Classic Bops by Nigerian Artists with Fela Samples

Fela Anikulapo Kuti can be described as many things: a rebel, a radical, a revolutionary, a non-conformist. But in all things, there is no doubt that the man lives on as a legend in the music world. As the pioneer of Afrobeat, he left an indelible mark on the ways that music has been revolutionised globally. His influence in pop culture is so great that a popular event, “Felabration”, is hosted every year and dedicated to his art and heritage. His style of music continues to remain relevant even in recent times, serving as a source of music inspiration for contemporary artists within and beyond the African soundscape.

Artists all over the world tap from Fela’s sound elements to form newer variants of their own. This practice, which is called sampling, has enabled foreign artists to create songs that appeal to a wide array of music tastes. These artists include the likes of J-Cole, who sampled Fela’s “Gentleman” on his track “Let Nas Down”, Mos Def, who sampled a part of Fela’s “Music is the Weapon” on his song, “Quiet Dogs Bite Hard”, Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean, Kelly Rowland, Common, Nas, and many others. The Nigerian music scene is replete with many artists who also sample Fela’s music either via his lyrics, beats, fashion and aesthetics or create full-blown records in adulation of the icon. Here are five iconic and nostalgic Fela samples by contemporary Nigerian artists that are classic bops.


“Double Wahala” — Oritse Femi

“Mercies of the Lord” can be described as the song that heralded the fame and success of Oritse Femi. However, “Double Wahala” is unarguably the jam that properly landed him in the limelight. “Double Wahala” is a remake of Fela’s “Confusion Break Bones” and a satirical take on the struggles of life. It explores hopeful and optimistic themes that preach a finale of poverty and its hassles. The interpolation of Fela’s lyrics is what widely tickled the public. With over one million views on YouTube, this song was an era of its own, earning Oritse Femi two nominations at the 2014 City People Entertainment Awards: “Video of the Year” and “Most Popular Song of the Year”. He won the latter. He also won the “Indigenous Artist of the Year” award at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

“Yé” — Burna Boy

Following closely in the steps of Fela’s anti-colonial activistivism, sampling Fela comes almost naturally to Burna Boy. From beats to lyrics, fashion choices, and video motifs, he has majorly incorporated huge chunks of Fela’s artistry into his. In “Yé”, Burna Boy weaves lyrics from Fela’s “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” into a more versatile sound which he labels Afro-fusion. This song gave his career a massive boost, peaking at number 26 and 31 on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay charts, respectively. It also won “Song of the Year” and “Listener’s Choice” at the 2019 Soundcity MVP Awards Festival. At the Headies 2019, it won “Song of the Year” and was nominated for “Best Pop Single” and “Best Recording of the Year”.

“Jaiye Jaiye” — Wizkid

As a superstar who loves to experiment with a variety of sounds, Wizkid sampled Fela’s 1972 banger, “Lady”, in his 2013 hit track “Jaiye Jaiye”. To add the plump cherry on the cake, he featured Grammy-nominated artist and Fela’s eldest son, Femi Kuti, which gave the song a heavier Fela-flavoured feel. “Jaiye Jaiye” was released as the lead single from his sophomore studio album, Ayo (2014). The colourful video and vibrant choreography are reminiscent of Fela’s style which earned it a nomination for “Best Music Video of the Year” at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.

“Temper (Remix)” — Skales featuring Burna Boy

Fela’s influence shines really bright in this song and that’s why it remains a favourite of many people. Burna Boy does a brilliant job of singing, complete with the inflections, almost like Fela and the tune collides with the instrumentals and lyrics of Fela’s “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” to form a great record. It was released in 2017, but it still soundtracks the social buzz of Nigeria’s nightlife.

“Woman” — Simi

Simi started the #NobodyLikeWoman challenge ahead of the release of her highly anticipated single: “Woman”. The song draws influences from Fela’s Afrobeat and discusses the struggles faced by women in society. Right from the beginning of the song, Afrobeat enthusiasts are transported to the good ol’ Fela days. The song is a healthy concoction of different songs by the legend like the popular “Water no get enemy” and “Lady”. However, its similarity to Fela’s “Lady” stops at the instrumentals and lyrics. “Woman” is a bold rebuttal and direct response to the failings that Simi saw in “Lady”.

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