Davido Talks Afrobeats, Headlining Madison Square Garden, Rihanna – MASHAHER

ISLAM GAMAL17 April 2024Last Update :
Davido Talks Afrobeats, Headlining Madison Square Garden, Rihanna – MASHAHER

Afrobeats has been one of the fastest-growing musical genres of the past decade, but if any further evidence were needed that it has reached new peaks, just look at Nigerian singer Davido: Not only was he nominated for the first-ever Best African Music Performance Grammy earlier this year, he’s headlining New York’s Madison Square Garden tonight (April 17).

Born David Adedeji Adeleke, Davido has been riding a steady upward trajectory: His latest album, “Timeless,” broke multiple records in the days after its release: It scored the highest number of first-day streams by an African album on Spotify, 10 tracks landed in the Apple Music US Top 200 songs chart, and the album’s standout track, “Unavailable” (featuring South African producer Musa Keys) sparked a global dance trend.

Davido’s upcoming MSG performance follows his successful A.W.A.Y. (Are We African Yet?) Festival held in November 2023 in his hometown of Atlanta. The choice of location reflects his seamless navigation between Nigerian and American cultures, and that of his audience. The duality is evident in his deep connections within the hip-hop scene and his distinct African flair showcased in collaborations such as his recent hit single with Chris Brown, “Sensational.” (Note: This interview took place before a video circulated of Davido apparently weeping on the phone with his ex; his rep had no comment on it.)

Davido’s 2017 hit single, “Fall,” is often hailed as America’s gateway to modern Afrobeats. The track made its mark on urban and rhythmic stations nationwide, climbing the charts nearly two years after its initial release and securing a spot in the top 20 on both formats. Notably, it garnered attention from Cardi B, who, amidst her soaring success with “Invasion of Privacy,” teased a potential remix.

Fans can expect the high-octane energy Davido brings to his live performances, alongside higher grade of production and storytelling within the setlist. Davido spoke to Variety about his excitement for the show, new music and projects, and even the Cardi B collaboration that almost was. 

Where are you calling from?

I’m in Lagos [,Nigeria] right now. Kai Cenat is actually in Lagos right now so we did a stream yesterday. It went very well so I’m really just waking up from a wild night. I’ve been traveling a lot lately – in L.A. working on the new album and preparing for the tour. I’m trying to just hang out with family because it’s about to get busy real soon. 

You performed in L.A. during Grammy Week and were nominated for the African Performance award — how does it feeling seeing the mainstream respond to African music and particularly your music? 

I always knew it would happen eventually, you know what I’m saying? I did two years of college in Atlanta. Even then, I used to play Nigerian music in the dorm for my American friends, and they always loved it — like, “What are you playing? That sounds hard” I’m just happy to see everything coming together. I remember in 2016, telling my label, ‘Yo, this is the new sound.’ Every day, we wake up to somebody breaking a record, somebody selling out a show or winning an award. It’s beautiful to see.

A lot of people don’t know that you were born in Atlanta and that you have a huge connection to the hip-hop community. Has Atlanta influenced your music?

I’ve always been the guy to like put people onto African stuff — music, food, clothes, social media, you know what I’m saying? I woudln’t say Atlanta has like influenced my music because I really make African music. But I’d say it’s influenced my style – people say I dress like a rapper [laughs]. I understand both worlds.

It feels like 2017 was when things really started to heat up in the U.S. with African music. When did you feel it with your songs?

“Fall” was like the first time I was like, “Yeah, we are arriving.” Hearing my song on the radio every two hours was crazy! But like I said, we were given the opportunity to be heard.

Speaking of “Fall,” whatever happened with the Cardi B remix that was supposed to happen in 2019?

Shout out to Cardi B, shout out to her for getting on the record. People don’t understand that behind every record there is paperwork. We were on different labels and it was complicated at the time.  But I appreciate her for taking out her time to do that. I believe me and her will work together again… Me and Offset are locked in, man. That’s my brother. 

That Atlanta connection again?

Every time! Me, [Young] Thug, Migos, those are my brothers, for real. 

Last year you partnered Apple Music to host their Africa Now show, you highlighted Lojay and mentioned that he’s one of the ones that you feel is just going to be up next and have like a moment. What’s your relationship with some of the new African artists?

Music is everlasting. There’s no limit. The smallest person can give you the biggest record of your life. I don’t really look for anything crazy. What I look for is talent. If we can make good music together, I’ll do it. Afrobeats is in great hands.

Headlining Madison Square Garden is a huge moment for any artist. In order to sell out an arena like that, you have to be reaching multiple demographics, right?

For the last tour I went on, I was telling my boys, yo, 60 percent of that crowd was not African. I love my Africans, they always come out to support me, but I’ll tell you this for a fact: You ain’t selling out no arena [in the U.S.] with 100 percent Africans. And it’s amazing to see what people will pay. On the day of my last arena show in Atlanta, tickets were going for $2,000.

What can we expect from this show? You’ve been dancing a lot more – especially with the “Unavailable” dance becoming popular. 

Oh, definitely. MSG is going to be the first of a lot of like crazy stuff that we’re trying to do. We’re definitely going to have a storyline — it’s not going to be a concert that you just come to to dance and drink. Trust me, we’re going crazy on production.

I walked past MSG so many times when I was younger. I want to take the subway to the show. 

You’ve already collaborated with a lot of top artists — who is still on your wish list?

Rihanna — we were supposed to link up a lot of times, I know it’s going to happen, though. And ya, it’s weird — you’ve heard of Jelly Roll? Yeah. He has some dope music. I like his music. 

What else we can expect from you this year?

I’m announcing a full-blown tour soon, I have documentary we’re working on — it’s following me the past three years. I think it’s going to be out this year, maybe next year.

Do you feel any sense of pride or responsibility for helping usher Afrobeats into the mainstream? You were the entry point for a lot of people. 

I wouldn’t say responsibility, but I feel like I have the culture on my back, like I have to deliver. I feel like we’re like 60 percent in when it comes to influencing the culture — I think it’s going to get to the level that you see in Latin music. It might not be my generation, it might be the next one. The people that came before me built a foundation for what we are enjoying now. 

Source Agencies

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