In the 1988 film Coming to America, actors Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall sent audiences into fits of laughter as unlikely Queens transplant Prince Akeem of Zamunda and his trusted confidante Semmi. The two men, used to the life of royalty, travel to America from their fictional African country to find Akeem a bride—and learn how to get by in New York City in the process. This weekend, Amazon Prime Video is debuting a much-anticipated modern-day sequel, Coming 2 America. After a 33-year hiatus, the movie, which celebrates Black culture, family, and love with a comedic touch, is sure to bring a glimpse of nostalgia—but also provide something brand new—for modern viewers.
In honour of the occasion, Spotify put together exclusive character playlists enhanced with videos from actors Jermaine Fowler, Arsenio Hall, Nomzamo Mbatha, and Kiki Layne, as well as the Coming 2 America Official Playlist, which also features tracks inspired by the Rhythms of Zamunda.
Music plays an important—though distinct—role in both films. Fans will notice that the jazz and funk songs of the original soundtrack give way to the hip-hop and Afrobeat-inspired sounds in the new film, but that’s not the only nod to changing music styles. The creators also included a notable moment via Spotify, hinting at the reality of contemporary music listening—and the beauty of being able to access a song for any moment wherever, whenever.
“I’m A King”
The musical centrepiece of the new film’s original soundtrack is “I’m A King,” an Afrobeats-inspired song made to speak to the ascendance of a Queens-based prince. “The vibes needed to feel royal,” creator Bobby Sessions explained to For the Record. “It needed to feel regal and it needed to be a sonic beat that made room for someone to go from one level to the next, like a prince becoming king, so to speak.”
The single had a journey of its own separate from the movie. After writing the initial verses and hook, Bobby sent the song off to Amazon Prime Video to be used in the movie. The next thing he knew, he had a text from collaborator Megan Thee Stallion saying that she was listening to the record and “vibing with it.” Then she sent Bobby her verse for the track, complete with her own resonant and repetitive chorus of “I’m a queen.”
“I was like, oh, this is crazy,” said Bobby about the new verse. “You can’t have a kingdom with just the king. You need the queen. So Megan was able to complete that kingdom. And it was great to hear her in that space.”
Music in the moment
Another focal point of the movie is a scene in which Prince Lavelle, who was raised far away from Zamunda in Queens, shows his father, King Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) and others in Zamunda how he can play music on his phone, via Spotify. The song he plays? None other than “I’m A King.”
“That’s a moment that’s relatable with most people today when they’re listening to music—if they’re showing somebody a new song or trying to put them on to something, they’re going to go to their Spotify,” said Bobby. “So I think he was trying to show the old guard how he does things now and how his generation does things.”
Actor Jermaine Fowler, who plays Prince Lavelle, agreed. “That moment is good because it’s showing how Lavelle is becoming acclimated to this world and it just shows comfort. You know, once he starts having confidence in his new role, the music portrays that feeling,” he explained.
In the beginning of the movie, Jermaine said, Prince Lavelle would have been listening to music like DMX, Dead Prez—artists representative of the Queens hip-hop soundtrack of his day, rather than the music of his heritage.
“In the beginning, I don’t think Lavelle would have been accepting of the music of Zamunda because he was kind of a fish out of water and still trying to figure things out, still confused, still a little timid, still with a little trepidation,” he said. “I think he would revert back to the music he’s familiar with where you just kind of, you know, curl up into a ball and do the things that make you comfortable.”
But that would change over the course of the movie too. “I think when he meets Mirembe (played by Nomzamo Mbatha) he might become more comfortable. I think she would help him kind of break out of his own shell, out of that comfort zone, and experience something new and fresh and different,” Jermaine said.
Fresh and different are key components of the new movie overall. “I know that something I’ve been telling people is, at least for me, going into watching this film and listening to the soundtrack, that I’m not really going to compare it to the movie in 1988, or the soundtrack because it’s just a completely different time,” said Bobby. “I don’t want this thing to be competing with my kid nostalgia. I’m going to view it as itself and I think it will lead to a great, great experience. I’m excited to see this updated version and have Eddie and Arsenio and the rest of the crew piece this together.”
Can’t get enough of Coming 2 America? Tune into Spotify’s morning show The Get Up to hear exclusive interviews with stars John Amos and Louie Anderson from Coming 2 America, and Eriq La Salle from Coming to America.
Image Courtesy: Supplied