“Ghana girl say, she wan marry me oh…”
That has to be the most recognizable word in Nigeria right now. It’s the opening line of Runtown’s 2016 hit single – ‘Mad Over You’ – which crossed over into 2017 and has given the continent so much joy.
‘Mad over you’ has not only been a hit song, the magnitude of its penetration has made it become a phenomenon and cultural movement, and guaranteed Runtown’s penetration into the far flung parts of the continent, across oceans, and into global markets.
As I write this, Runtown is touring the UK, filling out capacity venues, and spreading Nigerian music across a land that has shown in recent years that it is open to more than just its traditional songs. Pop songs of African origin are pushing that charge through that country and ‘Mad Over You’ is at the front of that movement, while Runtown is a comfortable part of the vanguard.
This happiness and success huge contrast to his 2016 which was dominated by turbulence in his personal business and situation with his record label.
The EricMany Entertainment singer has had a very turbulent year. After finding love in the Caribbean, and chasing new sounds, he was dragged to court by his record label. The battle to over contracts and breaches raged from Lagos courts to the news, and down to the US legal system.
In the end, a truce was called, and an agreement was reached. Runtown and his record label established new rules of engagement, and everyone can move forward, safe in the knowledge that Runtown can focus his energy on the creation and distribution of new music.
“Last year was like too much. It was like a lot happened and I needed to get back to the studio and show my fans that it’s not done yet. I needed to prove to them that we can still do this number one.” Runtown said.
“I didn’t let the troubles get to me. I was always in the studio channeling all the positive energy into my music.”
But how did this genius happen. How did something so special come from the singer who had such a terrible 2016? Pulse Music spoke to everyone who was involved in the making of the song. Del’B produced it, but he also had help from Runtown who is also a producer, and T’Spize who played the strings on it.
“My music has to do with things that I go through in life.” Runtown says. “That song is so deep in melodies. The soul in it is incredible.”
Two weeks before his US tour in mid-2016, Runtown paid a visit to Del’B with work on his mind. The two artistes have had a long term relationship fueled by artistry and sound engineering. They spent hours working on various songs, recording and producing. Until they stumbled on this strange sound.
“We recorded two songs on that day,” Del’B said, swiveling on an old but comfortable chair in his dingy studio where countless stars have made music. Del’B made his bones recording and producing for Five Star Music. Most of that work is contained in his 2013 album .
“‘Mad Over You’ came at the end of the session. Runtown was like ‘Del’B I have this tune, I have this song’. It was actually a different song, and I was like ‘It’s okay. Let’s work on something.”
Tanzanian singer, Vanessa Mdee, was in the studio too, and the work began. Where Del’B worked on the main part of the song, Runtown played the flute. And created the lyrical melody right there. But the song was unfinished.
The singer returned home with it, and began to write and record over the production. But all was not done. The song needed a finishing touch. That touch was provided by TSpize.
The producer and sound engineer is a close friend of Runtown. They grew up in Enugu together and have watched each other progress through the ranks in the music industry. It was via TSpize’s production on ‘Gallardo’ and Davido’s ‘Aye’, that Runtown broke through into the industry.
On the day of the interview, TSpize and Runtown had just finished a rehearsal session for his forthcoming UK tour. While we talked to Runtown, TSpize was in another room, getting back his energy after a draining day.
“When Runtown sent the song to me, I was in my house in Cape Town, and the song swept me off my feet.” TSpize said. A radiant smile lit up his face as he spoke. “I called Runtown, and told him that this is a hit, and he said ‘Is there anything you can add on the beat to make it more lively?”
TSpize gave his answer via working. He added the guitars which complemented to give the song an edge. Those riffs came to define the final part of the song, and made it stick.
But there was a problem. Runtown and Del’B possess different views over the origin of the sound. Where the former recognized the influence of Ghana in the beat, the latter denied it and offered an alternative view.
“For the beat, we were looking at something between Highlife and R&B.” Runtown explained. “It’s like the Highlife percussion, the Ghana type of percussion. That ‘Alkayida’ bounce with R&B pads and strings on it. So it has this soul to it.”
Del’B believes that it was not from Ghana. He attributes it to a tribal sound from Kwale, in Delta State, Nigeria.
“It’s not about Ghana. I just think it’s the African vibe, it’s African music.” He said. “The groove is the native groove from Kwale, where my mum is from in Delta State. That’s what I grew up listening to in my life.”
Wherever the origin of the inspiration, ‘Mad over you’ has universal potential to be a hit, and that’s what Runtown and his team are pushing for in the Caribbean Islands and also in the UK. And for Runtown, it is the start of something special for him.
“One thing people know Runtown for is that I don’t stick to one sound when I am doing my music. I like doing something different. My next single, you don’t know what type of sound it will be.”