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  • Jonathan Widran

KENNY MCNEIL & MATTHEW SHELL, "My Ride or Die (House Remix)"

With a provocative, hardcore loyalty declaring title like “My Ride or Die,” it’s no wonder longtime friends and collaborators Kenny McNeil & Matthew Shell seem so excited about presenting the infectious and irrepressible track in so many colorful, beat intensive ways. First, there was the 2:40 radio edit which I called in my original review “one of the most gloriously sexy and groovin’ Afrobeat jams you’re ever bound to hear” before mentioning what the song might do to the listener’s ever-groovin’ body and toe tappin’ soul.

When the duo released the track originally, the radio edit came bundled with the deeper “My Ride or Die “ experience they created on the freewheeling six minute plus version, which included dynamic, extended improvisational solos by guitarist Sami Turunen (jamming over the sizzling horns and percussion) and saxophonist Douglas Lira, who worked his fanciful magic over the ever-poppin’ basslines and wild percussion. Both of the aforementioned version spotlight the cool exotica of Kenny’s artful singing in “Pidgin,” a Nigerian dialect popular in the Afrobeats genre.

As spirited, majestic and inspiring as those renditions are, McNeil and Shell now drop what is perhaps the ultimate “My Ride or Die” experience, with their tasty, super-intoxicating and dance floor ready House Remix, propelled by a relentless, amped up pace of 124 BPM on the DJ edit posted on YouTube. A slightly different version (called the 120 RPM Radio Edit) streams on Spotify. Like all classic dance remixes, the track features lightning speed electronica drum fills, a quick-thumping, heart-pounding groove and booming backing synth riffs.

It’s also a blast to hear Kenny’s lead vocals and vocal texturing spinning past so quickly as the main thrust of emotion in the song. While the original version of “My Ride Or Die” inspires sexy, sensual movement, this one is an all-out, funked up romp that will fuel your party for hours. It’s also a blast to hear Lira’s feisty sax and punchy improvisations rolling over the disco-fied fire. If you groove along just right, it’s seriously the most cardio fun you’ll ever have in three in a half minutes!

If somehow this irrepressible track – which finds McNeil singing sensually and passionately, caught in a lightning quick free flow of lilting tropical magic, about that loved one who never lets us down – is the first time you’ve heard what these innovative cats can do, by all means, check out their earlier 2023 release: the epic, equally intoxicating concept album We’ll Find a Way II: The Chill Afrobeat Album, which established this exotic fusion and globally conscious island based vibe as their primary means of expression as a duo.

We’ll Find a Way II and its lead singles “Jazzy Lil Jane II” and “I Want to be Rich II” were the culmination of a creative connection and friendship that began in 2008 at Assembly Line Studios in Vienna VA, when Matthew engineered a session for Kenny, a Maui based multi-talent who was vocal arranging and producing an artist named Elika. Matthew loved Kenny’s vocal artistry and asked if he would contribute to writing and singing on a song he wrote called “Forever.” Their instant “brother from another mother” friendship evolved into a successful business partnership and inside of a year, they recorded the album What’s Your Dream?

“What makes this song special is the collaboration with everyone involved,” Kenny says. “The concept of having that special someone through thick and thin is important for all of humanity. I believe it will always resonate with the masses. When Matthew and Tope presented the song idea to me, it was a no brainer. Once the pieces of arrangement started to come together, I knew how special this is. Angie is a true pro with her production skills. Hector is always on point and masterful on bass, as is Sami on guitar. Douglas took this song to another level with his sax solo on the extended version, which is also my favorite part of the song. Living in Maui for the past three years had an amazing influence of island vibes, passion, positivity, and love which will shine in anything I’m currently involved in.”


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