‘After 10 Years, Davido Is Still Hungry For More’
“And on the beat is Davido…” Those were the iconic signature song openers that blasted through stereos from street corners to nightclubs back in 2011. Nigerians, especially the Gen-Z population, were stewed in a frenzy watching a 19-year-old come up to the limelight, serving party-bangers and feel-good music.
For the young musician, it was definitely an iconic start. From skipping classes in Atlanta to becoming a compulsory resident in his Vice Chancellor’s house, at Babcock University, in Nigeria, it was a tough struggle for David Adeleke rebelling against convention to tow the showbiz line in a family of professionals and entrepreneurs.
Backed by a hunger for success, family support and consistency, Davido eventually hit the spotlight with his breakout single, Back When featuring Naeto C. And since then, it has been a marathon of achievements.
In ten years, the Osun State native has become a global superstar, joining the frontline of musicians elevating the country’s music scene to a global platform. From selling out the 02 Arena in London, to pulling off over a billion streams on his 2019 sophomore album, A Good Time, to having two gold certifications in the US and Canada, and over 30 awards to his name, it has been an impressive run for the 29-year-old singer.
The past decade also saw Davido rise from being an act under the HKN label to running his own record label, Davido Music Worldwide (DMW), which has helped discover and nurture artistes such as Mayorkun, Peruzzi, Idowest, Liya and others. The father of three remains one of the most supportive musicians in the industry, based on accolades from his colleagues and mentees.
From Omo Baba Olowo (2012), to A Good Time, down to A Better Time (2020), Davido has remained hungry for more, pushing limits and creating legacies. He is also one of the few musicians openly acknowledging use of songwriters – a vital move that is required to grow that untapped market in the country.
From the kick-off (except for a 4-year split), Asa Asika has been the maverick managing the iconic singer. Working behind the scenes, he has been instrumental to Davido’s harvest of successes and has stuck through the thick and thin with him.
In this interview with CHINONSO IHEKIRE, Asa gives us a glimpse into the journey becoming Davido at 10, his personality — from his incessant philanthropy, coping amid an avalanche of social media trolling, to being a people’s person – and the vision for Davido at 20.
It’s been 10 years since Davido stepped into the music scene, how the journey has been so far?
It has been a handful of experiences; it has been a learning process. There has been fun; there have been good and bad days. Overall, it is an amazing journey.
So far, what has been most fascinating about it?
When we started, we never knew that music of African origin or ‘Afrobeats’ as they call it today, would get this big. We never expected it to get this big. We wanted to be successful and we knew we would; we just didn’t know what level of success we would attain.
How did you and Davido start working with each other?
David and I went to schools close to each other and we have known each other for years. We weren’t the best of friends growing up, but we knew each other well and we had a lot of mutual friends. When we wanted to start both our careers, we thought that it made sense for us to work together.
Why did you choose to work with him?
David is a hardworking person. He is a hustler, and that is one thing that hasn’t changed over the last ten years. His drive to want to be successful, his readiness to listen, research and ask questions, his humility to learn and play his part, gain the knowledge and improve on certain things are some of the things that, you know, helped us to grow on this journey.
Were there moments you guys felt like quitting it all?
There wasn’t really ever a moment where we thought that we made a mistake and we should end it all. We always knew we were going to be successful, but we didn’t know to what extent. I mean, there were loads of ups and down; the first hurdle was getting the support of our parents. They didn’t understand why we wanted to go into music. David’s case was different from my case; in my case, I come from an entertainment background. So, I had some support to an extent. David was the first person in his family not doing what everyone else had done or was doing. So, the first challenge was getting support from home, which we eventually got.
Now, you guys are doing huge numbers. How does it feel for the team?
It feels the same way it feels for everyone; we are happy that we tried to do something and we have achieved it. People would always come out and say that it is not about the awards or recognition, but at the end of the day, there is no human being that doesn’t want to be appreciated to a certain extent.
It is always a nice feeling when you can look at your wall and see the plaques and certifications or go on the internet and see the number of streams, even before the Coronavirus pandemic, or get access to certain places that African artistes couldn’t even get access to not to mention selling it out. So, it is always a nice feeling; it keeps you on your toes knowing that there is so much more we can do.
When did it dawn on you guys that you had hit success?
I get moments like that all the time. I would say every time we get to a new level, it feels like that. I remember our first concert at Eko Hotel, David and I were standing at the Balcony and were like ‘Wow, so all these people are here to watch us.’
I remember feeling the exact same way before we went on stage at the 02 Arena (in London) and they told us that the show was sold out. I remember feeling the exact same way when Sony emailed us and told us that the song Fall had been certified Gold in the US. That was the same feeling too when If was certified Gold in the US; there are different stages.
We have been doing this for 10 years, but it is not like we are going to be slowing down now. It is not like we would start acting like Ogas now and feeling like nobody can touch us; there is still a lot to do.
Looking into the new decade, what should fans look forward to?
If I told you my strategy, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. But the dream plan is to achieve more success, going into a higher level. There are personal goals and dreams that David and I haven’t achieved yet. Obviously, we also want more successful records, selling out bigger venues.
He has 20 million followers on Instagram now. Hopefully, in the next ten years, he’d have a 100 million. He has two gold certifications now, so, in the next ten years, he’d have Platinum and Diamond certifications. There is always the next level.
Before the ban by government, you both started a crypto-based company, Bitsika. What informed that move?
First of all, it is not like David can be on stage performing forever. Secondly, any successful entrepreneur would tell you that it is always good to diversify. Fintech is the future; Bitsika is a payment solution. Instead of you going to ten places to do ten different payments, you can do everything there. I am abroad now and I use Bitsika all the time when I want to send money to Nigeria or pay for anything.
Tell us how Davido is like when he’s working; what’s his process and how involved are you?
David doesn’t really have a regular process. You know how some people say they wake up, smoke a blunt or have a cup of tea and do this or that? We sit together and he just locks in and we are like ‘We have a month to make 10 songs for the album, how are we doing it?’ What we do is just pretty much locking ourselves away somewhere, having all our producers, songwriters and everybody contributing to the project in one place; David vibes off the energy of other people.
So, most times, when we are recording or having studio sessions or listening sessions, he likes to have a lot of people in the studio so he can feed off from their energy and reactions and see if what he is doing makes sense.
Speaking of people, David is known for having this family approach to things with a lot of people coming up under him.
What has been the impact on his career?
One thing most humans know is that you cannot be on top forever and what you do when you are on top matters a lot for when you are on your way down. Before David became Davido, he had always been a people person; he always liked to empower people. There is no reason he wouldn’t use his blessings to change the lives of other people and support others; whether they are artistes under his label or artistes he has just done songs with, talk less of people who aren’t even artistes. He is just a nice guy.
Behind the scenes, David is a very calm, understanding and calculated person. For example now, David knows that Victony, who is an artiste that has always been in an event I run called the Mainland Block Party, just had an accident. He was like ‘How can we help him?’ When we were sorting out the medical bills, David made a huge donation, though he had never met him before.
He is the kind of person that reasons like: if it is there, why don’t we help save or change someone’s life? This is the money that we would use to do something else. So, why don’t we change someone’s life? He does so much that sometimes, I am like ‘David, calm down o, e don dey too much o.’ He is just a nice guy.
Despite his philanthropy, he is still one of the most trolled artistes on social media. How does it really affect him behind the scenes?
At the end of the day, David is not going to be the first or last artiste to get a lot of hate. When David first came out, they said that he wasn’t going to blow up because he was from a successful background. Ten years later, people still use that to troll him. There are so many other artistes who have come out of well-off backgrounds, but didn’t last a year. He has been here for ten years and he is arguably the most successful artiste from this part of the world; everybody is allowed opinions.
Once in a while, he is a human being and he would get in his emotions, which is allowed, because everyone gets in their emotions and we all handle stuff differently. But, at the end of the day, like we always say, numbers don’t lie. Who has the most followers on Instagram? Who has the most views on YouTube? Who has two solo gold certifications in the US? Who sold out the 02 by himself? Davido!
If you could start afresh, what would you guys do differently?
Things happen for a reason, whether they are good or bad; I don’t have any regrets. At the end of the day, experience is the best teacher. Everything that happened or didn’t happen was meant to prepare us for something else.
Any new projects from Davido soon?
We would disclose that soon. He is in the studio right now; he is always there, and he hardly takes breaks. Let us wait and see. We are currently still pushing his album.
If you were to describe Davido in one word, what would it be?