The Shuffle: Celebrating the legendary Dr Frabz through 5 essential songs

Featuring cutting edge bops produced for Wizkid, YQ, Dagrin, Naeto C & eLDee

On Saturday 27 February, the tragic news of the death of Ayorinde Faboro, popularly known as Dr Frabz, broke to the public, and friends, colleagues, and music lovers alike sombrely shared their sorrow and shock at this passing. Over the weekend, many fondly remembered moments shared with him during his lifetime, whilst others listed all the fantastic tracks he gave us in his time, and it’s clear that we have lost an OG. For those who are unfamiliar, Dr Frabz was popularly known for his slew of classics, placing him on the innovative, cutting edge of Nigerian music at the peak of his popularity.

At age six, Frabz started playing the drums and piano in church, eventually going on to start producing music professionally in 2006. He quickly made his impact felt in the music industry, contributing to Mo’Hits Records’ dominant reign via production work on D’Banj’s “Jasi”. His upbeat instrumental arrangements pushed the genre towards a more contemporary bounce and it showed us the potential for Nigerian music on the world stage by incorporating elements of hip-hop, funk, EDM and R&B. In addition to self-producing his own songs as a singer, Frabz’s repertoire of collaborators included Wizkid, Dagrin, Naeto C, Davido, Omawumi, Seyi Shay, Chuddy K and more.

While the circumstances that led to Dr Frabz’s death are still unclear, Nikki Laoye alleged that he was shot during his stay in America. SamKlef’s tweets also confirmed that the producer was indeed in America as he narrated how he had spoken with him 2 weeks ago while he (Dr Frabz) was in Houston. One only needs to read the tributes from the old and new tastemakers in the Nigerian music industry to recognize how Dr Frabz’s production paved the way for other Nigerian musical talents.

No sound was off-limits for Dr Frabz, and this made him the go-to producer for several artists experiment and discover their identities. In celebration of his influential career, here are five essential songs that encapsulate his undeniable genius.

YQ & Dagrin – “Efimile”

One important thing Dr Frabz did was challenge his collaborators. While he was superb at tailoring his production to whoever he was working, Frabz’s beat had a commanding energy, ensuring that whoever would be singing or rapping had to be even more authoritative. His beat for “Efimile” combined classical-style piano chord loops, screeching strings, and crashing bass, serving as the perfect backdrop for YQ and Dagrin to deliver one of the best collaborations in Nigerian music. The hulking beat, in all its colour and maximalist thump, inspired some of the best bars Dagrin ever spit and an appropriately impassioned singing performance by YQ. Without overstating anything, “Efimile” is a classic record, and Frabz was a major reason for that.

Dagrin – “Thank God” (feat. Omawumi)

Growing up in the relatively neighbouring hoods of Iyana Ipaja and Meiran, respectively, Dr Frabz and Dagrin knew a thing or two about clawing their way up from humble beginnings. It feels apt that their marquee collaboration, “Thank God”, which features the immaculate pipes of Omawumi, was a celebratory song about rising from grass to grace through the help of God. Curating a soulful and booming instrumental, fitting for both vocalists on the songs, Frabz laced Dagrin’s meditative, beaming raps with a memorable synth piano chord progression and thumping drums, evoking the atmosphere of what a worship song would sound like at church where only rap music played.

Naeto C – “Ako Mi Ti Poju”

Naeto C will forever remain the epitome of swag rap in Nigeria, a reputation he earned by being effortlessly fly over catchy, experimental beats that expanded the horizons of rap music in the country. Within their handful of collaborations, it was obvious that the partnership between Naeto and Dr Frabz was intuitive. On the casually authoritative “Ako Mi Ti Poju”, the pair delivered a rap song instantly sounded distinct and has barely been recreated till date. Clearly inspired by the Lex Luger-dominated era of Trap music, Frabz’s production is sparse but maximalist, built around a framework of earth-trembling bass and spiced up by a potpourri of piano synth strings, adding gravitas and colour to Naeto’s boastful, unflappable raps.

eLDee – “Feel Good Music” (feat. Naeto C & Jimmy Flames)

As a young teenager addicted to radio (R.I.P Tosyn Bucknor), I had three major musical obsessions: Kanye West’s warbling croon on “Runaway”, the drum pattern of Olu Maintain’s “Yahooze”, and the unorthodox instrumental make-up of eLDee’s “Feel Good Music”. The reason for the latter bothered on how Dr Frabz used his voice as the foundational element of the music, beatboxing and sampling harmonies from his own voice as the basis of the infectious, booming hip-hop beat. On the song, he also sings the sparkling hook, displaying his under-heralded qualities a singer. With his all-round involvement on “Feel Good Music”, Frabz delivered an alley-oop to eLDee, Naeto C, and Jimmy Flames, ensuring that the song served only highlight reels for its 4-minute duration.

Wizkid – “Joy”

Couched underneath the conventional pop excesses of Wizkid’s sophomore album, ‘Ayo’, are a handful of personal gems offering an endearing look at the then budding global star. “Joy” is one of those songs, a loving ode to Wizkid’s mum produced by Dr Frabz. Accompanying the singer’s open-hearted expressiveness, the producer laid down a Reggae track, packing whistling piano chords, heaving bass guitar, brassy horn lines and groovy drums into a colourful, composite soundscape that never envelopes Wizkid. In promotion of ‘Ayo’, Wiz performed a mash-up of “Joy” and Bob Marley’s classic “No Woman No Cry” for BBC 1Xtra, and it featured Dr Frabz on piano and back-up vocals, performing the duty he was renowned for: doing his best to lift others up.

Featured Image Credits: Twitter/NikkiLaoye

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