Since 2012, Wizkid and Davido have exchanged spots at the top and for the most part, the aim, while probably never vocalised, was besting the next man and outdoing him. It captured where both acts were. Wizkid, started under the EME stable but was able to learn quickly and build himself into an act who could stand on his own. Davido, on the other hand came into the industry on his own back. Yes, there was a single with Naeto C but he didn’t have anything resembling a strong machinery behind him. It explains why as he broke out, the initial roster of artists on his label were essentially family members and associates. As an artist relatively new to the industry, it made sense that he surrounded himself with people he had existing relationships with. Last year, this rivalry climaxed and developed the muscle it had lacked in the past. On Summer Body, when Davido memorably said “With Yankee passport/ Dey say we local”, it was clear who he was talking to. Shots followed on Snapchat and Twitter and there was a tiff between members of their camps when both artists headlined One Africa Fest in Dubai. As 2017 wound down, the duo made up and killed the rivalry as they both appeared at each other’s concerts. As we continue to go by 2018, one thing is clear, neither Davido or Wizkid are searching for hits like we’d typically expect from them.
Been there. Done that. 2017 was probably the most succesful year of both their careers. Over the years, Wizkid made moves and affiliations that hinted at crossing over. 2017 was the year those moves fully crystalized. His Sony Music debut, Sounds from The Other Side boasted features from Drake, Trey Songz, Ty Dollar $ign, Major Lazer and Chris Brown. As Nigerian music became universally adored, Wizkid stood at the forefront. His Royal Albert Hall showing was the crowning glory. Whilst on the surface, his music failed to resonate at home as it had done previously, per Plyadata he was the most played artist on Nigerian Radio in 2017. Davido on the other hand, was extremely calculated with his moves, only releasing the essential and cutting back on the quality of features he gave. In contrast to the road he plied in 2016 with his features addressing controversy (Dele Momodu, really) shown by Osinachi Remix and Bahd Baddo Baddest, he kept that most important part for his own music as Fia showed. If, Fall, Fia, Like Dat. Davido’s 4 singles were all smash hits. Back to Back, Back to Back. The only real misttep was Pere.
Enter 2018 and clearly there’s been a change in approach. It’s less about them and more about the collective. It’s now about establishing their collectives and letting the fans hear their music. Their motivations seem different though. For Wizkid, chances are he noticed the importance of redirecting his attention after a 2017 run that was below expectations at home prior to Manya and Ma Lo. It’s also worth noting that in his quest for world domination, the Starboy entity was adversely affected. L.A.X who caught one with Runaway decided to go on his own. Maleek Berry who had been affiliated with the camp was able to establish himself as a top tier pop star with a following outside the country away from the label. We recently found out that Mr. Eazi who we’d been told was a Starboy affiliate is actually signed to Diplo. The foothold was lost. For Davido, it was probably understanding the height of the past year and the fact that outdoing that is on the more impossible side of the spectrum. With investments made into the label structure and roster in the last couple of years, he’s well placed to be a solid team player. Mayorkun had a stellar 2017 and is steadily rising to the top table. Dremo is still struggling as a Rapper is wont to do in this part of the world but he’s got time. Peruzzi too is acquiting himself well. With a team of strategists and consultants like Asa Asika, Banko, Bizzle Osikoya and Sam Phrank, the steps being taken will probably make more sense in the future.
We’re through the first quarter and this road Wizkid and Davido are plying is one only Olamide has trod successfully in more recent times. It’s one where they’re letting the music be heard without hit chasing. This is an inspired move. Investing in building a notable collective could add a couple of years to their swim in the pool of relevancy. Their role as kingmakers will form another metric for quantification of their influence. These are some of the things that separate the Great from the great. They’ve cracked one bit. Now, to crack another.