The Koko master, Bangalee, Eja nla are some of the nicknames to accompany this enigma. Call him the ultimate entertainer and you won’t be wrong. He is a legend in the game and he’s called Dbanj.
Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo (born 9 June 1980), known by his stage name D’banj, is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and television personality. He has won several music awards, including the awards for Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007, Artist of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009, Best International Act: Africa at the 2011 BET Awards, and Best-selling African Artist at the 2014 World Music Awards, Evolution award at the 2015 MTV Africa Music awards.
He adopted the stage name D’banj, a combination of his first name, Dapo, and his surname, Oyebanjo. D’banj is currently best known internationally for his 2012 summer hit “Oliver Twist”, an uptempo dance fusion of Afrobeat and electronic dance music that topped the African charts 2011 and was a top 10 hit in the UK singles chart in 2012 reaching No. 2 on the UK R&B chart. As of 2016, D’banj is ranked to be the richest solo musician in Nigeria according to T.I.N Magazine.
D’banj, also known as the Kokomaster or Bangalee, was born in June 9, 1980 in Zaria, the northern part of Nigeria to a military officer who commanded an artillery regiment and a devout church dignitary businesswoman who hailed from Shagamu in Ogun State. Due to his father’s profession he moved several times within Nigeria and later moved to England. D’banj was expected to follow his father’s military career and was enrolled to the Nigerian Military School at age eleven. However, D’banj resisted the system and disenrolled from the school after three years. While at the Military school he was a member of the elite drum corp of the Nigerian Army. From the Nigerian Military School he proceeded to another military owned institution Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ibara, Abeokuta where he was a church worker. There he completed his secondary school education.
D’banj was introduced to the harmonica by his late older brother, Femi Oyebanjo, who died in a plane crash at age seventeen. With D’banj’s love for music being greater than his parents’ military aspirations, he struggled for his parents’ approval; this can be best heard through an album track, All Da Way from his debut album.
Following the death of his 17-year-old brother, D’banj arranged all his possessions on his bed after they were brought home and just picked up his harmonica. I’d play it to remember him.” Later, at university, he realised what his new skills with the instrument could bring him. “I’d go to the female hostel after lectures, and even if there was no electricity I could play there.” He remembers learning Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” after Titanic came out – “and that got me a lot of girls!”
D’banj then proceeded to the Lagos State University to study Mechanical engineering but due to the constant strikes and several irregularities in the school he decided to withdraw. Plans to continue his studies as a mechanical engineer in London were derailed when he arrived in the UK in 2001, and met Don Jazzy who was trying to make it as a songwriter and producer. D’Banj started hanging around the studio, making ends meet while working as a security guard. “It was OK, because I did nights,” he says, “so I could listen to music on my headphones.”
Don Jazzy told D’Banj he thought he was a star in the making, and sensing that the music scene in Nigeria was “blossoming”, the pair returned to Lagos in 2004. That same year came the single “Tongolo”; the video was paid for by D’Banj’s mother. His first endorsement was with an energy drink called Power Fist.
In April 2011, D’banj was interviewed by BET’s April Woodard. The interview, titled “Welcome to America”, was a platform for D’banj to introduce himself to the American Music Industry and audience which he stated he was going to get into. In the interview, D’banj spoke on a wide range of topics including his music, artists he’d like to work with, his parents, Mo’Hits Records, his love life, and his role models: Kanye West, Usher, Jay-Z, R. Kelly, and others. The interview lasted 125 minutes, and was the avenue used to formally declare his determination to lead African music into many quarters that it has yet to reach.
As a tribute to his mentor Fela, D’banj uses a fusion of Afrobeat and Afropop to bring his music to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm as well as a good dose of humour. His songs are based on his life, often hilarious but with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young Nigerian trying to achieve his dreams. He performs in Yoruba, English and Pidgin English.
2005: No Long Thing
D’banj’s debut album, No Long Thing, was released in 2005. It yielded several singles with Tongolo as the lead single. This proved to be his breakthrough single and a hit. It also provided his Koko Master persona, with the term, koko, taking on a variety of meanings. D’banj’s debut success led to collaborations with other artists, including Dare Art Alade and Ikechukwu. D’Banj’s single koko was used by the PDP (ruling political party in Nigeria) as its campaign theme for the 2007 general elections.
2006: Rundown Funk U Up
D’banj’s second album Rundown Funk U Up, which was released in 2006, yielded several singles including the club single, Tongolo (Remix), and the lead single Why Me?. This proved to be another hit.
2007–2008: Curriculum Vitae & The Entertainer
D’banj, as an artist of Mo’ Hits Records, is also a member of its collective group, Mo’ Hits Allstars (includes artists Dr SID, Wande Coal, KaySwitch, and D’Prince). He has once been spotted with one of Nigeria’s most talented singers, “Smile Lasisi”. The collective’s debut album, Curriculum Vitae, was released in December 2007. It included hit singles, “Be Close To You”, “Booty Call” and “Move Your Body”, which was the lead single. D’banj was featured in Ikechukwu’s 2008 hit, “Wind Am Well”.
July 2008 saw the release of D’banj’s third album, The Entertainer, with the singles “Gbono Feli Feli”, “Kimon”, “Olorun Maje” and “Entertainer”.
In June 2011, D’banj was signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music record label as an artiste. On 9 June 2011, D’banj wrote on his Twitter account, @iamdbanj, “Just like yesterday, myself and my brother did Tongolo. 7 years later, Mo’Hits signs with GOOD Music. Best Birthday gift ever. God thank you.”
In September 2016, it was announced D’banj was released from GOOD Music.
After several months of speculation and wild rumours, ace producer, Don Jazzy confirmed via his Twitter account the break-up of Mo’Hits. After the break-up, Don Jazzy, D’Prince, Dr SID, Wande Coal started Mavin Records while D’banj founded DB Records and as expected, he signed his younger brother Kayswitch to the label alongside two producers, Jaysleek and Deevee.
Sony Entertainment Deal
In December 2012 D’banj signed a mega deal with Sony. Speaking on the importance of the deal to Sony, the managing director of Sony Music Entertainment, Sean Watson, said: “Partnering with D’Banj is a seminal event for us at Sony Music Entertainment Africa. We’ve always admired his talent and to be able to assist with bringing D’Banj’s music to millions of fans, established and new, across the continent is an honour for us. We are very excited about being a part of it.”[this quote needs a citation]
The deal is being described as a “Pan African, multi-album deal with Sony Music’s RCA Records. It also involves an exclusive management deal with Sony Music and strategic partner ROCKSTAR4000 for the continent. Add to that a multi-album, worldwide exclusive contract with emerging Nigerian singer-songwriter star Kayswitch and a strategic partnership with D’Banj’s Nigerian record label DB Records”.
The forthcoming single “Bother You”, inspired by the film Half of a Yellow Sun, was released on 7 April 2013, by Mi7 Records and D’banj’s label DKM. In June 2014 D’banj introduced artists under his record label, which includes him, younger brother K-Switch, brothers MossKriss and Ralph Kriss and Tonto Dikeh and Ebenez Tizzy.
He released the album titled King Don Come, with guest features from the likes of Gucci Mane, Wande Coal, Harry Songs, Bucie, Busiswa etc in August. The album includes singles ‘It’s Not A Lie’, ‘El Chapo as well as his 2012 mega hit ‘Oliver Twist’.
The King is still in the game and with the recent announcement of a Mo Hits tour about to hit the mainstream, one can only expect the Eja Nla to keep going strong in the game.