Nigeria's WizKid has been a star abroad for years now, but it's taken a few strategic moves to make his leap to the U.S. look effortless. The man known as StarBoy (yes, he had the moniker before The Weeknd) takes another step into the pop and hip-hop spotlight with his latest project, Sounds From the Other Side, out now.

Hip-hop fans first caught wind of the singer-songwriter's talent back in 2015, when his 2014 track “Ojuelegba” was remixed by Drake and Skepta and subsequently racked up millions of streams on Spotify worldwide. While the remix was one of the more slept-on songs of the year, it showed WizKid's major crossover appeal. As dancehall and afrobeat began to influence rappers more in 2016, for their summer bangers, Wiz popped up on tracks with Chris Brown and contributed to the biggest song of Drake's career, the 2016 chart-topper "One Dance."

This new project is WizKid's first official release since signing to RCA Records in spring and is hitting just in time for the summer turn-ups. Pulling out all the tops feature-wise, Wiz teamed up with Chris Brown, Ty Dolla $ign, Drake and more to blend afrobeat, R&B, hip-hop and house into one offering. Fresh off the release, WizKid chopped it up with XXL about his favorite features off the project, touring with Future and dropping more hip-hop collab tracks this year.

XXL: First, let's go back to earlier this year. Why did you decide to sign with RCA Records for this project?

WizKid: Just from having conversations with them. I really just wanted to go with people that understand my dreams and my vision. From the first meeting with RCA, they just understood it. It wasn’t really about money or about numbers, it was just about getting the vision to where it should be. That’s why I did that with them and they’ve been amazing people out there. I couldn’t ask for nothing better.

How do you think you’ve grown as an artist from 2014’s Ayo to now on Sounds From the Other Side?

Everyone’s dream in this business is you grow so there’s definitely been a lot of growth. I can only thank my fans for that. And then also, me myself just being in the studio, putting in that work, so I just feel blessed that everything is moving at this pace now.

How do you think your sound as evolved?

I think just living in the studios, putting in that work. But I can’t really place the words to describe it. Definitely the music is sounding like I’m finding myself now and every time I’m in the studio, I get to know my energies and my strengths a bit more. Just getting into WizKid more and make good music.

You have a lot of hip-hop collabs on this project and you just won your second BET Award for Best International Act this year. Why did you want to get in the hip-hop space more?

I’m really not trying to. I’m just working with everybody and keeping my options open. I probably just have more rappers as friends, that’s the problem. I work with pop artists, I work with rappers, I work with whoever’s in the studio and has a great vibe, whoever loves to make music. I just get in the studio with everyone. And I appreciate the love from all sides.

Let’s break down some of the collabs. How did you start working with Ty Dolla $ign?

I met Ty in London and from the first day I started kicking it, we probably have 15, 20 songs together. That was just an organic relationship and that’s how I like to work. Shout out to Ty for blessing me with his vocals for two songs on this project, “One for Me” and “Dirty Wine.” We recorded that in L.A.

When did you record those?

I think I made “Dirty Wine” last year in December, in L.A. and I think I made “One for Me” a couple months ago in L.A. too.

And what about Chris Brown for “African Bad Gyal”?

Yeah, that was pretty much almost like the same thing. Chris and I met when he came to Lagos to do a show. We recorded in L.A. too.

How did you and Drake get together for “Come Closer”?

I met Drake through Skepta. Skepta was the main guy who put us in touch with each other and really showed him my music. And then [Drake] jumped on my “Ojuelegba” remix and then we made “One Dance” and “Come Closer” after that. So big shout out to Skepta for that connection right there.

So “One Dance” and “Come Closer” was made in the same amount of time in the same studio session?

Within the same amount of time, but not in the same studio session. We actually didn’t even make that in a studio, which is weird. Every time we linked up, we never got in the studio, we just partied [laughs]. We’d just make records and send them to each other over text. I did “Come Closer” in Nigeria and then I sent him the idea and I was like, “Yo, bro, what do you think?” And he just jumped at it like, “That’s fire.” Yeah, “Come Closer” really happened all through text to be honest.

What’s your favorite collaboration on this EP?

I would say Bucie. She’s from South Africa. I just like that record so much. It’s very authentic African/House sound about Bucie just came through and sounds angelic on that song so that’s probably one of my favorite songs ever—favorite collaborations ever.

Who are some of your favorite rappers right now?

Definitely Kendrick [Lamar]. I really like Kendrick. Kendrick and J. Cole, those are some collaborations I would love to make happen.

Afrobeat is being sampled and reworked in hip-hop so much right now. How do you feel about that?

It’s a great thing happening with music. I’m excited to be a part of this generation of artists making music to impact the world and all that, you know? Music that makes people feel, makes people want to dance. It’s just amazing to see it spread and watch it happening. And for the artists and the producers and really everyone from the entertainment industry in Africa, this is the right time to leverage off of that. It’s a great thing.

After the EP, what else do you have planned for the rest of 2017?

Definitely a lot more music. I have a whole lot of music. Ty and I, we already have a couple of songs together and we’re talking about doing a joint project so might to that for the people, it just depends. But, yeah, I’m just working in the studio every day and shooting videos for other songs from Sounds From the Other Side. I’m excited to show the world.

And you tweeted a few months ago you did some of you best work with Drake, do you have anything else in the works with him?

Well, I think for now “Come Closer” is going to be the last record with Drake. If it happens, cool. If not, it’s all love. Big shout out to OVO crew.

You're headed out on tour with Future soon. How did that happen?

Yes, big shout out to Future. From the first day we met, it’s just been about the music and just been so real. So when they reached out to my team to come on the tour, it seemed only right because we’re going to be dropping some new music together soon. So, definitely look out for some new Future and WizKid. I’m ready to see the world and enjoy myself, soaking it all in.

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