It was 3 a.m., and computer science senior David Sikabwe had Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” stuck in his head when he came up with a rap verse for the song.
But it wasn’t until a year later, when he found those lyrics on his notes app, that he decided to record a video and share it on Twitter. Since late May, his rendition has gained over 100,000 retweets and 300,000 likes.
“A year ago, I had tried to make a full version with production and everything, but it just wasn’t sounding right,” Sikabwe said. “I was the only one who knew about it before I posted, it had just been in my pocket the whole time.”
Sikabwe said the song combined two different styles of music he enjoys listening to.
“I’m a fan of jazz standards from that period and that old-timey style, but I’m also a fan of Childish Gambino,” Sikabwe said. “I was really into ‘Hamilton’ when it came out, and that’s what taught me how to create more intricate rhymes in my songs.”
His cousin, Kenny Ciza, said he was one of the first people to share the tweet.
“I knew as soon as I finished watching the video, I was like, ‘Yeah, this is gonna go viral for sure, like this is a guaranteed hit,’” Ciza said. “A ton of people that follow me liked it and retweeted it as well.”
It wasn’t long before people with large followings began to notice the video, Sikabwe said.
“It just kind of went insane, like James Corden and like all these Hollywood people and musicians that I admire started sharing it,” Sikabwe said. “It just exploded into something that I couldn’t even imagine.”
Because he is a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sikabwe said he was ecstatic to see that Miranda, the creator of the hit musical “Hamilton,” shared his video.
“I screamed into my pillow,” Sikabwe said. “I just woke up one morning and he had shared it, and I started jumping around my room. It’s really full circle in a way.”
Since going viral, Sikabwe has gone from around 800 to over 21,000 followers. Despite this sudden popularity, his sister Reina Sikabwe said he has always been humble about the music he creates.
“He doesn’t brag about anything,” Reina said. “He just silently makes music, and then people like it. Since he went viral, it’s usually always other people that bring it up.”
Sikabwe said all kinds of people, from fans of jazz to hip hop, have shared his video.
“I think I brought people together in a way that you don’t really see online, especially not on a website like Twitter,” Sikabwe said. “We’re so cynical nowadays that I think people like to see someone just be a little cheesy and a little corny, but still pour their heart out.”