For the first time, D’banj has revealed details about his meeting with US superstar, Kanye West.
The singer who was once signed to West’s GOOD Music record label – a move which led to the breakup of Mo’Hits Records – has opened up about how he met Kanye West in a Dubai airport in 2010.
In an interview with Ebro Darden on Apple Music’s Beats 1, D’banj revealed how he was once mistaken for Kanye at an airport in Dubai, and took advantage of the opportunity to wait for Kanye West.
“Everyone is on Afrobeat, AfroPop, African Sound, but the first person to ever take notice of that and do something about it was Kanye,” D’banj said.
The singer also discusses his forthcoming album “King Don Come”, the collaborations on his radar, and future plans. The entire conversation has been condensed and edited below:
How did you meet Kanye?
I’ll tell you that right now. Everyone is on Afrobeat, AfroPop, African Sound, but the first person to ever take notice of that and do something about it was Kanye. I was in Dubai in 2010. I had a concert in Dubai and on my way out of Dubai when we got to the airport I was with my entourage, I came out and the steward came running to me with a plaque saying Mr. Kanye West. So they thought I was Kanye.
So I said, “Hello. I’m D’banj. All my African friends call me. I am not Kanye West.” I said guys Kanye is coming. Eyes open. This is no coincidence. No coincidence. So we’re checking into first class and then saw him with a hoodie. He’s there with his bodyguard. Then before I knew it one of my teammates, one of them ran to him and said “Yo, Mr. Kanye I have the biggest artist from Africa. African Michael Jackson. Let him play you the record. We performed together on stage but we didn’t see each other. That was in 2006 when he came to Nigeria or in 2007.
Kanye said, “Come. Let me listen to your records.” He listened to two records and he removed the headphones and said “Whoa. This sound is the new sound. Where are you going to?” I said, “I’m off to L.A.” Because I had just done a collaboration then. The first African major collaboration with the legend himself Snoop Dogg. So we’re about to shoot the video which we have the video for as well. So we are going to L.A. to shoot the video and then Kanye said, “No, no, no, no, no pass through New York. I want to do the same thing I did with Estelle. Same thing I did with John Legend. I want to do with you.”
I said ha! Africa! My dream has come true. And I went back home. I got everybody together. We must have done a Thanksgiving and church. I said, “Hey. Kanye has sent for us. Our Asahd. Finally. No, he didn’t want to change anything. He said he likes the way and he also commented on my dress and said, “Nice. Nice fashion sense.” I was like “Oh my god.” So we flew straight to New York and we’re here in this wonderful city in 2011. We were here for two weeks. I was trying to reach Kanye for two weeks.
I kept emailing. Mr. Kanye we met in Dubai. You said we should come. Its African Michael Jackson. I’m here. So two weeks straight we waited to no avail and we sent an email that said, “I have to got to L.A. to shoot the Snoop Dogg’s video. On my way back if its possible I would like to see you.” and then we got an email that same night saying, “Mr. Kanye West will see you at the address below.” Oh! Ebro. When I got there the whole family was there too you know. Everybody from G.O.O.D. Music. And Kanye said you have to listen to this guy and then he played all the records and we didn’t have “Oliver Twist” then.
I’ll tell you how “Oliver Twist” came and I’m glad that Kanye was so — that’s why I said a big thank you to him because Oliver Twist started popping up in the U.K. and then I wrote Kanye an email. I said listen there’s this song I recorded even though our deal is not done yet can I release it in the U.K. and Europe and when we’re done we’ll release it in America and Kanye was kind enough to say I’m in London come through and he heard the song. He said, “When are you shooting the video?” I said, “I will shoot it now if you are going to be in the video. Just tell me you will be in the video. I will shoot it now.”
I was like ok. Big Sean was coming to town, Pusha T was coming to town, you know Hit-Boy. We working on the G.O.O.D. Music album then he says so if you can shoot it around this time they will all be there. Immediately I broke the bank and said, “Lets shoot this video.” Kanye surprised me and they came and I became history and everything blew up, but the song never released in the states.
About “Oliver Twist”
Actually it broke in the UK because a DJ, DJ Ryan on BBC, there’s a countdown they’re doing to the new year every time in Hyde Park and over 250,000 people stay there. They countdown into 2012. The song was the first song after the countdown. So I think I saw it and that’s where everyone saw it and then they put it on BBC.
So I immediately followed the spirit. I flew to London. I got there and said, “How did this song get on that?” Finally, this is what we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been waiting to be able to play in the same league as every other person. I heard you say international, but we’ve never been given that chance to play.
So “Oliver Twist” was the first record that had no bias and was just put in as an international pop record, AfroPop. And when I got to London thats when everyone said to me “Is that your record? Is that your record? Oh that’s going to be a smash in summer. You have to release that record.” And I’m like, “How do I release it?” With Kanye.
On getting referenced as “Africa’s Michael Jackson”
Not just Nigeria. I remember the first African MTV Award I won. European MTV Award. That was 2007. I won African Artist Of The Year and then three years in a row. 2008 I won African Artist, 2009 I did because I did MOBO which is the African MTV Awards and then 2010 I won again European Music Award. But one thing always stood out for me from day one. When they say D’banj are you a singer? Are you a rapper? I say no, I’m an entertainer.
Because you put me on stage I would like to entertain you and that’s what I’ll do and that’s what Michael does. If you ever go to a Michael’s concert even though I never went, but from watching and seeing his life you know that he will never leave you the same. The way that he would come with a whole arrangement, with a whole package. He would just make sure that you were entertained. So that’s how I was found myself as a full entertainer. I think when I started doing that of course Africa could see. African Michael Jackson and I put it in my song in 2008.
At the MTV Awards I performed on stage. Wyclef saw me. He was the host of MOBO MTV Awards and got on stage and said you are Africa’s Michael Jackson. So I got the name African Michael Jackson from Wyclef Jean and it just stuck and that panned out for me because when I finally met Bono and we did. “Ok you are going to the States, What do you want to do” I said I want to meet Beats by Dre. I want to meet Apple. He said ok I’ll introduce you to Jimmy Iovine and that’s how I met Jimmy Iovine and became Africa’s Beats ambassador in October 2015. So for me I focused on building the brand pending when the label would release me and when I can now start putting out songs globally. Knowing that the brand from “Oliver Twist” was already global.
About “Be With You” single off “King Don Come” album
They shot this video in the Bahamas and it has New York’s finest Benny’s Burgers in the video and the song was released. When I saw the budget I said this budget is a movie. This guy shoot two, part one and part two and they said that’s how we roll. So I’m so happy I got the legendary video director Eif Rivera. So “Be With You” is a summer record. It was released last week and its clearing the air waves. I’m here to be with you Beats 1.
About “El Chapo” single off “King Don Come” album (Premiere)
I don’t want you to think that I’m joking. This album I want to cover everything now. Tell me one person that I should feature on this to kill the trap world” and they give me Gucci Mane. So we got a track with Gucci Mane called “El Chapo.” Ya “El Chapo” featuring Gucci Mane and Wande Coal. Take it away.
Are you seen as the leader of this current generation?
People always challenge but I said numbers don’t lie. The streets don’t lie. The first to have opened the door, yes and with the world being digital now with Beats and Apple Music very soon there will be no need, no separation. You will release your song from South Africa and you will talk Chad in America without coming to America.
About “Ntswempu” single off “King Don Come” album (Premiere)
Since I mentioned South Africa I’m going to give you something that I believe is going to — it sounds like Oliver Twist. Its called “Ntswempu” and its featuring two of the finest S. African legends Bucie and Busiswa. Its a movement and Africa we’re here to eat from the Big Apple. Ntswempu. It means awesomeness in Zulu.
When you blow up the way we blew up coming from Nigeria. Knowing fluently that you have your languages and then your song blows from Nigeria and it’s going to Ghana, it’s going to Sierra Leone, you get everywhere that they speak several languages and what you said in your song was your language that your people are saying.
When you travel around enough for you to expand your horizon while when you get educated I like to explore. Why I did the Spanish record was because like I said when we did “Oliver Twist” Pitbull had jumped on the remix and we wanted it cleared, but that never got cleared. So for me I had always put an eye on that market and then I realized anytime you call anyone in America it goes “For English press one. For Spanish press two.”
I said “Oh! We need to do something about this.” So when we have the song, when I heard the beat, the beat gave me this kind of like “despacitio” sound and I heard it and I loved this beat. I think it will work and we specifically said let’s do something. Two different versions of the same song. One in French and one in Spanish because I knew that I had fans over there. Like you said, not just Africans in the diaspora, but Spanish people that have accepted music. “Oliver Twist” very big in the Caribbean. Very huge record.
So I knew I had fans that want to still check. So thats why we did it. Its called “Te Necesito” and “Te Necesito” is the Spanish record from D’banj.