In February 2017, the Nigerian singer Niniola released a slippery, dazzling single titled “Maradona.” The track made its way to South Africa, where it climbed all the way to Number One on the radio chart. It was also picked up by savvy producers like the Brooklyn-based Wizkid associate DJ Tunez, who used it as a jolt of energy in a strong mix for Rinse FM released in January.
Now, surprisingly, “Maradona” has been repackaged for the masses by none other than DJ Snake, the producer best known for bunker-busting electronic records (“Turn Down for What,” featuring Lil Jon) and mushy tropical house hits (“Let Me Love You,” featuring Justin Bieber). DJ Snake re-released Niniola’s song today as “Maradona Riddim,” nodding to Jamaican music culture, where multiple performers will all record a track using the same instrumental, or “riddim.”
Even with the “riddim” label as a warning, it’s shocking how little DJ Snake changes here: This is essentially just a re-release of Niniola’s original. The producer inserts a squirrely synth riff and some pitch-manipulated vocals between each verse, but these are mostly a distraction, a rude-if-on-trend interruption in an otherwise pristine track. Luckily, they don’t last long, and elsewhere, Niniola’s version remains more or less intact.
“Maradona Riddim” is the latest jet-setting release from DJ Snake, who previously put out “Magenta Riddim,” inspired by a trip to India, in April. “My friend told me about ‘Maradona,’” DJ Snake tells Rolling Stone. “I hit up Niniola and Sarz [the song’s producer] straight away and put a hook on it to bring it to my world.” He plans to tour Africa later this year and hopes to invite Niniola to perform with him.
DJ Snake is not the first mainstream star to turn his eyes to Nigeria. Drake remixed Wizkid’s “Ojuelegba” in 2015 and then recruited the Nigerian singer for his 2016 smash “One Dance.” (Sarz has also crafted tracks for Wizkid, who is now signed to RCA.) Major Lazer worked Mr. Eazi on a remix to “Leg Over” in 2017 and again on “Let Me Live,” which came out in June.
Hopefully “Maradona Riddim” offers a well-deserved boost in international attention for Niniola. But DJs aiming for a fluid dancefloor experience would do better to stick with the singer’s original record.