Death really does come in threes. Last month, in barely a week, three 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 DJs 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’s complicity 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 (Tagbo’s) 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.
Last week, 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 labelled 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 long-time 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 say 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 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 Jesus Christ duo. 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.
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.