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HomeMusicNigerian Star Aṣa Talks Welcoming Wizkid, Amaarae & More First-Time Collaborators On...

Nigerian Star Aṣa Talks Welcoming Wizkid, Amaarae & More First-Time Collaborators On Her Upcoming Album

When Nigerian singer-songwriter Aṣa was 11 years old, she realized that the purpose of her education was to “become something” in life. She says that music was “the thing I understood, my warmth and escape” — and nearly 15 years later, in her mid-20s, she made that calling her career. By 2007, the artist born Bukola Elemide released her self-titled debut album, Aṣa, that included her progressive breakthrough hit, “Jailer,” which she says is “about people who put people down. If you spend so much energy making my life miserable, yours will be as well.”

While Aṣa says that “Jailer” is not her favorite song, “everyone knows it everywhere I go. Songs that I sing in Yoruba are dear to me.” Co-written by Aṣa and Nigerian musician-producer-songwriter Cobhams Asuquo, the hit has earned 1.5 million U.S. streams and 472,000 global streams, according to MRC Data — and even earned a fan in Lenny Kravitz. The pair had a chance encounter nearly a decade ago when Aṣa attempted to meet the icon backstage at his show in France, but, as she recalls, “I was met by a wall of bodyguards.” Yet moments later, “I heard Lenny call my name, ‘Aṣa!’ And he sang ‘Jailer.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ ”

While Aṣa and Kravitz formed a friendship, with Aṣa later opening for Kravitz in 2015, the pair haven’t collaborated on music; in fact, Aṣa has never teamed with another artist until now. She tapped others for her fifth studio album, V, of which she says, “I’ve learned to follow my instincts.” As a result, she welcomes fellow Nigerian hitmaker Wizkid on the silky-smooth track “IDG” (“I Don’t Go”): “I thought it would be great with Wizkid because it fits his temperament, so I sent it to him and he loved it. It was natural.” The 10-track, Afro-infused V also features Nigerian sibling duo The Cavemen and Ghanaian singer-songwriter Amaarae. “I never had enough time to stay at home to form bonds because I was always on tour,” says Aṣa. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began and she went home to Lagos, “I opened my door and started meeting people. It was just time.”

This story originally appeared in Billboard‘s 2022 Women in Music issue, dated Feb. 26, 2022.

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