Davido: Views From The Top
In Nigeria, coming from a wealthy elite family means that your life path has almost certainly already been charted for you so you don’t have to stray too far but if you venture out on your own to “do your own thing” and eventually make it big and become a global sensation, you would only be the guy or girl that did it after Davido.
Dominating airwaves in 2011 with his hit song [and second release] “Dami Duro”, David Adeleke made a bold statement by leading with his affluent origin story in a time when the more accepted narrative for artistes was one of coming from nothing. The uptempo song with rattling drums and electric melody on which Davido announced himself as “Omo Baba Olowo” burned his name into the minds of listeners and highlighted his individuality, energy and sheer will to entertain.
Today, Davido is a household name across Africa and various parts of the world with a plethora of chart-topping hits, accolades and a global fanbase.
As an artiste, Davido has been actively making music for a decade now but in the beginning, he wasn’t necessarily after custom icebox jewellery or private jet trips, rather he just wanted his work to be out there.
“At first, I just wanted to watch myself on tv even if it was just once, I dropped my first song and I went to school for like two weeks [I wasn’t even in Lagos]. It was my friends that were calling me that my song don dey blow.”
Young, jovial and full of potential, he knew exactly the life he wanted for himself and as he came closer to one landmark achievement; he set his sights on a new conquest.
“I didn’t want to go to school, I wanted to be alright enough to be just okay but over time, I wanted more and more because it [fame and success] was just growing and getting bigger. As you grow you want more, as you get there you want more because one day you feel you’re there and you wake up two days later and it feels like you haven’t achieved anything.”
In 2016, the hunger for more drove Davido to leave his then label HKN and start a new label called Davido Music Worldwide popularly known as “DMW.”
“In life, change happens and you have to take risks, for me I’ve always just been about family and that is what it was for HKN, I co-owned it with my brother who was the chairman at the time and I signed my cousins so it was really a family thing. After a while, everyone wanted to do their own thing, and I wanted to work with other people as well, then I met Mayorkun and it was from meeting him that I decided to start my own label and see how I can groom new artistes.”
This chance meeting with Mayorkun would herald the formation of perhaps Nigeria’s most closely knit record label.
“I tried it [signing a new artiste] for the first time and it worked out amazing. From there, Dremo came and then other artistes came, Peruzzi, then the producers. We just became one big family and it worked out for us.”
Having a solid team and hits on international charts could make an artiste relaxed and complacent. However, this is not the case for Davido as he has found a way to stay on top of his game as well as stay connected to family and friends while maintaining a good balance.
“I have people around me that check me if I’m slacking with my kids and people that have been with me for a long long time, I have people around me that have been with me since I was two years old that are still with me now.”
“The sweet thing about success is having people around you that were there when nothing was there like I could be on stage and after the show, my friend would just come and tell me they’re proud of me even till today and that’s because they saw it when there was nothing and nobody gave a damn.”
He appreciates friendship but does not want yes-men, rather prefers brutally honest reviews of his music and performance on a track.
“Even being in the studio, I love (my) friend that would tell me, ‘Omo! That song you recorded was wack”
Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, and the success Davido has enjoyed did not come without challenges. Ranging from doubt to impostor syndrome, he is constantly in a state of becoming and is aware of obstacles in his way and is ready to do what is necessary to move past them.
“I think that [impostor syndrome] is the worst thing that happens to artistes, feeling like you have to prove something even after you reach a certain point that many people are still trying to achieve a quarter of what you’ve done and you’re still trying to prove something. But I feel like that’s also the challenge you need to keep going and sustain because if I always felt like cos I’m Davido everything I record will enter, I’d fall but I don’t record like that, I record like it’s my first song every time.”
Regardless of proving himself time and time again as a stellar musician and entertainer, Davido is still fair game for internet trolls who love bashing his voice and taunting him with frog emojis, but that doesn’t deter him.
“It used to annoy me before, but now it just bants to me because data is cheap and anyone can sit anywhere in the world and say anything they want to you. As a public figure, I have 18 million followers. Think of how many people that is and you don’t expect everyone to like me and most of them like me, they just.. [laughs].
Power To The People
Nigeria recently witnessed one of its most politically charged demonstrations in recent time in the form of mass protests against police brutality across the country and various locations around the world. The #EndSARS protests were championed by young Nigerians who were fed up with the status quo and saw the need for change and accountability.
Celebrities home and abroad lent their voice to the cause but Davido was at the forefront of the protests doing what he could to keep spirits high and amplify the demands of the youth while also attending meetings with the inspector general of police to facilitate the scrapping of the rogue police unit in his own little way.
“I’m happy because this is the first time in our generation that everyone is actually tired and speaking up like normally imagine blocking tollgate, that is a big offence but for everyone to come together from every type of background, different religions, different tribes come together to demand change in every single state, to me, it’s mind-blowing because it’s the first time everyone is waiting to see where this takes us.”
Davido believes that the demand for change doesn’t end with police reform, but extends to taking decisive steps to ensure that government officials are held accountable and the people exercise their right to vote.
“I feel like we need to keep it up because it’s not only SARS, it’s the whole thing, INEC most importantly. Our votes don’t even count, you intentionally keep people in the sun for five hours, make sure they’re tired and drained then you go to them and say don’t vote this person take twenty thousand, of course, they’ll vote who you want them to vote.”
Davido’s highly anticipated third studio album rightly titled “A Better Time” dropped a few days ago and with all the negative surprises 2020 has unveiled, this project might just be the high note the year needs to end on.
Giving a quick breakdown of the process behind his last album “A Good Time”, the impact of COVID-19 and the differences in the new album, he says;
“My last album A Good Time was made up of songs that I actually recorded overtime but because I was touring, doing shows for like straight 8 years on the go so the album was a compilation of all the songs that had already dropped and I added a couple of new songs and dropped it due to my obligation with my label. During A Good Time, I was in America most of the time talking to my producers over email and WhatsApp, but for A Better Time I was in Nigeria, it was during the pandemic [COVID-19] I was on tour in America before but when it hit I had to cancel the whole tour and move back to Naija. There was nothing we could do [no clubs, no shows] so we stayed home and made music. For this new album, we call it a masterpiece because we really took our time with it.”
After dropping the first track off the album titled “Fem”, it would go on to become a tremendous success and even become an anthem during the EndSARS protests. However, he did not envisage that the song would be used as a tool to fight oppression.
“I honestly just have grace. I’ve recorded that song [Fem] since May and I dropped it in September like who would’ve known?! I was even somewhere, and they came to meet me and say I went to make a song for them [politicians] so I had to explain that the song has actually been out since September but it relates to what was happening.”
For Davido, his new album is an improvement on the last because of the amount of effort, planning and organisation that has gone into putting it together.
“It’s in the title already [A Good Time and A Better Time], that alone explains it. We took our time with this album, and I wasn’t looking for big-name producers, but for people that were ready to work, dedicate themselves, and just show raw talent. On this album, you’re gonna see a lot of producers that you haven’t heard of.”
When asked about his thoughts on legacy and how he would like to be remembered, Davido reminds us that we only live once and our impact in the lives of others would survive long after we’re gone.
“I would want to be remembered for a lot, not just music to be honest. That I served for humanity, I served the people and a lot of people gained from my blessing. I gave my family a good name, I gave my country a good name, I gave Africans a good name.”