EDITORIAL – The return of Prince Akeem and his friend Semmi in Coming 2 America had the internet buzzing when its trailer was released December 22.
As Mystikal can be heard in the trailer’s background music, it’s a reminder of Hip Hop’s marriage to the 1988 original film and its second installment, scheduled for release on March 5 on Amazon Prime Video, remains intact.
Over the past three decades, Hip Hop artists have used the first Coming To America as a blueprint for many of their own concepts for music videos, songwriting, and imagery.
Here are eight ways that Hip Hop has used the influence of the comedy classic.
J. Cole’s Reaches His Dreams In Queens Following “I’m The Man”
Most of J. Cole’s fans know his life story about him moving from his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina to attend St. John’s University in Queens, New York while pursuing a rap career. But if they’re over age 30 and heard the track “I’m The Man” from his 2007 mixtape The Come Up (his own version of “You’re The Man” by Nas from Stillmatic in 2001), Cole’s fans probably understood to his opening metaphor about Prince Akeem’s reason for moving to Queens in Coming To America. (“The heir to the throne/South nigga bred to the bone/But haters say he fled from his home/Now picture that, I was 18 with million dollar dreams/Moved to Jamaica Queens, like Prince Akeem/But ain’t looking for no queen, came to get my C.R.E.A.M.”) The interim King of Queens not only became the highest-earning rapper eight years later in 2015, but he also became the self-proclaimed King Of Drugs in 2018.
Busta Rhymes Becomes A Hip Hop Prince In “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” Video
In 1997, Busta Rhymes took the advice of his longtime friend Diddy to stop screaming with his famed “dungeon dragon” on all his records. Bussa Bus released his mellow-toned, multiplatinum-selling party anthem “Put Your Hands Wear My Eyes Can See” from his second album When Disaster Strikes. The Hype Williams-directed video became the cornerstone of Busta’s career and it was heavily inspired by the film Coming To America. Busta emulated Prince Akeem having with rose petals thrown at his feet while walking, dancers rocked to drums banging, and an elephant followed Busta throughout a hallway.
Action Bronson Becomes ‘Albanian Akeem’ In His “Baby Blue” feat. Chance The Rapper
Queens-bred lyricist Action Bronson always got jokes about himself. Bam Bam made a funny depiction of himself when he dropped his debut single and video for “Baby Blue” featuring Chance The Rapper from Bronson’s first major label-backed album Mr. Wonderful in 2015. He portrayed himself as Prince Akeem in Coming To America and every character Eddie Murphy dressed up as in the film. That includes the memorable barbershop scene, Bronson and his ace Big Body Bes dressed as Prince Akeem and Semmi, and the film’s Black Awareness Week community beauty pageant banner that reads “Albanian Awareness Week” instead.
Biggie Smalls & Kendrick Lamar Wear Crowns Resembling Prince Akeem
The promo image for Coming To America has Prince Akeem portrayed in front of a New York City skyline with a gold crown adorned by rare gems. This has been replicated multiple times by two of Hip Hop’s biggest stars in photoshoots for Kendrick Lamar and The Notorious B.I.G. When The Source magazine had its 2012 Year In Review issue, the “DAMN” mastermind earned his “King Kendrick” nickname from donning a crown on the cover. It was also a connection to his predecessor, the late Biggie Smalls. Big is widely remembered for the image of himself wearing a similar crown like Prince Akeem in front of a red backdrop. Both artists called themselves “The King of New York” to accentuate this imagery, just like Prince Akeem was destined to be a future king of Zamunda.
Ludacris Claims Himself As Atlanta’s Prince Akeem On His Track “Coming 2 America”
Ludacris rose to the top of the rap game in 2001 when his seminal multiplatinum third album Word Of Mouf was released. The opening track “Coming 2 America” was a declaration of Luda’s royalty as Hip Hop’s new king of the dominant subgenre Southern rap. The start of the song takes from the hilarious, standout line “The royal penis is clean, your highness” from the comedy classic. Luda went full throttle to parallel himself and his native Atlanta to Prince Akeem and the character’s African home country Zamunda.
Cee-Lo Green Pays Homage To Randy Watson’s Band “Sexual Chocolate”
Randy Watson was arguably the most memorable character that Eddie Murphy played in Coming To America. The “Soul Glo” Jheri curl-haired, mediocre crooner during the film’s Black Awareness Week Pageant community event scene influenced Goodie Mob rapper and soul singer Cee-Lo Green to contribute the track “Sexual Chocolate” on The Violator 2.0 compilation from 2001. The track’s title and its chorus was derived from Watson’s band name Sexual Chocolate.
Nas Drops African History Gems & Coming To America Joke To Children In “I Can”
“I Can,” the second single from Nas’ 2003 album God’s Son, is an expletive-free, positive ode to Black children to aspire to greatness. It’s the highest-charting single to date in Nas’ career, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The final verse of The Honeydrippers “Impeach The President” and Beethoven-sampled track produced by Salaam Remi has the Queensbridge superstar offering history lessons about African kings and queens and their empires, slavery and holding yourself to a higher standard. The closing bars of the song goes: “Ghetto children, do your thing/Hold your head up, little man, you’re a king/Young Princess when you get your wedding ring/Your man is saying ‘She’s my queeeeeeeen!'” The final two bars pays homage to Coming To America. The royal family’s top servant Oha sings one of the film’s funniest songs “She’s Your Queen To Be” during Prince Akeem’s first wedding ceremony.
Questlove Launches ‘The Randy Watson Experience’ In Honor Of Coming To America’s Showstopper
Multi-instrumentalist James Poyser and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson are known for working together in the longtime resident band The Roots for NBC’s Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. But Poyser and the band’s co-founder/drummer initially became a unit by showing their mutual love for Coming To America in the mid-2000s. They formed a side band of fellow acclaimed Hip Hop and R&B musicians and record producers titled The Randy Watson Experience.