The sex-obsessed, groove-heavy Nigerian superstar D’banj has made some powerful friends with unusual names of their own, like Kanye and Snoop. So why would he want to change his name to Daniel Banjo? That is at the heart of the mystery that’s captivated Nigerian fans of D’banj, AKA Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo, AKA Daniel Banjo. More on the controversy in a minute.
D’banj considers Fela Kuti, the brash creator of Afrobeat, as his role model. Fela took the musical exchange between Africa and America that began with the blues and brought it home to Nigeria. He melded funk and R&B rhythms with the deep, driving poly rhythms of his native country and infused it with a radical political agenda. D’banj has done something similar, taking hip hop’s sensibility and style and giving it a subtle African twist.
On to the videos of the self-declared “Koko Master.” I have no idea what that means, but probably something sexy.
Here’s the song “Oliver Twist.” Give yourself room: you may find yourself obeying his command to “Shake Yer Bum Bum.”
D’banj’s infectious blend attracted fans at home and abroad. His first album was in 2005, and in 2007 he was named “Best African Act” at the MTV Europe Music Awards. Then last year, on his birthday (June 9), he was signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D label, a first for an African performer. D’banj tweeted that it was the “best birthday present ever.”
The name is the thing
But success has its pitfalls. Shortly after the G.O.O.D. announcement, D’banj apparently split with his longtime producer Michael Collins Ajereh, known as Don Jazzy. Then came the notorious name change.
Suddenly, on his Twitter feed, D’banj’s name changed from Dapo “D’banj” Oyebanjo to Daniel “D’banj” Banjo.
Nigerians immediately assumed he was distancing himself from his roots. A fan calling himself the “Spirit of ’76” wrote “your new affiliation with G.O.O.D music seems to be getting to your head.”
He points out that Daniel Banjo sounds like a country musician, then continues: “Why abandon the successful person you are to become a less successful version of what you’re not? You’re a Nigerian, not an American, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be one, so be yourself and have faith.”
Before the backlash had a chance to gain momentum, D’banj’s Nigerian name returned to his Twitter feed, and a press release went out blaming the change on hackers intent on “hurtful, damaging activities.” According to the release, D’banj is now personally overseeing his Twitter and Facebook pages.
It can be convenient to blame hackers for embarrassing online activity (ask former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner). Or maybe someone jealous of D’banj’s success really did aim to sabotage the singer’s rep.
In any case, it’s unlikely to dent D’banj’s rise to fame. He even got that lackadaisical charmer Snoop Dogg to join him for a remix and video of the not-so-nuanced ode “Mr. Endowed.” Speaking of names being changed to cross over, check Snoop’s passport in the video, which seems to dub him a Nigerian (Oluwasnoop). Topsy turvy world!
Name change aside, D’banj knows how to work it. Here he is announcing a YouTube dance off:
And answering the call, I present The Backyard Crew: