Before Afrobeats became America’s newest obsession, DrDrummerd was photographing the future leaders of that movement. And he’s seen the impact of songs like Wizkid’s 2014 “Ojuelegba,” which the star calls “the national anthem.”
“He has a segment of his show when he wants all of the lights off in the building and he goes, ‘Everyone take your phone lights out. We’re going to sing the national anthem.’ Everyone knows what the national anthem is, and when it comes on they go crazy,” DrDrummerd told REVOLT.
In this installment of “Tour Tales,” the Nigerian photographer discusses shooting Burna Boy’s first New York City show, hopping on a last-minute flight to photograph a Davido concert, and how Wizkid and his DJ changed his life. Check out the chat below!
Who was the first major artist you photographed live?
DJ Tunez. He’s a global DJ and Wizkid’s DJ. This was back in January 2017. He was doing an event one evening and I asked him if I could shoot him for the day. He was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” When I shot him, I knew it was takeover time. It was the first time testing out my look with my photography. He basically put me on. That same year, Wiz went on the ‘Sounds from the Other Side Tour’ in July. He brought me on tour and we did a few shows. I remember we did a D.C. show and that was my first time shooting for both of them. Before then, I was shooting Burna Boy. I shot his first show in New York. I also shot a few shows with Mr. Eazi in March when he had this big song called “Skin Tight.”
When did you shoot Burna Boy?
I shot Burna in April 2017. I’m Nigerian and I come from a Nigerian background, so I’ve always listened to these Afrobeats artists and Burna Boy was one of them. For him to come to America at that time was a big deal for Nigeria because he was one of the artists who was consistent with his music and just never had the opportunity to come over to the U.S. When he announced he was coming to America, everyone was excited and New York was going crazy. He did his first show at Playstation Theater. Swizz Beatz was there and actually brought him out on stage. Jidenna was there, too. Right after the show, I was so excited to edit the photos, I posted them the next day on my Instagram and he posted it a few minutes after and tagged me.
What do you remember about that show?
That show was amazing. I like to capture moments and candids to show my viewers a story. I remember the crowd was going crazy and there were a lot of lights on phones lifted. I made sure to get those moments. Burna always had energy while performing, so I made sure to capture his movements, outfit, and even pictures from behind him. That was one for the books. I did roughly four or five shows with Burna after that.
What are shots you know you could get when certain songs are performed?
There are certain songs that come on that you know is the anthem. For example, a song like “Ye.” When that song comes on, a lot of people know it and want to put it on their video, so you know there’ll be a lot of flashlights on the phones. For me, it’s important to get emotion when songs like that are about to come on. I usually get behind the artist on stage to capture the crowd. That shows a powerful moment when everybody is excited and ready to put it on their social media while the artist is taking it in.
What were Wizkid’s earlier shows like?
When I rocked with Wiz, he had a lot of growth. The fans always went crazy for him. I’ve done shows with him in the U.S. and Canada. It was always a different reaction. He had a show in Toronto, Canada in March 2019 that was crazy. The crowd was crazy. The stage was shaking. His show was so crazy, Wiz wanted to do another show.
What was it like shooting his Prospect Park show for his “Made In Lagos Tour”?
New York was one of the biggest shows on the tour. New York had been waiting for Wizkid to come, so it was a big deal for New York. It was not only New York people at the show. There were people from Jersey, Maryland, and even people from Houston and L.A. That show was so crazy and it was just vibes. That was the second show on the tour. Wiz came with his look, which was more so comfy vibes as far as his attire and stage presence. He wants to give the vibe like he’s performing in his living room. A lot of people were there. Winnie Harlow, Swizz Beatz, and Lil Bibby were a few people who were there. I remember grabbing some jollof rice, turning my head, and seeing Lil Bibby.
How do certain venues affect your shooting?
Every show has a certain setup. Usually, when I shoot, I don’t use flash. I like low light quality. When I shoot, I like giving the viewers dark images. I like people to feel the images. I usually shoot with a Sigma lens while using the stage lights. Every show has the same setup, in terms of lights, so I use that. Sometimes I’d go to get the stage view of the band. Shooting Chicago was crazy. There were probably 5,000 people there and it was giving stadium status. The lights and setup were the same, but the building made everything different. Lighting is very important while shooting.
How involved was Wizkid in the type of photos he wanted?
He was very particular about how he wanted his photos. He was a very in-the-moment guy. So, for songs like “Essence,” he likes to see crowd reactions. He wants the images to feel like a movie. Wiz and his DJ have certain segments where they come in the front to vibe out with the crowd. Wiz has a song called “Soco” and he’ll tell DJ Tunez to come to the front and they’ll throw water together at the crowd. I get those moments as well because it’s powerful. He and Wiz have a powerful bond together. On stage, they’re like MJ and Scottie [Pippen].
What are Wizkid’s tour hits?
I would say “Ojuelegba.” That’s like the national anthem of Africa (laughs). He came up with that song in 2014 and it’s a big big hit. He’s from Ojuelegba, which is a city in Nigeria. When he came out with that song, the feel was different. All of us Nigerians made it the national anthem. Drake hopped on the remix, and made it cross over to the states and worldwide. When that song comes on in the show, the crowd always goes crazy. He has a segment of his show when he wants all of the lights off in the building and he goes, “Everyone take your phone lights out. We’re going to sing the national anthem.” Everyone knows what the national anthem is, and when it comes on they go crazy.
What’s on Wizkid’s rider?
We’re Nigerian, so we have Nigerian food everywhere. Wiz loves Nigerian food. It’s always jollof chicken. We have something called moi moi. We have plantain, water, and some spicy food too. Eating that food plays a lot into the show because eating Nigerian food is amazing.
You’ve also toured with Davido. How do you shoot his show compared to how you shoot Wizkid and Burna Boy’s?
It’s pretty similar because I shoot a lot of moments. These artists like moment pictures. Davido loves moment pictures. He likes seeing pictures where he’s like, “I didn’t even know I was doing that on stage.” When he sees those pictures, he’s amazed by them. The way I edit my pictures, you can really feel the picture because I make everything pop out like the colors. ‘
What are Davido’s tour hits?
He has this song called “Risky” with Popcaan. The crowd reaction to that song is always crazy. When the song drops, he usually lets the crowd sing certain lyrics to the song. That’s definitely one of the songs the crowd goes crazy for.
What was one of the most memorable shows you’ve shot?
Drai’s in Las Vegas shooting Wizkid. I always wanted to shoot there. I’ll never forget that. After Vegas, we had two shows in L.A. After those shows, a few of us came back to Vegas to chill. Davido was in Vegas and I saw him in the hotel. He was like, “I didn’t even know you were around. Come to my show. Let’s rock out.” I was able to shoot him too. Shooting two Afrobeats artists there was amazing. I also can’t forget shooting Davido in New York at this event called One Africa Music Fest. I remember him texting me on the plane, “Bro, I need you to meet up with me at One Africa Music Fest. I’m on the plane right now on the way there to perform. My manager is over there, he’ll take care of you. So, try to make it over there.” I made it over there and shooting that was amazing. It was one of the first big crowds I shot with him.
Funny story, the One Africa Music Fest started in 2016 at Barclays Center. I shot there but I shot under a television station called Hip TV. They’re like the BET in Nigeria. They were streaming and broadcasting One Africa to Nigeria. I was shooting for them in 2016. Then, in 2017 I shot directly for an artist, Davido. That was one to remember.
What’s going on with you for the rest of the year and next year?
Wizkid has a few shows next month. We’re ending the “Made in Lagos Tour” in January and then I think he’s doing a European tour after that. That’s something to look out for. As far as my brand goes, I have things I’m working on, as well. I hope to get into more film work. I have a special project coming out that is NFT related. So, you can stay tuned for that.