How do you go from the leading artiste in Africa, to a guy who every loves and rates as a celebrity, but whose music is no longer in demand? How do you tell if a record deal – which at the time signified the greatest aspirational goal of your music career – will become a Trojan Horse?
Let’s not coat it. Kanye West’s GOOD Music ruined D’banj’s career. There, we said it.
2011 was a crucial year for Nigerian music. It was the year when the rulers of pop music made a decision that was to cost them their dominance. D’banj and Don Jazzy, co-owners of Mo’Hits Records had found a way to meet up with Kanye West, where they sold him the Nigerian dream and sound. Kanye did buy it.
“D’Banj travelled to Dubai, at Dubai airport he met Kanye West just like anybody can meet any superstar at the airport.” Don Jazzy said, explaining the root of the end of Mo’Hits.
“He had the courage to go and meet him and introduce himself and that he wants to break into America and that he has done a song with Snoop Dogg and please listen to the song and tell me if it is good. And he understood and he listened to it and he liked it. And he asked us to drop by New York when we were going to LA for the video shoot with Snoop. So when we got to New York, we called them and his manager said we should meet up at Wyclef’s studio and the rest is history.”
The rest simply became history. Mo’Hits became history due to the irreconcilable differences between the business partners. D’banj, ever the opportunist, wanted in on the deal from GOOD Music. Don Jazzy hesitated, and wanted none of it. They argued and split.
D’banj revealed this to Olisa Adibua on his chat show, ‘The Truth: “Maybe Dr Sid? We came back from New York, and we had a meeting with Jazzy. Me and Jazzy. And Jazzy really expressed his discomfort that ‘listen, this place is too expensive. We are spending money, we are going to stay there, things dey happen for Nigeria, we are already bosses here, we don’t need all these…make we just stay here..
“And I’m like ‘we are almost there, like it’s expensive but I know it’s not really guaranteed, because it’s a dog eat dog world out there. And in his own words, ‘you can’t leave certainty for uncertainty,’ which makes sense.
“But I said to him that listen brother this is not uncertainty. For Kanye West to see us is not a joke. He saw us in Dubai, na God. Is it not the same Nigeria that we are doing music that took us there.
“And I asked him that, and he said he didn’t want to go, he didn’t want us to do it again, he said he wasn’t interested. So Jazzy literally said that he wasn’t interested, and I told him, because I had sensed it…before the last concert I had told the lawyers that I felt that it wasn’t…that’s why we had legal papers.
“So they were trying to get him to come around, but I understood totally, which is what I said to you. So when he came back home, he had a meeting and that was in July, and he said he doesn’t want us to do Mo’Hits again. That he doesn’t want us to do Mo’Hits again. And I said to him, ‘Please give me 6 months’.
“So I told him to give me 6 months, that he should please just…for me I was even trying to sell my shares, to convince him again, to sell my shares to someone else, take the money, go abroad and try. To do anything I could, because I had seen that it wasn’t working, and him and Sid had formed this synergy. It was very clear the way…I could see it. He wasn’t very comfortable around me, I didn’t understand what was happening, and me I didn’t…everybody knows that I don’t have time. I was always on the move.
“I wasn’t always on ground to see, and I think that was my mistake – I wasn’t sensitive enough to have noticed. And prior to that, if I felt anything, just as you would do as a boss, you should do whatever needed to be done. So I told him to give me 6 months. I remember December, Iwe had a meeting, and everybody was there, and Don Jazzy also said the same thing which was after 6 months. That was December 2011, and he said, that he had thought about it, and he wasn’t interested. In fact, not just me, that this one wasn’t interested (pointing to others).
“I was heartbroken, I think Kayswitch was with them, it was one voice, and I felt like…what’s happening here? And that’s where I started hearing few things that people just felt that they were not comfortable with me.”
The end of Mo’Hits, signaled the music end for D’banj. He was signed to GOOD Music, and Kanye West gave him his blessings, his chain, a remix of ‘Scapegoat’, and hummed his way into ‘The Morning’. Cosigns by other artistes helped make the charade continue, but the facts remained clear,; D’banj did not release any solo project under good music.
D’banj lost Don Jazzy, lost Mo’Hits Records, and lost his momentum. ‘Oliver Twist’ ( a Don Jazzy production), kept him alive musically, and so did the 2013 album, “D Kings Men”. But ultimately, the damage was done. He has never recovered.
Ever since his split with Don Jazzy in 2011, there’s been a steady decline of D’banj’s musical powers, even though his celebrity went the other way. Each year brings another D’banj power move and endorsement deal, but the quality of the music takes a hit. 2013’s compilation album “D King’s Men” was a fantastic project which still stands as his best DB Records body of work, but it failed to catch on, with many attributing it to the lack of love from core fans who still blame him for splitting the indomitable Mo’Hits Records.
But subsequent singles have found plenty of marketing yield little fruits, and the dissent from critics and listeners have always been felt. A few bright spots have made his case salvageable; ‘Top of the world’, ‘Feeling the nigga’ and 2016’s ‘Emergency’ have still kept his case for music credibility alive, but he manages to find new ways to come up with less-inspired sounds.
2016 has had his record label undergo severe changes, and almost fallen apart. His producer DeeVee split from the group, so also did his joker, Tonto Dikeh, who is seeking fulfilment from motherhood and other familial concerns. His other signees, 2kriss, have been without buzz nor content.
But he is coming through with two new singles for an album. And you begin to wonder if he still has enough juice left in the tank to push through another album release. This year marks his 11 year in the music industry. Three studio albums, two compilation albums, and an EP is a good run for the Nigerian music industry, but he intends to change that number with another project.
The singer’s album will be purportedly be dropping before the end of the year, and plans are already underway to commence the rollout of singles, and other promotional materials. With a bashed musical credibility, and a fanbase that pretty much has very little contemporary reason to follow the new music, only time and the content of his album will be determinants on if there’s enough left in D’banj for another D’banj album.
Without GOOD Music, chances are that the story would have been different. Maybe the split with Don Jazzy would have stilled happened, but for other reasons. GOOD Music hastened it, and took away from D’banj, more than it offered.