Wednesday 23 May 2012


I used to love D’banj with a passion. Why? Because I love his swagger. Since I met him in 2005, I’ve always believed he is a star in the real sense of the word. I met D’banj by chance. It was at the maiden edition of Excellence Recognition Awards which held at Etal Hotels and Halls, Oregun, Lagos.

I had worked out all those that would perform. One of them was to be rave of the moment at the time, 2face Idibia who had just released in the preceding year, his monstrous hit ‘African queen’. Another artiste was to be ‘Ikebe’ exponent, Sunny Nneji.

About two hours to the show, I got a call from Percy Ademokun, K1 the Ultimate’s manager. He said there was this artiste who used to be with JJC in London and who had just released ‘Tongolo’. He appealed that I should allow him to sing just a song at the event.

I don’t like bringing in artistes at the last minute, it affects my plans. And I can be rigid about it but Percy is my person and saying no is not possible. So I said let him come. That artiste is D’banj and he came with Don Jazzy. The show ran and I was looking for a way to bring him in. Luckily, Sunny Nneji came late and I had to fill his slot. I told D’banj to come to the backstage. I then asked him to go on stage and show us what he’s got.

I had never met D’banj before then and I was not conversant with his songs. So I was surprised when he went on stage and turned the whole place upside down. I was impressed. I fell in love with him ever since and at a point we became quite close.

When he won MOBO Awards, he did a party at Planet 1 and he invited Dele Momodu and I as special guests. He later performed in some of my events.

It was my quest for him to perform at one of our events that first caused misunderstanding between us. He was to perform at our event but I learnt he was to be in Abuja at a Silverbird event that same day. I was angry. One of my staff who was close to him at the time told him I was angry with him. I was in production on a Saturday when the staff opened and said I have visitors. Lo and behold, D’banj came in with Don Jazzy. And immediately, he prostrated insisting he wouldn’t stand up until I forgive him. I was impressed. This is a superstar, yet so humble. I told him to stand up, that all is forgiven. I then explained to him that I am happy with his union with Don Jazzy. That he should not make the mistake in future when money starts rolling in that he does not need Don Jazzy again.

I said partnership hardly works in Nigeria and that they must do everything to keep the union. Both of them need each other and that their success is sustained because they bring different things to the table. They were with me for over two hours and they promised to keep the union. They assured me that theirs was a union made in heaven.

And it seemed so. I saw them become real superstars making stupendous money. Unfortunately, I had a problem with that my staff who was close to D’banj. The guy told him he had to leave our magazine because of him and D’banj felt really bad. I tried to reach him to tell him it wasn’t true but I couldn’t reach him and we drifted apart.

So when the crises between D’banj and Don Jazzy broke, I was sad. I remembered my advice to them and I knew it would be difficult to keep their union once they become very successful. I wouldn’t apportion blames. It is sad enough that they’ve to part ways. I believe they are stronger together and both of them would lose something with the divorce.

But they can still make it on their own. Don Jazzy quite rightly felt they’ve made it here and that it would be costly to abandon the certainty of Nigeria for the dream to conquer the world. I see Don Jazzy’s point, many before them have walked down that route and failed. As brilliant and successful as Fela was, he didn’t really conquer the world until after his death. Majek Fashek used to be the hottest artiste in Nigeria at a time. When he got an international deal in New York, it was supposed to turn him into an international brand.

He started well with the I & I Experience. But he lost the plot and came back as someone we couldn’t understand, poor and broken which was a shame because Majek Fashek was really talented.

Ras Kimono was a toast of many at a time. I remember the competition between him and Shina Peters for the Musician of the Year at the Nigerian Music Awards (NMA). He also left for America to turn the brand into an international brand. It didn’t work. He came back from America worse than he left. There was Mike Okri. The list is long. Perhaps, the worst one was Lagbaja. At a time in this country, Lagbaja was a King. The elite converged every month at Motherlan’ to watch him perform. It was common place to see the MD of a top company standing all night at Motherlan’ to watch him perform. ‘Omo baba muko muko’ as Lagbaja was called could do no wrong.

Then he decided to relocate to America. It was to be an avenue to take his career to the next level. Did it work? Of course not! Lagbaja went to America and lost it. He came back to realize he has lost his throne. Lagbaja is still around, but he lost it.

I can go and on. So I understand why Don Jazzy is wary. Why throw everything they’ve laboured for away for the unknown? Why not concentrate on the market they know and build a mega brand?

But if anybody can make that international breakthrough, it is D’banj. The guy has swagger and unbelievable stage presence. And because he is so arrogant and full of himself, he wouldn’t stop until he makes it work. He has started though. The last time I was in London. I heard his last single ‘Oliver Twist’ on Mainstream FM radio. Not a Naija FM but a Mainstream F.M radio. That is not common. But it is going to be tough. Coming to Nigeria from London with nothing was also tough and nothing ventured, nothing gained.

However, D’banj’s mum must do more than she is presently doing. She is involved with D’banj’s career I know but she must do more than that. It is common knowledge that almost all our hip hop stars smoke marijuana as if their lives depend on it. That’s okay. D’banj must stay away from drugs. America’s music culture is drug laden. Many have been destroyed because of that. In chasing the Golden Fleece in America, D’banj must stay away from drugs. He has enough examples to convince him. It was drugs that ruined the talent of Whitney Houston and later caused her death. And the rumour that D’banj has joined Illuminati is to me nonsense. Nigerians thrive on rumours. So let’s leave illuminati.

Both Don Jazzy and D’banj would make it. I hope. If they don’t, it would be a tragedy that what started well was sacrificed on the altar of ambition and big ego.

*Akinpelu is the Publisher of Global Excellence Magazine

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