Greatness 2.0

DJ Neptune

Greatness 2.0

Since emerging in the early 2010s with his maximal interpretation of Afropop that weaved together R&B, hip-hop, and dancehall influences, DJ Neptune has had a constant presence at the forefront of the genre's vaunt to global popularity, while trying to imbue popular music from west Africa with his more experimental ideas. “For me, as a DJ-producer, there are ideas I have in my head that the artists, most times, are necessarily not thinking up,” he tells Apple Music. “There's really no rules to how I make music, I just want the end results to be great.”
The success of 2018's Greatness was a vindication for Neptune's innovative approach, and on his follow-up, the Lagos-based artist pairs his technical virtuosity with hit-making gravitas. “The idea behind it is just to kick off from where I stopped with Greatness,” he explains, “and then produce a bigger album and project.” Across an album that kicks off with the aspirational messaging of “Rise Up” and closes with the loved-up swag of “Nobody,” DJ Neptune (Imohiosen Patrick) engages his phalanx of collaborators in meaningful conversation. Here, he talks us through his sophomore album, track by track.
Rise Up [DJ Neptune, Laycon, Waje & LADIPOE] “With 'Rise Up,' when I got the beat, it sounded like what a Jay Z would want to get on. I told myself, 'Okay, this is going to be a classic record. I need to make a classic record out of this.' So I sent it to Waje and I told her, 'Listen, the direction I want to go with this is that everyone in life has obstacles. We have our ups and downs, but regardless of whatever situation you're going through at that particular time, always have it at the back of your mind that one day you're going to rise up.' She did her thing and the next person I sent it to was Laycon. Laycon had just won Big Brother Nigeria—that's like a serious rise up for him. I needed to balance this with another rapper; Ladipoe came through with his own style and did his thing. We came in with the Kabusa choir, just to give it that extra feel.”
Do and Undo [DJ Neptune & Mr Eazi] “I've always wanted to have Eazi on this project—he and I work very well. The first time I worked with Eazi, we did 'Marry,' still that same wedding vibe. So I guess there's just something about me and him creating music for the wedding audience. I think this song would eventually be a proposal anthem.”
Cupid [DJ Neptune, Cheque & Blaqbonez] “Blaqbonez is a very creative rapper who has gone ahead to sell his brand beyond just being a hip-hop artist. You see him like that crazy dude on social media, but he knows what he's doing. He's just out there selling his music. I had Blaqbonez first and then I reached out to Cheque; about the same time, he was working on wrapping up his album. I had to give him some time and eventually he came through for me.”
For You [DJ Neptune & Rema] “I've had 'For You' since last year but, unfortunately, with the pandemic, I had to hold back. It's a very crazy record with a different vibe. It has a fusion of Afro-Makossa vibe in it. Rema is singing to a girl, [telling her] that whatever he has to do for her, he'll do it.”
Ololufe [DJ Neptune, Simi & Peruzzi] “When I first heard the record, it was just Peruzzi on it and he was confessing his love to a lady, and it was just too smooth. This was one of the first records I started working on the minute I dropped the first album, and I told myself that I had to get a female artist on it. At that time, it was Simi and she came through. [Speroachbeatz and I] revisited the project; we gave it a bit of that amapiano vibe with Afrobeats to make it soft.”
Gaza [DJ Neptune & Patoranking] “'Gaza' has that dancehall element infused into the Afrobeats style. With 'Gaza,' we're just trying to let the world know that we're from the hood, but we're proud of where we're from and if you've seen the video, we literally took it back to a hood somewhere on the island. I feel like the world wants to see what they are not used to seeing on a normal day and when you're something, always be proud to represent where you're from. Be it from Soweto in South Africa or from Tamale in Ghana, that's your Gaza. No matter how big you become as an individual, it's always good to take it back to your hood and just represent the people.”
Hustle [DJ Neptune & Focalistic] “We recorded this record on one of Focalistic's visits to Nigeria. I brought him into my studio, played a couple of beats. In less than 20 minutes he was done. The hook was crazy; it's something that everyone will relate to. We're saying we're hustling like we've not been hustling before. We're hustling to gather all the money we can gather and then go back home to count our money.”
Love Potion [DJ Neptune & Adekunle Gold] “I don't know who poisoned Adekunle with love. I mean, everybody loves Adekunle, he delivers. I've always wanted to work with him and this was the right time. We were working on something else, but then we switched directions to 'Love Potion'.”
Abeg [DJ Neptune, Omah Lay & Joeboy] “'Abeg' is a very sensual record that I know the ladies will love a lot. Shout out to Magic Sticks for the production. It's Omah Lay. It's Joeboy. They're both buzzing. I know this record will probably make it to number one the day the album comes out. It's crazy. It's sensual. Let me just say that it's a song you want to do a lot of dirty things to.”
Only Fan (feat. Zlatan) [DJ Neptune & Lojay] “Lojay came through to my studio and we had a crazy session. We did about four songs, but we just decided to go with 'Only Fan' for now and I respect his talent a lot. We didn't really speak about direction. We just had the beat and started vibing. And that's how we came up with 'Only Fan.' We put words together, bridged sounds together, and created the record. Zlatan doesn't stay too far from me and he just popped into the studio as well.”
On God [DJ Neptune & Bella Shmurda] “I know a lot of people are going to relate to this one. People are often trying to do something with their lives, and the people who have the ability to help you, who just need to place one call to change your life, [will be] stagnant or they just feel like, 'Why do I need to help this kid?' But at the end of the day, everything is on God. You can delay destiny, but you can't erase destiny. So it's basically speaking on our journey into being the successful artist that Bella Shmurda is, or DJ that I am. We worked over time to gain our recognition and respect.”
Cash [DJ Neptune, Kofi Jamar & Jeriq] “'Cash' is a Kumerican sound. Kumerica is a movement in Ghana and it is very relatable to the Western world because it is drill music. We're just talking about not necessarily living the lavish life, but we're out there to hustle, to make cash, enjoy life and still take care of our loved ones in the process. It's not just to enjoy life and ignore all the primary things that you need to sort out in life. I was able to balance that record with Jeriq, who is a rapper from Nigeria.”
Recipe [DJ Neptune & Phyno] “'Recipe' is just Phyno being… I don't want to say naughty. If you understand Igbo there were some really explicit words. It's basically him saying, 'Neptune, where are you?' And I say, 'Oh, I'm at this location' and he's like, 'Okay, cool. I'm coming over with the girls. We're going to have a good time.' It's basically just a happy-party-vibe song that you want to jump to in the club, or dance to when you're at a party.”
Shitto [DJ Neptune, Stonebwoy, Yemi Alade, & One Acen] “I started creating 'Shitto' [in early 2021] when Stonebwoy visited Nigeria. He literally wrote on the beat. I had to reach out to Yemi Alade to have her come to tell a story from the female angle, because what Stonebwoy is basically saying is 'I want to be your everything. I'm going to be your Shitto.' So I had to get Yemi Alade to come to interpret it from her own angles. One Acen is a UK-Nigerian artist, so he came in with that vibe. It's merging the Nigerian vibe with the Ghanaian vibe and that Afro-UK swing vibe on one record.”
My Woman [DJ Neptune, Harmonize and Anjella] “Harmonize and I started this record right after I released my first album. And at some point, I had to switch up the production as well. Later, we spoke about having a female artist from the Eastern side of Africa on the record and it was only right to have his own artist, Anjella.”
Nobody [DJ Neptune Joeboy & Mr. Eazi] “'Nobody' is from [2020]. I mean the song came and did so much damage. Shout out to everyone who helped me make history with 'Nobody.' Shout out to the producer, Magic Sticks, who is majorly my in-house producer. And worked on about seven songs on this project.”

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