Davido: ‘Africa is beautiful, but we don’t have the best leaders handling the economy’

When Davido was growing up, everybody expected him to go into the family business. His father, Adedeji Adeleke, is the CEO of Pacific Holdings Limited and one of Nigeria’s wealthiest men, with a net worth estimated to be around $700m (£625m). After finishing school, Davido was supposed to take up a seat on the board. “When I went the other route, at the beginning, it was really, really rough,” the 29-year-old says, from his home in Lagos. That was over a decade ago.

His breakthrough hit “Dami Duro” arrived in 2011, a highlight of debut record Omo Baba Olowo. The album’s self-aware title is Yoruba for “son of a rich man”. Even the rich man in question was impressed. “When I started popping out the music and people actually loved it, he became a fan like crazy,” says Davido with evident pride. “I feel like he recognised, ‘He’s gifted, so why stop his dream?’ At the end of the day, every parent wants their child to win.” 

For Davido, winning looks like selling out huge shows at arenas like London’s O2 and racking up over a billion streams of his second album, 2019’s A Good Time. The record refined and perfected his buoyant, sun-kissed sound; a dancefloor-ready combination of jubilant party tunes and laidback love songs. The swaying rhythms and irresistible melodies, coupled with Davido’s own easy charisma, captured the world’s attention. Follow-up A Better Time, released 12 months later, drew enjoyable guest appearances from Nicki Minaj, Nas and Young Thug. He’s still working on the next one, saying its release has been pushed back until early next year. Before that there’ll be a single, “Flex My Soul”, in a couple of weeks. It’s another big party song. “You know ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’?” he asks, referring to the massive hit that made Ricky Martin a global star in 1999. “It’s just like that, but an African version.”

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