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Of all the must-see musical moments in the long-awaited sequel “Coming 2 America,” which arrives Friday on Amazon Prime Video, perhaps the most memorable one belongs to the man himself: Eddie Murphy.
Or make that Randy Watson.
That’s right: The Jheri-curled crooner — one of several characters that Murphy played in addition to Prince Akeem in 1988’s “Coming to America” — is back for his encore 33 years after warbling “The Greatest Love of All.”
And this time — once again accompanied by his backup band, Sexual Chocolate — he’s singing “We Are Family” with a lyrical twist: “We are family/I got Sexual Chocolate with me.”
“That was absolutely Eddie Murphy’s idea from start to finish,” said Randy Spendlove, president of Worldwide Music and Publishing at Paramount, the film’s production company. “That is 100 percent Eddie Murphy, the brilliance of him … with all the original members of Sexual Chocolate there in the background.”
It’s just one of the ways in which “Coming 2 America” honors the original’s musical legacy.
“The original had a lot of music, and the original soundtrack was tremendously successful, so it was big shoes to fill,” said Spendlove. “The great news is that our director, Craig Brewer, along with Eddie, had such a tremendous musical vision. Much of it was planned out in advance, and some of the great moments came together while on set shooting in Atlanta. These amazing cameos sort of appeared at the last minute, which really turned out to be something special.”
One cameo-heavy scene includes En Vogue and Salt-N-Pepa flipping their 1993 hit “Whatta Man” into “Whatta King.”
“ ‘Coming to America’ was such an iconic film for us and such a milestone in African American culture,” said En Vogue’s Cindy Herron. “So when we got the call to participate in the film and come together and redo ‘Whatta Man’ with Salt-N-Pepa, we were just over the moon.”
Filming the scene on the top-secret set at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta “was like walking into Zamunda,” said Herron of the fictional African nation in which most of the film takes place. “The detail in the set design, the detail that they gave to the costumes — everything was so exquisite. And then you had all this talent.”
Of course, that star-studded talent included Salt-N-Pepa, who made it “Whatta” reunion. “Salt-N-Pepa bring it! Those girls are queens,” said Herron. “All of us together, it just felt like, ‘Oh, my God, the girl power right now!’ ”
As if that weren’t enough, in the same scene there’s also a musical cameo from the legendary Gladys Knight, who turns “Midnight Train to Georgia” into “Midnight Train From Zamunda.”
“It was conceived in sort of a conference-room setting,” said Spendlove. “When it was actually happening, people were just laughing so hard. You can imagine everybody rolling on the floor. It was really just one of those magical days on the set.”
Meanwhile, R&B star Teyana Taylor — who plays Bopoto in the film — puts her own sexy spin on Prince’s “Gett Off.” “Once again, the power of ‘Coming to America’ [means] you can go after a Prince song,” said Spendlove.
And in a nostalgic nod to royal servant Oha (Paul Bates) singing “She’s Your Queen to Be” in the original, the character busts out his pitchy falsetto once again on “Gett Off.”
“Everything was done with a real heartfelt intention to honor movie one,” said Spendlove.
That included updating the title song “Coming to America.” Nile Rodgers, who produced the System’s original, returns to do a fresh take on the tune. “He said, ‘What if we see if we can get John Legend to sing with Burna Boy and make it a global idea,” said Spendlove. “Nile Rodgers helped pull that together.”
Nigeria’s Burna Boy is one of many African artists represented in the film, on the soundtrack and on a companion album titled “Rhythms of Zamunda: Music Inspired by ‘Coming 2 America.’”
“It was part of the DNA of this film, and it made sense,” said Sipho Dlamini, CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan South Africa, who worked on the inclusion of African talent. “This time around, there’s a chance to bring artists from the continent who have amazing sounds, rhythms and tones that celebrate the diversity of culture that is Africa.”
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