City Vice II shows that growth, like the development of my skill sets and just being an artist in general. But um, that’s time period was just strictly for like development sake. I know it took a long time, in my opinion depended on where I wanted my sound to be.

Previously you’ve defined yourself as a perfectionist, but mentioned that there’s a disadvantage that comes with it. Do you still grapple with that mindset?

Yeah, but right now with this type of urgency, my whole life journey right now has never been more urgent. Like for my next few steps, you know what I mean? feel like that urgency has kind of dulled that perfectionism because right now I’m trying to play like a quantity game for like my next couple of roll outs. As opposed to just like, throw it out, see if they like it ahh okay build. I think for these couple of steps, I want to just be like, more consistent with it. I feel if you’re gonna prioritise consistency, then you have to like de-prioritise perfectionism, because there’s no way just to kind of like coexist. So at this point in my life, I’m leaning more towards the consistency than like perfectionism, but those traces of perfectionism are still there.

Do you not think that they can go hand in hand?

I feel like you’d have to be working at a very high level [laughs]. You’d have to be working at a very high level to be consistent and perfect. We’re aiming towards somewhere around there.

Let’s talk about your childhood. So I believe you stated you’re born in Washington, is that correct?

Yes. My upbringing is just so crazy and wild to me.

How would you describe your childhood?

What is the word I would use? I don’t know how I would describe it but I know one word that I would use. The number one quality my childhood gave me was just like being adaptable to any situation. Because I’ve moved to so many different places when I was young. So I was born in DC and shortly after came back to Nigeria, then went back to DC. Then came back to Nigeria, I went to London for A levels. I went to Wolverhampton for A levels, left then came back to Nigeria and went to Chicago for school. So like all these like different movements, I just had to learn how to adapt very quickly. مواقع المراهنات I mean, my childhood in general, I think I’m a third culture kid thats somebody like that grows up spending too much time like in different places while they’re growing up. It’s definitely had like it’s advantages, but there’s some disadvantages for sure. But um, yeah, man, I just moved around a lot during childhood because of school and like yeah, just moved around a lot. That’s one thing I remember about childhood.

Is that why often you’re sound as described as transatlantic?

Yeah, for sure. I mean it’s just natural like in all these different places I was going, I had different musical experiences because my mom was a children’s entertainer in Nigeria. She did parties like children parties in the 90s and her DJs will be playing like Sisqø and 50 Cent. I went to DC and during that period of my life, that’s when I was like, introduced to old school r&b and that traditional r&b sounds are the kind of things I just blend into myself. I pull influences from so many, like different random places. I even surprised myself sometimes. Yeah, but that’s that’s my upbringing, it definitely influenced my musical journey.

Is it true that you first got into music by engineering for local Chicago artists?

What! Yeah you did your research research [laughs] My roommate is from Chicago and he’s one who taught me how to engineer. He would have artists like FBG Duck (rest in peace). So that was around 2012 and like the Drill scene was going crazy. So we were downtown in the dorms in Chicago, because I went to school in Chicago. He would have all these people over recording and I can’t lie it influenced me to take like my song structuring and like actually releasing songs seriously. Before then I just had the passion to do it but he kind of showed me like the practical way to like, turn it into something, a product. It was crazy you know, seeing all these guys like blew up. Then a couple of weeks later they are dead, it was crazy because these people were super popular at the time. To see them in the dorm, it was mind blowing, inspirational at that point in time.

Speaking of structuring music, you did mention that with the album, you want a timeless route. What does timeless actually mean to you?

I love that question by the way. The last person I was talking to about this, I was telling them about how like LCV II is structured in a way that some songs [pause] like, I know the timeline of certain songs for me. A song like Level and like God Bless the Child, 10 years from now even when I’m done with music, even when music looks like something else for me. There are certain of records I’m going to look back on and be like, okay, that was a staple of moments in my personal life. It’s a song that is still going to hold relevancy 10 years down the line or even 20 years down the line for me and that’s just strictly because of the subject matter. Like in God Bless the Child those are things that like [pause]. The things I was touching on that song, I just think are super relatable, like your parents struggles as you get older. Trying to learn how to like adjust to your parents getting older as you’re getting older but still hustling and grinding and everything hasn’t yet aligned you know. You are still kind of on the grind, that is a story that’s relatable to every single human being. So those songs are always going to hold more value to me than other songs that I’m just doing for a specific purpose like okay I need a club hit. Timeless ones like God Bless the Child, Level are the ones that are going to stick around and have much more meaning as as time goes on. The shelf life of those songs higher so that’s what I mean about timeless.

So you don’t think Smoke Out The windows timeless?

{Laughs) I know the record goes crazy but I don’t know about the timelessness of it. That was that was the most experimental song on the project. Me and Adé were just in the studio. I didn’t know what direction Adé was going. سلوتس اون لاين If you let Adé tell you the story he will tell you I was laughing in the studio while he was making the beat. I was laughing but it wasn’t even at what he was doing I was just in my own zone but when he added that base that dum dum dum. Ahh bruh I was like what the fuck is this beat man, this is like a different type of sound. So I had to go crazy on that one. It’s a fan favourite that I always see on my twitter. Like I’ve been I’ve been asking questions to all the fans to see which ones they gravitate towards and right now, that one is in there for sure! Grown Girl is in there, Calvin Clean and God Bless The Child is also in there. I think those are like the four heavy ones as fan favourites.

Yeah I’ve definitely seen a lot of people comment on the Smoke Out The Window, that seems to be the most favourite out of the tracks.

Yeah thats true, are you from the UK?

Yes I am.

I’m trying to fucking transition into that market, I think I’m done with this Nigerian market [laughs]. I need some UK fans bro, my new sound I feel like it sounds like summertime UK so I’m going to try… I’ve have some UK links. So I’m gonna try and see if I can like just do more strategic things to try and get into that market. I’m a huge fan of that Afro sound some people thought I was from the UK when I first dropped. [Laughs] I am a random somebody in Chicago right now and it’s so crazy how the sound just transcended all the way over there.

Who do you have your eyes on in the UK?

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say cause we have already done [pause]. BackRoad Gee is dope, Pa Salieu is dope. Gabzy and Odeal yeah man just that R&B and Afro sound.

NSG is another one I can see you collaborating with.

Yeah NSG is going crazy too. I feel like that R&B lane in the UK, I feel like there is a whole new market for that too. Especially how crazy like Afrobeat is going so everything just kind of like melts together.Everyone can have their own piece of like..if your sound is like dope enough right you can still build up like a sizeable following.

What made you want to move back to Lagos permanently?

I was broke man [laughs]. I was paying like $2,000 in rent in Chicago. I did it the first month I was fine but in the second month, fourth month, summer time I guess I gotta go back to Lagos. I had just finished school in Chicago and I stayed the whole year after college just like…I dont know what fuck I was doing. I was just not making any kind of serious beard so those bills are piling up on me. I got to the point I was like bro, I have to go back to Nigeria and touch base with my family. I haven’t been back home in like four years. I didn’t come back not once when I was in Chicago. So after finishing up college I was like damn bro like are you just gonna waste your 20s you have to go back to Lagos and link up with your dad and see what’s going on with the family. I didn’t have any plans of dropping that tape. I swear to God I came back home with only $500 and just like a couple of records that I didn’t know will go on the project. I was just like there’s nothing else that’s showing any signs that it’s going to work for me than music. You know what I mean? Because I already dropped like a freestyle so it was kind of like buzzing online and I was like yo like this showing signs that it might work so just try and like put some effort towards it. I dropped that tape and everything just kind of started bubbling from there. But yeah I came back because I was broke to cut a long story short [laughs]. I didn’t have anything going on for me Chicago so I took a chance on myself and luckily for me it paid but I need to take it to new levels. My head is in the game and I’m getting paid for it. Anything you get paid to do is a sure sign that like if you put a little bit of effort in there that you can reap more.

Would you say you feel settled in Lagos now because I do remember you saying you did find it hard blending in with the artists. As in they grew up with their friends and you were back in America. Do you feel settled now?

That’s a good question. I don’t think is a thing of like settling because you know I spent a lot of time here like I spent childhood here too. So I have roots here but it was never like disconnected thing for me. It was just like a go back and kind of like reintroduce yourself to like your friends that you hadn’t seen in a while, but I’ve never felt out of place in Lagos, its home. forgot the question. I kind of like lost attention.

No, that was a question. I was just asking if you felt settled, as with the artists that are coming up now, you did say that – “Oh, they grew up with their friends”. So you did feel a bit uncomfortable when it comes to being part of the crew. So I just want to know your opinions on it.

Yeah me personally, I’m not the kind of person to do that linking up shit. The relationship I’ve built up over here, they are people I know I can call on. We would chill first then make music. People like DO, Show Dem Camp, people like Buju that have been present like my own networking process is very organic. I feel like that leads on to personality. I come across as like an extrovert, like online or whatever but anybody who really knows me knows I’m a very reserved person. So I feel like me being reserved, that has been the biggest hindrance to like linking up. It’s not because I feel uncomfortable, it’s just my personality, I guess.

How did those collaborations come about? Were you guys just hanging out and then one day a song just came about?

[Laughs] bruh I swear to God those are my friends. Most of them are going super crazy right now so it seems like a big deal to most people like especially Buju’s situation. These are just niggas that were in the studio, me and Buju were in the studio on Christmas day. It was right before he popped off ,I was like bro were talking so much uncertainty now look, how everything’s changed in a couple of couple of weeks. Now I’m trying to do more collabs man, look I may not be comfortable with the person but businesses is business. [laughs] . I may do a couple of those soon but everything you heard so far, these are just relationships that are just very organic.

Back to you, is there a debut album in the works for this year?

I don’t know, I don’t know We’ll see. Bro me I’m two albums deep I don’t know what you guys are talking about [laughs]. Just two albums man, my next one is coming very soon. Depending on how this one goes I know if I want to call it an album or not but right now it is just a project. I don’t know if I’m ready to fully fully stand behind saying this is an album for the next one. All I know is that the songs are fire man so I’m trying to find a way to just put in the best light possible. Maybe after that first wave of initial attention comes I can start like saying I want to do album but I don’t know I’d want to build up a lot more traction before standing behind an album. Well I have projects coming for days like I’m trying to drop one before summer then another one right before the second December we’ve kicked out December 2022. But um right now we focused on that summer one. So that’s going to be outs pretty soon but um yeah me I’m two albums deep. According to my own calculations[laughs]. If people asked me I’ll them I’m two albums deep already.

The perfectionist is coming out right now.

[Laughs] Yeah man I’ve released control. Everybody’s on my ass to just be more consistent as of this year. Delegate tasks and be comfortable with people executing their own tasks on my team. So that’s what I’m trying to work on. No perfection.

Has that been easy? Letting go of the some of the creative control because I know you mixed copy most of the songs here I think.

This is the best interview I’ve ever done in my life your so on point with details. So yeah, I mixed some of them but that’s just because I did not want to give the budget away [laughs]. For the next project, I’m gonna.. see this is all part of being hands off I’m not a perfectionist. So for the next project I’m going to allocate mixing to the right people. قواعد لعب البوكر Let everybody handle their job but it hasn’t been easy, but it’s something I have to do so I will do it.

And finally, my last question for you because I know you need to get some sleep…

No I don’t need no sleep, I’m very much enjoying this conversation

What does 2022 look like for Wani?

2022 is all about just aligning properly and dropping the best music possible. Which is why right now there’s no sleep. I have to make sure my next move goes crazy because it’s make a brick right now for me that’s how I’m treating it. I’ve been in the UK I’ve just got bookings in Portugal. So I’m going to use the opportunity to try to sneak into the UK like work with some people. Hopefully by then most of my UK collabs are out so just a natural process. 2022 I’m trying to release the best music possible and more consistency on my hand and challenging myself to to be better.

So you already have some UK collabs up your sleeve?

Yeah, man wheew very crazy one!

I’m just thinking about your journey actually, I want to know what advice would you give to someone who’s on a similar path?

Give me a second because I really want to men me what I’m saying here. I feel like having a plan sometimes is very important. Like even more than having a plan like having the energy to keep moving forward like when things are not looking so clear. That’s a mantra everyone should hold like especially people like me who don’t like to plan shit all the time. I mean having a plan is important and like having the drive and like the grits to keep on moving forward, I feel like thats the best quality ever.