Sierra-Leonean Artist Laik’s Debut EP Wanted Transcends Musical Bounds

Ethereal. Sensual. Transcendent. These three words provide a snapshot of Sierra Leonean-American artist Laik’s debut EP Wanted. Laik brings a fresh new sound, pushing musical boundaries by combining R&B, Dancehall and Afrobeats to create his own personal Afro-fusion sound. Driven by the desire to bridge Sierra Leonean music and American music, Laik has stepped into the void to put Sierra Leone on the musical map with his EP that transcends traditional musical boundaries.

Photo: Sierra Leonean Artist Laik (Photo Courtesy of Laik)

The EP opens up with the title track Wantin, introducing soft tones with Lauryn Hill’s familiar hook from Doo Wop (That Thing) that pave the way for Laik’s smooth vocals. After creating the track, Laik instantly knew it was project worthy. But it was actually his track Gimme Dat, in which Laik sings, “I got something she gonn’ want,” that inspired the EP’s title Wanted. His goal was to create a project that women would want to listen to and enjoy despite being in quarantine. After seeing a lot of men around him making mistakes in how they treated women, Laik really wanted to make a project that women could enjoy mostly. “They weren’t making our women feel as safe as they wanted to,” Laik said in an interview with Amplify Africa. “I just really wanted to make something that women could really listen to and be like okay, guys still care about us.”

The sensual tones of the EP have to be credited to Laik’s producer for the project, BunieTheFirst. Bunie has had a notable role in the creation of Wanted, from solely producing the EP to drawing the artwork on the cover. “Bunie has his own style to him, but his style is making sensual music,” said Laik. “He was my guy for the EP.” Upon mentioning that the EP really felt sensual and ethereal, to the point that it’s sounds take you somewhere else, Laik nodded his head in agreement with a smile on his face. “Yeah! Yeah exactly!” Laik said excitedly. “I really wanted…when you listen to it, you know [that] your mind takes you somewhere else.”

Photo: (Left to Right) Laik and Bunie (Photo Courtesy of Laik)

Laik and Bunie’s creative process took place over quarantine when Laik decided to leave home and get a room at the studio after being fed up with being stuck inside for a month. Once at the studio, he remained uninspired for a week before Bunie created a beat that sparked his inspiration. “I was like let me write about my situation. I’m gonna write about how I really feel right now,” Laik recalled. “Two hours later I was done and Bunie was like, ‘yo this might be your best song.’” Toby Drillz, featured on the project’s fourth track Suga Lova, heard the track and called it Laik’s best song. “We knew this had to be on a project,” Laik said. After a trip to Texas, Laik came back newly inspired and made 11 songs in just that week. Gimme Dat, the third track on the EP, was one of the 11 songs Laik created and the last one to be recorded for the project. The upbeat, yet seductive track was originally made to a different beat. Upon hearing it, Bunie switched out the beat for one he created to fit the vocals. “After that we decided that’s the EP,” said Laik. “The songs were aligning themselves.”

While Wanted is Laik’s debut project, it isn’t his first appearance in the music scene. Prior to this project he had the opportunity to open up for Afrobeats giants Burna Boy and Davido, as well as Teni. Laik first began writing songs at the age of 12 when he moved to Sierra Leone. While music was always his first love, for a short while dancing became his main focus. “What made me want to start taking music seriously, as in going through the risks that my mom wasn’t going to like the idea, was really the fact that we didn’t have anyone in Sierra Leone that could really stand with other international artists,” he said. Laik recalled going to parties and predominantly hearing Nigerian and Ghanaian music; and if he happened to hear Sierra Leonean music it was usually outdated. He felt it was overdue for Sierra Leone to be recognized in the Afrobeats scene. “I want anytime they’re talking about Afrobeats, [that] Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone are in the conversation.”

Sierra Leoneans have very little representation, especially in the industry Laik notes. “I’m really trying to show people Sierra Leoneans are talented too when it comes to music,” he said. “I really want to put Sierra Leone in that conversation musically.” His first project was an opportunity to relate to his people while representing to the world. Laik’s international background (he’s lived in the US, UK, Jamaica, and Sierra Leone) lends itself to his ability to create music that speaks to a variety of cultures and audiences. Desiring to make something that could relate to everyone, he added artists Toby Drillz for the Afrobeats sound and Javada on Fairy Tale for the Jamaican influence. “I was really specific on what I wanted to tap into: Afrobeats, Afro-Dancehall, and R&B. The debut was the best way to do it.”

Laik’s bilingual talents also allow him to reach more people while sharing the Sierra Leonean language Krio with the world. “I always say some words in Krio whenever I’m making my music,” he said. Since a lot of people don’t understand Krio, he refrains from using too much. “I try to say little words to make you say, ‘what did he say?’ I have songs where most of them are in Krio. But I was waiting on the next project for those because I really want to cater more to Africa.”

In regards to his next project, Laik says listeners can expect a wild factor. When people hear it, “they’re gonna go ‘wow, I didn’t know he could do this,” Laik said. This EP is just the beginning for the young artist who is sitting on a treasure of unreleased music. Not to worry though, Laik has visuals for the EP set to drop in December along with a new single. While he’s been labeling his music as Afro-fusion for years now, Laik hopes that when listeners hear his music they hear something that’s new and fresh and keeps them coming back for more. “I want every time you hear my song, you want to play it again.”

Wanted is available for streaming (again and again) on Apple Music and Spotify and you can keep up with Laik on his Instagram.

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