The platinum-selling hitmaker is our Piece 11 cover star!
It is his first time back in South Africa in over a year and Davido’s return has been nothing but a celebration. It is apt, that the man who gave us an album titled A Good Time gave us nothing but good times when he celebrated the fact that the record had just gone platinum and amassed an incredible 115 million streams on Spotify.
We caught up with Davido during a rare moment of calm in his otherwise busy life. He is preparing for his first North American tour; something that has been a longtime coming for the hitmaker, but comes as no surprise. In 2019 alone, he became the first African solo artist to sell out the O2 arena in the United Kingdom; while also breaking the record for the longest charting song on the US Billboard by a Nigerian artist and as if that wasn’t enough, he even managed to hit 500 million total views on YouTube.
“Selling out 50 000 in a Western man’s world is amazing, a lot of UK artists can’t do that so for me to come all the way from Nigeria to another man’s world was an eye opener and made me realize how lit my music is,” he explains.
We are sitting in a boardroom at Sony’s headquarters, a few hours after he landed in Johannesburg but there are no signs of jet lag or fatigue. At first, one would think it is good media training but as the interview goes you realize the genuine human he is, not to mention the massive support he has from Nigeria that made my tweet about interviewing him go viral.
He is having a party hosted by Sony later in the evening to celebrate the milestone of his second album.
A body of work that is appreciated worldwide with the single Fall being one of America’s most Shazamed songs in 2019.
I begin by asking him a question he’s probably answered 100 times or more.
“What inspired the album?”
“I wouldn’t say anything inspired it, I am not really an album artist, I just release songs,” Adeleke explains. “Anytime I am in studio and I feel like a song is ready to go I just release it and then realize later that I want to put them on a project. Songs like If, Fall, Blow My Mind, Risky made me want to put them all on an album.”
Having broken onto the scene in 2012 it is insane to think he did not always want to be the star of the show.
“I started behind the scenes because I am actually a really shy person. Over the years I became less shy having done it for 8 years,” he laughs.
“I wanted to be a music creator, arranging and producing music because that is where my talent really is. I arrange and compose songs really well and write for other people as well.”
Although the 27 year-old enjoyed producing and creating songs for other people, artists not executing the material the way he had envisioned was the turning point. “One day there was a certain song I wrote for somebody and the person just wasn’t getting it so I decided to sing the song myself and that’s how it started.”
Born in Atlanta, Adeleke grew up in both Nigeria and America, studying in Alabama, which gave him exposure to both worlds that he would grow up to dominate.
“My music relating to all people is very important to me which is why I travel all over the world.”
“I have lived in London, Paris, Lagos and America and collaborating with artists from different backgrounds and other worlds has really helped me and made me the artists I am today.”
Adeleke’s collaborations to date include heavyweights such as Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Normani, Popcaan, Tinashe and Wale just to name a few. “Everybody honestly is my favourite I can never choose but I always love working with Chris, I feel like him and I have the same energy and work ethic. It is always fun collaborating and making music with him.”
His hit single with Brown, Blow My Mind peaked at number 3 last year on the Billboard charts.
“Everybody around the world loves African music so when I make music I am making the music I know how to make which is Africa.”
“Before I would be mindful of incorporating English in it so people all over the world could understand but these day it is not about what you’re saying, it is about the feeling and making people feel good and the most important thing I feel about my music and even just the beat alone even without understanding is that it moves people and gives them a different feeling. Don’t get me wrong I love hip hop and R&B but afrobeats is something different.”
The King of afrobeats has often been vocal about his rejection of the idea of cultural appropriation by many artists outside of the continent but instead encourages the sampling of all genres.
“The only thing I would say is that they should be using more of our producers but being upset about people experimenting with our sound is wrong.”
“Our sound comes from somewhere, it is not a genre, and African music will always be African music. It might change from kwaito to amapiano but it is still African so its originality will never change and it will never die so it can be shared.”
Although Adeleke has transitioned beyond being just a “Nigerian artist” or “African artist” in the beginning he experienced struggles of starting from the bottom in foreign land because of his background.
“Especially the interviews!” He laughs.
“They would still ask random questions that I was asked at the beginning of my career, like for me to explain my music but now because Afrobeats is so big they don’t ask they just listen.”
Like most Nigerian proverbs that are themed around hard work, Adeleke does not sway far from that, emphasising how that is one thing he never compromises on.
“You have got to be always on it, look at Beyoncé and Drake they are the biggest because they are the hardest working.
That is why in this industry even in just South Africa you see the same people running the game for 10-15 years, because they are the hardest working.”
“Many of the people who were hot 5 years ago today are still in that position because of their work ethic.”
Listen to A Good Time by Davido Now:
With one of his biggest fears of it all being taken away he is constantly doing all he can to prevent that from happening. A humble soul and loving father, the display picture on his phone is of his son reminding me of his greater goal above all.
I joke about when we could expect another album, “I have the first single for my third album but I am not putting pressure on myself, I mean I did my first album in 7 years but I think I will put one out this year.”
He is currently on his North American tour and set to do one in Europe, the United Kingdom and hopefully Africa at the end of the year.
Davido is the cover star of Moziak Magazine’s Piece 11! Check out the cover and credits below: