Read the full interview on SheenMagazine.com!
KDDO has a a lot of things to celebrate, but producing and songwriting Chris Brown’s #1 hit “Under The Influence” in its entirety is definitely at the top of the list. Hailing from Lagos, Nigeria, but now calling sunny Los Angeles home, KDDO is a producer, DJ, songwriter, and recording artist, someone who has his pulse on the culture when it comes to all things Afrobeat.
In 2017, Davido released his viral smash “Fall,” produced by KDDO. The Platinum-selling song served as Nigeria’s longest-charting pop song in Billboard history, with the music video boasting over 250 million views on Youtube and counting. Years later, KDDO became the first Afrobeats producer to be certified by the RIAA, after “Fall” became certified Gold in the United States.
KDDO is short for Kiddominant, an anime character he made in high school. In describing himself, KDDO states, “I’m just a Nigerian guy from West Africa, out here in the west of the world making music. Put my art out there, representing my culture, my peoples.”
And now, he’s bringing that same energy into the realm of R&B. KDDO was also recently listed as #2 in Billboard’s list of R&B producers.
Sheen spoke with KDDO in downtown Los Angeles, about his roots in Lagos, coming to the States, how “Under The Influence” came to be, relationship with Davido and Wizkid, and more!
Talk about being from Lagos, what was that like growing up?
I always tell people Lagos is like New York on steroids. [laughs] Imagine combining 10 New York’s together, all in one, that’s what Lagos is. Lagos is a really tough place. It’s a really fast place, super fast. Anybody who’s lived in Lagos, has been to Lagos will tell you that. Growing up there really molded me, molded my business side of everything. My music, my art. My vision, my strength, all that stuff. Because really, the competition back home is crazy. If you can make it out of there, you can really make it anywhere.
How’d you get into producing?
I was really born into music, because my dad loved music so much. He used to vibe with his friends at the house on weekends. We had a section in my house where he put music instruments, his friends came over on weekends and we just played music. As a kid, I used to see that. I remember I was trying to play music. I was always trying to play piano right after they’re done with their jam sessions, that’s how I really got into it. After a while, I started DJing when I was 14.
Do you still DJ or no?
You know what, I just got back into it now. Now I’m trying to do a little house DJing, Afrotech and stuff like that. I got into music heavily through DJing. From DJing I started producing, because I wanted to be a rapper too. [laughs] I needed some beats.
I feel like all producers start out rapping.
Yeah, I didn’t only rap. I was a rapper, I was a singer, I was a DJ. I felt like everything made sense. From DJ to producer, you get a combination of everything. I just chased that.
When did you come to LA?
I came to LA 3 years ago. I used to always come to LA for BET weekends, Grammy weekends. I’ll fly in from Nigeria, 14 to 17 hour flights just to come people on the red carpet. [laughs] I’d be at the Marriott hotel in downtown, we’d be in the lobby chair. Anybody we see, we try to take pictures. Just chopping it up with them, shit like that. After a while, I said you know what? There’s one trip I came from South Africa, that day I said guess what? I’m not going back. [laughs] I stayed here, my homie went back to Africa. I stayed here like fuck it, I’m here. I’ve been chasing it since then.
“Under the Influence” is your first big placement. How does it feel?
Shit, I’m ready for more. Let’s go.
We definitely want to talk about how that happened.
I was working on Davido’s album here in LA, 3 years ago. While we’re working on Davido’s album, Chris and Davido wanted to make a song. We were in a session for Chris and Davido’s song, right? While we’re working on that, Chris told me, “Yo, do you have any other vibes for me, outside the Afrobeat stuff? Even if it’s Afrobeat, do you have any stuff?”
You know what, let me look at my catalog. I pulled up my laptop, I was looking at all the songs I had at that point. One of the songs I just wrote and produced was “Under the Influence.” At that time, it was called “Robitussin” on my laptop. Okay, let me play this one. I think Chris would like this one. As soon as I played it, Chris went crazy. He’s jumping like “Yo, this shit is nuts!” We had an Airbnb, we were there 4 days. Chris would be playing my demo around the house every day. We just liked it, we loved the record. After a while, we recorded it and then boom.
Talk about the song coming out years ago, and it’s now just picking up?
For me, I always trust what I make. I always tell some artists when I work with them: I’m almost sure that the only thing that can stand between whatever art I give to you — as long as I believe in it, the only thing that can stop it from really achieving what it’s supposed to achieve if you don’t put effort in by promoting it.
When we did that record, it was obviously an album song. Not even, it was a deluxe album song. That’s a big part of why it took so long because it was hidden in a deluxe album, not even an album. It took time for people to find it and share it. Singles get all the attention. When you have songs like that, it takes time.
You made Afrobeat your whole life, but this is your first R&B song? And it went #1!
I’m from Lagos, Nigeria, what we make there is Afrobeats 24/7. People have tried new genres, but the ecosystem there really serves Afrobeats more than anything. Maybe Amapiano now, but it’s a very strong Afrobeat environment. If you’re there, you don’t really want to make R&B music or other genres because nobody’s gonna listen to it. [laughs] For me, from the jump I’ve always never tried to be a part of the grid. I always like to step outside the box.
Sometimes I’ll create shit that has nothing to do with Africans. Sometimes I want to dancehall record, sometimes I want to create Amapiano. It’s an African genre. But this time around, I wanted to make R&B and dancehall. A lot of stuff I’m making right now is R&B and pop type stuff with the influence of Afrobeats, which of course is my background. That’s what happened: I tried to create something outside my box and that was an R&B record.
Because you’re not just producing, you’re writing it too.
I’ll give you a quick story of how I wrote that song. I was supposed to fly from Lagos, Nigeria to LA for a video shoot. These travel agents had scammed me. Remember I told you Lagos is New York on steroids? Literally scammed me $6K, first class tickets. I go in the plane and they took my bag open, took everything off. They said, “Yo, your agent took your bag off your flight.” What the fuck’s going on? I’m gonna miss my video shoot, miss everything I was supposed to do in LA.
I called my agent like “yo where you at?” He stopped taking my calls, so I ended up missing my flight. I knew I had to find this guy. The next morning, we ran into him at the airport and made him pay me back.
How did you find him?
This is Lagos. We’re Lagos. [laughs] I bought a new ticket to go on the flight. The fastest ticket to the States was Houston, so I went straight to Houston. When I got to Houston, I met up with some of my homies. They have this Airbnb with recording equipment in there. I said yo, let me catch a vibe and make an R&B song. I left the Afrobeat space, let me make something American, then boom.
First the chorus came, then I started putting the lyrics together. I literally created the whole song in 15 to 20 minutes. I’m telling you, my friends were going crazy. [laughs] The crazy hing is when I made that record, the only person that I wanted to sing this song, to cut this record is Chris Brown. I hadn’t met Chris Brown then, I didn’t know I was going to meet him. It just so happened we met. A lot of people wanted the record, but Chris Brown was the right person for the record.
What’s your relationship with Davido?
Davido’s my brother. From back home, since 2015 we’ve made music together. He’s really one of the artists I work with the closest. We did a whole transition from Africa to the global stage together. We did “Fall,” a lot of songs back home. When it comes to African music, that’s my #1 artist I work with.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
I need my shades. [laughs] You can judge me for that, but it’s this thing when I stare at the screen too much. I like to have my shades on, you just stay active. I need my Star Beer USA. Shit, just good vibes around. I need some good people around, good energy.
Talk about linking with Wizkid and how that happened.
That’s my brother! That’s my blood, we’ve known each other for a long time. We’re all from Nigeria. Anytime we’re in the same city, we’ll link up, chop it up, create music. We have a song together called “Alright,” go check it out. We’re working on so much crazy shit right now, that I can’t even talk about. Some crazy shit, you gotta stay tuned.
What’re you excited for next?
It’s a lot of things in motion right now, especially with the success with “Under the Influence.” It’s been a blessing to me. For the most part, I’m diving deep in my R&B bag. It’s interesting for me. I’ve done Afrobeats for a long time and for me, this is a new challenge. That’s really what I’m focused on now: redefine R&B. People say that R&B is dead, I don’t believe that. We just need to give it a new definition. Reimagine it and create it, that’s really what I’m doing. I really want to work a lot with R&B/pop artists. Outside that, I’m back in my DJing bag. On the weekends, I want to be DJing the house music and Afrotech. Just moving around with the music and having fun with it.
Is there something fans may not know about you?
I’m a businessman. A lot of people don’t know that. If you really know me, you know. But if you don’t know me, I’m 50% music, 50% business. 100% on both sides. [laughs]
Anything else you want to let us know?
I’m here, I’m outside in America. Ready to make some crazy music. My mission is to give the world a new sound. Change the airwaves, control the culture. That’s the mode I’m in right now. I really want to create some crazy amazing music with dope people. Holla at me.
Photo Credits: LEGION