D’banj: An ousted king on a quest to reclaim his throne

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By Michael Kolawole

Once upon a time, D’banj was one of Nigeria’s top artists. His sashay, charisma and slang made him stand out from his colleagues. But he fell from the heights of fame and dove into oblivion.

D’banj rose to fame when he and Don Jazzy, both members of the London-based Afropop group JJC & 419, returned to Lagos in 2004 and started the now defunct Mo’Hits Records. The same year, he released ‘Tongolo’, a song that established his Koko Master persona. It placed him at the forefront of an already blossoming Afrobeats scene in the Nigerian music industry.

In 2005, he released No Long Thing and the album was well-received. It spun him out of the dark tunnel of obscurity and heralded his rise to fame. But with the release of his sophomore album, RunDown Funk U Up, his burning fire flustered and many fans began doubting his artistry. The album didn't do well but was saved by a decent song titled ‘Why Me’.

He then released The Entertainer, his third studio album and magnum opus in 2008. The album was masterful. It reinstated his career and restored him as an entertainer, a position he occupied with flair. With the album, D’banj’s hope of lasting fame was resurrected. He became a superstar, with a reinvigorated sense of swag and vibes, rocking arenas and winning awards.

Unfortunately, the spark did not last: 2009 and 2010 were hiatus years for the artist. There was a rift between him and his long-time partner Don Jazzy. The rift muffled his career, although he did release ‘Mr Endowed’.

The song earned him an international collaboration and recording contract with Snoop Dogg and Kanye West, respectively. After the famed ‘Mr Endowed’ entered another pop anthem, ‘Oliver Twist’, with the song ruling local and international airwaves. The song also earned D’banj a place in Kanye West’s Cruel Summer album.

Twenty-eleven to 2014 were years of creative purgatory and dwindling fame. His music deflated, his songs were no longer hits and his albums attracted little or no attention. The busy train of the Nigerian music industry had moved on without him. In 2017 he released his eighth studio album, King Don Come. The album’s artwork depicts him as a medieval king, on the move to reclaim his throne. The album, like his post-Mo’Hits albums, was below par.

The jury is still out on whether Don jazzy is the brains behind D’banj´s musical success and fame. At any rate, it’s clear that the death of Mo’Hits Records spelt an end of D’banj’s strongest period as leading Nigerian popstar. And whle King Don Come was supposed to restore him to his throne as chief entertainer, the album turned out to be only a wishful quest.

Recently, D’banj released a few singles. ‘Baba Nla’ – boasting Burna Boy, the ebullient 2Baba and the ubiquitous Larry Gaga – is decent pop. ‘Baecation’ featuring 2Baba is a laidback ditty that does not touch a chord, while ‘Shy’ is an average song. ‘Mo Cover’, featuring flash-in-the-pan artist Slimcase is a middling effort.

Since the king did not set any sparks off in his last outing, let us enjoy the little we can from the paltry songs he is dishing out and hope he returns in his full regalia next time round. – Music in Africa.

 

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