The Shuffle: Revisiting P-Sqaure’s “Beautiful Onyinye Remix” With Rick Ross
Rick Ross stole the show.
Rick Ross stole the show.
The P-Square era is undoubtedly one of the most dominant in Afropop history. At the time, their unprecedented understanding of R&B filtered into dance-ready bops, earning them countless hits throughout the 2000s and the nascent years of the following decade. By the release of their fourth album (2009’s ‘Danger’), the Okoye twins had entered an echelon of superstardom unoccupied by anyone else in Africa. After peering into sold-out stadiums and seeing no new hill to conquer, they then set their sights on the international market.
To achieve this, the twin duo required new partners. And fittingly, Akon at the time was exploring the African music scene, especially Nigeria’s which had been shaping up to be the continental hotspot. P-Square signed partnership deals with the Senegalese superstar’s Konvict Musik and Universal Music Group, so naturally their network expanded. When African listeners heard Rick Ross’s gruffy vocals on the chords of “Beautiful Onyinye”, a new dimension seemed to have unlocked.
Coming halfway into 2012, the potency of the collaboration lay in its international vision. Having released their debut album in 2003, the twins were playing on steep turf as they entered their second decade. Their ability to continue excelling at the game needed a big showcase, and they didn’t come bigger than the rapper born William Leonard Roberts Jr. In an interview with Ok! Nigeria TV, Peter said they were chilling somewhere in Atlanta with Akon, when Rick Ross came in and he loved the vibe; apparently the original “Beautiful Onyinye” was Akon’s favourite song on ‘Invasion’.
Directed by their brother Jude “Engees” Okoye, the visuals of the remix were pretty unforgettable. It was shot in Miami and South Africa, embossing the calming blue of the sea in the mind. The song revelled in innocence, praising a love that has survived time and contributed to the lives of the characters involved. As always the twins evoked deep emotions with their storytelling, most likely influenced by their exposure to Igbo oratory. Adlibs and sentimental croonings also came into the mix, resulting in a record that glistened with hit potential, even among the other bangers all over that album.
On his verse, Rick Ross did well by keeping it simple. Carrying the language of hyper-capitalist brags into an Afropop love song didn’t have many precedents then. Which was part of the reason why the remix seemed so strange at first, but when one listened again, the idea stuck. Ross starts his verse with the affirmation “We fell in love on the first day” which, if you remember, used to be screamed like a prayer. Other lines followed with relative ease, exuding the charisma that made Ross so revered among African audiences. “We talking money here, you talking nonsense” was particularly popular, sketching the nonchalant exuberance many of us imagined to be the texture of celebrity existence.
If the remix of “Beautiful Onyinye” was a novelty at the time, there’s no doubt how commonplace such collaborations are now. Afropop has scaled gigantic heights to reach an undeniable level of acclaim internationally. Anyways, Rick Ross is a name which should come up more in discussions about international stars who were early admirers of Afropop. Though he didn’t trod the genre as frequently as some others, it speaks more to his respect for its true practitioners. His offerings have been sparse, but indisputably beneficial on artistic and commercial levels.
He delivered another lush verse on Yemi Alade’s “Oh My Gosh”, complementing her boisterous energy with lyrics that would sway any woman who’s already in love with you. Another thread of the rapper’s relationship with Nigeria rolls into “Hold Me Back”, a poignant visual shot during his visit to Nigeria in 2012. Its montage of documentary clips, live shooting in black and white soundtracked by the synth-heavy bass of 2010s American Hip-Hop provided an immersive experience at best, and a controversial one if considered sceptically: why does he choose to floss over pictures of slums?
Hip-Hop shares a strong relationship with Afropop, and the “Beautiful Onyinye” remix remains among its finest transcontinental showcases. Its impact was immediate and transcendental, a capsule into a period that’s remembered with cherry nostalgia. Just proving really, that music is the most effective calendar of our collective existence as Black people.
Featured image credits/NATIVE