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D'banj and Kanye West in "Oliver Twist" video.

The 10 Best American Remixes of Nigerian Songs

Featuring Ayo Jay, D'banj, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, and more

Time was when the mere rumor of an American artist guesting on a Nigerian song was enough to fuel its anticipation. In this new afropop era (circa Tuface Idibia), these international collaborations have become common place, but not enough to make them pass without some fanfare.

A good number of these collaborations are remixes of proven hits, variously attempted by American artists in their prime and those in need of a career boost. Some have being genuine cultural exchanges, while others wear the tear of desperation. Here are 10 of the best of the American remixes of Nigerian songs.


Tiwa Savage "Get It Now (Remix)" feat. Omarion [2018]

Aided by fairly good writing, Omarion gives a very engaged vocal performance on this remix off Tiwa Savage's triumphant Sugarcane EP. Long a connoisseur of bedroom R&B, his carnal straining combined with Savage's honeyed and nasal voice adds new life, which in no way diminishes the original.

Frank Ocean "Only You (Steve Monite Cover)" [2017]

One of the finest music minds of his generation, Frank Ocean's cover of Steve Monite's 1984 original was one of the most delightful surprises of 2017. Monite's songs is a vividly drawn tale of burning sexual desire over funk and disco grooves that combined synths, laser sounds, bass and electric guitars. Lyrically, the track is most obviously modified by Ocean's change of pronouns"she was loving me 69 times in my home" becomes "he was loving me 69 times in my home." Hopefully there's a recorded studio version included in his next album which many, not least this listener, eagerly await.

Korede Bello x Kelly Rowland "Do Like That (Remix)" [2017]

The prince of Nigerian pop and American R&B royalty on the same song was always going to be a good thing. Read our full review of the song here

Wizkid "Ojuelegba" feat.Drake & Skepta [2015]

Full marks still go to Drake for his astute rendering of Wizkid's ready-hit off his sophomore album Ayo, which provided the most efficient orientation of both artist's song-making genius into their sister markets. It was the best business favour either party had any right to imagine for themselves.

Seyi Sodimu "Love Me Jeje" feat. K Michelle [2016]

The 1997 original is still much loved and any updating risks spoiling a cherished memory— but thankfully that doesn't happen here. Fine singing from K Michelle makes for a respectable take, while producer Shizzi replaces the slow bounce of juju with highlife guitar and EDM pretensions, while maintaining the integrity of the first.

D'banj "Mr Endowed" feat. Snoop Dogg [2011]

Uncle Snoop brings the full charm of his nimble flow to Don Jazzy's afropop-EDM mashup beat for D'banj at his most brazen in "Mr Endowed." The original is less cluttered than the remix, but the bombast feels appropriate for the large personalities of the individual artists involved.

D'banj "Scape Goat (The Fix)" feat. Kanye West [2013]

As committed a Kanye West guest verse as it gets (double, in this case), the remix posits the possible great music West and D'Banj could have made but, in the end, perhaps was not meant to be.

P-Square "Beautiful Onyinye" feat. Rick Ross [2011]

Thankfully, Rick Ross does not attempt insincere afropop overtures like rapping in pidgin or some other Nigerian language, but chooses to name check his hosts and offer a knotted lyric—"all your energy can feed cancer"—to his love interest, whose meaning is (still) not clear. Something for future Rick Ross scholars to deliberate on.

Ayo Jay "Your Number" Remixes feat. Fetty Wap, Chris Brown & Kid Ink [2016]

Both remix versions of "Your Number," one with Fetty Wap and the other Chris Brown & Kid Ink, gave Ayo Jay's song American radio credibility. The latter pairing of Brown and Ink did a better job of creating the more memorable melodies to fit the polite proposition of Jay's original.

Michelle Williams "Say Yes" feat. Beyoncé & Kelly Rowland [2014]

The hard rattle of a dembow adds real bite to this crowd pleaser of a worship song, which in Nigerian churches benefits as much from zest as from vocal prowess. Having all three members of Destiny's Child on it elevates the importance of an already lofty listening experience.



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Collage by Ta'Ron Joyner

I Would Rather Breathe Than Think Outside the Box

South African artists were already working for little to no pay, but the pandemic has unleashed a flood of exploitative work requests right when we need money the most.

This essay is part of OkayAfrica's SA Reframed series, featuring personal writing from some of South Africa's best young writers edited by Verashni Pillay.

On the radio the other day, I heard a small business owner of a costume design company being interviewed and asked how they have managed to:

a. Reinvent themselves during this period, and

b. Think outside the box while doing so.

Their conversation made me think about how I have not managed to wrap my head around any sort of future, or reinvention outside any kind of box—beyond the one that wraps itself around my immediate reality. When the lockdown was announced, three friends and I withdrew to a remote area where internet access was dubious and, most times, simply not available. I would need to walk a bit of a distance to locate a spot under a tree or up a mountain to be connected for thirty minutes, or so.

Then I would do a basic comb through my emails and respond to work or requests that were already underway pre-lockdown. I only responded to new requests that either afforded me the opportunity to earn an income or those that allowed me to be productive on my own terms.

I was tired, lowkey grateful for the global pause, and no longer interested in the overly productive, overloaded nature of my previous normal. Something about the forced halt made me realise that I was on the edge of everything—myself included. I turned down anything that required me to join the endless online festivals, zoom panel discussions, Instagram takeovers and live readings. I refused all opportunities that needed me to grapple with any sort of forced normalcy. The ones that offered data or airtime or solidarity as compensation or assumed that I had gone pro bono. I needed a moment. I needed the space and time to re-bargain with the point of it all.

The pause was both useful and scary. It brought to the surface fears and revelations about the shortfalls of our industry and how creatives are positioned within the productivity machinery and economy of South Africa, or rather all the ways we fall outside of it.

As Minister of employment and labour Thulas Nxesi mentioned in a briefing two months ago, "On the issue of freelance workers—unfortunately with the current legislation they fall outside. Maybe what we are going to do is that after this we will have to re-look at it in terms of our legislative amendments and start a debate about that." Why are there laws that have gone unchallenged? Who should be challenging them? Why are artists hearing, out loud for the first time, of convenient loopholes that render us outside of an economy that taxes us like everyone else, and consumes us and our work. Yet, in times of crisis, this same economy engages with our art and our productivity and our products, but still deems us on the margin, outside, and non-essential. If we are not assisted financially, how can we be productive, how can we acquire the resources to produce? How can we apply our minds to anything else outside of survival and scrambling to stay afloat.

Pandemics do not mean that artists have gone pro bono

When you approach an artist with the assumption that they have gone pro bono during this time, when you draft an email to request a collaboration, a commission, a participation, a productivity of any kind, please bear in mind that artists are up against an unconcerned and corrupt government that has failed to provide aid and assistance to their sector during this time.

Theatre critic Sara Holdren says "Art is hard and most of it fails—either in small ways or catastrophic ones." In South Africa, the process of making art is hard, sure, but more than that, the conditions and the context in which we make work fails us in catastrophic ways that will require more than a debate and amended legislation. It will need, for starters, a minister who cares about the arts and understands its soul and mechanisms. This pause has brought about more questions and concerns for me than inspiration to reinvent or think outside the box. I have questions about the box itself and why I feel asphyxiated and trapped by its design.

I would rather breathe than think outside of the box

This pandemic has made me question what my career, livelihood and stability have been built on; what has been propping them up all this time, and what has been allowing me to appear valued and valuable in this economy? What does and will the spectrum of value look like in a normal that has been disrupted and now sits in a near distant future that may or may not be near?

Then I find myself vacillating between hope and concern. My hope is that when the pandemic is no longer with us, artists can have a come-to-jesus conversation about what has contributed and exacerbated this attitude and disrespect toward our practice and industry, I hope we can challenge the legislations that we have been dared to challenge, I hope we can be productive in ways that serve us and make sense for our well-being, that we will be paid our worth and that our society will realize that without the artist producing, there will be no art, or music, or films, or books and things that have kept people entertained and creatively nourished during this time.

My concern is that the "free"content artists are currently creating and the free access to art or performances, will not make this realisation possible, and that this kind of access, that was already undervalued and exploited, will be irreversible. The exploitation dialogue is tiring. Being treated as non-essential is tiring and terrifying too, and while most of the world can slowly start going back to work, most artists will probably have to hang tight until 2021, maybe even 2022.

While artists deal with a hoax of an arts and culture department that is dead to us and a minister who tweets more than he does his job, in an ideal world, I wish that artists could afford to indulge uncertainty, and fear, and pause, in ways that allow them to heed the call made by Nicholas Berger in his piece The Forgotten Art of Assembly [Or, Why Theatre Makers Should Stop Making] "We must lean into this pain. We must feel the grief. We must mourn. Mourn the loss of work, the loss of jobs, the loss of money, the loss of life. Mourn the temporary loss of an art form that demands assembly. Lean into the grief. Lean in. Lean in. Lean in. We must remind ourselves that mourning is a human act, not a digital one."

Koleka Putuma is an award-winning poet, playwright and theatre director. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia is in its 10th print run and her play No Easter Sunday for Queers Sunday for Queers won several awards.

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