Is Davido 2020's Messiah?
In Lagos, Nigeria, in February, or it could have been January, 2020 - it is difficult to recall everything that’s happened in this century like year (think of a weird thing, a painful thing, something utterly absurd, that’s happened to you in your life, and chances are that it happened at some point this year), I found myself in the middle of what I still consider one of the most bizarre situations of my life. I went for a prayer meeting at my mother’s insistence and found myself praying right next to Davido, the African pop star. He was with his sister. She had purple hair. His head was turned down for most of it. What was he thinking of? What sins was he trying to atone for? I don’t know. I was trying to be respectful. I didn’t want to look at him. I didn’t want to take any pictures of him. To do those things would be to sink to the moral chasm that is celebrity worship. I’m far too proud for that. It’s a very Nigerian thing. So what if he’s made a thousand and one hits. So what if everyone in Africa knows his name. So what if he packed out the O2 stadium in London at the start of 2019? So what if he’s produced some of the best party get happy or drunk music that’s ever been made? I just could not bring myself ask him for a selfie while people were speaking in tongues, celebrity be damned. I wish I had though - just a little. Stories like this need proof greater than word of mouth. And I have none, which is a shame.
Davido has lived rent free in my head since 2012. I was 22. He burst on to the scene with a song called Dami Duro. The song defied description then, just as it does now. It is a mysterious song.
“And on the beat is Davido, And I am driving all the girls crazy yo.
Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na na na.
And on the beat is Davido, And I am driving all the girls crazy yo.”
We went crazy for it. The lyrics were a bit bonkers. The man, Davido, was auto-tuned to the point where his natural burning tequila, water hitting hot charcoal, husky tone, was virtually unrecognisable. But the beat was insane! And his vocal performance didn’t diminish that! In that song he displayed what I call his selling point: his innate ability to sing on a cracking beat and enhance it by croaking with all his might, intelligent lyrics be damned. It is quite the skill.
He’s done the same thing every year since then. It’s been hit after hit after hit. The memories I’ve made with him in the background are important to me, almost dear. In this way you could say, Davido is a significant part of my life.
In 2013, there was Aye, with the catchy line:
“They say love is blind but I dey see am for your eyes oh.”
I was 23, falling in and out of love with the efficiency of a bitch in heat. That same year, 2013, there was Gobe which is Yoruba for trouble. My many loves had turned a bit problematic, so that song became the soundtrack of my romantic frustrations. Then there was Skelewu (does anyone know what that means), also a 2013 hit. By the time that song resonated with me, I’d just learned that life in Nigeria was hard, and that life elsewhere, was also hard, so there was nothing left for me to do but to dance the skelewu.
“For this dance you no need shakara (pride?),
Oya whine your hips like-a-this like-a-dat, like-a-this, like-a-dat
To your right, to the front, and your yansh to the back.”
It was glorious. I did the dance in Benin, the capital of Nigeria’s Edo State. I did it on the beaches of Lagos: Elegushi, Ilashe, Tarkwa. I did it in Abuja, Nigeria’s Capital Territory. I had half a mind to do it all the way across Nigeria, but when your bum moves with the of frequency mine, pistoning left, right, back and forth, like a Ferrari engine, the idea is a terrible one. I don’t think Sharia law in the North of the country could tolerate my bombastic gyrations. They’d cut my leg off in Kano, my arm off in Kaduna, flay me within an inch of my life in Sokoto and part my body from my head in Borno. I’m sorry if this sounds mildly insulting or judgemental or bigoted, but if the sight woman’s exposed back can be interpreted as blasphemy against the esteemed Prophet Mohammed, then what would they make of my impossibly flexible waist? I dare not think of it.
He’s had a million and one hits since then, but the content has stayed the same. It will be a song about making money (Money fall on you), spending money (I give my baby lifetime insurance) or just having money in general (30 billion in the account oh!). And if it is not about money, then it about the le le le le le ladies dancing, always sexily, there’s a waist winding somewhere, a yansh (arse) moving somewhere else, and the general suggestion that sex will be had at some point. And if it is not about those two things then it is about enjoyment and having a good time and getting high.
“Ayy, pass me the coke, pass me the dro, pass me the ting wit’ it, make me go, pass me the codeine, make me slow, pass me the popo de poh.”
Nigerians like all these things very much. After the events of the past decade, where every section of life has had the narrative arc of a disaster movie, we don’t really care much for deep excavations of pain, or stories about tortured childhoods, or songs that lambast our truly terrible and definitely evil leaders, we just want to enjoy ourselves; to relax and be taken care of. After 9 years in the industry, Davido has found his place. He will give you a good time, and if that isn’t enough for you, he will give you a better time!
2020 will go down in modern history as the Annus Terribulus, and October (and perhaps November) for many Nigerians was its crescendo. The END SARS protests resulted in the deaths of many young Nigerians, a thing I found terribly depressing, life sucking and traumatic. All of this while living through a pandemic (panoramic) and I suppose a long history of violence in Northern Nigeria. The crisis group says the insecurity in that part of the country has been serving massacres for the past 30 years.
For me, October was the most trying month. A senior member of my family and I came down with COVID 19. We tested positive on the 20th of October. The journey to testing centre, while chaos reigned in Lagos was a thing I’d like to never repeat. We navigated through looters, rioters, and protesters, through unholy traffic, with a very very ill member of the family in the back seat of the car fighting for dear breath. After that unpleasant trip, I briefly contemplated fleeing west, to Benin Republic, for some peace and convalescence, but I couldn’t because, again, I had COVID. That evening, while feeling like I’d been run down by a tanker, and fighting through a cover induced fog of confusion, gun shots ripped right through the air. At first I was pretty sure I was hallucinating, but twitter confirmed that I wasn’t. The Nigerian army had begun its military operation, shooting unarmed civilians dead. The days that followed that one were very grim indeed.
On the 13th of November, Davido dropped his new album, A Better Time. I’ve started training myself out of the habit of bingeing new releases. These days, I prefer to find them when I find them, wherever I find them. I knew about it, but I didn’t stream it. Instead, I went to a pool party, the start of my “I beat COVID party tour.” I was sitting by the pool, kicking my legs aimlessly, sipping on a gin and tonic, when the most delightful tune caused me to down the entire thing in celebration. Davido had found me.
“Yeah, fine girl what you on tonight?
Tell me if you don’t mind, make you come to mine?”
That’s a line and a half from The Best, a Davido hit that features Mayorkun. The DJ saw it fit to play the song no fewer than 8 times in 3 hours, no one complained. When he announced the album Davido said, “This year we’ve been through crazy times. Real crazy times. And through it all, we’ve had to look inwards to find out unique hopes of better times ahead.” I understood what this meant when the Davido enamoured DJ, put us through the entire album. Jowo, Holy Ground (featuring Nicki Minaj), Tanana (featuring Tiwa Savage), and then he played Lala (featuring Ckay) and my brain exploded. I went from 2020 sings the blues to A Better Time, and for that, I’m actually quite grateful. Davido is a little bit of an antidepressant isn’t he? In summary, Davido’s new album, A Better Time does exactly what it says it does, it makes forget about your shit, and delivers you to A Better Time.