Music

Falz & Simi Turn Relationship Rumors Into Musical 'Chemistry' in Their Joint EP

Falz & Simi's joint EP, Chemistry, fanned rumours of them being lovers. Flat album title aside, their combined talents repays multiple listenings.

Simi and Falz’ joint EP, Chemistry, was cleverly accompanied by staged wedding photo shoots which fanned rumours of them being lovers. Flat album title aside, their combined talents repays multiple listenings.


A typical Falz verse, if you haven't heard one by now, is an amalgam of Yoruba, Pidgin and English. It's fairly well written and solidly structured. Some of its charm comes from not just his wit, but also how he articulates it, incorporating phoney accents, Nigerian-isms and malapropism all done in jest. In this his most prominent forebear is Junior from Junior & Pretty.

"Chemistry" could easily have been hammy but for the earnest lyrics which pierce through speculations about their relationship: “everybody seems to think that we'll be good together/but they don't know if I'm your spec, oh/I don't need to know if I take your breath away.” Simi wants to proceed with caution but also hope of there being genuine feelings beyond mere attraction.

I've been resistant to Simi’s tiny voice for reasons that are now clearer to me. Her nice-girl-with-a-nice-voice persona is rather dull. But when she's a little caustic in her lyrics and uses more emphasis when deploying her voice, she immediately becomes way more interesting as a singer and as an individual.

That's said, you'd have to be without any redeeming qualities as a singer to fail on a song like "Shake Your Body," because the juju beat does half the job before a note is sung. The genre is a perennial favourite at owambe parties and usually accompanied by a dance that involves no more than a two step and wine—done better by grown folks with slower mobility and more grace.

Jester-Falz comes correct with just one verse and doesn't overstay his welcome. It's refreshing to hear a voice like Simi’s applied to a beat that has been traditionally sung over by men, as is evident in the couplet that closes the song which also has a winning pull quote, “Dangote come and spray me money.”

"Foreign" sounds very much like Falz’ idea for a song which Simi gamely went along with. It ridicules a person who claims a level of wealth and refinement that is clearly beyond them. It's also a big part of Jester-Falz’ comic routine and it's clear that he's mastered it.

The advent of trap has infused rap and R&B (and God knows what else) with more possibilities in vocals, sounds and marketing, than anyone I know envisaged. "Show You Pepper" is by now a hackneyed phrase loosely meaning to give someone a hard time. Sung or “trapped” over a slow, skeletal beat, Simi’s voice reaches the level of brilliance Jhene Aiko, her vocal-twin, reached on her break out EP Sail Out.

It's this toughness with which Simi threatens a jilting lover that piques one's interest and not her pleasant, inoffensive singing. Neither is there any slouching from Falz who adds a little oomph to a stale phrase like “show you pepper” when he rhymes it with “they say I'm a player, I go show you Pele.” Neat.

If afro-trap is now an accepted sub-sub-genre without an established figurehead, Falz is in there with a shout. There is less of Jester-Falz here and more of Serious-Falz who is dexterous at straddling a beat as he does on "Want To." He and Simi double up and trade bars on the second verse, a format that I'm yet to hear on any trap beat. Extra marks to Falz for the Salawa Abeni reference.

Anyone who rehashes afrobeat, as pioneered by Fela, must accept that it'll either be a good copy or a cheap alternative. Seun Kuti has dutifully inhabited afrobeat but not enough to separate his own sound from that which was passed on to him. Femi Kuti, the older scion, took a bolder step on "Bang Bang Bang" when he grafted electric guitar onto the rootstock of percussion that has defined afrobeat.

So rather than attempt yet another flash in the pan reinterpretation, Falz and Simi have borrowed a part of the framework—Tony Allen’s drumming, call and response choruses—to make "Cinderella." This is where Simi’s voice has an unexpected advantage. It works here chiefly because it isn't the rough male vocals we’re used to hearing in afrobeat. If Fela’s voice is a confident forward march, Simi’s own slinks and there's value in that because it survives on alien territory, taking the root where it is least expected to do so.

The beat on "Enough" is spatial, Simi’s singing is unadorned and the writing is uncluttered. The result is clarity. It is also the first time Jester-Falz’ comes close to being an interloper on a project that, overall, plays to the strengths of both artists. The song is about taking a lover for just what he or she is, warts and all.

Most of Falz’ material here is included in his repertoire as a comic-figure. He is a comedian but not an out and out stand-up comic. He's a rapper but isn't a professed MC. He's also the son of Femi Falana, a respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria and human rights activist, and no doubt comes from a certain level of privilege. For these reasons, consistently sending up other people’s poor grammar and pretensions to wealth and positions that eludes them does smell of condescension. I doubt this is his intention, but it reeks of it all the same.

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.

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Still from YouTube

Watch the Retro Music Video for Dyo's 'Go All the Way' Featuring Mr Eazi

The video, directed by Mahaneela, is a tribute to the vintage photography of Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso.

Mr Eazi teams up with budding Nigerian artist Dyo, for her latest single "Go All the Way."

The duo share a memorable music video, inspired by the work of vintage African studio photographers like Malick Sidibé, James Barnor, Seydou Keïta, and Samuel Fosso. The music video features cameos from several young African creatives including Congolese artist Miles from Kinshasa, who are all photographed in stylish clothes before staged backdrops.

The video was directed by multi-hyphenated creator Mahaneela, who also appears in the video,

The Mirza-produced song sees both artists singing suggestively about their lovers. "Go go, go all the way," Dyo sings smoothly on the track's chorus.

Still from YouTube

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Join Us For an Everyday Afrique Party This Labor Day In NYC!

Featuring music by DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

Everyday People, OkayAfrica and Electrafrique are back with the best Labor Day weekend party around with Everyday Afrique.

Come hang with us for another installment of the party that brings out the New York City's finest.

This September 2 we're taking Everyday Afrique back to The Well in Brooklyn, where you can dance and drink the day & night away across the venue's outdoor and indoor spaces.

Grab Your Tickets to Everyday Afrique's Labor Day Party Here

Music will be handled by a top-shelf line-up of selectors including DJ Moma, DJ Tunez, Rich Knight, Boston Chery and DJ Buka.

The party will be hosted by Young Prince, Saada, Roble, Sinat, Giselle, Shernita and Maine.

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Courtesy of Sibu Mpanza.

INFLUENCED: Meet Sibu Mpanza—the YouTuber Who's Making a Killing from Just Having Fun

'I am the person I needed when and even before I started my YouTube channel,' the prolific YouTuber says.

OkayAfrica brings you the 2019 INFLUENCED Series. In the coming weeks, we'll be exploring the online communities being fostered by young South Africans who are doing more than just influencing. From make-up gurus and hair naturalistas to socially-conscious thought leaders, get ready to be influenced. Read the rest of the series here.

Years ago, Sibu Mpanza found himself experiencing two realities Black South African students are still battling with even today: crippling financial woes at university and debilitating depression.

An aspiring musician who ended up studying psychology instead at the University of Cape Town, Mpanza began skipping as many classes as he possibly could. He would spend copious amounts of time at a computer hidden away in the corner, passing the hours watching funny videos on YouTube. In fact, he says he spent so much time on YouTube that he was literally one of the very first people to view Beyoncé's epic "711" music video—something Mpanza recalls in stitches.

He was searching for something, although admittedly, he didn't quite know back then what it was exactly. It eventually got so bad that in his second year of university, he packed up his things, dropped out and moved to Johannesburg to see if he could become what he'd always imagined he could eventually be.

Fast-forward to 2019, and the name Sibu Mpanza is not only an undeniable success story but an entire brand.

Mpanza is a full-time YouTuber who has been able to capitalise on creating hilarious content about his life and pretty much anything that interests him. While he initially "blew up" because of a YouTube video he put out, a video which called out White students at the University of the Free State who were recorded beating up protesting Black students at a rugby game, he's since moved onto a second channel, More Mpanza, where he makes content that's a lot more fun, apolitical and doesn't take a toll on his mental health. As if two successful channels weren't enough, he's also got a third channel, Arcade, where he and his business partner talk about things they enjoy in the technology space.

For anyone looking to just let off some steam, watch a YouTuber who's willing to poke fun at himself or find some really quality content in an era where everyone seems to have a YouTube channel about something or the other, Mpanza is definitely your guy.

We caught up with him to talk about what inspired his various YouTube channels, the fame that comes with being a household name and what's really important to the young South African creative.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Audio
Sho Madjozi "John Cena"

The 19 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

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Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

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Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's new playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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