Bouncing towards me on his alligator-skin trainers, Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo opts for a one-armed hip-hop hug when at last we meet. Not only does he look the part – the shoes are by designer Philipp Plein, his T-shirt’s Calvin Klein and around his neck hangs a dazzling chain created by Jacob “The Jeweller” Arabo, purveyor of “bling blings” to the hip-hop elite – but he smells it, too: an almost suffocating cloud of lavender scent hangs in the air.
D’Banj, as he shortens his name, is the biggest name in entertainment inNigeria and has the potential to become the first-ever artist from Africa to compete on equal terms with any acts in the western pop firmament. It’s the brash, moneyed, sexy version of the continent – home to seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world – that he represents. Today he is in the UK promoting his Top 10 hit Oliver Twist, a ribald account of the famous women he fancies, from Nicki Minaj and Rihanna to the Ghanaian actress Nadia Buhari. Recently he heard it being used as the background music to a party in EastEnders – precisely the sort of mainstream attention that he wants to receive.
Listen to Oliver Twist on East Enders below…
It quickly becomes apparent that the 32-year-old, acclaimed by his peers back home in Lagos for his relentless drive, is difficult to stop once he’s on a roll. “I’m so excited – not just for me, but for the whole of Africa,” he says. “Two years ago I said it’s time for me to take my music global because I’ve won all the awards back home.” With his mentor, the producer Don Jazzy, he created the biggest record label in Nigeria, but “now I want to win a Brit award, a Grammy”.
“Yes, we have MTV, yes, we sell millions of records and have endorsement deals, but we’ve never felt as if we’re part of the same music industry as the rest of the world – the Kanye Wests, the Adeles and Tinie Tempahs,” he continues. “I see what I’m doing now as the bridge that we’ve been looking for from Africa to the mainstream world. I want others to see the potential in my country, other than our oil and natural resources. That’s what’s making me move. I feel like a new artist.”