When we sat, back in August, the Nigerian singer born Victor Adere had only been in Ghana once before–appearing at a modest club gig to perform “Wetin We Gain”–which was only moderately successful at the time. By something like a miracle, the joint quickly accrued massive traction–and swiftly became the soundtrack for the West African youth occupied with the daily tricky task of surviving the systems of his country.
“If we no get money, wetin we gain?”
The ultimate hustler’s prayer (also tenable to dance), the joint reverberated across all of Ghana—still does: bus conductors, hanging out the windows of Trotros, warble it absentmindedly when they should be canvassing for passengers to Circle, and Tema Station, and Lapaz. For Sakawa boys, it is the one song since Olu Maintain’s “Yahooze” that can be sung assuredly whilst engaging in criminal enterprise from behind computer screens. Rapper OBKay even employed Victor’s name and a line in his song’s hook to execute a clever double entendre during his verse on Sarkodie’s “Biibi Ba”: “We’ve been victors since A.D so after death, if e no be money, tell me, wetin you wain?” goes the line.
Because of the reach of the song, Adere’s trips to Ghana multiplied, as has his fame. Indeed, during the August Ghana visit, he had become a legitimate celebrity, enjoying even more airplay than Wizkid’s “Soco” for instance. Media houses, upon getting wind of his arrival, quickly clamored around him like vultures, questions in one hand, microphones in the other.
Since “Wetin We Gain,” Adere (who goes by Victor AD on stage) has published no less than 5 other singles. As is the trouble with songs following the “breakout single,” none of them has managed even a quarter of the popularity “Wetin We Gain” drew—even if they are decent offerings too.
The anthem has seen him perform on some of the most sought-after stages in the sub-region, including Felabration (Nigeria) and the S Concert (Ghana).
“Wetin We Gain” was conceived around this time last year (November to be specific), when he considered quitting music. Sitting in a couch across me in the lobby of a high-rise building in Accra that afternoon, the Lagos born, amiable and bearing a mild resemblance to Patoranking, recalled his ascent via a blend of English and Nigerian pidgin, often leading his responses with an infectious laugh. He also discussed Ghana as gateway to Afropop triumph, songs one would find on his smartphone among other topics:
ENEWSGH: Did you know when you recorded “Wetin We Gain,” that it would permeate this much?
Like every artist, whichever song you drop, you just believe that ‘this is the song that is going to take you’ –that’s the reason why you brought it out. So, when I did my last song before “Wetin We Gain,” I really thought it was going to be the major [hit], but it didn’t, so I had to go back to the studio. It [the song] was more like a conversation between me and God. I grew up in the ghetto, and I understand how life is there. It’s not easy when you don’t have people actually supporting you, or no one backing you financially. So it was actually not easy for me. When I went back to the studio, I just said, this is a conversation between me and God, so let me drop something–and I did, and “Wetin We Gain” came out.
Do you harbor any anger at all, that your previous songs were hardly as impactful?
No, no, no, no! I’m not angry. The thing is, someone must know you from somewhere. Some people didn’t know you when you were at the age of six; some persons knew you at the age of ten, but the impact you created at that particular age is what is more important—whether you know me from day one or day zero or day two, it does not matter. It’s about now. What you know now and what I’ve impacted in you now that you know or met me, that’s what is important.
“Wetin We Gain” is just as apt as morning prayer as it is for the dance floor. How does a musician go about achieving that?
Songs like that don’t just come simply because you want to sing. Every single word I said on the song came from my heart. As I said, was a conversation between me and God. Every single word came from my heart—and when it’s genuinely from your heart, people connect to it easily. E no be wetin you dey force. The reception I get [for “Wetin We Gain”], I didn’t pump enough money into [the song to attract it], compared to what I’m getting in return. It’s actually by God’s grace. Those things are just strictly from the heart, and when God don put E hand for something, mehn, it’s going to be lit.
Let’s talk about how the song came about.
I had been grinding on the low for a long time—I’ve been doing this music for ten years now, and professionally, six, seven years now. After all the grind and all, there was a day I woke up and was like ‘ah, after all this struggles, if I don’t make am last last, how e go come be? How will people who actually believe in me feel? How will they take it? I can’t afford to let this people down—that’s how I brought out this song. I’ve actually been through a lot and I’m sure was speaking the mind of a lot of people out there. I was on the verge of giving up when I recorded this song. I was like ‘ah, if nobody is noticing me for all that I’m doing, then I should just…not give up, but take a break from this music and go hustle…go do something else and make some money for myself—but God just turned everything around and me around and God made me realize that it’s not about you having millions of dollars that will push you. God’s grace speaks, so that did it for me.
What is Ghana’s place in Victor AD’s musical journey?
For an artist to conquer Africa, he has to be everywhere in Africa, including Ghana. No country is excluded—you need everybody. In fact, you need the whole world. When people say ‘you are a Nigerian artist’—no, don’t categorize me like that! I don’t want that! I’m an African artist, in fact, a world artist.
What would be the influence of “Wetin We Gain” on your next release, seeing how impactful it has become?
They are a lot of songs I’ve recorded, I think the acceptance now is going to be stronger than before. People actually know the brand ‘Victor AD’ now, so we’ve actually put Victor AD on the map. The acceptance will be great.
Like I said, I do songs from my heart. I don’t strategize that way. No song is higher or lower for me. What I believe is that as long as it is coming from your heart, it is going to take you a step ahead—like the first song I did: it was not as big as this. I think this is just the beginning. God wey take care of yesterday for “Wetin We Gain,”ihn go take care of tomorrow for the next song.
Your management supports your approach to “strategy”?
It’s one big family—our hearts are connected. If I agree, they agree. It just comes naturally.
Let’s discuss some lyrics from “Wetin We Gain,” starting with Benz as your choice of luxury car for the hook:
The thing is that Benz is actually my favorite, so it could be any car: Toyota, Infiniti, or a Rolls Royce. That’s just my own choice, and I think most people like it too, so…
What about the following line, which opens Verse 1 of the song: “I no wan take the same step wey I take last year wey no work for me oh”?
Omo, that one is very deep, very very deep. If I start to dey go under, we no go comot here. People who knew me then—although they knew I was going to be successful, they didn’t know my success will come this quick due to where I am coming from. I remember, when I started, there was a day I was singing at a bar, and a customer came to me and said, ‘guy, drop the mic and get out. We don’t want to hear you sing. Give it to someone else.’ I did not disagree with the person at that point. What people see as disappointment, I don’t see it that way. There is no ‘disappointment’ in my dictionary. Those were the things that actually motivated me to this point. So I didn’t see it as an embarrassment at all. I see it as things I should go through for me to be strong—so it actually made me work hard. Shout out to the people. Those were the people who motivated me.
Do you see yourself as having properly settled into the mainstream yet?
Whichever position you put me, that your own opinion but I just know I am an artist.
What about all the comparisons?
It’s only normal for people to compare an upcoming artist with a big artist, because when you drop a vibe and it’s very good, and it hits someone—the person that is comparing you actually has his own favorite. For example, [if] I like Davido or Wizkid, and I hear a song, I’ll just be like: ‘ah, there is a line in this song, it sounds like that that of Wizkid,’ because you are a big fan. So everybody has his or her own opinion.
Which musicians would you say are influential to the Voctor AD sound? Which songs would one find on your phone this very moment?
Every musician doing good music defines the Victor sound. I don’t really care whether you are underground or not—even if you started yesterday. As long as you are doing good music, that’s what I’m in for. I respect everyone. As long as you’re doing good music, you’re my A-list artist. On my phone, you’ll find 2 Face, you’ll find Adele, you’ll find Brymo, you’ll find Wizkid, you’ll find Davido. In fact, you’ll find a whole lot of artists.