More than a dozen years have passed since Music Television (MTV) began its annual recognition of popular musicians in Africa. Nigeria’s 2face Idibia, South Africa’s Freshlyground, D’banj (Nigeria), Loncville (South Africa), Sauti Sol (Kenya), Diamond Platnumz (Tanzania), Davido (Nigeria), Ali Kiba (Tanzania), Wizkid (Nigeria), and Tiwa Savage (Nigeria) have been honored either as the ‘Best African Act’ at the MTV Europe Music Awards, or as the ‘Artist of the Year’ at the MTV Africa Music Awards. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo, D’banj, carted home this honor – making him the beneficiary/recipient with the highest frequency of the MTV award for the continent’s musical elite.
In 2011, D’banj became the pioneer recipient – along with 2face Idibia – of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Award for ‘Best International Act: Africa’. At the 2012 Music of Black Origins (MOBO) Awards in Liverpool, D’banj was named ‘Best African Act’. The same year, at the Channel O Music Video Awards, he won ‘The Most Gifted Male Video Award’ and the biggest prize at stake ‘The Most Gifted Video in Africa Award’ on account of the mass appeal of the ‘Oliver Twist’ video. In 2014, at the World Music Awards (where awards are presented to the world’s best-selling artists in the various categories and to the best-selling artists from each major territory), D’banj was named ‘Best African Act’. Before these, D’banj had won several stand-out recognitions including KORA All Africa Awards’ ‘Most Promising Male Artist’ in 2005 and the Hip Hop World Awards’ ‘Revelation’ in 2006. His most recent honor is the Evolution Award at the 2015 MTV Africa Music Awards in Durban.
These awards/recognitions are demonstrative of D’banj’s popularity and dominance in the African pop music terrain between his debut in 2004 and 2011-15. His successes show the public’s penchant for feel-good music as well as the investment in dance, lewdness and merriment. However, beyond the short span of pop music careers in contemporary Africa, D’banj’s contributions to social commentary may have passed unnoticed due to the immense nature of his dance and party works in the course of his reign.
In a 2011 article entitled ‘Mixed Metaphors: Missing Punchlines’, renowned and syndicated columnist Sonala Olumhense sums up a typically Nigerian condition thus: “Nigeria was built on speed, and I have known a lot of quick Nigerians. From independence ceremonies in 1960 through a republican constitution to our first military coup was a mere six years, so it may be easy to understand why nothing which requires fleetness of feet surprises me within [Nigerian] boundaries”.
A song which served to document this aspiration of suddenness in the Nigerian but appears to have past largely unrecognized in such respect is D’banj’s ‘Suddenly’. Other than ‘Oliver Twist’, there is perhaps no gainsaying that ‘Suddenly’ is D’banj’s most iconic and definitive work. Indeed, his playboy image overrides his contributions to chronicling the Nigerian socio-cultural reality of speediness.
In ‘Suddenly’ off the album The Entertainer, D’banj produces a timeless masterpiece. His subject in ‘Suddenly’, as with most times, is the woman. D’banj manages, in ‘Suddenly’, to convey a cocktail of messages on his own experiences, of Nigerian women, and of the larger Nigerian society. While each of the imports from the song makes for concrete observation, the crucial section for this piece transpires in verse three which reads:
I want talk about this young girl
One of the finest girls I’ve seen
When she step up on the dance floor
Her dance step so enticing
She go say ‘koko master, too strong like m-bison’
When will act in the movies, especially in the late night scenes
Well I remember
The time when just to get a girl to be mine
Dem go tell me say I no fine
Na poor I poor, I no commit crime
Dem go dey yab me, no be small
Dem no even send me at all at all
Just to bring their number make I call
Dem go still dey hala at all at all
…But now dem know the kind of life I’m living
I’m living, I’m living
I say now dem know the kind of life I’m living…
What D’banj manages to chronicle here is the fickleness of the female Nigerian heart that would pay him no attention previously, only to see in him: a dream man, the moment he experienced success. ‘And all this happened suddenly, so suddenly’ he chants.