NATIVE Exclusive: How Patoranking Became The ‘World Best’

the veteran Dancehall artist speaks about connecting the world through music

Three minutes into a Zoom conversation with Patoranking, our shared roots was the topic. We rattled off a number of places we knew, after he got to know that I lived in Ajegunle for a significant part of my life. Each name was familiar and evoked memories of home. But while the area which was affectionately called AJ wasn’t really that for him—Patoranking was raised in Ebute Metta, another suburb in mainland Lagos—it was there he got introduced to Galala, the zesty subgenre birthed from Dancehall which has formed his core sound over the years, making him one of Africa’s most intriguing musical exports. 

Immersed in Patoranking’s practices and philosophy are his many stories. Regardless of the gargantuan leaps he makes in his career, if the artist comes across as a guy-next-door, it’s because he’s lived on the farthest-leaning spectrums of life and has come through the other side with appreciation for everything. “When I moved from nothing to something, that was my story,” he sang on the opening lyric of “Alubarika,” his breakout record which was released in 2014, just around the time African pop was opening itself up to audiences internationally, especially in the United Kingdom. Rather than fizzy, afro-focused sonics, the vision of the artist born Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie was markedly different: he wanted to connect the world to his stories, through the universal genre of Reggae which most influenced him. 

“Music was the only means of survival,” he says to the NATIVE. “Music was the only guy that could control you. And if you don’t want to do what people are doing, either you play football, or you do music, or you learn handwork. Or,” he says with a hint of danger, “You join bad gang. And coming from a home in the ghetto, it’s very important that we do what is right.” 

Years before Patoranking appeared on the circuit of mainstream audiences, he was in Ghana trying to convince people of his talent. The West African country which bordered Nigeria from its southwest region had a thriving Reggae culture, sharpening Patoranking’s love for its intricacies. That awareness to the possibility of sound would beautifully coalesce with older experiences, such as sauntering into AJ street jams and stealing everyone’s hearts through dance. The Galala-influenced music of Daddy Showkey, Marvellous Benjy and Danfo Drivers were already ingrained in his consciousness, and without giving it much thought, Patoranking was cultivating the ethos and delivery of what would become an inimitable voice. 

“It wasn’t easy going around telling people that I would be great,”  he says now, “all they need to do is just listen to Patoranking. But we kept on going, you know. Many stumbling blocks, trying to get people’s attention, wondering why nobody’s hearing you. Also, you want to give your family a name, which is very important and then you want to be the voice or the face everyone look up to in the ghetto. So you don’t have to fail them; you just have to get it done.” 

Patoranking sure introduced himself with the assurance of a man who carries such transcendental responsibilities. Aside the stirring performance in the Timaya-featuring record, loosies with Olamide (“Bora”) and DJ Hazan (“Early Momo”) were well-received in the streets, the acute, gritty observations of Patoranking connecting on a deep level. “Girlie O” moved him past those considerations; having that bell-evoking progression and Pato’s affectionate lyricism, the record revealed him in the light of the Caribbean-facing superstar. 

Throughout 2014, Patoranking was in scintillating form—he honoured those transcontinental ambitions with records like “Tonite,” which was a collaboration with the veteran Faze and “My Woman, My Everything,” which received a stellar hook from Wande Coal. He also burnished his relationship with the local soundscape, appearing on the Sarkodie-hosted “No Kissing Baby” and “Friends,” one of his most affecting records which considered the weight of relationships. From then on, the artist was in incredible high demand, and the more he opened his arms to collaboration, the more he flowed into the ebbs of a career that had world domination in sight. 

By the time Patoranking released his debut album ‘God Over Everything’ in 2016, he was a household name on the continent. A 16-track body of work, it incorporated features of influential contemporaries (Wizkid, Olamide and Phyno), merged Fuji into the emotive closer with the iconic King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall who the song is titled after, and per his Jamaican influences, Konshens features on the tropical “Daniella Whine”. It was a successful debut and three years later, in 2019, Patoranking released ‘Wilmer’, the album named after his first daughter and which featured her on its black-designed cover. The sonic variance in records like “Feelings” and “Lenge Lenge” demonstrated that Patoranking still knew how to conduct the several parts of his artistry, while embracing a pan-African vision featuring the likes of Kenyan rapper Nyashinski, the South African artist Busiswa, the French artist of Congolese heritage Dadju, and Donae’o, the British rapper of Ghanaian and Guyanese descent. Crowning it all was Davido on the uber-hit “Confirm”

Patoranking places an intentionality into his music, and an innate self-awareness for his potential for love and greatness has never been in doubt. In February, earlier this year, he released the stirring track “Abobi”. A sociopolitical number whose peculiarly Nigerian expression emerged from a tradition shared by the likes of Ras Kimono, Evi Edna Ogoli and Majek Fashek, it aligned Patoranking with his didactic motivations while establishing the trajectory for his fourth album. 

“For me, it’s a place of pain,” he shares in response to how he approached the record. “In as much as I’m an advocate for change, I just have to do what I can do because at the end of the day, charity begins at home, you know? And if I’m to start mine, I have to start from my own place which is—so my home is, my music. So if I want to speak for the people or fight for the people, I have to start fighting from my own home. That’s why I just pour it into the music, where I talk and express how we feel.” 

Patoranking’s activism comes across as essential and true to his core. It’s the involvement of a man who’s seen life from its darkest corners and knows more than most why we must embrace the light. It’s also a sensibility that emerges from the Reggae genre, which has always acted as a conscience within the scope of popular music. One of Patoranking’s major heroes, the legendary Bob Marley was a messenger of love as much as he was a globe-trotting superstar who became one of the 20th century’s most enduring personalities. Creating his fourth album which is titled ‘World Best’, it is this unification that Patoranking has set his sights on. Particularly, unifying the shared experiences between his African home base and our Black siblings in the Caribbean diaspora. 

I asked why that was important for him. “If you look at it, we’re all one. Same colour, same race,” he says. “It’s just different place. There’s a lot of similarities; if you live in Jamaica, you’d see that same lifestyle in the ghetto. There’s a place called Little Kingston in Ajegunle; and if you go to some places in Ghana or Sierra Leone, you would think you’re in the Caribbean. Even when you’re there in the Caribbean, you’d think you are home. And if you go through history, that taught us that a lot of the people that make up these places are people taken from home.” For Patoranking, it was a choice of language and love. 

‘World Best’ album drew its title from a similar well of language and love, as Patoranking’s friends have been calling him that for a while now. “I’ve always wondered why they call me world best,” he says, “and you know, no man crowneth himself king, except the people. And if they said ‘Okay, Pato, you’re world best’, they see what I don’t see and I was like, ‘You know what? I’ll take it. I’ll claim it. It took us about two years making this album because we wanted to make sure we get it right.” 

“We like to take new directions; if everybody’s going left, we want to go right. That’s what we were able to do with this one.”


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Beginning with the drill-evoking “Inshallah,” the fifteen track body of work delivers on its creator’s promise of novelty. It’s a different song to anything Patoranking has done before, merging his distinct dancehall sensibilities with the more contemporary style. On “Gyal Like You,” he and Kizz Daniel lend their inimitable voices to the warm rootsy production. Sounding straight from a bar in 2000s Ajegunle, it’s a loving message with Galala undertones. Smoke & Vibes” is similarly composed, with Highlife-esque guitars colouring its seams. It’s a harkening to records like “Make Am” as Patoranking again flexes his grasp on topical issues (this time, overt reliance on drugs) while retaining his humour. The Jamaican stalwarts Beenie Man and Popcaan appear on “Amazing Grace” and “TONIGHT” respectively, both signature styles vividly impressed alongside Pato’s.

“Just like the title, it has to be around the world,” says Patoranking in response to where the project was created. “From Lagos to Lome, Togo; to Accra, Ghana; LA in California; London, Paris. So we just went around the world making the best of the best songs”. One of Patoranking’s best-ever songs does come here, on the Victony-featured “Babylon,” a phrase known to rasta believers as representing the dysfunction of the modern world. Over thumping progressions, both artists trade off each other’s energies, especially Patoranking whose sensibility audibly influence the song’s direction. “Leader, Lion, yes I be Idolo/ Fight and face my fears, no ojoro,” he sings in his passionate verse, describing himself as World Best and the Champion. 

Like most of the artists he collaborated with on the album, Victony was called into the studio to directly contribute his dulcet vocals. Patoranking is a huge fan of the youngster and he also cedes space for talented Ghanaian songstress Gyakie on the party-starting “Control Me”. Along with veteran features such as Diamond Platnumz and the American rapper Ludacris, ‘World Best’ emerges as a combination of both experienced and fresh voices, which supplies a vivacity that makes it Patoranking’s most well-honed album.

“A place of peace, where the energy is right,” he says, “that’s where I’m coming from with this album. We just want to carry everybody along, musically and experience wise. As a human being, I love peace, I love vibes, I love the right energy. In as much as we wanna go global, we want to make sure we do it the right way. Which is our way, which is the peaceful way, which is the easy-going way. So even when you hear this album, that is how you should feel.” 

Listen to ‘WORLD BEST’ below.