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It's Pop, Not Afro-Pop: On the Impact of Davido's 'Son of Mercy'

Our contributor Sabo Kpade reviews Davido's new EP 'Song of Mercy,' which features songs with Tinashe, Nasty C and Simi.

Earlier this month, Davido released “Gbagbe Oshi,” the first single off his new EP Son of Mercy. Produced by Shizzi, “Gbabge Oshi” has a muscular beat with two significant drum breaks. The first influence is afrobeat via Fela—not the latter day afro-pop incarnation we now have. The other is a borrowed flourish from ragga. This will go down well in clubs.


Real heads will notice that this is not the ill-fated album that was slated for a 2015 release. In fact, looking back now in late 2016, it's incredible to think that monster hits like “Gobe,” “Aye,” “Skelewu” and “Tchelete” were singles meant for an album that has now been jettisoned altogether.

These releases—along with “Dodo,” “Owo Ni Koko” and the many other collaborations—have made him a constant presence in our lives anyway.

There’s certainly a quiet competition going on between him and Wizkid for whose new album will receive the biggest reception. Both artists have delayed their album releases, signed huge distribution deals with Sony and added to ever more impressive business and musical collaborations.

Davido’s new EP has two collaborations with female artists, the first of which, “Maga 2 Mugu” alongside Simi, feels inferior on a project that has “How Long” with Tinashe.

Simi is a competent singer. The problem is that, to my ears, her voice is thin and tiny, damn near close to a whine. It's pleasant but lacks presence. The title’s attempt at pithiness works as an alliteration but the meaning is clunky. Roughly speaking, “Maga” in this context means “going crazy” and “Mugu” means “fool”.

“Coolest Kid In Africa” succeeds mainly because it effectively adapts afrobeats to trap. It's clear that Future is the presiding spirit, especially his flow coupled with outlandish bragging about wealth (“take your iyawo/ take her to Jamo...put some owo in her life”). Buoying the song is a very solid though typical trap verse from South African rapper Nasty C.

Words and Meaning

'Iyawo' - wife (or simply girl in this instant)

'Owo' - money

'Jamo' - Jamaica.

“Return” starts with an earnest admission about a woman with whom Davido's in a relationship, “they misuse her when they cheat,when they beat, when they scratch...and I'm going to be the perfect person for her, for ever,” only for him to say in the next line that he likes “the way she put it on me.”

Besides being a little disturbing, it lacks a clean thematic consistency. Neither is it helpful for the woman in question to swiftly go from an abusive relationship to one that is overly sexual, no matter how benign. It's quite possible that she might want some time to herself in between the first verse and the first hook.

Another gem here and a particularly interesting one is “How Long.” Tinashe’s primary sound is soulful, sultry and a little louche. It is from a lineage that is commonly attributed to Aaliyah but is more precisely Janet Jackson's, especially from her 1993 album Janet onwards.

Tinashe is among the new schoolers (along with Kelela, FKA Twigs, Jhene Aiko, and others) who are at their most effective when cooing into your ear rather than belting from the top of a cliff, while Davido is an afrobeats maestro whose monster hits would set off any party. Whoever decided that these two very different artists belonged on the same soulful house track should get a cut of the substantial future royalties.

Together, riding double, there's no bucking or rearing, making “How Long” a smooth ride of a song.

Significantly, on Apple Music, the EP is denoted as “pop” and not “Afro-pop” or the nonsensical “world music.” It signifies a shift in the perception, commercial viability and maturity of afrobeats, especially now that it is making incursions into the UK, European and US markets.

When asked in a radio interview what artists were featured on his upcoming album, Davido mentioned Rae Sremmurd and Usher. On another stop, he tells of how after a meeting with Usher, the singer asks for Davido’s number and how bowled over he was by this. From all indication, and in no time soon, this feeling will normalise, surely.

Sabo Kpade is an Associate Writer with Spread The Word. His short story Chibok was shortlisted for the London Short Story Prize 2015. His first play, Have Mercy on Liverpool Street was longlisted for the Alfred Fagon Award. He lives in London.

Music

The WAV 2019: 10 Artists Shaping the Future of South African Music

Welcome to the new wave.

It's here! Today we are launching OkayAfrica's first annual "South African New WAV"—our annual round-up of the most exciting young SA music artists.

For Youth Month, we've picked the 10 singers/rappers/producers who we think will define the sound of SA for years to come.

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Style

OkayAfrica and B4Bonah Share New 'B4Beginning' Capsule Collection

We've teamed up with the Ghanaian artist ahead of the release of his debut project for some colorful new merch.

Rising Ghanaian star B4Bonah, premieres his catchy debut track "See Body," and to mark the song's release, OkayAfrica has teamed up with the artist to share a new collection of tees, that'll fit nicely into your summer wardrobe.

The artist's latest track is a party jam, that sees him flowing "over an earworm flute melody and afrobeats percussion," using "his rasping flow to celebrate the girl of his dreams." The track was produced by J.Rocs.

B4Bonah - See Body www.youtube.com

In conjunction with the song's release, two new shirt designs are available for preorder at our Okayshop. The vibrant shirts feature the artist's image on colorful blue and green colored blocks, with the words "B4BONAH B4BEGINNING," on the back—referencing the artist's debut mixtape, which is slated for release in late July. The project features Medikal, Mugeez (R2Bees), Amaarae & Ivy Sole.


B4Bonah is an artist to watch, as he continues to make his presence known in the Ghanaian music scene.

Watch the music video for "See Body" above, and head to shop.okayplayer.com now to pick up to pre-order a shirt (or two). You can also preorder B4Bonah's B4beginning mixtape here.

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Watch EL, Joey B and Falz' New Video for 'Ehua'

Ghana meets Nigeria in this hilarious new clip.

Ghanaian rappers EL and Joey B connect with Nigeria's Falz for this addictive new collaboration and music video for "Ehua."

"Ehua" is built on energetic afro-electronic beat work produced by EL himself. Joey B handles the hook while Falz kicks things off early with a solid verse.

The eye-catching and hilarious music video for the single, directed by Yaw Skyface, features EL as a policeman, Falz as the 'oga' bossman, and Joey B as a worker for the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG).

Falz takes Joey B's woman by showing off his money and status, so Joey B enlists policeman EL to get back at Falz. The plan backfires however as the officer decides to stick around and party with the rich instead of helping the everyday worker out.

For more GH hits check out our Best Ghanaian Songs of the Month roundups and follow our GHANA WAVE playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Watch the new music video for EL, Joey B and Falz' "Ehua" below.

EL ft Joey B & Falz - Ehua (Official Video) youtu.be


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