As this generation’s Afrobeats leader, Nigerian superstar Davido reigns supreme. Fresh out of an electrifying soundcheck for his sold-out Los Angeles show at The Wiltern, the cultural icon touted as the “King Of Afrobeats,” was gleefully surrounded by family, friends and his French Bulldog pup 30, backstage ahead of his performance.
“I’m ready,” the 27-year-old Billboard chart-topper told Uproxx. “We just had three sold-out shows. It was amazing. I’m just happy to be here. You know, A Good Time is a good time, a good vibe.”
Afrobeats emerged in the early 2000s a fusion of African pop, dance, and hip-hop. Its sound has been infiltrating the hearts and ears Americans, and at the forefront of the campaign is Davido.
In 2018, his single “Fall” hit the Billboard‘s R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart as one of the longest trending Afrobeats, ever. In the US, “Fall” was the most Shazamed.
Taking cultural Southern influences from his time living in Atlanta and attending Alabama HBCU Oakwood University in combination with his Nigerian roots, the artist, born David Adedeji Adeleke, has been able to achieve a level mainstream success with his music that not only keeps everyone worldwide dancing but also connects Black people across the diaspora.
This, especially in America, where the mainstream media paints an entirely different picture of the continent. Lately, more young Black Americans are interested in embracing the abundance of Africa in part due to the thriving music scene in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. As the stereotypes of Africa continue to shatter over time, in November, Ghana’s Year Of The Return campaign granted citizenship to over 100 Black Americans, Afrochella continues to grow in popularity, and even Ludacris recently bragged about becoming a citizen of Gabon, signaling the establishment of Accra and Lagos as destination hot spots.
Speaking to Uproxx about his album A Good Time, Davido explored his connection to the American South and Nigeria and explains how it essentially influenced the whole of A Good Time.
You’ve been releasing music from this project since 2017. It seems like you usually take long breaks in between albums — what took so long for you to finally release A Good Time?
I do take breaks from the album, but I didn’t take breaks on releasing music. If I do a song today if I love it, I’m dropping it tomorrow. That type of sh*t. But since I got signed, things are kind of different. There’ll always be singles in between but I never really had time to sit down and be like, “Yo, I want to put all these songs in a body of work.”
After the first album, I was just dropping singles and just going with the flow. Then, coming to America the thing was that… Being in America, and when Afrobeats and African music progressed to America, I felt like I need to put it in a body of work because Americans was like, “Yo I like that song, I like that song. I like that song. Yo, where’s his album?” That’s really why I put the first three songs that people worldwide knew on that album so they can use that avenue to listen to the other set of songs.
Tell me about growing up in Nigeria and then living in Atlanta and Alabama while going to an HBCU.
It’s different. Back then my mom went to a university in Atlanta, but she’s Nigerian — like fully, full-blown Nigerian. Atlanta was the first place my dad came to in America when he came from Nigeria. Atlanta has always been kind of a base for the family, but fully Nigerian. Yes, I do have an American passport, but I’m fully Nigerian. I never really fully straight-up lived in America. It was always I come for six months, stay with mom, go back, stay. I didn’t really move to America fully until I was about 14.
My experience in Nigeria mostly shaped my music and then my experience in America helped me bridge the gap because I know how people think in Nigeria and I know how people think in America. I understand how sometimes, some people can be ignorant to the fact of being African because I was there. I went to school in Alabama with basically no Africans there. I understood back then when people were asking me like, “Are you from Africa? You live in Africa?” Like, “Why you got a Rolex though?” But I understood. Some people would take the offensive but I understood because when I was in America they’re never taught that.
Right, and the first song on A Good Time is “Intro” and you have a line where you say “New broom going to sweep better…”
[Singing] “Them tori us propaganda / From January to December / Mi ogba dun NEPA / So all of our youths wan’ go America”
How do you feel to know that you’re part of Black Americans waking up to the truth about Africa and disrupting that reality that American media has built up and then probably vice versa, too?
First of all, I think back in the days, if you ask me, the media outlets didn’t do that much of a good job. These days, you have social media and you might have a friend that’s never been to Africa, right? I invite you like, “Yo come out to Africa, experience it.” You’re getting on Snapchat, you’re getting on Instagram and [they’re] like, “Yo, where’s that?” You’re like, “Africa.” But back in the day, the only way you can see Africa is on TV or the news or magazines. It’s always been a beautiful country. Every space, every environment has a rough part and a better.
In America, too.
Yeah. Even in America. I see some places in America, they look way worse than Nigeria. With social media and with the world being more awake and aware of things and people wanting to know where they’re really from, the most important thing I always say is people going to the continent themselves. Forget the videos they send you or your friend sends you. People have actually started going there. Artists are going there and people are getting booked for shows out there.
When Lil Baby came to Nigeria, he was with me the whole time. When he got there, he was confused. I picked him up in my Bentley truck, took him, drove him around, took him to where the rich people stay at, took him to where the poor people stay at, took him on a yacht, took him to the island, boathouse, all of that. He wanted to actually send me some money to invest in an apartment because he was like, damn, these people didn’t explain like, “Oh this is really what Africa is like.” Media puts out like dirt roads. They don’t show like the skyscrapers. I’ll show you my house. It’s crazy. The market is growing, they even do an Afrochella.
If you could compare it to any city in America…
You can’t, you can’t.
Experiencing it is the best key. But lately, I’m happy the narrative of Africa is changing. Because, first of all, entertainment and music, five years ago, you actually were like, “What do you think about Africa?” And like, “Oh.” Right now, like, “Yo, what do you think about Africa? Like, “Yo, I love the music. I love the food.” If you think about it, everybody got an African friend. Everybody. I don’t care who you are, you got an African friend.
What does it mean for you growing up in Nigeria and coming here and being a huge star?
First of all, let me tell you what it means for me. Me growing up here, I used to have a group in Atlanta with my cousins and I remember walking up to a car in the f*cking gas station in Atlanta, freestyling like “Yo,” I was trying to blow a hit and it’s crazy. I went home to blow and it kind of connected me to come out back here. So if I never went home, probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you.
I also want to talk about “D&G” featuring Summer Walker because I noticed most of the producers on the project are Nigerian and London On Da Track is the only non-Nigerian or non-African one. What made you make that exception?
Well, funny enough, I did the song, I was like, “Yo, Summer Walker. Crazy.” Everybody was like, “You’re not getting Summer Walker.” I was like, “What do you mean?” Fuck dreaming. I believe in you go for what you want and being confident in yourself. So I was hitting different people up like, “Yo, I got this song.” I even hit the label up, her label, one of the dudes that works with her. But I was just like, “You know what? I’m going to just hit London up.” I was drunk one day after the club and was like, “You know what? Yo, bro. I got this song, I want you to hear it.” Sent it. He was like, “She loves it.” They sent me the verse the next day.
The next day. Literally my favorite song and we’re shooting the video soon.
Summer’s going to be in it?
Of course. Got to do it right.
Being an Afrobeats star and considering Fela Kuti’s legacy, what social issues are you passionate about?
Everybody knows I’m passionate about politics. We don’t have the best leaders. I just told you about the awareness of Africa of the people over here but the internet is really exposing a lot of things. That’s when we go hard because we don’t have the best leaders. I feel like, over time, things will get better. People are getting younger, people are getting wiser, people are getting more woke. Women are getting stronger. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a woman president in Nigeria.
Has there ever been? Or is it like America where it’s been all men?
It’s all been men. But it’s going to happen. Might be my wife.
A Good Time is out now via Davido Worldwide Entertainment. Get it here.