‘Coming To America’ Turns 30: How Hip-Hop Still Celebrates Eddie Murphy’s Classic Film
Coming to America isn't just one of Eddie Murphy's funniest movies, it might be his best—and hip-hop, in particular, has been been in love with it from the jump.
The 1988 John Landis-directed film grossed $288 million on a $35 million budget, but it's still somehow widely considered a cult classic, as well as Murphy's first "black film." It came out during the height of his superstardom, after blockbusters such as Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours and Trading Places, and showed that Murphy could lead an almost completely African-American cast to box office gold.
It also demonstrated new levels of depth of Murphy, who since his work on Saturday Night Live was already recognized as one of his generation's greatest comedic geniuses. In Coming to America, Murphy was relatable, regal and charming. He also vanished into the roles of multiple makeup-enhanced characters so thoroughly as to be unrecognizable as, say, "Sal."
You have to wonder how much of Coming to America's staying power is due to hip-hop's love of the movie. Seriously, rappers can't get enough of the flick about a rich Prince Akeem from the fictional African country, Zamunda, coming to America to find his "queen to be." From Pharrell, to Wu-Tang-Clan, to Tech N9ne and Meek Mill, the movie's mentions go deep.
Not to mention all of the classic characters and moments from the flick who've been name-dropped, like Prince Akeem, Randy "Sexual Chocolate" Watson and his infamous mic drop, Eriq LaSalle's Soul-Glo curl, Samuel L. Jackson's thieving crackhead, Daddy McDowell, James Earl "let them wait!" Jones, a barking Vanessa Bell Calloway, dude who sang "Queen to Be" in falsetto, the chicks who washed Prince Akeem in the bathtub,... Is that where Puff got the idea for all of the bathtub and champagne scenes in his 90s videos?
Take a look at some of our hip-hop favorite references to the classic Eddie Murphy flick.
Maybe no one has shown Coming to America more love than Questlove of The Roots. So much so, that he has a group with longtime collaborator, keyboardist James Poyser called The Randy Watson Experience, which is of course, named after Murphy's Randy "Sexual Chocolate" Watson. The group has been around since as early as 2001, producing and remixing tracks together.
On Meek's 2011 track, "Dreamchasers" featuring fellow Philly native, Beanie Sigel, he opens the song with a vivid Prince Akeem shout out: "I’ma chase my dream / Coming to America like Prince Akeem..."
Ludacris' 2001 track from Word of Mouf shows ultimate love to the movie, using the movie as a concept for the entire song. "These b-tches throwin rose petals at my feet man / They wanna spoil me, treatin me like royalty..." he opens his first verse.
K'naan name drops the movie for his track "Coming to America," when he raps a gritty rhyme about growing up on his album, Country, God Or The Girl.
"This ain't Hollywood glory," he warns, alluding the blockbuster film, "I ain't the prince of Zamunda dog, my life is too gory."
On Yo Gotti's "5 Star Remix," Trina shows up to brag about her Coming to America style: "My whole lifestyle like "Coming to America" / All my Louis luggage, you see my bag how I carry her."
Pharrell's 2006 solo album In My Mind featured the track "You CAn Do It Too," where he pays homage to the classic Murphy flick rapping: "I make the world cream and scream while I'm gettin my cream / I'm Coming To America call me Prince Akeem." Sure thing, Pharrell.
On Wu-Tang's "Laced Cheeba" Trife Diesel wants you to know his "Jewels heavy, Prince Akeem, coming to America, et cetera."
Tech N9ne references all the overtime Prince Akeem put in at McDowells in his steamy track, "Overtime." Just check out his intro.
In 2001, CeeLo Green got his Randy Watson on when he was featured on Violator: The Album V2.0. The entire hook is an ode to Randy's "sexual chocolate" proclamation. Mic drop.
Black Sheep had a debate about the kind of "hoes" they liked—including "sexual chocolate."