Wale Never Loses Sight of His Nigerian Roots

Image via GQ

Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, also known as Wale, is a Nigerian-American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He was born in Washington, D.C. to Nigerian immigrant parents. Wale spent some of his childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, before returning to the US to pursue his education.

Wale decided to focus on his music instead and has since become known for his unique blend of hip hop and go-go music, releasing several successful albums, including “Attention Deficit” and “The Album About Nothing”.

Despite being based in America, Wale has frequently referenced his Nigerian heritage in his music, and has spoken publicly about his pride in his roots.

On June 19, 2020, Wale released the song “Maajo” which pays specific tribute to his Yoruba tribe and the original sounds of juju music. Since then the song has surpassed 95,000 views, 1.8K likes, and nearly 100 comments on YouTube with many people saluting him for taking it back to his roots.

Representing His Yoruba Roots

Image via Adom Online

In the song, “Maajo”, Wale sampled sounds from Nigerian juju artist, King Sunny Adé. Juju is a traditional Yoruba style of music that fuses instrumental and pop sounds. King Sunny Adé is known as one of the major Yoruba artists to have created an international platform for juju music. The song “Maajo” by King Sunny Adé was released in 1983. His music is characterized by significant use of the traditional African instrument, the talking drum, and additional percussion sounds. 

King Sunny Adé | Image via Wikipedia

As the intro of Wale’s song plays and you hear King Sunny Adé sing, “Maajo, maajo, maajo. Maa o mu, maa yoo lo lati pa ironu”, Wale expresses that “This my muva jawn, let me catch it”. This was a chance for Wale to signify that this song holds significant meaning to his mother’s cultural heritage and he wanted to amplify it with his platform. 

Furthermore later in the song when King Sunny Adé’s version of “Maajo” is played, Wale exclaims, “I had to rap on somethin’ that grab me, you feel me”.  This showcases how traditional African sounds are used to motivate and inspire African artists in the diaspora. 

Highlighting the Black American Plight

In the second verse of this song, Wale raps about the struggles that Black people experience with law enforcement in America. 

He says: 

The cops ain’t vigilant, let’s see if you payin’ attention

Obituary full of innocent black ni**as

Habitual serial killers in a badge, ni**a

And yet they get offended when ni**as see the flag different

It is interesting how Wale chose to speak about his particular struggle while rapping over the beat and sound of a Yoruba sound. It is evident that the original “Maajo” influenced him and encouraged him to speak about an issue that Black people in America can relate to. Especially since the song was released in June 2020 when the Black Lives Matter was most prominent after the murder of George Floyd. The issue of police brutality is a phenomena that not only has impacted Black people in America but a struggle that Black people across the world have experienced and continue to struggle with.

Wale’s Influence on Hip Hop in Africa

Image via @wale on Instagram

Wale’s use of the 1983 Yoruba juju song, “Maajo” can be used to inspire artists across the diaspora that they can utilize traditional sounds to implement their cultural heritage in their artistic craft. Wale’s use of “Maajo” by King Sunny Adé also encourages African artists in the diaspora to continue to carry the traditional sounds that are significant to their culture. The rise of African Hip Hop does not only mean the creation of new sounds but it can also signify a reinvention of the first sounds out of Africa. 

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