Not many music artists can claim iconic status within just five years of starting out. But the Atlanta-born Nigerian singer/songwriter, producer and label owner - who returned home to Lagos, forsaking previously unsuccessful college pursuits in Alabama to chase his music dreams - has earned the right. Certainly across the African continent where his die-hard millions of fans no doubt recall the cult Hip-hop and Afropop crossover hit ‘Way Back When’ which planted him firmly on their radar. “It was people like (Nigerian music veterans) P-Square and D’Banj who made me believe that all this was possible,” he recalls.
Davido charged forth into the mainstream with the monstrous soaring classic Dami Duro, an unexpected hit (leaked online almost a year prior to official release) which became the crown jewel for his widely acclaimed 2012 debut album, Omo Baba Olowo. Gobe, the carefree up-tempo love song which, and the evergreen African wedding reception playlist staple Aye followed in quick succession.
As is unofficial tradition within the emerging Afrobeats scene, in 2013 Davido’s next hit Skelewu gathered momentum virally in response to his call-out for fans to upload their interpreted dances to the Afrohouse-inspired banger. The landslide impact attracted the attention of Mad Decent’s Major Lazer and Wiwek, who contributed an unsolicited EDM remix to the frenzy.
Seemingly overnight, the then college dropout became the talk of the continent, securing not just the buy-in of African fans by the multitude but also unanimous media acknowledgement, with accolades including two MTV Africa Music Awards and the BET Award for 'Best African Act' in 2014.
Now a recognized flag-bearer for the current wave of African artists on the rise, it’s worth noting that Davido’s ascent has not developed in isolation. It’s actually a key signifier for a cultural shift that spans at least three continents – Africa, Europe and the US. The last decade has seen popular culture embrace Africa’s influence in a way not seen since the West first heard the late great Afrobeat architect Fela Kuti – incidentally one of Davido’s many influences. From top 40 radio to couture fashion, a modern renaissance is showing itself in the growing demand for African inspiration.
At this cross roads, Sony Music Entertainment has taken the groundbreaking step to sign a worldwide record deal with Davido, announced early in 2016, and coinciding with its decision to officially plant roots in Lagos, Nigeria with its first flagship offices on the continent outside of South Africa.
After being on the receiving end of a major label bidding war, Davido’s decision to dissolve his lucrative co-owned HKN records and sign with Sony was easy: “I had like four offers and I went with the one that was gonna get my music out there. Right now everybody is trying to grab a piece of Africa. I went with the team that believed and was actually interested in my music.”
In February 2017 Davido released ‘If’ - a melodic, catchy, uptempo record produced by popular Nigerian artist ‘Tekno’. The song quickly caught the attention of radio, club DJs and fans across Africa and shot to the number one spot of the iTunes and Shazam charts not only in Nigeria, but in 7 other countries including South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast and Congo. The success of ‘If’ gained Davido a coveted nomination for ‘Best International Act - Africa’ at the 2017 BET Awards. The official video for ‘If’ has received over 29m views on YouTube.
Music success continued with the release of the Kiddomant produced record ‘Fall’. The track quickly became a club and radio favourite and peaked at the No.1 position on iTunes.
In September 2017, Davido added another record to his string of accomplishments. He completed his aptly titled ’30 Billion’ world tour which saw him perform to over a hundred thousand fans in 34 cities. The tour has seen the superstar hit a number of cities including Stockholm, Copenhagen, Kiev, Frankfurt, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Paris, Texas, Vancouver, DC, Oslo and Helskini to name but a few. The 30 Billion World Tour was named the most successful Afrobeat tour of 2017.
In many ways it’s a new beginning for the Atlanta-born African pop star, and recent college graduate who, on the verge of international domination, now stands as a living touch point of a truly global African millennial generation pushing back the boundaries of mainstream music.
Fans eagerly await the release of his second studio album scheduled for release later his year.