By Udochukwu Ikwuagwu
Every era has them—whether intended by artists or fans’ accidental invention: artists who are so good together that rumours start to spread about their private lives. Sixties and seventies were blessed with Berry Gordy-Diana Ross partnership, and Ike Turner and Little Ann. Eighties belonged to King Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu. Curiosity got the better of nineties in R. Kelly and Aaliyah’s studio love—and one could say the better of Mr. Kelly’s good judgment. Ja Rule and Ashanti got the Noughties on chokehold, as Lágbájá and Ego played the local alternative.
For Falz and Simi, it all started on the remix of light-hearted “Jamb Question”, then “Soldier”- off the former’s classic sophomore album- being the response to crowd’s encore. And have they milked our curiosity in the latest collaborative EP, “Chemistry”. We love to get into relationships of stars, so Falz and Simi seem to ask each other: Why not feed fans’ prying eyes? Simi herself admits this on the title track: Everybody seems to think that we’ll be good together. Everybody don dey talk say make you be my lover. Minimalist production layers the r&b track for both ‘lovers’ to tell of their truest feelings. If the past is anything to go by, Mr. Folarin has long been trying his luck, hoping the girl-next-door persona of Simi finally opens both her door and heart. The video of aforementioned “Jamb Question” ended with laughter and smiles, but no lover. Even after rescue of damsel-in-distress brought viewers on edge on “Soldier”, Simi dismissed his valiant effort. On the EP’s eponymous track, which offers the project’s highlight, a repentant Simi seeks fresh beginnings: Maybe we can start again.
Simi brings memories of the recent past, especially the “Soldier” adventures, but backtracks from her “your fada!” retort to then-love-struck Falz, who transforms to being enough for [her]…to hold [her] tight [and] treat her right on “Enough”. Falz in turn thanks her for her ‘stubbornness’, which isn’t far-fetched from the image of one dismissive of romantic overtures.
The music couple released some dreamy promo photos prior to Chemistry’s launch at Industry Nite. One of the striking images was the recreation of Bonnie and Clyde—and that image was the poster for Falz and Simi’s concert. How apt for the EP premiere and listening session, given the way the pair takes more than our inquisitiveness, but goes further stealing attention in fine form. They play on stealing each other’s hearts and ears, and tag-team to steal ours through their brilliance.
Some have called them Nigeria’s response to the Big Sean and Jhené Aiko’s experiment, which isn’t totally true, given the mix of humour and fun applied by the duo in expanding soundscape—even testing waters of dancehall, afrobeat, afro-juju, highlife. “Chemistry” presents more than bedroom romance and flirtation, pushing the boundaries, touching shared romance experienced at owambes. Falz did a tepid owambe joint, “Kawosoke”, off “Stories that Touch” while Simi’s “Open and Close” was a throwaway. On Shina Peters-styled “Shake Your Body”, all sins are forgiven and slate of bad juju wiped clean. In these times of ‘money gun’ craze among Lagos socialites, Falz buys into the zeitgeist, and “sprays the money [and] it’s a downpour”, even rapping-Simi isn’t left out of the digging on the dance floor, calling Dangote and his ilk to do the needful.
“Foreign”, an antithesis to Lil Kesh’s homage to local content on “Ibile”, sees the two further mine humour for aural pleasure. Where the YBNL-affiliate says, “You can chop your Chinese, ogbeni I want iyan”, Falz’s pens his rejoinder: “Why will you give me pounded yam?” Paradoxical, one may think, that proponents of the now-maligned international exposure use ‘everyday man’ accent- which bears ties to South-Western Nigeria- and mispronounce foreign words (“lasagna”, “champagne”, “pizza”, “Schwarzenegger”). And ironic that a ‘foreign’ song, filled with pidgin English and Yoruba, gets laid on a “Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense”-sampled afrobeat production; but that’s tongue-in-cheek reference to wannabe frequent travellers, who add colour to cosmopolitan cities—the duo’s project continues to show that city life comes with wittiness.
At the end of the 7-track “Chemistry”, you’re bound to love the studio love that birthed humour, romance, flirtation, and party, wine-sipping and cash-throwing life, and perhaps remember the words of King Sunny Ade when asked about rumoured romance with Onyeka Onwenu: “[I]t was pure gimmick and the fans bought it [and] that made the [project] big”.