Here is how ‘It Ain’t Me (Amapiano Remix)’ became TikTok’s new obsession [Pulse Explainer]

Meet Soulking, DJ Abux, Innocent Boetie and Thato Immaculate: The people behind ‘It Ain’t Me Amapiano (Remix)’ that’s currently tear TikTok to shreds.

L-R: Soulking, DJ Abux and Innocent. (Instagram)

In February 2017, Norwegian DJ, Kygo and American popstar and actor, Selena Gomez released a song titled ‘It Ain’t Me.’ The song peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 and in the top five in most of Europe. It’s also racked up over 550 million views on YouTube since release.

But on November 12, 2020, three Namibian boys decided to release their Amapiano remix to the song on YouTube.

This came after an incredible COVID-19-mandated lockdown, which saw Amapiano, a subgenre of Afro-House tear through the cracks to become Africa’s most trendy dance rhythm.

Innocent Boetie is a 20-year-old, DJ Abux is 17 while Soulking is 21. They are all “upcoming '' producers from Namibia. Innocent started producing five years ago, Soulking started producing in 2016 and Abux has been producing since he was 12 or 13.

Together, they made different parts of the now viral ‘It Ain’t Me (Amapiano Remix)’ that’s been going crazy on TikTok and Instagram Reels, and even Twitter.

While Innocent and Soulking have known each other since the seventh grade, Soulking and Abux met each other through another friend named Akumaji - who initially introduced Soulking to FL Studio, the production software. Independently, they are or were music producers who have worked on and released their respective bodies of work.

But Abux and Soulking had already made one album and African Wonders The EP together in 2019. When Amapiano started buzzing across Africa after the lockdown, Soulking wanted to explore it. This led to the making of ‘African Wonders EP,’ which had a lot of niche acceptance in Namibia.

This then led me to reconnect with Innocent, who contacted me after hearing the EP,” Soulking says.

Soulking, who initially had the idea, started the work for ‘It Ain’t Me (Remix),’ but he struggled with the log drums so he sent it the raw record to Innocent, who reworked the initial log drum patent and sent it back to Soulking.

“I originally had the idea because I always liked remixes and I set myself a goal to actually do this. I started the record, laid down some piano, melody and kick but I struggled with the drums so I took it to Innocent one night,” Soulking says. “He sent it back and I worked on it a little more. One day, DJ Abux heard it and was amazed by it.

“When I heard it, it was good but it needed that sauce to make it vibrant… Like a banger or a hit,” Abux adds. “So I added the log drum and some perks to the song.”

What the song basically did was record the pre-chorus/bridge and post-chorus of the song into a loop with beautiful Amapiano log drums.

What the song basically did was chop the pre-chorus/bridge and post-chorus of the song into a loop with beautiful Amapiano log drums.

Make no mistake, that was only one of a bunch of songs that they worked on together and they were initially reluctant to release it, but they were convinced by people to finally take the step, albeit with a great feeling. Thus, they put it on YouTube and especially TikTok, where it got an initial ‘underwhelming’ 25,000 views.

Thato Immaculate [CallHerThato] is an Accountant with a creative side. Currently, she has over 150,000 followers on TikTok and also runs a YouTube channel. One day, she was scrolling through the Amapiano Hashtag on TikTok when she found the beat.

When she got home, she played the beat for her sister and they recorded the first move that came to their heads.

That was April 21, 2021.

When Thato saw a comment that requested her to repost the video, she obliged on the evening of Thursday, May 27, 2021. The next morning, she had over 500,000 views on it, her followers soared to 50,000 and ‘It Ain’t Me (Remix)’ was trending.

Thato became more famous in June when African TikTok users fought for her, after a UK-based creator, Ehis Ufuah tried to claim that he pioneered the viral dance to ‘It Ain’t Me (Remix).’ This was on the back of several accusations towards bigger TikTokers, who ‘steal’ popular routines created by macro-TikTok influencers.

Nonetheless, the drama made the song and the dance even more popular. These days, it’s made a crossover to Instagram Reels, where #ItAin’tMeChallenge has millions of usage. As of July 11, 2021, the hashtag has 17.5 million views on TikTok.

Sadly, the music scene in Namibia isn’t as strong, according to Soulking. That’s why the three young music makers have been putting their efforts into blowing up in South Africa - a more vibrant scene.

Despite the success of the song, nobody has made a move to validate the song just yet. In 2020, I had a conversation with Nigerian EDM acts and remixers, and they lamented the frustration they encounter in their bid to legalize remixes.While you would expect more from the foreign market, nobody has seen the unique opportunity that ‘It Ain’t Me (Remix)’ presents.

In 2020, Saint Jhn's 'Roses’ got an IMANBEK remix. It eventually peaked in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and got another video after Saint Jhn ignored Imanbek’s Instagram message for months. The song also won a Grammy in March 2021.

The original version of ‘It Ain’t Me’ by Kygo and Selena Gomez is owned by Sony Music. This is a unique opportunity for them to resurrect this song and make some easy money.

All they have to do is revisit the composition rights of the song, legitimize this Amapiano remix, put some budget behind the song and make easy money. It’s also summer, which means perfect-timing.

Amapiano is a trendy sound as well.

The three young producers are working on future - individual and collective - projects, some of which are remix-based. The three of them chorused their dilemma as regards either exploring further remixes or making original records.

“We love the remixes, but we also don’t want to be known for just remixes,” Soulking says. “We want to show off our style, you know.”

Soulking then jokes that he’s always seen himself and DJ Abux as DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small. He then jokes that he sees Abux as Kabza De Small, if Kabza was Vigro Deep.


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