Culture Custodians #1: Davido (The Transcript)

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When did you start making music?
I started making music like early ages. When I was like 13, you know High School. I visited a studio down there in Ikota for the first time and I just stuck to it. You know, just practicing, making my craft better. From there, everything just took off.
Why did you do it? You started out rapping, right?
Yeah! I was in a rap group in high school. I was the leader of the rap group. We did a couple of competitions and won them. From there, we graduated and everyone went their separate ways. Some went to London, some went to America. That’s really how I started my own solo stuff. You know Engineering, Mixing records, Making beats. I wasn’t really recording at the time. I was just making beats and trying to get better at the whole engineering thing.
When you moved back to Nigeria, you just left America and left school and came back, right?
Yeah! Yeah, I left school.
Where did you get the guts to do that? What made you do that?  Were you so confident you were going to blow?
Honestly, it was like a period where you don’t really know what’s going to happen. You’re just like f*** it, I’m just gonna try and go. You know, coming back wasn’t even the hardest part. That was leaving school and a lot of things behind which I already had planned. I was in Nigeria for about a month prior to when I came back  so I already had some connections with D’Banj and other people. And I already knew I was good anyway, so I just took the risk and was like f*** it.
Were you scared?
Yeah! Very, very, very scared. I think when I got to Nigeria and got used to the whole lifestyle. You know Naija, even if you don’t get money one way or the other, you’re going to chop. One way or the other, you’re going to drink. I kinda got used to that life. It even calmed me down to have time to focus on my career and make music and stuff. It was cool.
You know how people say your job should be your hobby.
Yeah!
So if you’re doing it, you’re actually enjoying it. What do you enjoy most about being a musician?
I won’t say “What do I enjoy most about being a musician?” I would say “What do I enjoy most about being myself. Musicians are everywhere. Everyone has their own niche and what they get out of their music. Some people do it for the money, some people do it for the fame, some people do it for the girls. Me, I just do it for myself. Even before I was putting my music out, I had CD’s and CD’s of my own music. Before the money, it’s really about self satisfaction. The fact that I make good music that makes me happy – that I can hear in the club on a good night, that I’ll be tipsy and make me have fun. Those are the moments that really count. The smiles on people’s faces when they hear your music and stuff like that. Do it for the fans, as well.
For every gift, there’s a curse. What have you found most challenging since you moved back to Nigeria and became a star?
Rumors. All the rumors. I mean, it’s crazy how one million people can have an opinion on you and you can actually see them. The way they’ve done the whole technology thing. Like 5 years back, when D’Banj and P Square came out, they didn’t really know what  people (I interject saying “thought and felt”). Now, you have access to it all. Even Justin Bieber, you can tell him “F*** you”. It’s just knowing how to manage it and knowing that’s how the game works.
Do you think you handle it well? Sometimes, you actually react.
Me I no send. I don’t give a f*** to be honest. Sometimes, you just want to be silly. It’s fun too. It’s fun.  At the end of the day, we’re just having fun. The same people that would abuse you are the same people that go crazy when they see you. It don’t matter.
If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
I don’t know. I’ll probably still be in school. Probably finished by now. Typical come back to Nigeria, go and work for your father. It won’t pass that. God had a different plan for me. We made it.
How old are you? 21?
Yeah! 21. Little kid.
There’s like a new generation coming through and you’re the most successful one …..
What? Who’s my favorite?
Yeah! Who’s your favorite and how does it feel being the frontrunner?
I don’t know who it is. It’s really between a couple of people.
Being the frontrunner, everything is God. God puts you in the position you’re in at all times and you just know you have to help people. That’s why I’ve done collabos with Runtown which was a big, ass hit in the country. MC Galaxy. That was the first person I put in my studio. He probably has now, if not the hottest song in the club. The list goes on. Diamond, I put him on in Africa. It’s just about making sure everybody is eating. Reminisce. Shoutout to Reminisce. Just bought a Benz. And he got a Samsung deal. It’s just about helping people and knowing that  your vocals and support contributed to other people’s success. It’s not really about your own success sometimes, it’s about the people you help come up. That’s really how you stay at your position. That’s why 2Baba (TuFace Idibia) is where he is. Cos he f***s with everyone. If you’re doing shakara, you will go down. Like some people, I don’t want to mention names.
You mentioned Runtown. I came across a story that you bought ‘Aye’ off him.
I came across that too.
Is it true?
No. Of course not.
When I first met Runtown, he wanted me to do a remix to ‘18,19’: that was his first song. Then I heard ‘Gallardo’. Until hearing ‘Gallardo’, it was just the beat. I was actually going to produce it. So I really wanted to have ‘Gallardo’ as MY song. That didn’t work out. We just did a song together and he hooked me up with T- Spize. So that’s how  I met T- Spize through Runtown and then we made two or three records and then we shut it down.
Obviously, now you’ve got your own record label. Tell us about the acts you have and what we should expect from them?
There are about seven of us. Myself. Of course, Sina Rambo and B Red. Deekay, Danagog, DJ Olu. Now, we’re just working on singles. B Red dropped a video earlier. So did Sina Rambo. I’m about to drop a couple of videos too. The cabinet is building up.
Do you worry about any of them becoming bigger than you?
I pray for that to happen. At the end of the day (DJ Olu looks up and we all break out in laughter). I’m not trying to take anyone’s success down.
You’ve had an amazing year. You won the BET award. You’ve had three or four of the biggest songs and you’ve not dropped an album. Does that put pressure on you?
Nah! I won’t say that. I’m working on the album. It’ll be out soon.
How soon is soon?
Me I no dey change date. I just dey drop my own. Before next year.
So that’s end of this year?
By the grace of God. If not, beginning of next year.
There’s a song with Wale. You and Meek Mill are friends now. You won the BET award so you’re getting more international recognition.
I met a lot of people, Roc Nation. Right now, I’m really just. Like I know I have so much stuff to do in Africa that I’ve not completed. As I said, I’m just 21. BET was just a stepping stone. I’m not in a rush to do any international collaborations. Not that I haven’t done any. It’s done. But sometimes, it’s just about having the right placements and the right timing. On the album, definitely you’re going to see at least 4. I can’t name the 4. But Wale, Meek Mill and some others.
Who would your dream collabo be with?
I don’t even know.
Those are supposed to be two of your idols (Pointing to pictures of Fela and Michael Jackson)
That one no be dream again.
I’ll like to work with YMCMB. Drake or Nicki Minaj.
Obviously, we have to talk about Wizkid.
Hmmmmn. Sure.
We saw what happened. He fired the first shot and you responded. Why did you respond and how did you know he was talking about you?
It’s not even a matter of why did I respond. Conversation, now. It was just two guys having a conversation. It happens now. Everybody has conflict. It’s not a big deal.
But between the two of you. Both of you are around the same age
Nah! He’s older than me.
Yeah! He’s older but the same peer group. Since you came out, both of you have been the two hottest. And there’s talk that you have songs that have never come out.
Nah! We’ve never been in the studio before.
There was talk that B Red had a single with him that got dropped after this all happened.
Ask DJ Olu. Ashley. I don’t know. Shoutout to B Red. He has a new single with Phyno coming out. I’m not sure with him and Wiz. I think it didn’t work out but I’m not sure.
So if you see Wizkid today, what’ll happen? Would you talk to each other? Do you guys talk?
Nah!
So you guys never used to talk?
We talk(ed) now. If I see him, it doesn’t matter. We might greet, we might not.
As far as the rivalry goes, at this moment do you think you’re the hotter one. Do  you think you’re the one in control?
I’m not looking for control. I’m making a lot of money. He’s making a lot of money.
But it goes beyond that. What you guys were subbing each other over, it had to do with his shows and how he’s selling out arena’s. So obviously, there’s conflict there ‘cos you guys want to outshine each other.
I don’t want to outshine anybody o.
Then you might as well not make music. You want to be the best, now.
God is the best. You wan big pass God. Who wan big pass God? At the end of the day, the Nigerian music industry is growing and he’s doing his thing and I’m doing my thing. Funny enough, it’s always the people outside fuelling all this “Who’s better” and that. At the end of the day, I just came to do what I came to do and move on. It’s all cool. We’re grown men. We’ll sort it out.
Let’s talk about the evolution of your style. What are you wearing these days?
It’s the money, money. Everybody is eating better, we’re living better. I have big sisters. You know your sisters would always get on your case on all the designers and all the nice things in life. Rolexes and that.
Your Mum died when you were young. That would have had some impact on you. What  was it?
It helped in the sense that, when she passed I just turned to music. At that time I was in the group with those my friends that I spoke about so it was just a helping hand. Instead of thinking “Oh! Your Mum has died”, I just faced the music. I always had friends around me so it wasn’t a case of me being lonely or me missing her. We do miss her. Rest in Peace. I feel like she just left to let me just do the music and she watched. To me, Life is give and take. God has a plan for everything.
Of all the songs you’ve done this year, which one would you say was your favorite?
I don’t have a favorite but the one I enjoyed most was the one with Mafikizolo.
Where did you do that? Here or in South Africa?
South Africa. Shizzi did that.
You come across as troublesome. Do you think you’re a troublesome person?
When I was younger. When I first came, Maybe. Naija would always calm everybody down. Coming from America, it’s crazy being here.

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