Any song that references Eddy Murphy’s ‘Coming To America’ as its central premises has my tick of approval. When it comes set against the sonic backdrop of the pulsing, late-night vibes of South-West Sydney rapper B Wise’s ‘Prince Akeem’, I’m all in. Here, B Wise takes the concept of a foreigner in a strange land – explored to hilarious effect by Eddy Murphy, mopping the floors at McDowell’s – and applies it to an altogether more serious topic: growing up a mixed-race child in an Australia not yet world-renowned for its acceptance of diversity.
Thus the spoken-word stanza that opens the track’s excellent video, in which B Wise tells us that his parents had assured him that kids only looked at him sideways at school because ‘back in Nigeria, our family was royalty.’ That tale of blue blood lineage turns out to be a furphy but helps to give an important social frame to what is an otherwise pretty tongue in cheek track (those rose bearers don’t help). This is not the first time that the ethno-social tensions that bubble under this great country have been addressed in verse and it surely won’t be the last but it is perhaps one of the most nuanced efforts to date.
Part of what makes the track so compelling is B Wise’s delivery – he boasts a unique tone and the sort of flourishes in delivery (‘decide-woah!’) that are typically absent from Australian hip-hop – but praise be to Raph Lauren, half of inner West crew Jackie Onassis, who creates the lush sonic landscape in which B Wise’s vision of acceptance unfolds. There’s a sense of abandon and one of fun that underpins the whole piece; as though B Wise is aware of the gravity of the issue at hand but wants to play with it a little nonetheless. It’s this approach, coupled with warm, reverberating synths, that make ‘Prince Akeem’ so good. Eddy would be proud.
B Wise – Prince Akeem