Wesley Snipes with Teyana Taylor in
“Coming 2 America.”
By Quantrell D. Colbert /Amazon Studios/TNS
By Jazz Tangcay
Like the 1988 comedy, “Coming to America,” its sequel 33 years later also features its share of memorable musical moments.
Director Craig Brewer, who worked with Eddie Murphy on “Dolemite Is My Name,” knew how passionate people were about the original and “didn’t want to mess anything up,” he tells Variety. The director wanted to tackle such universal themes as parenthood and tradition using the film’s soundtrack combined with Jermaine Stegall’s score.
Brewer admits one of the first ideas he pitched was the “Gett Off” sequence. The 1991 song by Prince also happens to be one of his favorites. Says Brewer: “If we viewed the first movie as a template for what Zamundan custom is and a princess is being presented to a prince, there has to be a dance. I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if he did ‘Gett Off’ by Prince?”
That “fun idea” evolved into a spectacular dance sequence between Lavelle Junson (Jermaine Fowler) and General Izzi’s daughter, Bopoto (Teyana Taylor). Brewer explains: “There’s a slight misdirect on it where people think Oha (Paul Bates) is going to sing the song, and he doesn’t. Instead, Bopoto sings the hook, and Lavelle sings the rap. It’s a sexy song, but done hilariously.”
Randy Spendlove, president of worldwide music and publishing at Paramount, helped Brewer get to secure the song from Prince’s estate before anything else — since the vocals would have had to be recorded prior to shooting. “There was a lot of back office work that had to take place in advance,” he says. That meant explaining to the estate the context in which the song would be used.”
In addition to Prince, the musical tapestry of the film includes cameo appearances by Gladys Knight, Salt n Pepa and En Vogue. (Sadly, a remake of the Soul Glo theme song was not in the cards.)
Brewer credits Spendlove for coming up with the idea of having En Vogue sing “Whatta King” in place of “Whatta Man?” A phone call later, they were on board.
Similarly, Gladys Knight was game to perform “Midnight Train to Zamunda,” a take on her 1973 hit “Midnight Train to Georgia.” “We got wind that she might be available and we discussed what we could do with her, and that was it,” says Brewer. “She sings ‘Zamunda’ instead of ‘Georgia’ and it’s done with such earnestness.”
Brewer and Spendlove also heard Megan Thee Stallion was interested in contributing to the film’s soundtrack. But Brewer saw a better opportunity, he wanted the song in the movie.
The director shot scenes with Kiki Layne who plays Meeka, King Akeem’s eldest daughter who is overlooked as an heir because she’s a woman. He says, “It was the perfect marriage. Bobby Sessions is singing ‘I’m a King’ and then Megan sings ‘I’m a Queen. Megan is the coolest female rapper in the game right now who personifies what Meeka is feeling.”
Spendlove worked with Def Jam records on the film’s soundtrack which also includes John Legend, Tiwa Savage and Big Sean. An accompanying second album, called “Rhythms of Zamunda,” also came together in honor of the Amazon Prime movie. “It’s a concept record with African-based music,” says Brewer. “Def Jam understood the importance of the film and the idea of coming up with two soundtracks.”
(C) 2021 Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media; Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC