Death really does come in 3’s – in the space of less than a week in October, 3 young men lost their lives after reportedly partying like rockstars, and, in Davido, their deaths were linked to a very big one.
Tagbo Umeike was OBO’s associate, the two were pictured having drinks and celebrating the former’s birthday a few hours before his demise. DJ Olu’s story was equally tragic, he was found lifeless in a car alongside his friend Chime Amaechi. Olu was one of the in-house DJ’s at the singer’s HKN record label; they’d been on tour together.
What followed thereafter was a nightmare for everyone involved but a wet dream for blogs and media houses, who benefitted from trafficking in speculation about the young men’s untimely deaths. There was talk of alcohol and drug overdose, of police manipulations and Davido being complicit in the whole affair; in no time, Davidogate became arguably the biggest scandal to rock Nigerian music in 2017.
I feel particularly bad for the families. I found myself in an uncomfortable position where I had to exchange terse messages with Tagbo’s sister about an apparently fake autopsy report that was floating around. His death is the most contentious, it’s obvious that Tagbo’s family, his reported partner, ex-Nollywood actress Caroline Danjuma, and the police, suspect Davido knows more about the young man’s death than he is letting on. It’s tough to lose a loved one, it must be even tougher to lose them under questionable circumstances but the toughest thing must be the complexity that Davido’s celebrity adds to the grieving process.
There were initial concerns that the scandal would leave a permanent, cashew juice-like stain on the superstar’s flourishing career, but Davido has proven in the past that whenever he’s surrounded by negative press, he’s able to leverage his music to rise above it all – a hit song can travel halfway around the world while a press release is just putting on its shoes.
Recently, Davido released his newest single “FIA” where he sought to distance himself from all the speculation surrounding the deaths of his friends. The singer set his sights particularly on Caroline Danjuma and the Nigerian Police:
Caroline save your drama /
I don’t need it for the soap opera /
Holla Holla, Mr Olopa, I’m not here to cause wahala
On the song, Davido also seems to define the boundaries of his relationships, romantic and otherwise: just because I love you doesn’t mean I’ll hurt myself to make you happy. The message was cryptic, rather than going gung-ho in typical Davido fashion, “FIA” was measured and subtle. Nonetheless, the new single is further proof that when it comes to using music as a weapon to confront his enemies, Davido is unmatched in this generation.
Earlier this year, OBO sent a jab at his arch nemesis, Wizkid, on Olamide’s song “Summer Body”. The two singers had resumed their long battle for Afropop supremacy, Wizkid was actually responding to Davido’s comment about his Afro-dancehall sound not fitting the reigning ‘pon pon’ format, when he labeled him ‘local’. To that, Davido replied:
With Yankee passport dem say we local /
You better catch up I go see you later
On “Summer Body”, Davido was engaged in a back and forth with a longtime rival, so it’s understandable, but on DJ Jimmy Jatt’s “Orekelewa”, he seemed to send an unprovoked missile at an unlikely target: D’Banj (the Kokomaster). Davido sang:
Ooh, dem dey ask sey what is the koko o /
And I tell them ówò ni koko o /
He still think sey na him be the koko oh (gerrara hia) /
He forget say we don’t carry am go yeah
D’Banj is in a vulnerable place in his career, despite still aiming for the same international audience as Davido and Wizkid, he’s been unable to follow up the 2012 success of “Oliver Twist” and has had to settle for a position as John the Baptist to the duo’s Jesus Christ. But Jesus has a 2,000 year old religion named after him, not John, the Kokomaster has therefore been fighting to get more recognition than he does as a way-paver. But despite sounding like a clear call to question D’Banj’s relevance in 2017, Jimmy Jatt would later claim that the lines on “Orekelewa” weren’t targeted at the veteran singer at all.
There is however little doubt about Davido’s feelings towards Dele Momodu. Since Momodu waded into the problems between Davido and Sophie – the mother of his child, who’s also Momodu’s niece – the singer has turned the Ovation founder’s name into a lyrical piñata. Last year, he tapped on it gently on Humblesmith’s “Osinachi (Remix)”:
Dele Momodu sinachi mo /
No be by force to go Dubai /
Abi na wetin cause the fight /
And I just dey my own dey laugh eh
But a few months after, on Falz’ “Bahd Baddo Baddest”, he gave it a real wack:
Mr Dele na my boy, Dele na my boy
The video of Dele Momodu walking out of a concert as Davido performed that stinging line right in front of him is one of the most disrespectful moments you’re ever going to see.
Thankfully though, in responding to his new detractors, Davido has made the wise decision not to taunt them or call them names – death is a much more delicate matter than supremacy or relevancy or even child custody battles.
While we are not any clearer about the investigations into the deaths and how Davido will navigate possibly the most challenging time in his career, we can be rest assured that if there’s any obstacle that still stands in his way, he is going to use music to fight it.
Originally written for Guardian Nigeria