Ahead of releasing his hotly anticipated debut album, international musician WurlD speaks with Notion about transcending to a "whole other level" and wanting people to feel a "journey of emotions" with his new music.

Remaining simultaneously current and authentic is a balancing act that all artists strive for. Nigerian crooner WurlD has been trying to evenly weigh these elements on a sonic scale for the entirety of his musical career. He left Nigeria on an American quest to Atlanta to pursue his musical dreams, adapting mainly to R&B ballad styles.

 

He took what he learned writing for others (B.O.B, Mario) by channeling their essence into what he felt was missing from the Afrobeats sound he grew up with. The result was the track that reconnected him to a fanbase back in Africa in 2016’s “Show You Off” feat. Shizzi & Walshy Fire. WurlD presented a new lane for the Afrobeats sound with a slowed down lyric-driven tone that he had grown a passion for in the states. This sound was of the moment as well as true to him and has now carried him over three wildly successful EPs. WurlD is now on the cusp of the release of his highly anticipated debut album.

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While this journey has provided all of the sonic clarity, he needed to feel fully prepared for a full project release WurlD had to tap into what separates him. On a long overdue trip back home during the pandemic, he could block out all the industry noise and home in on the vulnerability he felt the need to convey. The resulting composition, ‘My WurlD With You’ (August 13th) promises to be as much a reflection of the sound his life experiences have curated as it is a rawly presented result of his self-reflection. He feels that he has over these 5 years or so prepared his audience to receive everything musically at his core.

 

Notion spoke with the cerulean-haired singer to discuss everything album-related, fulfillment-related, expectation-related, and weather-related.

I don’t think I’ve seen or heard anyone ask you why and when you got the blue hair? It’s so tied to your identity.

Now my scalp is the only thing that’s suffering. But my favorite color has always been blue. Like water, the sky, just that zen. In 2017, I was about to shoot the video for “Show You Off” and at the time I cut my hair and I had always wanted to do a colour. I was sitting in the chair with my colourist and she had different ones: red, blue, gray, purple. But I said, “Let’s go for blue.” At the time I said, “Whatever colour I’m gonna do, I gotta keep it consistent.” I tried it and it felt natural. It just felt right. It felt like a touch of something else that added value to my essence. It’s been different shades of blue since then.

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I feel like a lot of how you create music is going what feels right to you. Do you think that’s expressed in ‘Afrosoul’?

Absolutely. I’m very aware of my surroundings. When you observe and look deeper at everything around you it keeps you in a mood. Open your eyes and look at, why this coincidence? When you listen to my music you get my true feeling or what I’m trying to communicate at the time. I put that in every song. On ‘Afrosoul’ for sure.

You seem intrigued by fate. When was the last time you felt a feeling of fate during the music-making process?

It’s been happening a lot to me lately as I’ve been working on my debut full-length album titled ‘My WurlD With You’. That’s the definition of my name by the way, a world with “u” in it. A lot of the music I’ve been creating lately has so much range and depth to who I am as an artist. I’ve been tapping into things people love from me from my last projects, but I’ve been doing a lot of music that’s just so personal. I’m finding new things about myself I can’t wait to share.

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What’s the progression been from ‘Afrosoul’ to what you’re making now?

I’m getting better at my communication. I’m showing a lot of things only people in my inner circle know. Sometimes I feel like a lot of artists don’t get to show their true self and true range because of the business of music. You want to balance successful commercial records with showing your true self. This time around I’m showing people what they already love but you’re also gonna start hearing a lot of ballads that still fuse the essence. Me in a more raw form. You see the toxic side. It’s a lot more personal.

That reminds me of one of your most recent releases off the ‘Afrosoul Deluxe’, “Come Outside,” where you get into that push and pull of yearning but being confined indoors.

Absolutely, imagine that, but on a whole other level now. Sonically a whole other level. But a full-length, close to fifteen songs. I’ve never done skydiving, but some of these songs feel like that adrenaline rush. Fusion of R&B, Afrobeats, and Pop. Fusing the essence of my journey and things I’ve been exposed to.

What I notice is you thrive in the area of in-between. Between your roots in Nigeria and Nigerian music and what you discovered living and recording in Atlanta. Where did you record this and where does the music fall sound-wise?

I recorded a lot of this in my Mom’s house during the pandemic. I was in Germany last February recording my Colors performance of “Ghost Town.” This was when the pandemic was starting to go crazy and Trump said no flights could come into America from Europe. So I made a decision to go back to Nigeria and spend time with my family. I was there for a whole year and recorded most of the album in my Mother’s house. I felt like a kid again eating mama’s food. She was happy to feed me and my brothers and sisters. The last time we were all together was in 2001. Twenty years ago. It was the best time ever having time to reset. I created like three albums in the process. The hardest part was figuring out what version of myself I wanna share with people now. Some of the songs were super progressive where people would be like, “Yo what the hell is that?” They wouldn’t be ready for it. I’m giving people a version of myself people are ready for now.

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What about the sound makes you feel like it’s what people are ready for now?

It’s inclusive of what’s happening right now, progressive, but not too far. A lot of the conversations are so straightforward with a sound you can feel familiar with. What you love about WurlD so far with new conversations that are more personal. You get to know the situations I find myself in that are toxic. A lot of the time you’ll be like, “Wow he gets into stuff like that?” I’m bringing people in closer.

Does bringing people in that close ever feel scary?

It always feels scary but it’s the best moments. But at the same I’m sharing what I feel comfortable with that people can relate to. I wanna give people something they can apply to their lives right now, but a whole new perspective. When I went into Afrobeats I never wanted to blend in. I wanted to show a different range of what African creative world music sounds like.

When you look back at ‘Afrosoul’, what song or songs do you think lead you most into what you’re making now?

I would say two songs, “Ghost Town” and “Can’t Come Outside.” “Ghost Town” is really vulnerable. That conversation is still so heavy. I feel like I covered so many things in one song. “Can’t Come Outside” is a certain feeling. It’s R&B, it’s Afro in a way, but it’s also still very vulnerable. It’s the texture of it. The side that people have not seen though is the balance, the conversations, the stripped-down records where you hear my vocals a lot more, the rawness, and the pain. You hear that a lot more on this album.

Do you think any of that has to do with the emotional reconnection you made with your family during the pandemic?

This is who I’ve always been even before I started doing Afrobeats. But being at home allowed me to feel fearless. The world needs those vibes.

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You’ve also talked about having a responsibility to have clarity in your music. Slowing it down to make sure everyone understands your words. Why do you think you need to do that?

When you do songwriting in America, working with different artists, part of the job is lyrics. In 2016, I remember vividly, a lot of the Afrobeats songs were more rhythmic. There was more music than actual lyrics. It was more of a vibe where you dance. I was working in America where lyrics and the top line were very important. I envisioned a world where you take an Afrobeats swing song then slow down the lyrics and make it very distinct, very intentional with the lyrics. Then you get two things: rhythm and a conversation and feel that the world can understand without having to explain it. I felt like that was important and showed range. A lot of people are doing it now. You’re going to see a whole new range of African artists that are more lyrical. The structure will be more Western but you’ll still get the African essence. That was the world I envisioned as far as fusing my sound.

That taps into what I was saying before about the in-between and your sweet spot there.

Yeah! Bear in mind, Africans and Nigerians, one thing they don’t play with, they don’t like if you wanna do Afrobeats stuff and use some of their language and you half-ass it. You have to commit to the gut feeling of how you say things. I was born there so I understand that. I learned how to create music in America, but when I fuse I’m aware of this communication. I’m intentional with my cadence, but make sure the communication is human. That’s the sweet spot. That’s the cheat code. Moving back home a lot of people would see me and go, “Oh, he’s too American. Too clean.” But when they meet me in person I’m speaking just like them. I speak the same language not in an American way. But I’m always learning and using that as an advantage to communicate my ideas.

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Speaking of learning, you mentioned before in America you did and do a lot of writing for others and you have to learn about them to do so. Do you get a unique fulfillment from that?

It’s a beautiful thing to learn their story. Let’s say I’m working with B.O.B in the studio and he needs a hook so I’m talking to him. My goal is tapping into his mental space and what he’s feeling. Then using some of my melodies and choices to collaborate and get his ideas out. Even working with a country artist I know the audience and cadences are different but I’m adjusting to that. Or with Davido or an Afrobeats artist, I know the cadence but I’m adjusting to his tone and making sure he’s able to sing it. But with my own music, I’m even like, “What does WurlD wanna say?” So I’m creating music with myself and it’s almost the same process.

I read a recent personal essay in which you said, “We become an instrument of everything that we have seen, that we have learned, and that we have experienced.” Can you further explain personifying yourself as an instrument and if you were an instrument what would you be?

You meet people every day and go to different places and everything rubs off on you. That’s building. All these things make you who you are. You get into a relationship, you get hurt, you get inspired, you hurt people, you inspire people, you make friends, they make you feel bad, you add value. All these things are not a coincidence. They build you and it’s like you’re collecting data. You’re like a computer collecting memories and ideas and how you view things. You become an instrument of everything you touch and see and eat. Then if I was an instrument it would have to be the most soothing instrument that’s peaceful. A keyboard. Or something spiritual like a sax. But the melodies are very important. It has to be the most soothing melodies and how it resonates in the spirit.

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A lyric that jumped out to me from ‘Afrosoul’ was “Dem pray make I fail, don’t test my faith” on “National Anthem (Growing Wings).” Were you singing about yourself and your home country?

When you surpass expectations, sometimes people have a bar set of what things can be, and you feel that energy. I was feeling that at the time. Sometimes when you’re winning too much, people wait for the flaws. But faith and persistence was what that reaction was. I wanted to inspire the listeners because we live in fear. I wanted to inspire the listeners to get up and get it. It’s “National Anthem” because it’s about getting up today and being fearless. That’s the energy I wanted to put out.

Speaking of getting up and getting it, I’ve seen you out doing shows for the first time in a while. How has that been?

We had the tour set up last year even before ‘Afrosoul’. We had to expedite the release of that because corona happened. Performing now is a great feeling. We are doing small bits and pieces and testing the waters. I’m gonna do a US tour soon, a proper tour. But right now we’re just doing appearances with a few songs for the fans. It’s been amazing, people coming out, and feeling close. Seeing the energy, it’s been beautiful.

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You said the next music you have coming is “summer music.” What does that mean?

We are starting in the heart of summer with the releases. I think we have something special to get that vibe going. As the project progresses, I want people to feel the journey of emotions. On ‘My WurlD With You’ we are gonna uplift and vibe. You are gonna feel the true essence of being human. The project transitions from summer to fall. A lot of the heart of the project is gonna feel like fall because we are looking at a fall release. But we’re starting in summer because we’re in summer. The songs you’re gonna hear first will have that feel. Then we will grow into the fall.

So you’re moving with us, that’s cool.

Absolutely. This time we’re moving with the weather.

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