Can you hear it? It’s coming from the garden, from the streets, from the basement, from the atmosphere? It’s all around us: the definitive global domination of Afrobeats. And Davido, The King of Afrobeats—a nickname that was given to him by the masses all around the world—is its prophet. The international popstar is best known for his fusion of West African beats and modern day production, bridging the gap between Africa and a cluster of global capitals.
When it comes to creating timeless hits, no one does it like Davido. From 2016’s “If” to 2017’s “Fall” to last year’s “Jowo,” Davido brings an unmatched energy and vibe that listeners can’t help but gravitate towards, allowing you to escape in his world of feel-good anthems that remind you to live life to the fullest and enjoy the simple things.
To date, he serves as the most streamed artist to come out of Africa, breaking YouTube’s record for most streamed video from any Nigerian artist. Boasting over 25 million followers on social media platforms, Davido is the first Nigerian to take home the “Rest of Africa” award at the South African Music Awards for his album A Good Time.
The follow up to the smashingly successful project arrived last year during quarantine, aptly titled A Better Time, which hit over 100 million streams in just three days across all streaming platforms following its release. The skyrocketing reach of this sound once again reminds you that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and the album showcased his versatility and capabilities in reeling in the hottest stars in hip-hop, including Chris Brown, Young Thug, Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby, Hit-Boy, and Nas.
Beyond the music, Davido entered the film world playing himself in Amazon’s critically-acclaimed film Coming 2 America. With his enormous platform, real name David Adedeji Adeleke also plays his part in giving back to his community, a global activist campaigning for police reform to #EndSars and police brutality. His new single “FEM” even became the Nigerian youth anthem at protests in Lagos. What most people may not know is Davido is actually from Atlanta, Georgia, hopping on a quick 9-hour flight back and forth between the A and Lagos, Nigeria—where much of the Afrobeats movement calls home.
At only 28 years old, Davido continues to reach new heights in his decade-long career, accumulating over one billion global streams and over 400 million views on Youtube—and let’s not forget his endless accolades and awards: MOBO for Best African Act, the MTV EMA for Best International Act, BBC Headies 2018 Artiste of the Year, Best Pop Single, and Song of the Year, two MTV Africa Music Awards, a 2014 BET Award for Best African Act, and two Nigerian Teen Choice Awards for Top Featured Artist and Choice Male Artist.
Flaunt caught up with Davido via Zoom, who was located in Atlanta where his family and daughter reside. Read below as we discuss his career, being the most streamed artist out of Africa, creating “Fall,” crafting A Better Time during the pandemic, collaborating with other musical superstars, his recording process, fatherhood, acting in Coming 2 America, his love for hip-hop, and a whole lot more!
Why are you The King of Afrobeats?
Over time we’ve been working hard, delivering hits, really pushing the culture to the Western world. I remember, in 2015, when I first signed my deal, African music wasn’t really accepted. I remember being in the room telling them, ‘Yo, this genre’s going to be hot! It’s the next thing coming.’ They looked at me like I was crazy. Five years later, it’s one of the biggest genres in the world. Not only me, but my colleagues, even my other Nigerian artists pushing it before me, from D’Banj to 2Face to P Square, before I came into the picture. My generation—we’re doing the work now. The same way the people before my generation worked for us to prosper like this, is the same way we’re working for the next generation to even do bigger things.
One decade later, how does it feel to be the most streamed artist out of Africa?
It’s crazy! These things happen when you’re not longing for it. I’m doing music because I love it. It’s something I love. It’s not something I’m doing to be in competition with nobody. It’s not something I’m doing for money. I started doing it because I loved it. When you’re doing a job with a clean heart, with no bad motives, you’ll prosper in whatever you’re doing. I have a great team around me, I have great fans. I have a great country that supports me, a great continent of Africa that supports me. It’s a collection of a lot of things, I’m definitely not doing it alone. The fans, my family that supports me. I have amazing producers, amazing artists under me, amazing songwriters. It’s a collective effort, it’s not just me.
‘Fall’ is such a vibe. What memories do you have tied to this record?
I actually made this record upstairs in this house. Funny enough, we were just having fun. We already had ‘If’—‘If’ was already going crazy. We’re at a point like ‘damn, what’s next?’ We got this big ass record. If you get a worldwide hit, the second record is either gonna make or break you. For ‘Fall’ to come second and be bigger than ‘If,’ we never even imagined that. Because we’re chillin’ making a record. It wasn’t ‘oh, we gotta make a hit! We did it with ‘If’, we gotta do it with ‘Fall’ again.’ It wasn’t like that. We go in the studio and vibe, and that one came out.
How easy it is for you to make hit records, though?
I mean, it’s amazing. Over the time, I’ve perfected my craft and understood the rules of hit-making. I’m very good at arranging songs, I’m very good at that. I know how to arrange songs, I know how to make hits. Not only for me, but for other people, too. If any artist brings me their album, I can tell them, ‘Yo this one’s gonna be big, that one’s gonna be big.’ I literally never miss.
Do you A&R all your own music too?
Yes, I do. I also got people around. I got friends, family that be in the studio with me. They say, ‘Yo, this, that one!’ People around you to tell you too, when you see everyone reacting to the song.
A Better Time hit 100 million streams in three days. How was it recording this project at home? I know you haven’t recorded an album at home since 2011/2012.
We were in a pandemic—obviously Corona hit. There were no plans to drop the album because I was on tour. I was still touring off of A Good Time album, then Corona hit. I went back to the studio because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody was at home focused, so we went back to the studio, and started recording a lot. Before you know, we had 50 songs. Yo, we gotta put this out. That’s how that album came—a quarantine album I call it.
How was it A Better Time? What did that mean for people during the pandemic?
Really because we was having a good time on tour and everything, I said ‘Yo, A Better Time!’ It was weird because we weren’t in a better time at that time. It was Corona, but it was something to look forward to. A Better Time is coming, that’s why I called it a better time. Right now things are starting to open up, and it’s looking like we’re about to go back on the road.
How excited are you? Have you performed?
I’m excited man! I’m excited. That’s one part of the job I love: performing, touring. Things are opening up bit by bit, so we gon’ see.
You sell out arenas—what’s your favorite song to perform in a set?
I like performing all my songs, but I like performing this one song I got called ‘Dami Duro.’ It’s one of my first records. The energy in that song, it wakes up the crowd every time. That song is damn near nine years old, and it’s still going crazy.
You have crazy features—how was it collaborating with Nicki Minaj on ‘Holy Ground’?
Crazy man! I never met her before too. It’s crazy, I DM’d her and she replied like, ‘Yo, let’s do it!’ I sent the song and she sent it back. We couldn’t meet because I was in Nigeria and she was on the way to LA, then she had a child. I appreciate her for that verse. People love it, I love it. I’m sure we’ll do some more work.
Is that how typically your features and collaborations go? You hit them up and they’re down?
That’s one example, but that’s not how I met a lot of other people. Either I met them through people or like Nas, I met Nas by the bathroom. Chopped it up by the bathroom in LA, in the studio. He’s in another room, I was in another room. I had to go use the bathroom and I saw him.
How was it working with such a legendary hip-hop artist?
It’s crazy. That’s not my generation of rap music, but, of course, I know he’s a legend. My older brother, I remember, when he used to drop me off in school, he was always playing Nas. Always played Nas. He was excited when I told him, ‘Yo bro, I got a song with Nas.’ He said, ‘Yo that’s crazy!’
How did the Lil Baby record come about?
Just being from Atlanta and being out there. He actually came to Nigeria for a show—we had linked up then. We’re chillin’ in the studio, smoking weed, regular shit. Drinking and having fun. It’s always a vibe over there. When I’m making music, I don’t want to go there forced like, ‘Yo we gotta record today! We gotta make a hit today.’ Let’s get into the studio and vibe. Sometimes we’ll be in the studio and don’t record nothing, just vibing. It happens.
Three things you need in the studio at all times?
Really the studio is it. Sometimes I don’t want to drink, I want to record. Sometimes I need to drink, it depends. I don’t think there’s anything that’s 100% necessary for me to record. As long as the music’s there and the equipment’s there, we’re good.
Do you do freestyle or do you write? What’s your recording process like?
It depends on different songs, depends on what it is. Sometimes I have the beat prior, sometimes you do it there. Sometimes I have my producer write down an idea and I finish it up. It all depends.
What does it mean to have your baby on the cover art for A Better Time?
It’s crazy, my first son. All my covers, I want it to be legendary. Even when he’s 30 or 50 years old, he can always look back and see that.
It’s crazy! It’s amazing, the best thing in the world. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve got two daughters and a son: a 3-year old, a 5-year old and a one-year-old.
Do they know that daddy’s a superstar?
My oldest daughter knows. My second daughter kind of knows, she’s 3. But my son don’t know nothing. [laughs]
How was it acting as yourself in Coming 2 America?
That was crazy, an amazing experience. I didn’t believe it. Honestly, I didn’t believe I was gonna be in that movie until I watched it. It was surreal, I’m like, ‘No way, this is crazy.’ It happened so fast. Had a meeting, you’re on set tomorrow type shit. I remember going to the set being next to my manager like, ‘You sure this is for Coming 2 America?’ I’m on set, I look behind, and I see Eddie Murphy. What?! This ain’t real! [laughs]
What were the conversations like?
They were happy I was there. ‘What you mean?! I’m happy I’m here!’ It was amazing to see the respect they gave to the African artists—they don’t treat us no different anymore. The same respect you give to Justin Bieber, you give to Davido. That’s amazing to see. These days, ‘Yo bro, you’re huge!’ I love hearing that.
What keeps you humble in those moments?
When you see people like Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Drake, what they have achieved, they still manage to humble themselves and be regular. I was with Drake the other day in Houston. I’m talking to him—it’s crazy how all this success, and he can still be level-minded. For me, who am I to get some success and think I want to wild out? That humbles me a lot.
How was it kicking it with Drake?
Yeah man, it was crazy. The first time we really linked up. It was amazing man, he treated us like family. Partied all weekend. He’s an amazing, amazing dude.
Wait, so are we gonna get on record?
Let’s see. [laughs]
Talk about also releasing ‘FEM’ in 2020 and what it did for the #EndSARS movement.
It felt good to be part of something. It was used as an instrument rather than, ‘Let’s play music and enjoy it.’ I really didn’t make that song for that purpose, but for it to turn into that and to know I was a part of that was an amazing feeling. No doubt.
Being someone with a huge platform, how can you continue to push for change?
I’m a musician, just keep giving out good music, feel-good music. Also empowering other young artists. I have young artists under me. Your legacy is really what you leave behind, the truth you leave behind. Empowering and putting on other young artists and producers, that’s what I’m mainly here for.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I’m really urban. I really dress like a rapper. [laughs] If people didn’t hear my music, they probably would think I’m a rapper. Reason being because I was always into that. I was into hip-hop first, into rap first. I was a big hip-hop head back in the day before falling in love with African music.
Who were you bumping coming up?
50 Cent, Ja Rule, I was a huge G-Unit fan. A huge G-Unit fan. I had the game, I had the sneakers, I had everything.
Talk about your chain you have on.
It’s a little something, a little everyday necklace I be wearing. Nothing crazy. It says seven, and it says baddest.That’s my lucky number, and they call me the baddest. It’s a soccer jersey.
How was it performing on Jimmy Kimmel?
Shout out to Jimmy Kimmel, it was amazing. Performing ‘Jowo’—all of the tracks off ABT. It was amazing to see and to be given that platform. I grew up watching Jimmy Kimmel.
Were you nervous at all?
Nervous? Nah c’mon. No way!
Any goals for yourself at this point of your career?
Keep pushing the culture. Keep doing what I’m doing. No real goals, just success.
What’re you most excited for this year?
I’m excited for everything to open back up so I can go back on the road. I’m working on my next record already. I’m not sure if it’s going to come this year or early next year, but the summer’s going to be hot. Someone’s home, yeah. Festivals, shows, I got some records coming out soon. It’ll be quite lit.
Anything else you want to let the people know?
Keep supporting the brand, the music. I appreciate all the fans out there pushing the culture and loving us for who we are. I really really appreciate that. Don’t stop supporting, because it’s all the way up from here.