Watch Davido’s ‘Routes of Inspiration’ episode, above. ‘Routes of Inspiration’ is a series of films, brought to you by @vype_worldwide, exploring how global creatives get inspired.
2019 was a pivotal year for Afrobeats superstar Davido. His second studio album, A Good Time, was finally released after being delayed due to the birth of his son, which followed the release of his debut album, 2012’s Omo Baba Olowo. Since then, the rise and rise of African music globally has continued to spur him on and he is now gearing up to release his third LP, A Better Time.
Davido still remembers when it was his dream to one day have a music video on Nigerian TV, especially after being inspired by the likes of D’Banj, Tekno and P-Square—who were all putting Afrobeats on the map—while he was still in university in Atlanta. What continues to drive 26-year-old Davido is to see Afrobeats progress even further than where it is. Born in Atlanta and returning to Nigeria for school, he has always expressed how much Lagos is still home.
“My preferred destination to record is always Lagos,” he says. “I like recording in Lagos and then going to LA to record as well. Lagos is a big inspiration, and everybody knows what it’s about: it’s about nightlife, party life, but even the community, the government, everything. It inspires me a lot and it inspired my album.” And even when he switches off and relaxes, it’s still all about being with his friends and having memorable moments. “Everybody knows that the beach is my second home,” he says. “In Nigeria, we have beautiful beaches—every weekend we get a boat, go to the beach-house with the DJ and we just party. The experience is crazy! We love it.”
Lagos is one of the routes of inspiration for Davido, not just because it’s home, but the majority of his people are there and it’s their presence and energy in the studio that pushes him to create the best music possible. “I love having people in the studio with me,” he explains. “My friends and my producers as well. I like to record by myself sometimes. It’s just a vibe, with friends around and a little alcohol to shake the room.” And he’s super-inspired by being in front of his fans. “Touring, travelling and performing alone gives me so much inspiration. You’re seeing the people singing, going crazy to what you just made in the studio. It’s the energy, the life and the experience of being on the road; these are stories that we’ll tell our kids and grandkids.”
As Davido was about to embark on his world tour, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the normalcy of life, but it was during lockdown that he announced plans to release A Better Time, in a bid to continue to push the Afropop sound. “African music is in a better place,” he says. “I’m in a better place and it’s a good time to express my culture.”
However, A Better Time wasn’t really planned: “The pandemic had a lot to do with it because I was on tour, which I had to stop. If I was on tour, I’m not sure I would’ve had time to really record but being in Lagos, at home, I was recording and recording so many songs and it ended up being really good. It took about two or three months but when I first started recording it, I had no plan, I just wanted to have fun with it.”
A Better Time promises to be a rich body of work, and because Davido spent lockdown in Nigeria, he acknowledges that the experience of making a record in Lagos was a unique moment for him, compared to when he recorded A Good Time in the States. “A Good Time I actually recorded in America and I was away from my producers,” Davido says. “It was quite difficult communicating through phones and emails. With A Better Time, we actually made the music together in Lagos and I think that’s what made it special.”
It’s clear that being at home in Lagos inspired Davido to create a body of work that would speak to ways in which Afropop and, by extension, contemporary African music has been blossoming over the past ten years. The new album features the likes of Nas, Nicki Minaj, Lil Baby, and Mayorkun. It’s a star-studded affair but the guests are also an indication of just how influential Afropop has become within contemporary hip-hop culture; so much so that Davido will be appearing in the sequel to the iconic Coming To America, starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
It has been a challenging year for the global community. The pandemic has affected us all in a varying degree of ways. During this time, artists like Davido have channelled their energies and passion into creating, making the most of a difficult time. However, he hopes when all of this is over, his fans will join him for a better time.