Through resilience, perseverance and hard work, Nigerian born Daps is one of the biggest music video directors in the world today.
Known behind the camera lens as Daps, Oladapo Fagbenle is the man calling the shots behind some of the most culturally significant music videos of our generation.
On Thursday, April 6, 2017, Nigerian pop dynamite Wizkid released the video of his single 'Come Closer' featuring the hottest artist in the world Drake.
The video which has racked close to 3 million views was praised for its clean visuals, Afro-centric minimalism and celebration of African beauty. Daps was the director of the extremely wavy video that is now Wizkid's biggest push into mainstream America.
Before placing Wizkid among caramel goddesses, Daps helmed the shoot for 'Bad & Bougee' by Migos. The video (over 300 million views) was the soundtrack of the trap invasion that conquered the world late 2016 and early 2017.
Interestingly, the meteoric rise of 'Bad & Bougee' can be traced to Nigeria. On Tuesday, December 20, 2016, a clip of Migos performing the track at the BEAT FM Concert went viral. Backed up by memes, 'Bad & Bougee' went to the number one spot on the Billboard chart. Of course, this reflected in the YouTube views of the song which was directed by Daps.
It's like everywhere you go these days, Nigeria is in the middle of a new cultural movement or a Nigerian is behind it.
Daps has gone on to shoot three more videos for the trap black Beatles, 'T-Shirt', 'Deadz' featuring 2 Chainz and 'What The Price'. Daps is now the go-to-guy for the Migos. He is the guy they call when they want to express their wave in trap pictures.
"I met them (Migos) during a video for an artist named Niykee Heaton. So they were featured artistes on that song- 'Bad Intentions'" Daps tells Pulse Buzz over a phone interview.
"I did the right type of work and they said 'hey our next video you should shoot it.' And I was like 'sure'. The video turned out real nice. We did Bad and Bougee after that. I like how they work. They like how I work so nothing there really" he further says.
Having Wizkid and Migos as your clientele is not bad for a Nigerian who was born in Lagos, raised in England and moved to America to play ball. He played college basketball in Campbell University for two years and got a Bachelors Degree in Business. He played two more years at Bellarmine University where he got his Masters in Communication.
During his hoop days, Daps was also meddling with music and putting out mixtapes on campus. From a young age he had already shown an interest in music.
"For me it was always rap music and basketball. I was either playing ball or I was rapping. That’s it. Me and my brother always used to make beats in the garage on Logic. I was betting on playing ball, so the whole goal in my head was to get to America to get to the NBA" he told Radar Radio in an interview in March.
In 2009, Daps started a blog called HeavySpitter.com. During this period he started recording rap acts and landing interviews with them. This was his first entry in the world of video. He would record acts in Chicago and go back to London to get with UK rap duo S.A.S.
Daps had big dreams for his blog but his dreams pan out because of the economic crash of 2008. In 2010, he got a job that didn't pay as much as he had hoped. Despite two degrees, he ended up being a water cooler salesman which was based on commissions. Quick enough he became broke.
Luckily for him his brother Luti Fagbenle had a production company in the UK called Luti Media. Luti got Daps a gig as the producer of a music video called 'Make My Day' by an act called Bashy. The video was directed by Rage who had worked with Soulja Boy and Jim Jones.
Daps did not know much about producing videos but he winged it. Rage would continue to work with him on several videos. During this learning process he got to be involved in the D'banj shoot 'Endowed' Remix featuring Snoop Dogg in Los Angeles. The video marks the first time a contemporary pop act in Nigeria would work with a top American Hip Hop act.
The following year Daps moved back to London and worked fully with Luti Media. During this process he soaked up a lot of knowledge on the music video business and got to produce more music videos.
Soon enough Daps got tired of just producing music videos. He wanted more bite of the action. As fate would have it, his paths would cross with Hip Hop's most creative genius Kanye West.
He narrates this experience to Radar Radio.
"One year later, Jan 2012, I already got plans of saying “Yo, I’m out.” At the same time, Rage called my brother and is like “I’ve got a friend in town from America, he needs a camera.” That’s all he said. Can you help him out? My Brother calls this guy, and it’s Kanye West’s road manager – he’s like “Yeah, we need a camera.”
My bro’s like, “what kind?” The best one. OK, have you got a DOP? “We need that too.” Have you got a camera man? “Okay that too…” Basically Kanye West is shooting his documentary called ‘Sixty Days to Paris‘, doing his fashion show. Then he goes “We need two cams, we need steady cam.” It goes from “we need a camera,” into Luti Media now doing the Kanye West production fully-fledged. It’s fucked. So I’m the main on the ground producer. Between January and March 2012, I’m with Kanye West every fucking day."
From shooting local rappers to working with Mr. West, Daps lane had started opening up. His experience with Yeezy had quickened the hunger in him to start directing music videos.
He started pitching for a lot of videos but no one was biting. Frustrated and tired of hearing 'no', he took matters into his own hands. Daps went ahead to shoot his own music video 'Ian Wright'. He went all out in the video and incredibly got the football legend in the music video.
The video didn't get a lot of buzz as well as subsequent videos from Daps. The UK at that time weren't hip to his visual style. The lukewarm response did not deter Oladapo Fagbenle. He continued grinding and grinding. He wrote 40 video treatments consecutively and nothing happened.
During this time he was also writing video treatments for Luti Media. As fate would have it he wrote a treatment for Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' (almost 800 million views). His treatment was picked and before you know it he was in Los Angeles on the video set with the world famous Director X. While on set, Daps showed Director X some of his videos. X liked them and a partnership was struck.
Daps wrote a lot of treatments for videos directed by X including for videos for Wiz Khalifa, T.I and Jennifer Hudson. He grew from being Director X's treatment guy to his understudy. And in one day, during the 'Black Widow' shoot (Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora) he became a music video director.
"Three day shoot, locking off Hollywood, we’re running out of time...We’re like how are we going to finish this video? We’ve shot for three days and haven’t shot one fucking performance scene with Iggy by herself. So X said, basically, we need to split things up. X said “I’m going to go shoot Iggy’s performance.” I hear from someone else, “who’s going to go shoot Rita’s scene with T.I.?” X is like, “Daps will do it.” They’re like, who? Everyone’s like, “you sure X?” He says it’s cool.
We go over to the garage for Rita’s scene, X tells Rita Ora “by the way I’m not doing your scene, Daps is going to do it, but you’re in good hands, all good. Get me?” I’m like “X man, what shall I do? How do you want it?” He goes “bro, do your thing.” I’m like, you sure? He’s like, “Fam. Do. Your. Thing. I’m out.” He left me. So now I’m fucking doing this scene in the video with T.I., Paul Sorvino, Rita Ora. At this time, Rita’s a big artist. She still is, but at that time…
Video came out. Sick. Dropped. Boom."
Black Widow presently has almost half a billion views on YouTube. Daps' career as a director flew after this. He has gone on to direct videos for Jordin Sparks and 2 Chainz.
Many Nigerians did not know of their fellow compatriot until he shot the Wizkid video. Speaking to Pulse Buzz, Daps says it was Sesan that linked the two of them.
"I met Wizkid through Sesan. Sesan was the person who actually introduced me to the Nigerian entertainment market. I helped him out on a few videos and you know, and then I met a lot of people through him like Davido, D'banj and Wiz. So we became friends through Sesan" he discloses.
Now Daps is open to work with more Naija acts. He was the B-Unit Director of Davido's video 'The Sound' featuring Uhuru.
As a music video director who is constantly in demand, Daps' music career has taken the back seat for now. "I have always been rapping like the whole time. Even now I still write music I just don't put it out. I love music in general but the right now I think the current trajectory I am on it's almost like a conflict of interest to be a music video director and to do music at this stage."
Daps is a busy man. He had to postpone our interview twice because he was either on set shooting or on the road looking for locations. On the phone he tells me he has more videos lined up with Migos and other acts he can't disclose for now.
Oladapo Fagbenle aka Daps now lives in Los Angeles, the pulse for global entertainment. As he moves further in his career, he still remembers he is a Naija boy.
As his Instagram post with Wizkid indicates, he is a Yaba boy taking Nigeria to the world, one shot at a time.