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Davido On Elevating Nigerian Culture, New Music & What He'll Teach His Son About Being Black In America

Davido 

Photo: Frank Fieber

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Davido On Elevating Nigerian Culture, New Music & What He'll Teach His Son About Being Black In America

The Afrobeats star opens up about furthering Nigeria's global cultural impact and how the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement has personally impacted him

GRAMMYs/Aug 20, 2020 - 07:49 pm

David Adedeji Adeleke—a.k.a Davido—was on his way to becoming a rapper until one Christmas, everything changed when he decided to travel to his parents' home country of Nigeria. 

"I just fell in love with African music. I was like, 'Yo, I think I want to do African music,'" he recently told GRAMMY.com from Los Angeles. "And it worked out. If I would have rapped, I'd probably still be at home."

Things more than worked out for the 27-year-old breakout Afrobeats star born in Atlanta. As Afrobeats continues to grab the world's attention, he's risen to be featured on the May 2020 cover of Billboard magazine and, according to Rolling Stone, his single "Fall" off his 2019 album A Good Time holds the record for the longest Nigerian pop song in Billboard history. And he continues to reach new heights: He was on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" last month.

Davido, who also runs his own label, undoubtly is expanding Afrobeats' reach, yet that arguably is not the most interesting thing about the artist who went to college at the young age of 15 before his music career took off. Now, as he works on his next album A Better Time, the artist is finding himself in an elevated place in his life. "I feel like I've been in a better space. So you're going to see a lot of growth on this album," he said. 

We spoke to him about the forthcoming album and how the pandemic has shaped it, how his label is helping him give opportunities to artists, what he thinks about people's love for Afrinca now, as well as how his recently born son has changed the way he looks at racism, and more.

Your sophomore album, A Good Time, was released in November. What did you enjoy about making album number two?

First of all, I think making album number two, the good thing about it is you learn a lot of mistakes from the albums you've previously dropped. So the first thing I went into with this album was planning. I had to make sure I had proper planning. The reason I called the album A Good Time is because we just had a good time making it. It wasn't forced. I remember my first album, I had a deadline, so I had to record songs that didn't take time to make. I didn't take my time on them. With this second album I had more  time and more creative space to create.

You were recently on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Tell me about that experience.

Man, it's crazy. I've been watching late-night shows—I remember being a kid, and you're not meant to be up late, [and] I used to sneak to the living room and I used to watch back-to-back tonight shows. I've seen all the greats perform there. 50 Cent. The list is long. I remember when it aired all my family, my brothers, people I went to school with back in the days, hit me up like, "Yo, that's crazy." They knew how everything started. Two years ago, I'd had never imagine I'd be on "Jimmy Fallon." For it to just happen and everybody just be happy about it just is amazing to see.

You're an Afrobeats breakout star. You along with people like Yvonne Orji are opening up Americans of all backgrounds to Nigerian culture. Do you feel a sense of responsibility doing that?

Yeah, of course. It's crazy, because I'm from both America and Africa, so I know how both sides think. I went to school in Alabama. I went to college at 15. I was very young. And Alabama was a predominantly white state. So being an African kid in a university where it's 13% Black people, it's amazing. It's not easy. I had to learn a lot of the things when I was like, "Yo, why you look at me like that?" And not even just being Black, being African. They used to ask me questions like, "Yo, how'd you get to America?" I'm like, "What you mean? I came on a plane." "Oh, y'all got airports?" Now every American wants to go to Africa. Everybody wants to know where they're from. So it's good to see the transition from not being appreciated, to being appreciated right now. Even with fashion. You got designers that making African print fashion, so it's not only music. The culture is being felt everywhere. 

Read: Yvonne Orji On Her First-Ever HBO Comedy Special, Faith & Celebrating Black Joy

As a person with a bi-cultural background, you could have gone either way with your music.

I actually started out rapping. I actually started rapping first. I used to live in Atlanta and I used to just rap, make beats. Then I went to Nigeria for Christmas one time and I just fell in love with African music. I was like, "Yo, I think I want to do African music." And it worked out. If I would have rapped, I'd probably still be at home.

What about the music did you fall in love with?

Man, I don't know. To me, when I listen to Afrobeats, it's just a different feeling. You'd be in the club, they play hip-hop, trap, R&B, whatever the case may be. And once the Afrobeat come on, you can tell the difference from the scenery, the feeling, the beats. Most people don't even know what we saying, but they still listen to it. So that's the great thing about it.

That rhythm will make you want to dance.

The rhythm. Yeah, the rhythm.

I'm still thinking about the fact that you said you went to college at 15?

I went to college at around 15. I went to this Christian university in Huntsville, Alabama. I was there for about two years and then I didn't go back because I went back to Nigeria and I fell in love with African music. So I was trying to stay in Africa and do the music. The deal with my parents was I had to graduate. So I was like, "Cool, let me do the music. I go to school." So I was going to school, but I got too far footed in school. So I started doing home classes. They used to put me in classes alone because my music blew up and people couldn't concentrate if I was in the class. 

Wow.

Yeah, that was crazy. So I finally got my degree and then everything just went crazy from there.

Talk to me about your influences. Who do you look up to? Who shaped your music?

Honestly, I don't really have too many musical influences. But I grew up, like I said, I used to want to be a rapper. I used to love 50 Cent, I used to have all the G-Unit clothes, I used to have the video game. I was more of a rap type person. I don't think that molded my music in any way. But with my style, I liked the urban style. I dressed like a rapper anyway. But yeah, I'd say hip hop did a lot of influencing for me.

When you're creating, how do you get in the zone? 

Funny enough, I like a lot of people around me when I'm recording. I actually don't really like to record alone because I like to record and see people enjoy the music. That's what gives me more [motivation]. "Oh, keep going." You in the studio, you make something from scratch and one hour later everybody in the studio's singing what you just made. That's amazing. I like having people in the studio, party type stuff ... I probably get a studio especially by myself to maybe finalize it, but to make it, I like to be around people.

What are you working on now? 

The new album we're working on now, the third album, is called A Better Time. We're doing a little series with albums. First on the scene was A Good Time, now it's A Better Time. So I came out here to just finish up the features and shoot some videos and it is looking pretty dope. 

What can fans expect on this next one? 

I think you'll see a lot of growth. Just like in A Good Time album. I feel like I've been in a better space. So you're going to see a lot of growth on this album, I can tell you that much.

Does that growth have anything to do with the pandemic? 

You know what? I was just saying that because most times I'm on tour, etc. For the first time in a long time for our generation, that is, we have to actually stay at home. This has never happened. Imagine how many people had time to sit down and really reflect on their life? You know what I'm saying? I had to make some changes. Just being at home for so long, I made some changes. I cut off some people, I just stepped away from the world a little bit. Just tried to realize who I really was. You feel me? And I feel like that's what helped my music. It's all because of the pandemic.

Weeks into the pandemic, we had George Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter movement getting major attention. What do you make about the conversations regarding race going on across the country and other parts of the world?

It's crazy because like I said, I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, this was when I was 15, 16, so I've always understood like, yo, this is going to happen. You know what I'm saying? Sometimes just because of the color of your skin, you might not get a lot of honesty from somebody. You feel me? So it was just crazy. 

This how I look at it: I just had a son and he's an American citizen. So imagine my son telling me, "Yo, dad, I want to go to the mall." And I have to explain to him like, "Yo, if the police stop you..." It's crazy how we have to tell them that part. I don't think growing up my dad ever sat me down and was like, "Oh, this is going to happen." But I have to do it for my son. I have to teach him as a Black man. As a Black man, you have to be able to defend yourself, number one. You're not going to get your way all the time and you just have to be a man and be strong. The other way I look at it, we're screaming Black Lives Matter, right? But we killing ourselves too. So the conversation is both sided, it goes both ways. 

The situation also brought a lot of accountability in the music industry. You have your own label. Is your label your way of giving opportunities to artists who maybe wouldn't have those opportunities?

Of course. My label is one of the only record labels that really bring artists from scratch. Most people just sign artists that already made. My label, it's a whole family. Anything I get from them, I invest it and I give it to them to invest back in themselves because I want to see them grow. I've been blessed to be able to take care of myself, that I'm willing to be signing somebody that I know can be the next me or potentially be bigger than me. And I sign you down for a contract and you giving me 60% of your money and you can invest in yourself. Whereas me, I didn't sign to nobody, I had the opportunity to make 100% of my money for a long time. So that's how I think of it. I'm not going to do what they didn't do to me. So most of my artists they're like my little brothers. We help each other. They help me. I help them.

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Burna Boy Wins Best Global Music Album For 'Twice As Tall' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

Burna Boy accepts his 2021 GRAMMY

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Burna Boy Wins Best Global Music Album For 'Twice As Tall' | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show

The Nigerian powerhouse Burna Boy takes home Best Global Music Album at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2021 - 12:28 am

Burna Boy won Best Global Music Album for Twice As Tall at the Premiere Ceremony of the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. This marks his first career GRAMMY win. They are the first winner of the recently renamed category, formerly known as Best World Music Album. Watch his heart-warming acceptance speech below, given in English and Yoruba.

His album bested fellow nominees AntibalasBebel Gilberto, Anoushka Shankar and Tinariwen

Later, Burna gave a fire performance to close out the Premiere Ceremony, featuring two Twice As Tall tracks—watch it here.

Stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for all things GRAMMY Awards (including the Premiere Ceremony livestream), and make sure to watch the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, airing live on CBS and Paramount+ tonight, Sun., March 14 at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.

Check out all the complete 2021 GRAMMY Awards show winners and nominees list here.

Watch Burna Boy Slay With Performance Of "Level Up," "Onyeka" & "Ye" At 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony

Positive Vibes Only: Watch Ada Ehi Perform "Congratulations," An Aural Breath Of Fresh Air

Ada Ehi

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Positive Vibes Only: Watch Ada Ehi Perform "Congratulations," An Aural Breath Of Fresh Air

In the newest episode of Positive Vibes Only, let Nigerian gospel singer Ada Ehi lower your blood pressure with a performance of "Congratulations" that exudes calming vibes

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2021 - 07:10 pm

Let's face it: The modern world can be like a wound in urgent need of dressing, or a traveler suffering from dire thirst. As always during rough times, music is the great healer and uniter.

Ada Edi, a gospel singer from Nigeria, performs music that acts as a cool mist during a sweltering day. Festooned in colorful garb with an effervescent band behind her, she delivers a message of glad tidings.

In the newest episode of Positive Vibes Only, relax and recharge for the long week ahead with Edi's performance of "Congratulations," which is guaranteed to make you move and smile.

Check out the uplifting clip above and click here to enjoy more episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

Olamidé On The Ascent Of Afrobeats, Supporting Newer Artists & His Subdued New Album 'UY Scuti'

GRAMMY.com To Launch New Digital Performance Series "Global Spin" To Celebrate Global Music

Eme Alfonso performs at the International Jazz Plaza Festival in 2018

Photo: Erika Goldring/Getty Images

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GRAMMY.com To Launch New Digital Performance Series "Global Spin" To Celebrate Global Music

Launching Tuesday, Sept. 28, "Global Spin" will celebrate exciting genres like Afrobeats, K-Pop and Latin music and will include exclusive performances from Eme Alfonso, Candy Bleakz, and many others

GRAMMYs/Sep 28, 2021 - 06:01 am

Last year, the GRAMMY Awards updated the Best World Music Album category to Best Global Music Album to honor artists across the globe. But why stop there?

On Tuesday, Sept. 28, GRAMMY.com will premiere its latest digital series: Global Spin, a performance series spotlighting artists from around the world. Each episode of Global Spin will feature a performance from a notable artist or group and will celebrate both the creators and their home countries.

Airing biweekly on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile, Global Spin is the new home for global music on GRAMMY.com, where the celebration of the genre and the international artist community is the focus. With electrifying artists like Cuban singer/songwriter Eme Alfonso and Nigerian rapper Candy Bleakz confirmed for performances, Global Spin will keep fans of the international music community plugged into one of the most exciting lanes in all of music.

"Music is one thing that transcends borders," Alina Vission, a Content Producer at the Recording Academy and the creator and co-producer of Global Spin, tells GRAMMY.com. "We're excited to celebrate the global music community and take our audience on a trip around the world through music."

"I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to help showcase global music and to shine a light on all the talented musicians across the world," Hillary Melin, Senior Editor/Producer at the Recording Academy and one of the co-producers of the series, says of Global Spin.

Read: ​​Olamidé On The Ascent Of Afrobeats, Supporting Newer Artists & His Subdued New Album UY Scuti

A platform to support international artists, Global Spin is born out of the exploding global music scene taking the world by storm today. Whether it be Nigeria's dynamic duo of Wizkid and Tems sweeping the world off their feet with their chart-topping track "Essence" or South Korea's BTS serenading their way into the millions of hearts of the BTS ARMY, global music and artists are dominating today's worldwide music industry like never before.

Shawn Thwaites, a Project Manager in the Recording Academy's Awards department and genre manager for Global Music, partly credits the international growth of global music to the new and rising wave of Afrobeats artists. Still, he notes Afrobeats and global music at large are nothing new; pioneers like Fela Kuti and boundary-pushers like Brazil's Djavan laid the foundation for today's scene decades ago. "It's always been here—we're just catching on," Thwaites says of the global music sound.

As Afrobeats and Afropop continue to rise in the global music sphere, Thwaites also points to "the whole continent of Africa" as well as regions like Brazil, Trinidad, Barbados, Latin America, Asia, and beyond as locations with thriving music scenes to watch. "There's so much music all over this world. Global music is truly global," he reflects.

Read: Altin Gün On 'Yol' & The Future Of Global Music: "We Like To Think We Defy Genres As A Band"

With the ongoing evolution and proliferation of music technology and social media, global music continues to reach new audiences across international borders, while the genre's established artists and rising stars are pushing the sound's boundaries to new heights.

"I would love for global music to find a way to connect more with the fans," Dominican singer/songwriter and producer the Change tells GRAMMY.com via email. "Within the next five to 10 years, I would love to see more activities that help us spend time with our fans, because in the end, we owe them everything that is happening to us."

"The growing interest in global music means a lot more people from different walks of life and different parts of the world will now be able to relate to my genre of music: Afrobeats," Ghanaian Afropop, dancehall and R&B singer/artist MzVee adds. "I believe music is a global language that transcends all boundaries, and I want to reach fans in every corner of the world, despite the differences in language and genres. My dream is to see global music reach every corner of the world, for global music to break all barriers, to see my music being consumed by everybody, [regardless of] the differences in language, culture [and] religion."

"I'm very happy that [audiences] want to explore and open new doors. I believe that when we learn from other cultures, we grow as human beings," Eme Alfonso tells GRAMMY.com by email. "I would like the people to understand that when they are listening to music from other parts of the world, they are feeling the history, the reality, and the conflicts of a country, because artists reflect their life and problems through art."

But perhaps Haitian DJ/producer Michael Brun said it best: "Global music is the future of music," he bluntly told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "As the world continues to become more interconnected, music culture no longer has borders. The fusion of sounds breeds innovation, and global music artists are at the forefront of that movement."

That innovative movement now has a new home on GRAMMY.com with Global Spin.

Tune in to the sounds of the world with Global Spin every other Tuesday starting Sept. 28, at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m ET on the Recording Academy's official YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter profile.

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Antibalas Talk Fu Chronicles, Kung Fu And Their Mission To Spread Afrobeat

Def Jam Africa Launches With Nadia Nakai, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C & More African Artists

Nadia Nakai

Photo: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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Def Jam Africa Launches With Nadia Nakai, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C & More African Artists

Larry Gaaga, Boity, Tshego, Ricky Tyler, Vector and Tellaman round out the new label division's flagship roster

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2020 - 12:18 am

Today, May 26, Def Jam Recordings and Universal Music Group announced their newest division, Def Jam Africa. The new label will have offices in two major music hotspots in Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa and Lagos, Nigeria, but will recruit artists from across the continent.

Def Jam Africa launches with nine powerhouse rappers and singers from South Africa and Nigeria, several of whom were already signed to UMG: Nadia Nakai, Cassper Nyovest, Nasty C, Larry Gaaga, Boity, Tshego, Ricky Tyler, Vector and Tellaman.

It will have dedicated A&R, marketing, creative and digital support from the UMG teams based in Nigeria and South Africa, led by Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director of Universal Music Sub-Saharan Africa & South Africa.

Watch: Burna Boy Talks 'African Giant,' Damian Marley & Angelique Kidjo Collab, Responsibility As A Global Artist

"Many of us in Africa grew up on music from legendary labels under the UMG umbrella. From Blue Note for jazz fans, to Mercury Records, which was Hugh Masekela's first US label and Uptown Records, the home of Jodeci and Mary J. Blige and many more. For those into hip-hop, no label has such cultural and historic relevance as Def Jam. From Run DMC, to LL Cool J, [Ludacris' label] Disturbing tha Peace, Jay-Z, Big Sean and Kanye West, Def Jam has always been the ultimate destination for hip-hop and urban culture worldwide," Dlamini said in a statement.

"It is a historic achievement that we’re now able to bring this iconic label to Africa, to create an authentic and trusted home for those who aspire to be the best in hip-hop, Afrobeats and trap. Together, we will build a new community of artists, that will push the boundaries of hip-hop from Africa, to reach new audiences globally."

More: Victoria Kimani Talks New Album, Repping Kenya, Dream Collabs With Lauryn Hill & Rihanna | Up Close & Personal

In the coming months, fans can expect Def Jam Africa to drop singles from Tyler, Boity, Nasty C, Tellaman feat. Alpha P, Vector, Nyovest and Tshego. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Nasty C will be releasing his third studio album, Zulu Man With Some Power, in the States this summer via Def Jam Recordings.

"Def Jam is a globally recognized brand, synonymous with excellence in hip-hop, and we enthusiastically welcome the launch of Def Jam Africa as an opportunity for audiences worldwide to discover the incredibly talented hip-hop artists emerging from across the continent," Jeff Harleston, the interim Chairman & CEO of Def Jam Recordings, added.

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