The Billboard Hot 100 debut of Wizkid’s “Essence” in July became the culmination of a nearly yearlong global expedition, after the song arrived on Made in Lagos, the Nigerian artist’s second album under RCA Records and his own Starboy Entertainment imprint, last October. RCA executive vp A&R Tunji Balogun recalls first tracing the track’s growth from beyond Africa to the United Kingdom, where Wizkid has a strong performance history and radio presence. From there, “Essence,” the sultry downtempo song featuring singer-producer Tems, crossed over to the United States as the country slowly reopened in spring, with Balogun noticing a sizable increase in streams every Saturday as more parties took place.
“That song has become emblematic of being back outside,” he says. “Then, a narrative on the internet started about the song being the song of the summer — and we took that energy and ran with it.” Adds Wizkid: “We just came out of the craziest pandemic ... Afrobeats just spreads love around a room when you play it.”