By Geoffrey Rowlands
Do you remember Michael Dapaah? The London-born actor and comedian featured in this column late last year when he enjoyed a massive hit single with Man’s Not Hot. He did so under the alias of Big Shaq, one of the characters Michael created to form part of his YouTube video shows.
Edwin Onokhua has taken a similar route to UK chart stardom. Although Edwin was also born in London and is of African descent, there are significant differences between the two artistes.
At just 16, Edwin is ten years younger than Michael. He is also considerably less experienced having posted the first of his comedy YouTube videos barely a year ago. Another difference is that Edwin raps as himself rather than one of his characters.
“I do have a character who is a rapper,” Edwin remarked. “His name is Ola. He’s a bedroom rapper who keeps getting grief from his dad, also played by me, whenever his dad hears him trying to record a song.
“But I never considered myself as a potentially serious rapper. Ola was just one of my characters. So too was African Boy, another character who sometimes tries to rap.
“It was my YouTube fans who kept telling me I should do a serious rap rather than just the parodies. I wasn’t too sure at first. Doing a parody is one thing, but making a real song is something else. But my followers kept getting on to me to do a proper song and I eventually decided to give it a try.”
The end result, German, has propelled Edwin into the upper reaches of the UK singles chart. But don’t look for Edwin Onokhua on the credits. He is listed as EO.
“My name isn’t exactly media friendly. I adopted EO for my YouTube channel. I called it a crossover because I wanted to put all kinds of comedy and music videos on there. For my song, I dropped the crossover and just called myself EO.”
Considering his age, one reviewer admitted they thought German would be about something that happened during a German language lesson at school. They were surprised to find the song was about driving BMW and Mercedes motor cars.
Although it was produced, mixed and mastered by UK urban and African music culture hotshot JRocs, the lyrics for German were written by Edwin. Ironically, he is too young to hold a UK driving licence.
“Somebody told me I should be quite commercial. I didn’t really understand what that meant. I thought it was like adverts on TV. But that idea of being like television commercials made me think I could rap about cars. I needed a beat though and eventually found this great beat that everybody will know now. It’s the same one that Ramz used for his hit single, Barking.
“I’d found the beat, recorded the song and wanted to put it out with a music video at the back end of last summer. But the team I was working with at that time were just too slow. The next thing I knew, somebody sent me the Barking song. It was basically my track with different lyrics. I wanted to cry!”
This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to Edwin. Instead of swinging for the fences with a prominent release, he just put the original version of German on his YouTube channel.
It was heard by his current manager who contacted Edwin, asked if he would like to remake the song with a proper producer and hooked him up with JRocs. The finished product was so good that his manager pitched German to Columbia UK and Edwin suddenly found himself with a major label record deal.
“Everything happened so quickly. The video was shot about a week and a half after I re-recorded German with JRocs. My song started getting love from some important people in the music business. I was in demand to make guest appearances on influential radio shows. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
“Then came the chart listing. I’m so grateful to my management, everyone who has helped me and, of course, to all my YouTube fans. If it wasn’t for their encouragement, I’d still have been doing nothing more than parody raps.”
Performing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has given a significant boost in record sales for all artists concerned.
The biggest gain was made by cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason. Winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016, Sheku has also performed at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards ceremony as well as the annual BBC Promenade concerts.
Signed to the Decca Classics label, Sheku released his debut album, Inspiration, before his appearance at the Royal Wedding. It proved remarkably successful debuting at number 18 and making 19-year-old Sheku the youngest cellist to enter the UK Albums chart top 20 with a first album.
His performances of Sicilienne, Apres Un Reve and Ave Maria for Harry and Meghan brought increased sales lifting Inspiration to number 11 on the Albums chart and returning the record to number one on the Classical Artist Albums chart.
His mainstream success has made Sheku the highest-charting cellist in the history of the U.K. Albums chart. Inspiration has surpassed the previous mark set by Julian Lloyd Webber with Lloyd Webber Plays Lloyd Webber. This album covered Julian’s reinterpretation of his brother Andrew’s songs from stage musicals.
A delighted Sheku said: “I’m so happy that people are enjoying my music and really grateful for all the support I’ve received. The reaction to my performance at the wedding has been incredible and it feels amazing to have my album so high in the charts.”
What Psy just failed to do with Gangnam Style has now been achieved by South Korean boy band BTS.
Although Gangnam Style topped singles charts throughout the world in 2012, the song was held out of pole position in America by Maroon 5’s One More Night. But if Psy stalled at number two, BTS have gone one place better.
This is not on the Hot 100 singles chart but rather on the Billboard 200. Their latest full-length album, Love Yourself: Tear, has hit number one making BTS the first K-Pop artists to top America’s mainstream album chart.
Their achievement comes as no great surprise to chart watchers. In 2017, BTS became the first K-Pop act to enter the Billboard 200 top ten with Love Yourself: Her.
Every North American date on their upcoming world tour has sold out. This includes four consecutive nights at the 21,000 capacity Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
Although much of their appeal is to the children of Korean immigrants, the BTS ARMY, as they are known, includes a good many girls who are not of Korean descent. Attracted by their music, slick dance routines and good looks, it doesn’t seem to matter that BTS do not sing more than a few words in English.
Nicky Jam / Will Smith / Era Istrefi
Reggaetron star Nicky Jam is joined by rapper / actor Will Smith and Kosovar singer Era Istrefi on Live It Up, the official song of the 2018 World Cup.
The music video will not be available to view until June 7. But the song has already been released. It can be heard at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFMZUxX6K6o
Produced by Diplo, The Picard Brothers and Free School, Live It Up is an uptempo dance track sung principally in English but with some Spanish lyrics. Nicky Jam is listed as the main performer with Will and Era effectively being guest artists.
Initial reviews have been mixed. One even described the song as “almost unlistenable.” While this may be a little harsh, it has not gone unnoticed that Live It Up is essentially a Caribbean / Latin American song. Yet the World Cup is being staged in Russia. One would have thought there might have been some sort of Russian association in the official World Cup song.
In addition to co-producing the official World Cup song, Diplo has been hard at work creating new music with his friend Mark Ronson.
Calling themselves Silk City, the name of the Philadelphia diner where they first met, Diplo and Mark have made an album of songs which encompass their shared love of soul, disco and house music.
“We decided to spend a week in the studio to see what came of it,” Mark stated. “I had very little idea that this would see us making some of my favourite dancefloor music that I’ve ever been part of.”
Their album should be out later this year but lead single, Only Can Get Better, is available now. Featuring vocals by Daniel Merriweather, the accompanying video is posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF9LEB3-k_s
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