By Steve Dede
D’banj’s 2011 smash hit ‘Oliver Twist’ is arguably his biggest song. The strength of the character behind the song, Oliver Twist, who is famed for ‘wanting more’, is also one of D’banj’s biggest strengths. His thirst for more has propelled him to the top echelon of the Nigerian music industry.
Over the course of his career, his ability to adopt new sounds without deviating from his persona has been nothing short of amazing, and has no doubt become the bedrock of the longevity of his career. It’s undeniable that he has polished his artistry with every project.
It has been ten years since Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo, popularly known as D’banj, first appeared on our TV screens and boomed out of our radios with an impressive swagger and pomp that lit up the young pop scene in the Nigerian music industry.
In this report, we examine his strides in that period.
2004: The birth of the Koko Master
Fresh from London, D’banj and his producer and friend, Don Jazzy, broke into the Nigerian music scene with the single ‘Tongolo‘. It was a surprisingly good piece of work from a new and relatively unknown artiste.
2005: ‘No Long Thing’
His debut album No Long Thing earned him ‘Best Newcomer’ award at the 2006 Channel O Music Video Awards.
The album featured hit singles like ‘Tongolo’, which was released in 2004, ‘Socor‘, and ‘Mobolowowon‘.
2006: ‘Why me’
After the release of D’banj sophomore album Run Down: Funk U Up, it became clear that he was not just a flash in the pan.
The Don Jazzy-produced album had massive hits like ‘Why me‘, ‘Tongolo Remix’ ‘Run Down‘ and ‘Loke‘.
D’banj’s performance at the maiden edition of the Hip-hop World Awards in 2006 sealed his A-list status in the Nigerian music industry. Clad in just a towel, his eccentric entrance to the Hip-hop World Awards stage in the Shell Hall of the MUSON Centre, Lagos, marked the beginning of stardom for the singer.
2007: Birth of Mo’Hits Empire
After two great albums, D’banj and Don Jazzy launched what was to become the biggest music group in Africa.
With Dr Sid, Wande Coal, D’Prince and K-Switch signed on, the record label released its debut and only compilation album Curriculum Vitae to commercial success.
Hit singles like ‘Pere‘, ‘Move your body‘, ‘Ten Ten‘, ‘Booty Call‘ and ‘Ololufe‘ all became national hits.
2008: The Entertainer
D’banj was becoming the face of the Nigerian music industry but he still had his doubters. Like critics and ‘haters’ will rightly point out, he is not the best singer from Nigeria. If you weigh him on a scale of vocal abilities, he is a featherweight. He is definitely not the best songwriter of his generation and even dancing is not his forte. So, what endeared him to us?
With his third and last studio album The Entertainer, D’banj made one thing clear: he is a well-rounded entertainer.
His stage performance is a brilliant combo of artistry and antics. D’banj has his humour, his harmonica and his creative rascality that galvanises audiences into frenzy. To top that, he creates good music.
Yet people argued: ‘There is good music and there is great music,’ they said. And it is true. The former is timely while the latter is timeless. In many years to come, 2face‘s ‘African Queen’ will still be rare and refreshing; Darey’s ‘Not The Girl’ will continue to get listening ears; and Asa‘s ’60’s soul-based ‘Be My Man’ will still be golden.
D’banj’s songs are not in that calibre. One thing however works for him – he steals the moment, then dashes off to catch up with the future.
‘The Entertainer’ contained hit songs like ‘Gbono Feli Feli‘, ‘Suddenly‘, ‘Fall in Love‘ and ‘Igwe‘ and with it, he truly stole the moment.
2009: Business man
Although No Long Thing and Run Down Fuck U Up’ set him on this path, The Entertainer was the album that finally propelled D’banj into the position as Afro Beats’ Fela-figure, a friend to the President, and a businessman.
Musically, it was a quiet year by D’banj’s standards but he still managed to storm the airwaves with another smash single, ‘Scape Goat‘.
2010: Mr Endowed
Overseeing the album release of his protégée, Wande Coal, and the planning of several business ventures, D’banj was busy on other fronts.
As a trendsetter, his influence on the youth was also recognised by then acting president, Goodluck Jonathan. D’banj campaigned for him and even remixed his 2009 single ‘Scape Goat’ to a Goodluck Jonathan presidential campaign song.
2011: Oliver Twist
He was signed to G.O.O.D Music along with his friend and producer Don Jazzy. What followed was the release of a track that became D’banj’s biggest song, ‘Oliver Twist’. The song peaked at number 9 on the UK iTunes chart and got A-list rotations on UK’s top radio stations.
An international music deal, an international top charting single, and D’banj was on course to become a world star.
2012: The fall of an empire and the rise of another
He was already the biggest music act in Nigeria and Africa, but he was ready to abandon all that in his quest for worldwide fame. Many questioned his desire, many were scared that he was going to lose it all while trying to get more, but D’banj didn’t care.
His producer and friend cared and that caused the rift that culminated in the fall of the Mo’Hits Empire. Not to be deterred, D’banj set out alone to his desired destination. He set up his own record label DB Records, signing his brother K Switch.
2013: Lone ranger
Running his music, business and record label alone, D’banj was relentless in his desire to be become a world renowned star.
Under the DB Records/G.O.O.D Music/Sony Music, D’banj released his first music project without Don Jazzy.
The DB Records compilation album, The Kings Men, was nothing extra-ordinary. He was D’banj, he had changed the face of the Nigerian music scene, but he seemed to be becoming a spent force.
2014: Back home?
Just few weeks ago, D’banj sparked reports that he had quit G.OO.D Music when he deleted the Kanye West-led record label from his Twitter biography. Though his manager has reportedly come out to dispel those rumours, recent innuendos have suggested that ‘The Koko Master’ has abandoned his quest for worldwide domination and is back home to reclaim the industry which has been taken over by young acts like Wizkid, Davido and Olamide.
So much was expected from him when he signed the deal with Kanye West. Music stars from the UK, Jamiaca, Spain, and the Caribbean have all been able to make a successful cross over into mainstream America. D’banj took it upon himself to champion the course of the Nigerian Music industry on this course but it weighed him down.
He lost his crown and his industry to young acts that were springing up by the day and he seems to have failed in his quest to conquer America. His impact was not felt in America or in G.O.O.D Music.
Apart from a cameo appearance in the video for ‘Mercy‘ and a 12-second stint on ‘The Morning‘, a song off the 2012 G.O.O.D Music compilation album Cruel Summer, D’banj never made any impactful record with the Kanye West-led music group.
With his manager refuting reports that D’banj has left G.O.O.D Music, who knows what the Koko Master has up his sleeve again?
His greatest moments usually come when he has been written off. Many have done that again, and now we wait for another rising.
No Long thing –2005
Curriculum Vitae (Mo’Hits Compilation album) -2007
RunDown Funk u Up -2006
The Entertainer -2008
D’Kings Men -2013
Run Down (Funk u Up) -2005
Why Me -2006
Tongolo Remix -2007
Fall in Love -2008
Scape Goat -2009
Mr. Endowed Remix -2010
Oliver Twist -2011
For Example -2013
Top of the World -2013
Bother You -2014
Women he has been linked with
Most Promising Male Artist; KORA All African Awards -2005
Best Newcomer; Channel O Music Video Awards -2006
Hio Hop World Revelation; Hiphop World Awards -2006
Artiste of the Year; Nigerian Music Awards -2006
Best African Act; MTV Europe Music Awards -2007
Hottest Single of the Year ‘Why Me’; Nigeria Entertainment Awards-2007
Best Special Effects ‘Why Me’; Channel O Music Video Awards -2007
Artiste of the Year; MTV Africa Music Awards -2008
Best Male; MTV Africa Music Awards -2008
Listeners Choice; MTV Africa Music Awards -2008
Artiste of the Year; MTV Africa Music Awards -2009
Best International Act Africa; BET Awards -2011
Best African Act; MOBO Awards -2012
Virgin colour soft drinks
His different names
Snoop Dogg – Mr. Endowed & Blame it on the Money
Kanye West – Koko Concert London & Scape Goat Remix
Pusha T – Koko Concert Lagos
Big Sean – Koko Concert Lagos & Blame it on the Money
Fally Ipupa – We the Best & DKM Concert Lagos
2Chainz -DKM Concert Lagos
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