With “Original Copy”, DJ Cuppy stakes her claim – Ayodele Ibiyemi

When billionaire heiress, Florence Otedola broke out in 2014, she was just another socialite and even though she had mainstream DJ appearances, it was difficult for people to see her simply as an independent and hardworking DJ because of her pedigree.

The tag of daughter of a Nigerian Billionaire and granddaughter of a former Lagos State governor refused to go away and Cuppy embraced her heritage while also investing in her career. Part of the desire to move beyond just the billionaire heiress tag is reason behind Cuppy’s release of her debut album, Original Copy. Although the title was selected from a fan poll she conducted on Twitter, the title reflects exactly what her mission is; showing that she is an original musician and not just a socialite or rich kid.

The 12-track album is 31 minutes long and it was produced by Pheelz, Killertunes, Krizbeatz and 2Kriss. It features 14 other musicians from Ghana, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Tanzania, Jamaica and the United States. The guest list is impressive and diverse; it features Wyclef Jean, Julian Marley, Fireboy DML, Ms Banks, Rema, Sheyi Shay, Stonebwoy, Efya, YCee, Teni Entertainer, Darkoo, Rayvanny and Nonso Amadi.

The album opens with ‘Epe,’ homage to Cuppy’s ancestral homeland, Epe in Lagos state but it also sounds like the musician’s manifesto. She sings: “I’m looking forward to expressing myself in different sounds but in every track, I wanna make sure I’m integrating my own DNA…So even if I’m creating music for everyone globally, I’m still repping where I’m from.” The track is short but important, even though Efya could have had more time on it.

Rema’s signature vocals carried ‘Jollof on the Jet’ although the Tanzanian, Rayvanny was also impressive. Cuppy is very Nigerian on the Wyclef Jean featured track, ‘Wale’. She actually sings in the track, reminding critics that she can actually sing. The collaboration with Fireboy, ‘Feel Good’ reminds us why Fireboy is currently one of the hottest act in the Nigerian Music industry. The song is an expression of love, reminiscent of the 90s and early 2000 Rhythm and Blues era. Cuppy further makes her point in ‘Original Copy (Interlude)’ with: “DJ Cuppy joo torí Olorun, Music is not your forte”. The 1 minute track contains the exact point of the album, an assertion of the self even though she might be overreaching with the line “I told my daddy I don’t need him no more.” She then boasts at the end that she is the man, the original copy.

Another noteworthy collaboration is the dancehall collaboration with Stonebwoy, ‘Karma’. She shows versatility by giving a Ghanaian vibe and fitting in the track. Even though she has worked with Ghanaian musician, Sarkodie, this further shows that she does well with the Ghanaian style too. In ‘Litty Lit,’ Teni Entertainer brings her party side to bear while Cuppy comes with the playfulness which has now become a Cuppy trademark. The Pheelz produced track is bound to do well in clubs across the world.

‘54’ on the other hand pays homage to the 54 countries of Africa in a fitting collaboration with legend, Sir Shina Peters and Julian Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley. Sir Shina Peter’s baritone dominates the song in an impressive way. 31 years after his signature album, the man is comfortable with a modern beat, a reminder that he was ahead of his time even in his heydays. The daring collaboration is commendable as it cuts across genres, generations and cultures. That said, the song is another piece of Pan African romanticism, the kind that appeals to everyone besides actual Africans living in Africa.

POY, the collaboration with YCee and Ms Banks is a good attempt at representing actual rap in the album. More impressive is that the song draws from Olu Maintain’s 2008 hit, Karmazee (Kentro Level). YCee dropped bars as usual but Ms Banks showed that she is more than the Tiktok fame that came with her collaboration with Falz’ ‘Bop Daddy.’

Cuppy brings her A game on all the tracks, while lettting her guests do their thing. She is both owner and curator of the album and occasionally, her DJ roots shows. This body of work also shows that Cuppy’s sound is original, as if she is not really bothered about ‘crossing over’ by pandering to Diaspora audiences. Perhaps this is what privilege confers on you, the confidence to be original. Or she does that in true Diaspora kid fashion, connecting to the homeland having had enough of the Diaspora culture. The reason is not straightforward to discuss but one thing is sure: Cuppy belongs more to Nigeria. Also, the numbers win again as the 12 songs average a little over 2 minutes each, making it easier to replay while streaming.

Having called her sound Neo-Afrobeats even before releasing an album, this body of work prove that Cuppy is dynamic and can work with different musicians. Also, this album might seal her place in the current global push of Afrobeats, even though that might be too early to call. The album’s songwriting is generally weak but it has replay value. It has cemented a place for Cuppy and we are now reminded that her previous success was not a fluke.

It is only hoped that Cuppy’s mission is fulfilled with the release of the album, which is for people to appreciate her as a talented and diligent creative, independent of her family’s business success. If not for any other reason, for the effort she put into creating such an audacious album. Afrobeats has the quality of growing on listeners and opinions change quickly in this era of multiple album releases but one thing is sure; Cuppy will be here for a long time.

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