The breakneck world of African music is not necessarily a young man’s game but it is, without a doubt, one of newness. There is a constant inundation of new, “fresh” artists fighting to break onto the scene in an ever-evolving digital space, while fans are constantly listening out for a new hit. Artists of just a few years ago can become forgotten as quickly as they rise up (if not quicker). Like pop music listeners globally, fans of afrobeats are typically viewed as both fickle and forgetful.
This climate is emphasized when discussing an artist like Dbanj, who was once viewed as one of the musical kings within the genre of Afrobeats but now when brought up in conversations he has been made out to be a sort of caricature of himself–a looming symbol for his successors of what befalls you if you lose your way chasing the American market. Or even worse a discarded relic of the past.
D’banj’s debut album No Long Thing is now 12 years old, the same age that I was when I was visiting Nigeria and was formerly introduced to Afrobeats music. Differing from the African music that I had been introduced to at home through my parents, Sonny Bobo, Oriental Brothers, Fela, etc. this had an entirely different type of energy and excitement that I was immediately drawn to. D’banj brought a new era of African music to me that was as bold and daring as it was innovative.
With all of this being said, I wanted to in the words of Kanye (in the least way ironic possible), give this man his roses while he can still smell them. Guiding the conversation away, if only for a moment, from D’banj’s missteps and lack of perceived current action to a trip down memory lane, to appreciate a true living legend. So, let’s look back at some of the characteristics and moments that have made D’banj so great.