Music superstar, D’Banj, tells FUNSHO AROGUNDADE about his forthcoming album and why he shelved his marriage plans
Tell us your experience on stage as one of the headliners at the recently held MTV All-Stars concert held in Durban, South Africa?
I felt so happy that day. I never knew the concert would be as such a huge show. I really feel so blessed performing on the same stage that night with legendary Snoop Dogg.
How did you feel when you were called back on stage by Snoop Dogg for a joint performance?
Honestly, I was surprised because the MTV people didn’t tell me that Snoop had agreed to perform our collaboration that night. In fact, it is the highpoint of my career. And not many people know that after the performance, we both sat down and discussed on further collaboration. And right there, we went into the studio to record another song, which will be in my new album.
And you nearly overshadowed Snoop during your performance and was like the real star of the night.
For me, I didn’t even think about it. I was just thrilled by the collection of artistes at that concert. For me as an artiste, I always put all my energy into every show. I always mount the stage with the sole purpose of entertaining the crowd. Even if it is one person, I always make sure that the person has loads of fun. At that Durban concert, I was very happy that everybody was entertained, including Snoop, as he did the Koko dance. I felt humbled seeing him doing my dance. I have been a big fan of Snoop from way back. You can imagine Snoop feeling my vibe. Come on, this guy has been in the game for decades. Baba Agba niyen. It was a good feeling with all those stars that night. He even had to invite all the other artistes that performed for a joint performance to close the show. We did Young, Wild and Free, the song he had with Wiz Khalifa, and it was electrifying.
Let’s talk about your coming DKM Concert.
That is my 23 June DKM Concert. It is a 3-in-1 event and it is going to be great. The last concert I had in Nigeria was Koko Concert and some things were not really right then. It was a funny experience, as people dubbed it Koko Trek. People actually trekked miles to the venue at the Atlantic City. But I want to tell my fans again that I am really sorry to have put them through such stress. This time, it is live inside the Eko Hotel and Suites. This concert is very special to me. It will be the launch of my DKM album, which is a compilation of songs from some artistes. I will also be releasing my first post-Mo’Hits album and celebrate my birthday. I turned 33 on 9 June, but at the concert, I would be celebrating it with all my fans.
What exactly does DKM mean?
DKM means D King’s Men. It is like a movement on how to get our music global. It is about how we are going to erect a structure that is bankable. The DKM album is just like what Kanye West did last year with the album Cross Summer. That wasn’t Kanye West’s album, but a compilation from all the GOOD Music artistes. Banky W’s EME did the same thing last year and also Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records has had its Solar Plexus. So, DKM is having its own and we already have songs featuring artistes like Olamide, Durella, Kayswitch and J Sol. We also have international collaboration with guys like Fally Ipupa.
There has been a lot of confusion about artistes on to your label. Can you set the records straight?
The truth is that I have not signed anybody.
Including your brother, KaySwitch?
Yes. But I have a record label called D’Banj Records and its only artiste so far is me. D’Banj Records has a worldwide distribution deal with Universal/Def Jam Records, and Sony Music. We are already using D’Banj as an experiment and he is successfully working very well for us right now and we pray it goes beyond that.
What exactly is D’Banj Records bringing to the table?
We are bringing a breath of fresh air into the Nigerian music scene. This is what I have been trying to do in the last two and a half years that even cost me a brother and family simply because they couldn’t see the vision that I have. I don’t want all these young ones to experience such.
What is the difference between DKM and D’Banj Records?
D’Banj Records is a record label that has worldwide distribution deal with Universal/Def Jam Records, and Sony Music. We make music, we make hits. But DKM is like my baby. It is a media and management company that gave you the Koko Mansion reality show in 2008. And since 2009, DKM has been organising Koko Concerts all around. There shouldn’t be any confusion about these two organisations. We have friends, colleagues and families that work with us through DKM Media. We have a studio where we jam together and rub minds on how to elevate our craft. When eventually KaySwitch is ready, he could be signed on to Sony Music. If it is Durella’s turn, we know that Atlantic Records will fit his style and we will fix him there. The same thing could happen to Olamide once we get that opportunity. That is the difference. D’Banj Records has not signed any artiste except myself.
Tell us the complexion of this new album, your first after the Mo’Hits era?
Definitely, this new work is going to be as confusing as many people felt when they first heard Top of the World.
How do you mean?
People are going to hear some of the songs in my new album and will be confused whether this is D’Banj or not. When you listen to the album, you will be treated to different sounds, as we are not only appealing to the African audience but to the global one. My fan base has grown phenomenally and in the new work, you are going to have a Don Jazzy feel, a European feel and all sorts. This is because we have entered the new stage, which we had been waiting for in Africa. The vision is for a D’Banj song that will be appealing to every music lover on the planet. In this new work, Africa is well represented and you will be very proud of me. D’Banj brand is very well represented as you all know me in this new work. I have fully evolved and it is very well presented in the new work.
How much do you miss Don Jazzy?
I really miss Don Jazzy and I miss the whole Mo’Hits crew. But are we talking about the engine or about the whole car?
How do you feel having your song on constant rotation on many European radio stations and clubs, including those with white audiences and clientele?
Honestly, it puts me on my toes. It was especially so when I heard that my song, Oliver Twist, topped the chart in a country like Romania. This set me thinking that I need to work harder to have more number one songs in the future.
Many have complained that D’Banj has abandoned Nigeria for abroad. Would you like to clarify that?
I have heard that many times. The truth is that many people ran into me and said they had been trying to get me booked for shows, but were told that I no longer stay in Nigeria. That is not true. Surprisingly, I spend more time at home than what people think. I am still based here, but travel most of the time. The fact that I spend more time abroad doesn’t mean that I have relocated. Despite the big American presence of Shakira, she doesn’t live in the United States. She still stays in Colombia and only breezes into the US to do her job. The fact is that since last year, I have been so busy touring America, Europe and other continents, maximising the success of Oliver Twist. Even at that, I have been more at home. In the last one year, I have performed at major shows on the continent. I performed at the closing ceremony of the Big Brother Africa among other big shows. This year alone, I have done African Cup of Nations and the recent MTV All Stars. But what I need to point out to people is that I no longer consider myself a Nigerian or African artiste. I am now an international artiste just like Wyclef Jean, who you cannot easily tell his country. Not until the earthquake disaster and when he said he wanted to run for presidency in his country that many people got to know that he is from Haiti. So, people should perish that perception, as I still live in Nigeria. Now, I service the global audience.
But many believe D’Banj spends more time on razzmatazz than improving creative content. How do you react to this?
Maybe because they see me hanging more on the front rows at major shows around the world with the likes of Kanye West, JayZ and co. But I tell you, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The so-called razzmatazz is part of my evolutionary process. People see only the razzmatazz, but I know what I am doing. Now, I am having my concert this month, featuring stars like 2Chainz and Fally Ipupa. After that, I am touring Europe. For me, I see global. And right now, I believe I am getting the necessary experience and the exposure. Very soon, people will see it from my music and my life.
Talking about the African Cup of Nations and the song, Top of The World, many were surprised that the song came from you?
That song was written by me and three others. It was produced by one of Kanye West’s producers called Anthony. The song was brought to me by my colleagues over there who felt the song would fit into what was happening to me at that time. That was the time Oliver Twist was burning up the charts in London and 11 other European countries. I felt like I was on top of the world. Then we started working in the studio and waiting for the perfect time to release it. In fact, the song was even ready before Oyato, but I didn’t feel ready to drop it. In-between, Supersport approached me for a song for the Nations Cup and we decided to submit it and they so much loved it. That was it.
But listening to that song, one would think you specifically did it for the tournament or you reworked it.
We actually had to go back into the studio to rework the third part of the song. That is where we had to mention the names of the 16 participating countries and fortunately, Nigeria was the last country that I mentioned and we eventually won the tournament.
You later performed the song at the final.
Oh my God! I was crying that day. I was so emotional with the crowd and the response. It was so electrifying. After my performance, I went to sit at the top wing of the stadium and began to reflect about what God has been doing in my life.
How did you feel that night after Nigeria won the cup?
Yeepa! You needed to see me that day. I ran from where I sat in the stadium straight onto the field to meet the players. In fact, there are some pictures in circulation where I was holding the medals with the likes of Mikel Obi. I was like, ‘Yeah, we are on top of the world’.
But why have you not really been pushing this song just like Oliver Twist?
You are making me feel as if the song hasn’t been released at all. But the truth is that the song was actually released for the African Cup of Nations. It will surely be in my new album, but some parts will not be there, especially those parts that were added for the tournament. Since February, a lot of my songs have been released, but Top of the World and its video will surely follow. Just the same way Nigerians have been positive about it, I believe the whole world will feel this song and it will be given the push it requires.
How far have you gone on your proposed collaboration with British singer, Rita Ora?
My brother, there are so many things happening now and you just have to cross your fingers because I am in the big league now.
Oh my God! Yes, I feel like a big boy. But truly, I felt like a new artiste because with the position that we are in now, we have a door opened for us to present what we have to the rest of the world. Just like the Jamaicans. Thankfully, we have culture and respect that speak for us. We just have to tap into it now that the door has been opened. All African artistes have to look at how to tap into the opportunity to appeal to the world, especially the Western world. The bulk of the sales comes from there.
Did you expect this phenomenal growth?
Never. Honestly, some things happen to you and you can’t really tell why they happened. But I believe everything is for a reason. To me, I believe in the saying: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ All these things are for a particular purpose. After all, I am not the best singer or the best looking guy. But I believe I don’t move alone. God is deeply involved in my situation. In South Africa, I was asked by some journalists on what we Nigerians are doing that the rest are not. And I said it is all for the fact that our people have just woken up to reality.
How far has D’Banj gone on all his popular Koko-branded businesses?
All these brands are still on. Everything from the Koko Mansion reality show to Koko Mobile is there. There is a saying that you can never go wrong with food. That is what necessitated the coming of Koko Garri. While we were in South Africa, it was Koko Garri that we were drinking. The garri is now being sold in five African countries and in so many universities. I remember walking into some stores in London and not finding real garri Ijebu. Most shops that sell the fairly good garri are owned by the Lebanese. You can imagine having garri like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. It would sell in all these stores like Tesco and Sainsbury’s. That is my plan for Koko Garri and it is still very much in view. For the Koko Mobile, we only produced limited samples to test the market and we got a great review and feedback from the people who used it. The whole consignment we brought was completely exhausted that I don’t even have single handset with me now. It is just a matter of time. Recently, I was approached by some people to do the new series of Koko Mansion. Everything about the Koko brand is still on. And again, I must tell you that we are not in this business for quick returns.
How much would you say D’Banj is worth now?
Oshee! I can tell you that Eja nla (big fish) is comfortable. But sincerely, I don’t know how much I am worth because I have not really taken my time to check. In fact, I don’t even want to check so that it won’t get into my head. But I must confess to you that God is really involved in my life right now.
Many see you as having the potential to be as big as Fela. How much has Fela influenced you?
You want to hear the truth?
I am not influenced by Fela but he is everything to me as well as to a lot of other people. Recently, I watched a documentary on Fela and heard him saying “Music is spiritual; if you misuse it you die young.” I paused and was a bit scared. Misuse music and die young? I became totally afraid hearing that from someone like Fela. He was like a divinity and I said to myself: ‘I hope I am not misusing this talent because I don’t want to die young.’ Honestly, I shiver when people try to compare me with Fela. You can’t just compare me with him. What I heard of Fela was that he would tear a promoter’s money and tell him to go bring what he would pay the likes of Michael Jackson. He didn’t take crap and was highly spiritual. But here is little me still running after the likes of Kanye West and Snoop Dogg and some people are comparing me with Fela. E joo, e fimisile (Please, let me be). I am just D’Banj.
When are you going to get married and have kids?
To tell you the truth, I would have been married if Mo’Hits had not broken up. The crisis really affected me and I had to start so many things afresh. Just like my mentor 2Face Idibia, I will be married and have my own kids one day.