It’s been airbrushed from History but 2016 wasn’t a good year for Davido. He finally got the deal he’d been discussing with Sony but the work he put out failed to resonate. His sophomore project, Son of Mercy was poorly received. Gbabge Oshi and the faux Patois accent used was his worst single since he broke out. The competition also didn’t let up: Wizkid was on a song with Drake. Mr Eazi came out of nowhere and with the help of Julz, slowed down the tempo of Afrobeats. Tekno also made the transition from potential to eating from the high table. Runtown’s Mad Over You ensured he had the hottest Christmas single while Maleek Berry’s Kontrol was a super hit in the diaspora. In all this, Davido’s most outstanding feat was besting Ovation publisher, Dele Momodu. It was looking bleak for the boy. Towards the end of the year, it seemed the penny dropped. As the crossover attempt floundered, he seemed to realize it was time to go back to the basics. Out went Kamal Ajiboye. In came Asa Asika. Back, actually. Asika had played an integral role in Davido’s break out and whilst there were rumors about the manner in which the relationship had ended, the two had remained friendly and respectful thus disarming any speculation.
Davido’s had the hottest 2017 in Nigerian Popular Culture. Saying that isn’t even remotely controversial. Objectively, no artist dominated the soundscape like he did. It all started with If. As the intoxicating effect of the songs of Christmas 2016 (Mad Over You, Leg Over and Iskaba) started to wear off, Davido’s If started to gather pace. Believed to have been written by Tekno (it’s produced by him), it captured exactly where Afro Pop was at: slower tempo, love songs are in vogue. Regaling his lover with tales of what she meant to him and boasting of “30 Billion for the account” meant that this was truly a memorable record. The boy was back. Next would come Fall- cut from the same cloth as If. In 2017, Davido displayed a Drake like knack for making lyrics that end up as memes. This is essentially a regularity in Pop Music in 2017. It’s not enough that lyrics are memorable- they should have an edge that essentially gives them a life of their own. These hashtags and memes are very important components in prolonging the shelf life of music. Looking through some of the biggest Nigerian hits of late, a theme kind of emerges. Runtown’s “And if she follow me go na enjoyment go kill am o” took a life of its own as did Davido’s ” Banana fall on you” from Fall and Mayorkun’s “All your problem I know sey solution na ego” on Mama. Could Wizkid’s perceived lack of monster hits in the past 12 months be predicated partially on the lack of that iconic line? To his credit, “All my money put am for your head o” from Manya remedies this.
In analzying Davido’s year, it will be remiss not to talk about the manner in which he has been surrounded by success. His label, Davido Music Worldwide had its best year since the inception of its preceding label, HKN Music. Mayorkun had hits like Prayer, Mama and Che Che and has transcended to one of the best pop singers in his class while B Red who’d previously been used as a punchline was able to find moderately successful songs in Fall For You and Uju. Yonda’s Las Vegas inspired one of the best features this year from Burna Boy. Dremo and Peruzzi are still cooking. In building a self sufficient label that’s quietly finding consistency, Davido’s setting himself apart as not just a premier artist but one with a solid roster behind him to help solidify his place.
As what had been an otherwise flawless year wound down, the type of adversity that defines the greats hit him. His friend, Tagbo passed away and the powers that be tried to pin it on him. His friend and former DJ, Gbemiga Abidoun also passed away. Responding the only he way knew, he put it all in the Music. Like Dat which was scheduled to be the next single had to take a seat. Fia came and saw him display one of his finer vocal performances. Per Playdata, it was the most played Nigerian song on Nigerian radio last week. Like Dat being #3. Having two of the three biggest songs in the country one week to Christmas is the stuff of legend. Musically, the only misstep he made was Pere and then again, it was a 2016 leftover. The awards have come in. The shows came in. All that’s left is the coronation: his 27th of December concert. 2017 belonged to Davido and them’s just the facts.