Songs We Love: N.A.S.A. feat. Lizzo, 'Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)' The latest version of this timeless New Orleans classic is tropical-beat remix featuring a bubblegum rap.
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01Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)

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Songs We Love: N.A.S.A. feat. Lizzo, 'Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)'

Songs We Love: N.A.S.A. feat. Lizzo, 'Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)'

01Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)

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Lizzo performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. Alex Schelldorf for NPR hide caption

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Alex Schelldorf for NPR

Lizzo performs at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Alex Schelldorf for NPR

N.A.S.A. feat. Lizzo, "Iko (Tropkillaz Remix)" Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

There are as many versions of the New Orleans standard "Iko Iko" as there are arguments about what it means exactly. A traditional Mardi Gras Indian call-and-response, it was recorded as "Jock-A-Mo" by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford and the Cane Cutters in 1953. A decade later, the Dixie Cups, riding the golden wave of New Orleans R&B, turned it into an international hit.

The various versions of the song begin with some variation of the playful rhyme: "My grammaw and your grammaw were sittin' by the bayou my grammaw tole yo gramma I'm gonna set you flag on fiyo", and then unwind into the cryptic incantation "Iko iko anday, Jockomo feena andan day Jockomo feena-hay!" (Or some phonetic approximation thereof.)

Recently, the song was souped up by the production duo N.A.S.A, and further remixed by the Tropkillaz. Both projects feature the brilliant Brazilian DJ Zegon (the paulista, Zé Gonzales), a master at dusting off vintage samba and R&B records, and polishing them off with fresh beats. This version of "Iko" also gets a kick from the Minneapolis rapper Lizzo (Melissa Jefferson). Sweet and feisty, she sounds as if she's popping bubble gum in someone's face, a perfect companion for a song that is mischievous, and also elusive.

As it turns out, those chorus lyrics may be a map of an entire people lost into slavery in the Caribbean and the Deep South. Dr. Sybil Kein, an English and Theater professor at the University of Michigan, Flint, says the lyrics loosely translate from a Creole-Yoruba mix, as "Code language! God is watching. Jacouman causes it. We will be emancipated. Jacouman urges it; we will wait." But who or what was "Jacouman" or "Jock-a-mo"? Theories abound. Perhaps it was referring to a town in Cuba called Yáquimo. Dr. Kein says she lost her research about the songs origins in Hurricane Katrina, one step step back in unraveling the mystery of "Iko" and the stories it may hide. In the meantime, N.A.S.A reintroduces the historical puzzle as a stubborn, danceable thump.

"Iko (Tropkillaz remix)" is out now via Soundcloud.