In June 2019, Billboard announced that they will be expanding their ranking chart to include weekly updates on top producers. While I highly doubt that they’ll include producers from some of our beloved musical genres of the diaspora just yet, this is still massive news in the world of music! And you never know, Billboard could surprise us with the producers they select. To be quite frank, it’s beyond overdue. Aside from the generic household names, audio engineers and producers are often left out of the larger conversation when publicly crediting a piece of work, whether a part of the diaspora or not.
I truly wish this wasn’t the case. Producers and audio engineers at times can singlehandedly determine the flow of song, or solitarily define an era for an artist. Just a few weeks ago for example, my personal music analyst, also known as my older sister Khafayat, asked me what my favorite Wande Coal collaboration/era is. Her choices were: Wande Coal x Don Jazzy, Wande Coal x DJ Tunez, or Wande Coal x Juls. She always does this, dropping these nerve racking music polls that carry heavy weight or thought. You notice though, that each of the choices differed by the type and sound of the producers.
The Wande Coal x Don Jazzy era exudes the fast and urban, yet stylistically more traditional, Yoruba, Mo Hits Records sound. From “Bumper 2 Bumper” to “Kiss Ur Hand”, Don Jazzy almost always includes the usage of vibrant and consistent drums, along with other percussion instruments in his music. It usually also comes with a side of an aerophone instrument, to add to the whistle sound in the background. Listen to the first 15 seconds of, “You Bad” if you need a refresher.
The Wande Coal x DJ Tunez collaboration is a bit different – cooler and slower in tempo for Wande Coal. It honestly reminds me of the first 0:31 seconds of King Wasiu Ayinde’s, “Solo” track from back in the day. The low-pitched bass sounds and saxophone in “Isakaba” provides a jazz-like element, which differs from what we’re used to from a younger W.C. It obviously grabbed everyone’s attention, because this song was a problem for two years straight.
The Wande Coal x Juls combo is also cooler in sound for W.C., but in a more sultry and sensual sense. Think, “Sister Girl” for example. To be honest, the Juls and W.C. collab is a combo that we didn’t even know we needed. Although plenty of other instruments were used, like the sax, in “So Mi So” in particular, Juls emphasized the importance of the guitar and the overall Ghanaian high life sound.
If you had to choose between the three combinations, which would you pick? To be honest, I love them all…but I select W.C. x Don Jazzy for 200 please *jeopardy voice*. Classics. While it is very safe to say that Wande Coal’s soulful voice transcends time and any rhythmic arrangement, it is also significant to acknowledge the essential role producers play in the direction of his sound, and with music in general.