It seems it's just a numbers game now...
On the 14th of May 2002, P. Diddy and the Bad Boy Family released a compilation album titled We Invented The Remix. The 15-track project features remixes of hit singles from artists who were signed to Bad Boy Records. P. Diddy opened up the album giving a short introduction: “Welcome ladies and gentlemen, this is just a minor introduction. Little history, little background, information. We started – me, P. Diddy, the whole Bad Boy family, the hitmen, just my crew of producers. We started doing remixes back in ‘91. The first remix we did was Jodeci; come and talk to me. Sold 2.5 million records. We felt we was on to something…. We invented the remix; that’s just the way it is.”
In actuality, Diddy and his Bad Boy Family did not invent remixes. The idea of remixes originated from Jamaican sound systems and producers in the early ‘60s who chopped up dub music. It got some form of reinvention in the ‘70s with disco music and eventually seeped into contemporary music. What Diddy did, however, reform the nature of remixes. In 1991, he reconstructed the R&B quartet Jodeci’s heartfelt single, ‘Come And Talk To Me’, adding samples and drum loops. It created a spark. The concept of remixes started expanding and in the mid-’90s artists started featuring other artists on remakes of their songs to gain grounds in other genres. It also became a way to repurpose and rejuvenate songs.
Fast forward to the early and mid-noughties and remixes were the order of the day. In 2006, The Game released the remix to his single, “It’s Okay (One Blood)” which featured verses from 25 rappers. Dj Khaled also assembled the avengers for his famous remix of “I’m So Hood”. However, here in Nigeria, remixes were not much of a thing. Like most other western trends in the tail part of the second millennium, we caught on late. While some artists did release remixes of their songs, they were mostly few and far between, and they barely scratched the surface. One of the earliest noteworthy remixes was T Da Kapo’s sturdy contribution to Styl Plus’ magnum opus, ‘Olufunmi’. But even that didn’t hold nearly as much impact as the original did.
As the decade closed out, the remix slowly found its way into Nigerian pop music. Psquare released a remix of their massive hit, “Bizzy Body” with Nigerian-British rapper, Weird Mc. Banky W also assembled an all-star cast for the posse cut remix of “Lagos Party”. When the turn of a new decade came, remixes became a mainstay. New and established acts were churning them out, either to give their songs a much-needed boost or simply to elongate its lifespan. In 2011, then-newcomer Jahbless shook the scene with the remix of his bubbling under single, “Joor”. D’banj had the country going wild when he secured a Snoop Dogg verse for “Mr Endowed” remix. General Pype’s ticket to fame was the “Champion Remix”. JJC also had every screaming “Africans ahuu” with the remix of “We are Africans”. Remixes surfaced everywhere.
It became something that everyone looked forward to. It allowed the fans to re-experience their favourite songs and it also allowed the artist to rekindle the fire of their songs. When Psquare announced remixes of their songs, “Chop My Money” and “Beautiful Onyinye” with Akon and Rick Ross respectively, everyone held their breath, expecting what was to come. It was a similar feeling when Lil Kesh enlisted his then-label boss, Olamide and Davido for his seismic hit single, “Shoki Remix”.
However, as time passed, the concept of remixes started evolving. As streaming became more prominent in Nigeria, it also informed the way the music industry operated. Artists and record execs started viewing remixes as an avenue to increase their numbers on digital streaming platforms and also break into new territories, rather than what they used to be. Sometime last year, veteran disc jockey DJ Neptune released one of the biggest songs in the country, “Nobody” which featured pop sensation Joeboy and emPawa boss Mr Eazi. A couple of months after its release, he announced the official remix with Big Brother winner, Laycon. While Laycon wasn’t necessarily the biggest act – he certainly didn’t possess the artistic credentials to take the song to another level at the time – he had a huge fanbase that he had garnered from his time in the Big Brother house and DJ Neptune was looking to capitalize on that. Shortly after the release of the “Icons Remix'', DJ Neptune announced a Worldwide Remixes tape that contained 12 different remixes of the song targeted at different regions. His decision might have been considered a masterstroke to some considering the current musical climate, while to others, an overkill.
Another good example of an artist largely targeting numbers with a remake of his song is Cheque. His breakout single, “Zoom” was one of the hottest songs around last year. It was on every airwave, every speaker and every chart. Five months afterward, he dropped the remix with Davido and American rapper. While the decision might have been slightly perplexing for many reasons, it made sense from an executive stance. Davido might not have been the right fit for the song as the genre isn’t exactly his forte, his massive influence cannot be overlooked. And though Wale’s touch might not be what it once was, it still reels in a large international audience.
Back in 2010, when DJ Neptune released the remix to “123” which featured the C.E.O Dagrin, MI Abaga (who also appeared on the original version), and Naeto C, there was genuine excitement in the air. Not just because of the names listed on the remix, but also because there was a feeling that these artists would bring their A-game, they were going to elevate the record to the next level – they did. These days, the same cannot be said; the focus now seems to be on simply securing a big name regardless of whether the artist is the right fit for the song. The artist’s presence on the song seems to be the sole incentive because it’ll most likely get people to click play regardless. In 2018, Ycee secured the services of American rapper Joyner Lucas for the remix of his smash hit single, “Juice”. Enlisting a conscious rapper with a machine gun flow for the remix of one of the biggest Afropop songs in the past decade is pretty head-scratching. However, just a year before, Joyner went viral for his single, “I’m Not Racist,” and he was gaining rapidly growing recognition. Going off this, it is not far-fetched to imagine Ycee was simply looking to leverage on this. Unsurprisingly, the remix was dead on arrival.
Just like everything else, music is also subject to change – it’s inevitable. Whether the change is for better or for worse is a different conversation entirely. For a lot of artists, music is a numbers game now. Everyone wants to celebrate a No. 1 song. Everyone wants their song to be certified; they want a plaque on their wall. And even if the way to go around that might not create the same euphoria or listening experience for listeners, it is the new reality. It looks like the remix got remixed.