Growing up in Africa, one of the first Hollywood movies to make an impact on Sipho Dlamini was Eddie Murphy’s 1988 comedy “Coming to America,” in which the comedian starred as a prince from the fictional African country of Zamunda.
“I know how significant a movie it was to people living in Africa or Africans in the diaspora,” says Dlamini, a veteran music executive who in January was promoted to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan South Africa. “I can still recite some of the jokes from the first movie, like the barbershop scene or the jokes about ‘sexual chocolate.’ It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time.”
So when Dlamini visited Universal Music Group’s offices in Los Angeles in late 2019 and started catching wind of conversations around the soundtrack for the movie’s long-in-the-works sequel, “Coming 2 America” (out March 5, via Amazon Studios), he knew he had to find a way to get involved. “I started emailing and contacting everybody to find out where it was landing,” Dlamini recalls. Soon, the team at Def Jam U.S. worked out a collaboration with Def Jam Africa to help curate a whole companion album to the movie’s official soundtrack to showcase a whole range of African sounds and artists.
The result of that collab, “Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired By Coming 2 America,” is scheduled for release March 5. And as Variety can exclusively reveal, the album’s 16 tracks are comprised of African artists from across the diaspora, many of whom are also signed to Universal Africa labels. The first taste of the project, “Black & White,” comes from Nasty C, the most-streamed artist in South Africa, and features U.S. R&B singer Ari Lennox. Check out the track below.
“We wanted to bring our knowledge of the music from the continent that is coming up and affecting the youth globally — it’s not just Afrobeat,” Dlamini says. The fact that Zamunda is depicted as more of a fictional, pan-African country gave the Universal Africa and Def Jam teams some creative license, too. “It allowed us to play with the fact that you don’t have to only reflect genres that are popular in one region or one part of Africa. And much like the movie is about America on one side and Africa, we could draw on the African genres you would expect but you also have R&B, hip-hop, house and so forth. ‘Black and White’ is a great example. It sounds like it could have been made in a studio in the U.S., and it’s a collaboration with an American artist, but Nasty C is as African as it gets.”
Though the previously announced soundtrack to “Coming 2 America” is also set to feature artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Bobby Sessions as well as songs performed in the film, Dlamini credits 2018’s “Black Panther: The Album” and its similar fusion of African music with American hip-hop as an important blueprint for “inspired by” albums.
“Seeing how much people responded to music from Africa after the film, it’s clear people will find ways to connect with songs when they have a rich experience with a movie,” he says. “Sometimes you’ll watch a movie and hear an amazing song and say, ‘I’ve never heard that before,’ or ‘I want to hear more’ and it’s complicated to find music in that same vein. We wanted to make it easy to continue that experience by creating these additional songs. If you’re having a house party and put this on, you’ll get a little taste of everything.”
Check out the “Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired By Coming 2 America” tracklist below:
1. Black And White – Nasty C ft. Ari Lennox
2. Owo Ni Koko – Larry Gaaga & Umuobiligbo
3. Magnet – Locko
4. Skeletun – Tekno
5. Overdue – Tellaman Feat. Sha Sha
6. Jiggy Bop – Alpha P & TMXO
7. Dosabado – DJ Arafat
8. Fetch Your Life – Prince Kaybee Feat. Msaki
9. Dangerous Love – Tiwa Savage (DJ Ganyani Amapiano Radio Edit Remix)
10. Moya Omubi – Th&o.
11. Hallelujah – Diamond Platnumz Feat. Morgan Heritage
12. Ye Mama – Toofan Feat. Fally Ipupa
13. Ain’t It True – Bonj
14. Loke Loke – Gemini Major Feat. ANATII
15. Shesha – De Mthuda & Njelic
16. Everything – Ricky Tyler