Celebrating his tenth year in the music industry, GOOD Music Afrobeats chief D’Banj [born Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo] will follow up Top 10 smash hit Oliver Twist with his new single Bother You. Able to count Idris Elba and Tinie Tempah as fans and already labelled ‘Africa’s first musical Superstar,’ the Koko Master himself spoke to SB.TV about his new love song, getting married in secret and
not coping with Kanye West–type fame…
You recently changed your Twitter bio, and upon doing so you ignited a huge wave of speculation that you had packed up and left Kanye West’s GOOD Music imprint. Your manager has already denied this but for the record you’re still affiliated with GOOD right?
I don’t really read all those kinds of things, all those rumours. I’ll just let the work speak for itself whilst everyone is talking. Very soon you’ll all see what is about to happen and when you see you’ll know. I have different record labels across the world, I’m releasing different songs with different labels at different times, I have a partnership with Sony. Kanye and I, we still have our relationship together. We’ll still be doing our music together – so that’s not a problem at all. Work wise – work is still working.
Looking at your new single Bother You, I was told you were inspired to write it whilst watching the movie Half Of A Yellow Sun. Tell me a bit about that…
The movie is not even out, it’s coming out next month – and when you go and watch it, you will understand. The movie is based on the book Half Of A Yellow Sun, it’s written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The whole story is about the Biafran War, and I’d been working on all different kinds of songs for a while and Bother You is a love song that I was already working on with my brother, my team and my producers. When I met with the executive producer of the movie and they showed me the film at a private screening I went, “this is not bad! I think I have [a song] for you.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton were in the film and there was a love story between the two of them and that for me…it was like I had to bother them! [Laughs] I had to bother the whole world, and find out if that kind of love still exists. It made me complete the love song that we were working on when I actually saw it on screen and that’s where the inspiration came from. Having love forever, through the good and the bad is where the Lionel Ritchie All Night Long ‘fiesta forever’ part of the song comes from.
Speaking of love, it didn’t take long for me to discover that large portions of your fan base are rooting for you and Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji to get together. Many want to see you put a ring on it…
Is that true?
People seem to really be behind the idea of you two…
Yeah, is that gonna happen?
Aww, sorry…I don’t think so. I don’t know, [sings Justin Bieber] never say never!
I doubt it. I think it’s just some fantasy that people want, but Genevieve is a great friend and I think she is Africa’s treasure now – we all love and respect her. That’s what I’ve realised among the fans, and so maybe they have the same feelings for me too because I’ve got fans that are crazy like Justin Bieber’s fans, and maybe they want the two of us to be like Jay Z and Beyoncé. I don’t know but for now, I can tell you that the two rings I have [sticks out his hand] are not on anybody.
Mr. Endowed, the Big Fish, the Koko Master – do you think he can settle down and actually be married?
Of course, I wanna hope for Dapo Daniel’s sake…I hope so. I believe so though, I see myself settling down you know in maybe…a couple of years.
Now you’re in a more international spotlight, do you experience any conflict between what is expected of you back home and the choices and supposed freedoms the West has to offer? Like marriage for example, it’s not so much a big thing over here but back home where you’re from, it would be right? Are you experiencing a culture clash, any pressure?
I feel pressure but that was there before I became global, this year is my ten-year anniversary and from the fourth year my Mum has always been disturbing me with marriage and so I’ve been on that for a long time. I believe it is He that wears the shoes, and who tells you how it all fits in. With the exposure that I have, I know that when you find the right one she understands what you’re doing. You never know, I might already be married.
OK, now we’re talking…
I didn’t know R. Kelly was married for like, ages. I’m such a huge R Kelly fan and I remember being flabbergasted when I found out. So I might go that route – who knows? Maybe I’m married now with two kids, just chillin’ and I’ve said to them until you’re older you have to keep quiet – for your sake. But yes, I believe that I will marry.
Can I assume that you’re going to drop your fourth LP this year sometime?
Yeah. It’s coming soon, I’m excited.
I think Afrobeats listeners are anxious to hear your first full album since the split from your long-term collaborator and business partner Don Jazzy…
I still have a bunch of tracks from Don Jazzy that no-one has ever heard before, so I could release them tomorrow and say that he just did them. Holla! [Laughs] I got tracks, I’ve got so many tracks and things. Don Jazzy will probably make the album…maybe one or two tracks – it’s all in our hands.
Where do you and Don Jazzy stand today?
We talk, we’re cool. He’s opening a studio soon, I saw it before I came – like four or five days ago. He invited me down to his studio and I went. It’s a beautiful place, my own studio is going to be beautiful when it eventually opens…
You’re still powering on, looking to further establish yourself and Afrobeats on an international level. Do you think you could cope with the kind of scrutiny people like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian are under? That constant kind of exposure?
Yeah, I believe so. We’re already coping with it in our own way.
You could handle it everywhere you go?
Well that means what you’re asking me is ‘can I be D’banj, the way I’ve been in Nigeria for the last five years – all over the rest of the world?’ I would say yes.
I still say that you never do feel [another’s reality] until you’re wearing another’s shoes. For me, my situation is better than Kanye’s because [if I blew like him] I’d just run to an island [laughs] and if you’re a sharp paparazzo you can catch me there! He’s from America, and so if they need me I can take my private jet and I’ll fly there. The paparazzi wouldn’t even know when I got in, and when I’ve done what I have to do – I’m out…but that’s his home.
You’re unashamedly confident, you favour bespoke suits, you flaunt luxury jewellery and you’re fashion forward. In the first world, over the last few decades Africa hasn’t been represented that way.
Do you realise that you directly contradict, even oppose a lot of the deeper programming people over here – including people of African origin born within the first world – have about the continent? Is showing this side to Africa intentional or are you just being yourself?
At first it was just me being who I am, dressing how I wanted to be addressed. Then when I realised early on how we were seen as Africans I was like ‘oh no, I’ve got to change this.’
Going into the kind of profession that I’m in in Africa, it wasn’t said to be the best. If you say you’re a doctor, engineer or a pilot, they will think you’re being modest even if you’re not really flashy. But back in the day, if you said you were a musician people would say ‘oh he’s here to beg us or play some [mimics playing an instrument] thats something I embraced and then I realised that a lot of people started doing music. First they started wearing glasses and now everyone wears glasses and you’d see all these kinds of things happening, and I was like ‘Wow, this is good.’
I wanted the impression of us to change and so [showing this side of Africa] is something I was just doing at first, and then when I realised it was the right thing to do I began to love it and I’m loving the way you pointed it out because I didn’t even think about it that way.
I know that when I was growing up in London, a few times when you were watching TV and they would show Africa they would put on the advert with a small boy with no pants on and say ‘please donate, if you’ve got £1′ – meanwhile people here are suffering too. Someone just told me a story about how she had to give her McDonalds to someone around here in the West End in the cold. People are suffering everywhere in the world but our suffering is overly focused on and I think it’s time to focus on the positive things – which is why we’re here.
So this year marks the tenth anniversary of you being active in the industry, tell me what the next ten years are going to look like for you? 2024 – take me there, what is D’banj doing? Where is D’banj?
Oh my god, I’ll be forty or forty-two or something. Oh my god, I better be like Arnold Schwarzenegger – maybe like a governor or something! President! I love it! Or maybe a Minister of Entertainment for Africa…something representing on that kind of level.
Recently I spoke to someone who approached me from the ONE organisation – which is Bono‘s organisation – and they spoke to me about what I’ve been doing and they said “look, we’d like you to join us, plant plants with us and champion the movement that we’re doing” and I was like “wow!”
So this year I registered for DO AGRIC, It Pays and the point is to enlighten our people, our generation about the potential we have in our natural resources. We’re focusing on our famine and all the other related sectors and if we do that we can not only get out from poverty but we won’t need to have that tape on the BBC asking, ‘please donate, if you’ve got £1’ instead we’ll be feeding the rest of the world because we have everything there.
What a way to kick off the next ten years, if this is the kind of thing I’m doing in 2014. Right now it’s all about the legacy that you leave behind. Bono will always do music, but for the last 25 years he’s been known for the great things that he has done and so I see myself in that kind of light.
I see the next ten years as time where we’ll be redeveloping the whole continent using music to encourage people, if we can do it in music – where we started with nothing – then what about agriculture, engineering, politics and education? It’s win win for everyone and I think that’s why I’ve been put in this position, to be that vessel and I’m glad – I’M THE MAN!