On today’s (June 17) episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN sat down with Nigerian music powerhouse Davido to discuss his meteoric rise to global stardom, smash record “If,” and more.
Born David Adedeji Adeleke in Atlanta, Georgia but brought up in Lagos, Nigeria, Davido made his major entrance into the Nigerian music scene with his debut album Omo Baba Olowo in 2012. The project boasted hit singles like “Dami Duro” and “Back When,” establishing his footing in the industry.
Davido’s 2017 cut “If” not only conquered charts across Africa but made significant strides internationally, gaining a diamond certification. This streak of success continued with another smash hit “Fall,” which went on to become the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. The track also serves as his first-ever RIAA-certified platinum record, as of 2023.
In the years that followed, Davido collaborated with an impressive roster of international artists, including Chris Brown on “Blow My Mind” and Popcaan on “Risky,” both of which are tracks from his second studio album, A Good Time, released in 2019. His third studio album, A Better Time, featuring the likes of Nas, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Baby, demonstrated his persistent global appeal and esteemed status in the music world. In March, Davido unloaded his highly anticipated fourth studio release aptly titled Timeless. It includes standout cuts like “FEEL,” “UNAVAILABLE,” and “NO COMPETITION,” as well as guest appearances from Skepta, Dexta Daps, and Musa Keys, to name a few.
1. On American artists visiting Nigeria
Discussing American artists’ visits to Nigeria, Davido recounted how several stars such as Lil Baby and Migos journeyed to his homeland to meet with him. He humorously shared stories of navigating the energy and expectations of his visiting friends, often finding himself drained from the constant socializing in his own country.
Davido shared, “A lot of artists have come to Nigeria to visit me. Lil Baby came. The Migos came. Casanova, that’s my brother. I was so tired, imagine me being tired of being out in my own country. Cas is like, ‘Yo, what are we doing today?’ I’m waking up, they’re telling me, ‘Yo, Cas in the hood.’ I’m like, ‘N**ga, what you doing in the hood?’”
2. On spending his record label advance in one day
On the topic of signing to Sony Music, Davido revealed how his initial excitement led to an extravagant shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, quickly depleting a large chunk of the advance. According to the international artist, creating music became a serious ordeal after he spent the $100,000 intended for his debut album.
He said, “I got my deal and the money came in. I’m like, ‘Yo, we lit.’ The same day, I take my boys to Neiman Marcus. First day, $100,000. We take trips, blah, blah, blah. I call my people, I’m like, ‘Yo, when are we gonna start recording the album?’ They said, ‘You gotta book the [studio].’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ They said, ‘The money they fronted you was part of what you’re meant to use for the album.’”
3. On his smash hit “If”
Discussing his hit “If,” Davido highlighted the crucial role of his sudden impulse to return home. The song has amassed over 166 million views since its release in 2017 and earned the musician his first RIAA-certified Gold record in 2021. The rapid transformation from his homecoming to the track’s creation and release emphasized the value of retaining artistic control.
“I actually woke up one [day] and I just got mad. I was like, ‘I need to go home.’ So I got on a plane, went back home. My brother, in two weeks from when I got back home, ‘If I tell you say I love you o.’ Two weeks,” Davido recounted. “Just getting home, and getting back in that vibe with my main producers and also telling them… I’m giving them inspiration like, ‘Yo, we got a major deal now. It’s about to be different.’”
He continued, “I signed my deal in 2015, then 2016 was a dead year for me. That was the year of figuring it out. So 2017, got that record, shot the video, we dropped it two days later. I called them and said, ‘I told you.’ So then, they started letting me have my creative space.”
4. On why he returned to Nigeria instead of launching his career in the States
Later in the interview, Davido explained his decision to base his career in Nigeria, emphasizing his affinity for African music. His conviction about excelling in the genre that resonated with him personally underscored his authenticity as an artist. He stated, “I cannot do R&B music better than Chris Brown. Chris Brown cannot do Afrobeats better than me. I want to do what I know how to do, what I was gifted to do.”
“Just seeing and knowing that I was going to become something and not wanting to be left out. I learned how to record, so the whole time, I’m… really wanting to be an artist. That made me in love. What I saw made me fall in love. So that’s what I wanted to do, African music,” the creative shared.
5. On Akon supporting African artists
Speaking about Akon’s influence on African musicians, Davido acknowledged the “Lonely” artist’s contributions to the music scene in Nigeria. In 2016, the pair collaborated on “Chillin” alongside Runtown. Despite initially feeling ignored by the multiplatinum star, he expressed gratitude for the eventual collaboration and support.
“We used to send our CDs to Akon in Atlanta all the time,” Davido revealed. When N.O.R.E. asked if Akon fronted on him, he replied, “Yeah. Eventually, he came to Nigeria and he collaborated with a couple of us. I still want to give a shout out to him. I think Akon did his fair share of work.”
6. On his rumored beef with Wizkid
Addressing his rumored beef with fellow Nigerian artist Wizkid, Davido shed light on the fan-fueled rivalry. He claimed that he and the artist were longtime friends whose relationship soured as they both matured physically.
“African beef and American beef is very, very different. With me and Wiz… there was going to be a little rivalry. It actually started with the fans; it was the fans going at it. We was f**king around and he announced like, ‘Yo, I’m going on tour with Davido next year.’ The fans were so angry,” Davido stated.
Later in the conversation, N.O.R.E. asked the artist if he’d do a Verzuz with Wizkid or Burna Boy. He responded, “Anybody, I put it on the table right now. Let’s go. I feel like it’ll be nice not only as a competition but for the culture.”
7. On hiding his talent from family
Regarding his family’s initial reaction to his career choice, Davido confessed his fear of disappointing them led to concealing his musical aspirations. The artist’s recounting of his father’s preference for academic achievement over music offered a glimpse into their early misunderstandings. He told N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN, “At first, he really just wanted me to finish school.”
He revealed, “When I actually decided that I wanted to face this music, I hid it so much from my family. I don’t know why. I was so reluctant to tell them that this is what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to disappoint them. This is generations of generations of going to school, doing the right thing.”
8. On “Dami Duro”
While delving into the meaning of his 2012 track “Dami Duro,” Davido shared the phrase’s translation: “You can’t stop me.” In addition to receiving a remix from Akon, it won Hottest Single of the Year at the 2012 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. He also recollected a humorous incident when he was arrested and his song played on a police officer’s phone.
“It means you can’t stop me. And the song is like, ‘Ema dami duro, emi omo babalowo.’ You can’t stop me, I’m the son of a rich man. The song was so powerful and guess what? The president of the country at that time was singing [it],” Davido explained. “When they was sending the police to arrest me, there was one time I went to a show. They took me, they put me in the office, the police phone starts ringing, it’s my song. I said, ‘It’s me, it’s me. Set me free.’”
9. On his fans sending him over $485,000
In an unexpected turn of events, Davido raked in over $485,000 from fans and celebrity friends after casually asking for money on Twitter, far surpassing his initial goal of $243,000. Despite criticism, he was moved by the support and decided to donate the entire amount — along with his own personal contribution — to various Nigerian orphanages, per his father’s recommendation.
“We went to the club that night, I got drunk as h**l. I said, ‘F**k that, I’m about to tweet my account.’ I tweeted my account number. In 48 hours, I got sent $650,000 cash,” he said.
Davido added, “My dad called me, ‘You know you can’t keep that money, right?’ No, I don’t need it. [He said], ‘Why are you keeping the money, I think you should donate to all of the motherland’s babies’ homes in Nigeria.’ So what we did, I got [the cash I was sent] and I added another $150,000 of my money [to donate].”
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