Davido has undoubtedly made his mark as one of the most definitive musical artists of his age. His 10 year run at the top is a mark of the resonance of his music and his consistency. In reverence to 10 years of music excellence, we highlight ten of the most defining moments in Davido’s career.
It’s only natural that we start this list with a moment that characterizes the advent of Davido into Nigeria’s musical space – the release of his hit song, Dami Duro. It was released as the second single off his maiden album, Omo Baba Olowo. Davido was far from a household name at the time. Yet it was his upbeat vocals and energetic exuberance that caught the eye of the public and essentially established him as an up-and-coming talent to look out for. The song was released in October of 2011, and a video from Clarence Peters followed in the next few months.
Dami Duro wasn’t Davido’s first song, he had a few recordings before that. His first release, Back When which boasted of a Naeto C feature resulted in massive airplay and widespread attention as well. But it was the success of his follow-up song that paved the way for him into the industry. In addition, the video had cameos from a host of Nigerian celebrities that included his fellow rising star, Wizkid. It added to the impression that the song and visuals had and it definitely provided him with the bang he needed to start a bright career.
In 2016, Davido inked a deal with Sony Music Entertainment under its African sub-division. According to the label, they wanted to establish their presence in Africa and Davido was the perfect person to help them achieve that through his influence, ever-growing fanbase, and his rich collation of hit songs that had large growth potential. For Davido, this meant better distribution, a wider audience, and an introduction to a foreign music scenery that he would trail for the rest of his career. The deal also entailed a stance by Davido to commit to his original afrobeat sound in the face of a growing tendency of international artists to alter their sound to suit a western audience.
Davido is certainly not new to interviews or magazine covers. Yet in 2016, his interview with Fader magazine was perhaps one of the most significant yet. For context, the New York-based Magazine is a powerhouse in the coverage of style, music, and culture. However, the strength of that interview lies in the exposure that it gave Davido outside the confines of his music. Afterward, several publications ran stories on what was said but it was the Fader interview that showed us a part of Davido which was fairly unknown to the wider audience he was aspiring to.
The interview covered aspects of his upbringing, his college life, and his journey towards a professional music career. But most importantly, it offers a perspective from Davido himself. He expressed himself on several personal issues regarding his differences with his father, his college recklessness, and his personal challenges in navigating the Nigerian music space. His Fader interview was also the first of its kind; no contemporary Nigerian act had gotten placement of such magnitude.
The year 2017 was arguably one of the most dominant years in Nigerian music reinforcing his place as one of the most iconic artists in Nigerian history. IF, Fall, Like Dat, and FIA were just some of the standout hits. It was no surprise when his resume for that year earned him a MOBO award amongst other accolades.
Yet it wasn’t all smiles and good music. That same year, he was heavily involved in the drama that followed the death of an associate, Tagbo. The matter was subsequently taken up by detracting members of the public, the police, and actress, Caroline Danjuma. It cast a dark cloud over Davido. However, he prevailed over the situation culminating in the release of FIA, a slow-paced but defiant number through which he shared his pain. Proving that he was truly in possession of the midas touch, it became another monster hit under his belt. To cap it all off, Davido hosted his traditional end-of-the-year concert at which several household names performed. A spectacle on its own, yet the concert took a turn when he brought Wizkid on stage in what was one of two on-stage introductions between the two stars.
While this may not necessarily classify as a remote moment or event, it is a career-long element to Davido’s career that would be hard to ignore. It would be safe to assume that Davido and Wizkid started on the right foot; they both expressed mutual support for each other in the beginning phases of their career and the latter even made a cameo appearance in the Dami Duro video. With only a few years separating them in age and their respective introductions to the spotlight, the two artists are largely regarded as the two leading titans of their generation. This added to the public perception that they were supposed to, entertain some sort of beef between themselves. Other factors such as a conspicuous absence of a collaboration between them, and several speculative social media posts added to it all.
Some standout occurrences doused the speculations of a long-standing beef; they tweeted positively at each other a few times, they respectfully name-dropped each other in interviews, and there were the 2017 concert on-stage introductions between them that took the nation by storm. But the occasional rays of hope for an impending bromance were quickly doused with one thing or the other and regardless of where they stand with each other, we can all admit that the competition has driven them and Nigerian music as a whole.
DMW and the new wave of music talent
One of the largest imprints for Davido’s career is his establishment of Davido Music Worldwide (DMW), the proverbial gift that keeps on giving. Apart from setting up a crew that has largely influenced Nigerian music and mainstream culture, the music label transformed into a hit manufacturing establishment that has grown rapidly over the years.
Some of the reasons they have appealed to the Nigerian market is because of the charm they exude, the talent, and a sense of togetherness that gave them an aura of being a dream team. There are the more names such as Mayorkun, Dremo, Peruzzi, Liya, and Flowolf amongst others. But there are other non-performing extensions of the crew that always kept them in talking circles, with or without music. Seun “Banko” Lloyd who now runs Sony Music’s West African operation is descended from this school. Asa Asika, who has shown himself to be the great managerial talent that has been in the Davido picture since the onset, David’s right-hand man, Lati, and the highly comical Father DMW, are all personalities that have helped set DMW/30 BG apart.
Often is the case where personal elements play into the career of an individual, especially in a path as expressive as music. Davido has had his fair share of travails and victories on the personal scene. And those that have made it to the public eye are quite interesting. He had a public feud with Dele Momodu from 2015 through 2017, concerning the drama he was immersed in with the mother of his child. On the bright side, there was the birth of his kids and other small to big wins. Whatever the case, he made sure to address these occurrences in his music and gave it the personal feel that added to the success of his songs.
EndSARS and Activism
When he dropped FEM, the intro and lead single to his A Better Time album, Davido probably didn’t know the context from which the song would take a life of its own. In the latter parts of 2020, Nigeria’s youth population collectively expressed their grievance in a nationwide movement that came to be known as the #ENDSARS movement. Besides his song being instrumental in the upbeat motivation and the needed camaraderie for the youth-dominated movement, Davido also actively campaigned against police brutality. He went as far as physically joining marching crowds and securing the release of several innocent protesters. Subsequently, he sat with senior police officials to discuss the demands of the movement and approaches towards meeting them.
While social activism is still in play in the country, the peak of the protests is well behind us. When the events of that period are looked at in retrospect, Davido walking towards armed policemen with his hands in the air is a prominent image that will add to his niche of social activism.
Coming to America
In 2021, Davido played himself in Coming 2 America, a much-anticipated sequel to the 1988 original. This was an especially prominent feat because of the fresh audience that it introduced him to and the relevance of the film. Firstly, the set of the film largely entailed star power that included household music and movie talent. Secondly, it spoke of his reputation as a frontrunner in representing African music. If the original film is anything to go by, then Coming 2 America, and Davido’s forefront status will grow to be embedded in minds of its global audience.
A Better Time
On November 13, 2020, Davido closed out a rather tumultuous year with the release of his third studio album, A Better Time. Earlier that year, Davido had canceled his tour due to the outbreak of a global pandemic. The release of ABT was not in his plans for that year as he stated in a Complex Magazine Interview. Apparently, it was one of the rather simultaneous exploits that birthed into a legacy-enhancing element of his career.
The line-up of features alone was was an eye-catcher on its own. The album had the likes of Lil Baby, Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, Nas, Tiwa Savage, Bella Shmurda, Sho Madjozi, and Mayorkun. The talent also interpreted into the quality of the album, it was a diverse and well-organized collection of songs that were bangers. The visuals that followed the album’s release were also exquisite and unique in their own rights. In entirety, the album racked in several accolades that included massive play, large sale performances, and wide-scale streaming. A Better Time is widely regarded as Davido’s best body of work. A more agreeable fact is that it was his most influential and best-performed album as it set high standards for himself and the industry.
Conclusively, Davido’s career has been littered with hits we don’t know what the next ten years of music will look like. But we know that there will be growth. And while there will probably never be another Davido, we know that there are many that will walk in his footsteps. So we’re thankful for 10 years of Davido and look forward to the chapters ahead.