Artists whose stage names are intentionally-misspelled English words inadvertently confuse the fans who listen to their music, especially the younger folks whose grasp of spelling might not be all the way solid.
I’m a Fabolous
stan fan, and I’m pretty sure I’ve misspelled the real word a couple of times in JSS. Back then too, I know people who knew who Ludacris was before they found out what ‘ludicrous’ meant. Starboy-affiliated production team Legendury Beatz probably need a few more hit records to have that kind of impact on the lingo of younger fans of Afropop, but with their years in the game, the duo has certainly done enough to command attention when they declare that a class on the music genre is in session.
When an artist misspells their name in this way, it’s not as if their intention is to deceive – the misspelling is often done for creative reasons or even due to legal considerations. But this isn’t an English class or a course on intellectual property, rather Afropop 101, as delivered by Legendury Beatz, is a concise tutorial on a popular art form with 8 modules featuring some of its biggest stars as co-lecturers.
The stars are anything from seasoned vets like Timaya and Mugeez with years and years in the game to promising acts like Maleek Berry and Niniola who are yet to release official studio albums. Both Timaya and Mugeez get two spots on the mixtape – it could yet have been a coincidence but those two were the only ones on the feature list to have that privilege.
Mugeez teamed up with Starboy, Wizzy, himself on “Undercover Lover”, a backhanded compliment to the lady in the background holding them down. Wizkid handled verse one and surprisingly, stayed on topic. Mugeez began his own verse like an Afropop version of Marvin Gaye and added an edge to the chilled-out record. But it’s a real shame that his vocals weren’t blended in neatly, the rasta half of Ghanaian super group R2Bees sounded like he mailed in his guest verse. For the other record on Afropop 101 where he’s featured, Mugeez goes solo, bringing his unbridled energy to “Apple and Vodka”. The stinging guitar stabs and swift drum shuffles create an urgency to the song – everybody evacuate your seats, leave your drinks on the table and report to the dancefloor!
Afropop music and nightlife culture go hand-in-hand, so a lot of the energy on Afropop 101 is predictably upbeat. Timaya opened the mixtape with a firecracker in “Legendury”, where he puts the booty on the pedestal for a change. You see, if there’s one part of a woman’s body that the Egberi Papa adores, it’s the bum bum – he’s made a career singing about this in his post-social crusader days. Now we can add another part – pum pum. On the high octane “Bend Down Low”, Timaya casually refers to women by their genitalia, and you’re reminded about the level of misogyny that’s allowed in Afropop.
All my girlie dem know
See all my pum pum know
Say me a make dem to bend down low
That’s one shortcoming of the genre that is well beyond the control of its producers though, that is, except those producers are also very hands-on in the songwriting process – like the Legendury brothers have been known to be. One challenge in Afropop that they tackled off the rip however is nomenclature. It’s been a struggle just to give the sounds emanating out of Nigeria a single name but the influential duo are now throwing their considerable weight behind ‘Afropop’.
But bigger than just Nigerian music, Afropop has come to symbolize the mainstream sounds coming out of anglophone West Africa, so in having one-half of Ghanaian super group R2Bees in Mugeez and the binational super star Mr. Eazi on the project, the producers help to buttress the point that Afropop is bigger than one country.
Afropop could very well be bigger than one region as well. Vanessa Mdee is Tanzanian by birth, so seeing her gradually being embraced outside of the neo-Bongo Flava genre and by non-Swahili speakers around the continent is a beautiful thing. Although, that cultural exchange creates an interesting conversation around what exactly Afropop music is to begin with. You get the sense that that’s one of the questions Legendury Beatz try to provide answers to on this tape. However, it’s a lesson that will take more than 8 modules to fully explain.
Legendury Beatz may be releasing their first full body of work in 2017 but their contribution to Afropop culture started as far back as 2010. In the years since then, the duo have worked with just about every top artist in our music space but perhaps their most important contribution to the culture is in helping to define the sonic template for one of Afropop’s biggest stars Wizkid and, by extension, the rest of the genre. With credentials like these, theirs isn’t a class you take lightly or even think about skipping.
Listen to the mixtape here.