D’BANJ SPEAKS AT LAST: I Didn’t Believe Don Jazzy Could Betray Me.

We
have heard from Don Jazzy Now we’re about to read Dbanj’s side of the story…Read this and you will be touched. To be honest, am
tired of the split already. But reading this, I am confused; I don’t know who to
believe. You all must read it. And that is why am bringing it to you courtesy of
thenetng.com. It was an exclusive interview with D’banj in London. Continue to get the full details….


There’s an
important person in that building, right?
’ the cab driver asked.
Important musician?

I nodded, too tired to let any curious driver
drag me into a conversation.

He got the message and left me alone the entire
drive from Canary Wharf to the London Marriot Hotel, in Grosvenor
Square.

Then, as I got down to get my suitcase from the
trunk, he gave me a knowing look, smiled, and said ‘are you the musician?

Of course
not
’, I said to him, smiling this time. ‘The musician is in Canary Wharf, his name is
D’banj
’.


Silence. Confused look.


D’banj?


Yes, D’banj. He’s big in Africa. You know
Oliver Twist?


Silence again, then as his final ‘no’ came,
I said ‘Google him.


It was 4am on Saturday, April 21. I arrived
in London eight hours earlier, and had spent almost all of that time chatting
with D’banj, in his first
interview with a Nigerian newspaper in a long time, and his first interview on
the Mo’Hits
brouhaha
.


London is D’banj’s town. He’s performed
there over and over, his single ‘Oliver
Twist
’ is on the A-list at Choice
FM
, and enjoys heavy rotation on other stations. A day before I came,
he spent hours doing interviews at the Universal offices in Kensington. Some
might hail D’banj as the man championing the gospel of ‘Afrobeats’ across the
world. But, just like the cab driver, London does not yet know D’banj.


As we walk into the Choice FM building in
the afternoon on Saturday, there are no heads turning or fans gazing. In fact,
his lawyer, Elias, who wore a pair of loud snakeskin boots, attracted more
attention than D’banj.


Who leaves a zone where they’re comfortable
and celebrated; where they’re established and successful, for a place where no
one seems to give the slightest care?

D’banj, that’s who.


The 31 year-old entertainer has spent nearly two years building structures he hopes will help
take his music to new markets in Europe
, and especially America. This
move, he believes, cost him his friendship and business relationship with his
long time partner Don Jazzy.


I’m a
risk taker
’, he says. ‘Life is
all about risks. But you must never endanger yourself. I don’t endanger myself,
which is why, even though I’m here, I’m still in Nigeria all the time,
performing
’.

With incredible energy, and the kind of passion
that endeared everyone to him when he first moved back to Nigeria in 2005, D’banj says his deal with Kanye West is a case of ‘preparation
meets opportunity’.


I
pulled up with my entourage at the Emirates first class lounge in Dubai. We were
returning from Scott Tommey’s birthday. I came down with Bankuli, my P.A.
Chuchu, and my business manager Chidi. My entourage was large and I was looking
fly. One of the hostesses ran to me with a Kanye West placard. I said I’m not
Kanye o – then I told my guys ‘Kanye is around so no dulling.’ Chuchu and
Bankuli spotted Kanye walking in to check in. They went to him and he said we
could come over’.


As
they came, I had my iPad with me, and my headphones. First thing Kanye said was
‘I like your T-shirt’. I wore a Zara T-shirt and a D&G ring. He liked my
appearance and said he’d give me 5 minutes. I told him ‘I played with you in
Nigeria during NB PLC Star Megajam. I’ve done a song with Snoop and we’re going to shoot the video
now
. I’d like to play you my songs.’

I played Oliver, Scapegoat, and Fall in love. He was
dancing. He removed the headphones and said ‘I don’t mean to sound rude, but if
anyone has to bring you out in the states, it has to be me, not Snoop. He asked
when I was going to be in the US, and I told him I was going there that
day.

Then he asked who my
producer was, and I said Don Jazzy. He said ‘come with him
.’


Three months later, D’banj, Don Jazzy and
their crew were in New York, where, according to D’banj, it took almost forever
before they could establish contact with Kanye. ‘It was only an email address he
gave us at the airport. So when we got to NY, we sent several emails but got no
response. Not a single one.’


Then
we met someone that knew someone that knew another someone and we got another
email address. We sent several messages again, no response. Then Bankuli sent a
final one saying, ‘we have been in New York for some time and sent several
emails. We have waited long enough and are now on our way to do the Snoop Dogg video


And then the reply came. ‘Sorry to have overlooked your earlier emails. Mr.
Kanye would like to meet with you tomorrow.’


‘We
didn’t believe it. Don Jazzy, who had been reluctant all along, still did not
believe it. Even when we got there (Wyclef’s studio) the next day, he stood
outside. When Kanye came I went to call him ‘Oya come now, come play am the
music now’. It was difficult to believe it was real and it was happening. Then
when Kanye came in, with the GOOD music acts, I was like,
‘wow’.


From
there everything happened fast. Next they were meeting Jay Z, making a
presentation to LA Reid (At Electric studios), and discussing contracts. But
while the label offered him a traditional recording contract, D’banj opted for a
joint venture agreement structured to guarantee three things: retaining full
control of his materials in Africa, signing Don Jazzy on board (on behalf on
Mohits USA), and, he says, bringing the Universal/Def Jam imprint to
Africa.


‘I’ve
always thought of how I can be a useful vessel to the industry. A friend and
colleague always says to me: ‘D’banj, you’re the Jesus Christ of the industry.’
So having ran Mohits for nine years, I already had plans of how we could blow
Mohits up. I had plans of expanding, and most especially, bringing hope to that
11 year-old kid somewhere in Africa who may never have had the opportunity to
get signed to major labels’.


‘So it
was not really just about me. There’s a big market in Africa. I said to them,
‘I’ve sold millions of records in Africa, we’ve done millions of hits with CRBT,
and I’ve run the most successful label on the continent. You take care of the
US, but let me take you to Africa.‘ And I’m happy to tell you that we’re doing
that. D’banj’s album will be the first under Universal/Def Jam Africa, and we’re
already putting all the structures in place’.


‘I’m a
businessman.’ I learnt from my mom, who’s a very successful businesswoman. So
having run and funded Mohits for nine years, I knew we had to move to the next
level. And everything we wanted was happening. Finally we could take African
music to the world.’


Just
like the lyrics of the song, D’banj was an Oliver Twist. Here’s a guy who had
conquered a continent; was sitting on the top three list, and making more money
than anyone else in his category. D’banj was a big player in Nigeria, where
there are over 150 million people; a big player in Africa, with over 850 million
people. But he wanted to play big globally, with 7 billion people to grab
from.


And
that’s where the problem started. ‘Don Jazzy was no longer comfortable. You
know, we were like fishes out of water, in this new system, starting all over
again, like when we returned home in 2004. I got him a place in the US, set up
a studio there, just so he’d be comfortable and be able to work without going to
hang around the studios. In one year Jazzy did not make a song. I said, maybe
you want to go back to Lagos, you’ll get inspiration there?’ I was all about the
work, I wanted us to make this happen, so we can bridge that gap and create a
path for Africa. But Jazzy wanted us to go back home. And I understand. He’s my
friend, my brother’.

‘But I
never expected him to do what he did.’ He said to me in July last year ‘Let’s
scatter Mohits. He told me there are two captains – two captains cannot be in a
ship. I was like ‘that’s not possible, this is a marriage’. He said ‘then this
marriage is no longer working’. I said then let’s go for counseling; I asked, so
what happens to our children?’


Don
Jazzy wanted Mohits, D’banj says. And that happened on April 16, 2012 – after
months of a bitter feud, characterized by accusations and counter accusations,
widespread speculation, leaked emails and failed reconciliation
attempts.


‘You
can see he has signed already’, he said, showing the agreement with Don Jazzy’s
signature. ‘I have full rights to my catalogue and full ownership of my Koko
Holdings, while he has full ownership of Mo’Hits, including the artistes and
liabilities.’


Already
judged guilty in the court of public opinion, and publicly disowned by his own
boys Wande Coal and Dr SID, D’banj says he’s sad, but not bitter. Does he feel
kind of lonely, alone in the cold? ‘Asking me if I’m lonely because Wande or
Jazzy has left me is like asking my first sister if she’s lonely now – she has
two kids now, lives in Canada. Don Jazzy is still my brother – we just had to
move on. We’ll still work together in future, same with my boys. In fact, just
this week, he sent me the remix to Oliver Twist that we’re releasing in the UK
on May 14. All the interviews I’ve had here, I kept hyping him. It’s already in
my system – you know me, I’m a one-way soldier. Jazzy is a very quiet person.
Loyalty is key. My loyalty still lies in the friendship I had with him. He was
cheated by JJC, and I was present. I swore never to cheat him. But I’d like to
think our visions became different.

‘It was
clear when we met that Jazzy wanted to be the biggest producer, I wanted to be
the biggest African entertainer, not the biggest singer. I had my mind on money.
In order to say I’m the biggest, I had to be the richest. So for a very long
time, he was on the back end. He respected my act, I respected his music
judgment. Every meeting that brought us money I went for. I’d say I need to
confirm from Don Jazzy because that was the agreement, even though I knew it was
my decision.

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First Glo
deal was $500,000. That Landcruiser jeep was because of my demands. It was
because of the skill and exposure that I used to bargain. I’m a
businessman’

‘People say
I’m less talented, I was known as a jester in the JJC squad. I’d make everyone
happy and play the mouth organ, but I knew what I wanted. I decided to give Don
Jazzy power in 2007 when we realized that after four years, they did not
recognize us as a record label. We had signed artistes and done all this work.
So we restructured, and restrategized. So I told him to chill, so he can be more
respected and be the don. I’m older than him by one year, yet I respected him
like a don. I remember when he came out at Ali Baba show, I knelt down for him,
so people would say he’s the baba. All the talking in my ears and all, it was an
arrangement. All the Soundcity advert and all, he did not tell me anything. It
was all an arrangement.’

With his UK
publicist Vanessa Amadi taking notes nearby, his manager Bankulli interjecting
every now and then, and several legal documents surrounding us, D’banj spoke
passionately of his former partner in the same way a man might go on about a
cherished and respected, but estranged, lover. He’s on his sixth cigarette, and
thinks the room is stuffy, even though no one complains. So he opens the sliding
glass for ventilation. ‘Jazzy did his part’, he says, sitting down again and
looking me in the face.

‘He made the music for nine years. But nothing stops
him from making for twenty more years. We could have changed the formula. Why
didn’t he want to change the formula? It was time to expand the business, Mohits
was Motown reloaded. We always knew we would expand, he always said I had more
swagger than anyone else he knows, And I know he’s one of the best producers in
the world; we wanted to make Mohits the biggest in Africa. Other labels were
springing up. So if we could conquer America, London when no one had done it
before. Most of our people stop in Germany, or Paris. But this is America, this
is the big league; it makes us the strongest, the
biggest.

We had already made
the money. And who best to introduce me to the rest of the world? Kanye did not
want to change anything about my music, my style of dressing, or my brand. It is
God’s favour. But Jazzy was and is very scared. Something had worked for eight
years, so he wanted to maintain the status quo. People are afraid to try new
things.’

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‘But’,
he tells me, still maintaining eye contact while lighting another cigarette,
‘I’m not afraid. I’m a vessel that God is trying to use to help the industry.
I’m a bridge. Once in a few years, one artiste comes from the UK to run the
world, none has come from Africa. Fela was the closest. It’s been my own dream;
I made my name from Nigeria, unlike Seal, Wale, and Tinie
Tempah.

And I want to
bring Universal, Def Jam and all to Nigeria. So if I can build that bridge, then
we’re good, because it will give hope to the boys in Asaba, in Oshogbo that this
thing is possible.’


The day
after our Canary Wharf interview, we meet up at Highbury Islington, where he’s
shooting a documentary and the promo for the Oliver Twist competition for the
UK. D’banj’s new crew: Semtex (a white A&R rep from the label), Bankuli and
Vanessa, are on the ground, working with the production team. ‘This is why we’re
here o. This is the work’, he says as he invites me into the dressing
room.


‘And
when people say why am I not talking, this is why. I’m focused on making this
happen. It’s more important for me to make sure I don’t disappoint all those who
have invested in me; all those who believe in me and are supporting the
movement, than to be fighting over who’s right or
wrong.

Even now that I’m
talking to you, I don’t even know if I should be doing this
interview.’

It’s very
unexpected that D’banj – the super aggresive D’banj – is speaking in this
manner. He has fought many battles, cut off many former friend-associates,
ignored the Nigerian media, and reportedly humiliated several Mo’hits members,
including Ikechukwu and Dr SID. Temperamental, often impatient, and vocal, those
who know him will tell you the D’banj they know, is not the one that’s
speaking.


So I
ask:

The
perception is that you’ve become arrogant, unreachable, proud. You’re not the
D’banj we used to know; not the D’banj I used to know – and most people in the
media will say this is true


Obviously people will say stuff – but this is me. I
can’t keep up with everyone, no matter how much I try. But I understand where
I’m coming from. I cant forget my roots – all the interviews I had yesterday, I
was ‘bigging up’ DJ Abass, he gave me my first show in London. You saw me giving
Jazzy props in my interview earlier. That’s me. If I was arrogant I wouldn’t
have been the one even chasing Jazzy around since he told me last July that he
wanted to scatter Mohits.

Last time I saw him was on February 19 at Irving
Plaza. He didn’t support the show, and he only came on stage when SID and Wande
were performing. I wanted peace.


And
even my mom, who had supported us from beginning, who gave us the house we
stayed in (in Michael Otedola estate, Lagos), the Previa bus we used and paid
for Tongolo video, spoke to his parents last December; ‘this is what your son
said o’. I remember my mom saying to me, ‘if you guys have been together all
these years, and no wahala, then if you need to part, I hope there’ll be no
wahala.’ She was very particular about that. I had enough proof to have come out
and speak; this thing has been on for a long time, and we’re in April now. But I
don’t want to cause any wahala. I don’t want to spoil anything. I don’t want
trouble. Right now, I just want to be able to move on and do my
business.’


That’s
surprising, because when the leaked emails emerged, revealing private email
conversations between the estranged partners, all fingers pointed at D’banj. Don
Jazzy, a likeable celeb and social media addict, didn’t have anything to prove.
D’banj was the one who looked bad, and, understandably, would want to make a
move that could earn him public sympathy.


‘The
signing (away of my shares in Mohits) was already being discussed before April
16. If I kept quiet from January till now, what would it benefit me to leak
anything? Remember all the stuff about my password and all? We know where that
was from, I really wouldn’t want to think it was from him, my brother, but it
could be from anywhere, but I don’t want to call anyone’s name’


But
were the emails forged?


Everything in those emails were facts. And I don’t
even think the mails favoured me in any way. It’s not the exact mails that were
sent and signed, but there were elements of truth in the mails that were
published.’


Why did
you tell Ebony you own Mohits?


My mom
advised me not to speak. And the interviewer took it out of context. I co-owned
Mohits. We registered the business in 2004, and we owned it 50:50. So I spoke
about that, but the interviewer took it wrong and the fans put pressure on them
and they corrected it.


How
about Sahara Reporters?


I never
wanted to have any interview. It was on the eve of my US show. I was told I
should do the interview, because they’re very troublesome. I had to do the
interview for the sake of my show the next day. I was guaranteed that there’d be
no politics questions. I had not been in the country. And I had been under
pressure. Sadly, when that happened and I was being attacked in the media, none
of my guys came out to support me.


Looking
at all this, what are your regrets?


The
truth is that if nothing went wrong, you’d have still heard all this good news
and Mohits would take the glory, I didn’t come out in eight years to say
anything. Everyone made their contributions. There were no issues, as long as it
worked. My mistake was thinking that we were one. People don’t question their
brothers and sisters.


How do
you feel about Wande Coal and Dr. SID taking sides with Jazzy?


I won’t
be too quick to judge Wande Coal. I hear it was Jazzy that tweeted those Wande
tweets. I don’t know how true that is, but I know he had our social media
accounts. As at a month ago, I couldn’t access any of my accounts. My password
was changed on Twitter and Facebook. Then Universal intervened. I’m about to be
verified on Twitter now. I’m not really a social media person, so it was Don
Jazzy and some of our other guys that were running
it.

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Wande himself knows
the truth. He cannot talk to me like that. The whole Mohits knew who ran the
label businesswise. They knew who to come to when they needed to get money out,
after we recorded the album. Who knows the factory where Dansa was made? But you
will know the marketing manager. The car he’s driving, I bought him a brand new
Prado from Phyllis and Moss after he crashed the car he won from Hiphop World
awards. I bought six Range Rovers last year. I bought D’Prince an LR 3 last
year, he crashed it, then I bought him a Range, and it’s true that I bought two
Bentleys. Because of Jazzy. But after July last year, after the issue with
Jazzy, I bought myself the Aston Martin.

You bought
that? I thought that was a gift?


I
bought it.


How
were you able to fund all that?


In the
last nine years, there are a few people and corporate bodies that God has helped
me build relationships with, either individuals or banks, or even corporates
that are involved in the growth of the industry. I’ve enjoyed their support, and
even now that we’re going global, we’re pooling the funds together from all
these places.


Could
you possibly be Nigeria’s richest pop star? A billionaire?


Vanity
upon vanity. Money is material. In terms of what we’re doing, you’ll call me a
Trillionaire, because this vision is too big for only me. With the help of the
industry, the government, people like you Ayeni, we will not only be
billionaires, but trillionaires, and not just me, but every little kid that has
same talent like Beyonce, or Nicki Minaj. And with the standard of the UMG
worldwide, we can pass people out from our own Universal Music Group Africa,
Universal Def Jam Africa, and everyone should jump on this ship with us. It’s
not the Titanic.


There’s
been a lot of confusion – what label exactly are you signed on?


My
album comes out under my label/GOOD Music/Island Def Jam. I’m funding the D’banj
album, in America, through GOOD Music/Island Def Jam. GOOD Music is Kanye West
who is co-executive producing with me. The deal comprises of Island Def Jam, in
US. But in UK, it is under Mercury. My first single will be released in Europe
on May 14. My work will be released in Africa through Universal/Def
Jam.

We don’t have these
structures in Africa, and they’ve seen how much money they’ve lost. They’ve seen
what I’ve done with Mohits. I made my pitch to them; I’ve made them realize how
much they were losing in the African region. Over 150m Nigerians, over 800m
Africans. 2% of that is 8.5m. They were not making anything except from S.A,
which has been the US of Africa.

So we will be launching this label in Ghana, in
partnership with Vodafone, launching in Nigeria in partnership with MTN. Def Jam
Africa will be up soon; Kenya, SA, and North Africa will
follow.


Why are
you risking all this? What if you burn your fingers and lose everything you’ve
worked for?


Lose
out? Well, I am happy I even have something to risk. To whom much is given,
much is expected. Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jay Z, Kanye West, these
people take it to the max, take it to where they believe that they can push it
to.

In the first
instance, coming back to Nigeria with Jazzy was because I was a risk taker. And
I wouldn’t say I’m throwing everything away. I would say I’m putting everything
back in, in order to rip into the future. I get a broadcast from Tonye Cole
everyday. He says when you tell people this your vision, know that it’s not for
you alone – it’s for everyone. It’s like what Fela did. If what I’m doing
doesn’t work, but sows that seed that will germinate in three, five years, it
means my name will be written in gold.


Some
people have tried this before you, unsuccessfully. Do you have doubts and fears
sometimes?


My last
album was in July 2008 – no album in four years and I know what I still command
in those four years. The momentum for me to be able to do this is because I see
how much it took me, I saw the benefit, it’s God, and the favour of the
relationships we’ve built. Plus, I don’t take no for an answer, I don’t take
negativity. It will work in Jesus’ name. If not, I wouldn’t have landed in the
UK and hear Oliver Twist on the radio. Nor would I be in the mainstream media
with them saying I’m pioneering afrobeats. I said to them ‘Oh hell no, that’s
Fela’s music. Fela is the legend.’ So I pray to God – I beg my fans, it‘ll be
good to do half a million downloads. It’s possible, it’s a different market.
Platinum in UK is 300,000. I believe with the support of my people in Redding,
Coventry, Dusting, Hackney, Thamesmead, Abbeywood, we can do
it.’


And so,
as I say my goodbyes and flag down the cab that’ll take me to Heathrow Airport,
I can’t help thinking out loud: should one man sacrifice the wishes of the
collective on the altar of ambition and material wealth? But then, what should
be expected of the man whose dreams and ambition grow beyond those of other –
possibly myopic- members of the collective: should an individual sacrifice his
personal desires; derail his destiny, so to speak, in the interest of the
collective?


In all
of this, faithfulness and loyalty have been brutally murdered. And the jury is
still out on who pulled the trigger.

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