By Bolatito Adebayo
Dapo Oyebanjo popularly known as D’banj or Bangelee recently rolled out his latest project, CREAM (Creative, Reality, Entertainment, Arts and Music), aimed at rewarding young creative minds in the entertainment industry.
In this interview with Entertainer, the Koko Master sheds light on the project while also talking about his music, relationship and many more. Enjoy it.
What are we expecting from you music wise?
We will no longer be giving out our music for free. We have to think about the business side. In my announcement earlier, I said that MTN generated 70 million dollars from January to June across Africa from music distribution alone. So, last year, when I was thinking about a platform upon which I could maximise and monetise my music, I thought of MTN. As you know, there are so many music releases in the industry but they are not properly monetised. So, early this year, I thought that since people wanted me to give them something and God already gave me a great song, Emergency, let me release it. I released it and it turned out a hit. You see I never met the producer of Emergency. That is why we need this platform. You know, he gave it to somebody who gave it to another person who then brought it to us. At the end of the day, we were able to bring out a hit song, and now I have my album ready. In a couple of weeks, you will hear something fresh from me; my next single is going to come out. You will be hearing two songs from me. I will feature Phyno and legendary DJ Bobosky from South Africa. The two songs have been ready since, but I was waiting for the platform to release it. So, now that we have done this, the music will be out anytime soon. This is just not for me but for the whole music industry. You know, we are not releasing music just to be popular; we are releasing music to feed our families and also put money in our pockets.
You champion Afrobeat but you said you will feature Phyno and Bobosky in your next single, are you shying away from Afrobeat or experimenting with a new genre?
No. You know, Afrobeat is not mine. Everybody knows Afrobeat is for Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. I do say I don’t do Afrobeat but that I do Afro pop. The reason why I do Afro pop is because, if you listen to Oliver Twist very well, you will know that it is not Afrobeat. It is Afro pop, because I am the one on it. Also, if you take a look at I Have A Confession and the dialogue I used, you might be thinking it is Afrobeat. But if you take a look at the beats, you will know that it can pass for any pop song and that is why it was able to cross over. I don’t like people boxing me to a corner; that is why even when they see somebody rap, they will say he is doing Afrobeat. No, it is not Afrobeat, it is Afro rap because rap is all around the world, but it is the Afro that is bringing my swag onto it. Emergency has a bit of Afrobeat on it, but it is Afro pop. The one you will be listening to now will be Afro pop. I am not shying away from Afrobeat, rap, hip hop or anything. Ten years ago, before I even knew what today will be, I had told everybody that I was not a singer or rapper or comedian but that I am an entertainer. So, I am speaking as an entertainer, and I will continue to entertain.
Speaking of CREAM, is it possible that a winner will emerge and you will send such a person to your record label?
I like that question but I am looking at the business side of it. If I see a rapper that is so good, I already have business dealings with some music labels like Chocolate City, so if I see a rapper that is good, it means they can sign him so that he can go and shine there. If it is raga that the person likes, I will call Timaya and they will work together while we will pay for it. That’s why we said it is not a one-off thing. People are like, how are we going to manage 10 winners every month? I have spoken to the likes of Cobhams, I have spoken to the Dee Jay association, and I told them we will bring in hits but I will not be the one to choose; you will come together and if you think this one will be a hit, then let us all work together on it. For me, it is going to create jobs, it is going to eliminate the lack of attention that we have right now. You know, the only way you can blow right now is when you play your song on Instagram or Youtube or even Facebook.
Your partnership with MTN caused a little uproar because everyone thought you have ‘ported’ to MTN from Glo, why didn’t you take this initiative to Glo, why did you take it to a competing brand?
D’banj was an ambassador for Glo for two years; my contract with Glo expired in November 2015. I am very cool with Glo. But the reason why I chose MTN is simple, if you look at the creative industry today, you will find out that MTN is a pacesetter. If you look at the revenues, if you look at the risk they have taken, they are the only one that has the music stream centre that is working. Music Plus is working and I am generating money as an artiste. I have a company that aggregates contents for music and I have always owned it even though I was a Glo ambassador. I was always passing content all around the network and I found out that the best people that understand what I am about to do, and will maximize it for me, is MTN. In fact, last year, I did an interview with Bloomberg where they asked me ‘which is the biggest record label’ and I said MTN Records. They asked me why and I said it is because when we had Mo’hits, we could say it was Mo’hits Records because there was no social media then. It was just Alaba (International Market) and we had partnership with the legitimate people there. But today, you cannot call yourself a record label if you do not have distribution and marketing network. And which company has the largest distribution network in the country now? Which company has shown success stories in music? It is MTN. That is why they made 70 million dollars from music distribution. So, what I am saying is that my partnership with MTN secures me.
Recently, it seems you are playing down your alter ego, D’banj and playing up Dapo Oyebanjo, the businessman?
Yes, but we can’t separate the two of them, and I have realised that people can’t tell the difference. As you can see, we started with the transparent glasses, then this. So people can know that when you are able to see my eyes it is Dapo, but when I wear the sunshade, it is D’banj. The truth about it is that I wanted people to understand, because from day one, I have always said that I was a businessman. Dapo Oyebanjo is the businessman and D’banj will always perform on stage.
Is D’banj married?
If you see a wedding ring on my hand, fine and if you don’t see, fine. But the truth is that, it is very important to know what you want as a brand. And as a brand, I want to focus on my business and keep my family and private life out of the public eye. I know where I am coming from, and so, when it comes to my private life, it is a no-no.