By Chux Odoh
So far since its release, the project has smashed all previous personal records by the artiste, debuting at number 11 on the Billboard 200 Chart with 38,992 total album equivalent units, 16,507 pure album sales and a streaming count of 28,041,225.
While the artiste basks on the euphoria of the success of his latest project, a particular track, Savier’s Road, stands out from the rest and is potentially the track that will push the Oxnard album to platinum in record time.
On it, Paak samples Ereyon a song by veteran Nigerian broadcaster and former Miss Western Nigeria (1958), Julie Coker off her 1977 album ‘Ereyon (Sweet Songs)’, released under E.M.I. Music Nigeria.
Ereyon, sung in the Itshekiri language of the ethnic group native to the Niger-Delta of Nigeria, refers to the legend of the water spirit that usually comes out during festivals in the riverine communities to listen to songs and music of the inhabitants.
On Paak’s version, his producer 9th Wonder flips the beat, adding some kicks and pads to the original melody while the track opens with an interpolation of Ms. Julie’s vocals.
Unlike hers again, Paak opts for a different direction on his song as he muses about what legal and illegal hustles he’d be involved in if he missed his calling in music with lines like ‘Probably coulda been a doctor, I’m fond of optometry, Vision was like Martin Luther on the mountain peak’. It also muses about being “saved” by God and becoming famous.
While there are splitting differences between the direction of both songs, Paak’s version is one of the most trending tracks on this project. Comments across different top music platforms show that fans have taken a special liking to the record, with many confessing the high pitched sound of the intro (Julie’s voice) as the main attraction to the record.
Nigerian music continues to be heavily sampled by hip-hop producers abroad. Fellow associate, Kendrick Lamar, sampled Afrobeat Pioneer Fela Kuti on the track Mortal Man off his ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Album, and Paak also references the music icon in another track off the album titled ‘6 Summers’.
Julie Coker was one of the most famous faces on Nigerian television in the 1970’s. Born to a Yoruba father and an Itsekiri mother in 1940, she was raised in Lagos. At age 14, her mother took ill and left her in Lagos with her stepfather. After a year of no communication, she traced her way to her mother’s birthplace of Sapele. She would stay there until her mother and fully recovered. However, she was tricked into an early marriage in the village but she connived with an aunt who helped her escape.
Her foray into television came after a short stint as a beauty queen. She won the Miss Western-Nigeria pageant in 1958 but narrowly lost the Miss Nigeria title that followed. The following year she got a job as a receptionist at Nigeria’s first television station- the Ibadan based WNTV (later NTA). Her big shot came when the iconic face and voice of African television, Anike Agbaje-Williams (who was the first ever person on television in Africa) went on maternity leave and filled in for her. That was the start of her 30-year career on television.
Ms Coker was also a gifted singer. She recorded and released three albums under EMI Records. Unfortunately for the subsequent generation of Nigerian musicians, the record label left around the late ’80s, along with others like SONY and Decca. The music label EMI was sold to Universal Music Group in 2011 for a $1 billion while the music publishing arm was sold to SONY for an incredible $2.2 billion. Interscope Records where Anderson Paak is signed to is owned by Universal.
Now 78 years old and retired to a private life, it is heartwarming that a Nigerian legend is poised to earn residual royalties for the work she did more than forty years ago.