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Pulse Opinion: Could Davido be the first Nigerian artist to crack the US mainstream?

The pop star is a major figure in Africa but his latest moves are intentionally targeted at the American scene and one that could see him become the first true Nigerian global superstar.

Davido leans against a pool table for his Native magazine shoot [Native]

Davido recently visited the studios of Shade 45's Sirius/XM Radio station as he kicked off his promotional radio tour towards breaking into the North- American space which will also include stops at other radio stations including Hot 97.

Over the past few years, he has consistently risen to the heights of becoming one of the biggest musicians from the continent with back to back chart-topping singles, sold out concerts and mind-blowing streaming numbers.

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But while these successes are very well documented, the DMW boss has always had a thirst for something more, a longing to conquer not just the continent but the international stages.

Davido's career which kicked off in 2011 is one that has seen him take calculated steps towards this dream of global stardom.

In the year that followed his entrance on the scene, he released his album, ''O.B.O'', which cemented him as a household name while building his profile with a stream of hit songs and collaborations.

But the more the victories came his way, the more he set the bar higher for himself.

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This led to him signing a deal with US record label, Sony Music in a bid to help push his music on the global space in 2016. 

Few months after the deal, he released the EP, ''Son of Mercy'', a five track tape which featured the likes of American singer, Tinashe.

The EP, however, did not achieve its desired result as it failed to make any tangible impact in its targeted market while also failing to resonate with his core fans back home.

“F** all that international shit! It’s cool but f** it. I am back to the basics,,” Davido shared on his social media pages, returning home later that year, working with local producers and the following year saw the release of chart topping singles that ensured his name burned ever brighter on the pop scene.

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Soon the awards came pouring in, he embarked on an European tour and was weighed with the demand to perform at concerts and festivals globally.

His music drew a crowd of 10,000 on the tiny Island of Suriname, South America while his songs are an anthem on the streets of Nairobi, Kigali and other African cities.

And earlier in the year, Davido successfully sold out the O2 Arena, a 20,000 capacity venue renowned for having staged some of the biggest names in music. 

Afrobeats is the new trend in the international music space and the likes of Davido alongside Wizkid represent best the face of the movement.

Conquering the American market, why not?

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Despite the success that Afrobeats have enjoyed in notable places around the world, with so much competition and a number of factors at play, the U.S. market has been more of a tough nut to crack.

And just like Hollywood is the mecca for movies, so also is the American market the obsession for our artists and this they have not been shy in telling all who needs to listen.

Conversations surrounding Afrobeats and its serious incursion into the American regions often traces back to a certain D'banj and Don Jazzy with the release of Oliver Twist in 2011 and his affiliation with Kanye West's G.O.O.D Music around the same time Davido kicked off his music career.

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The success of 'Oliver Twist' brought into clear view Afrobeats rising influence in the global music scene but it only ended up as the wind that knocked off a couple of leaves, and never really succeeded in bringing down the tree.

However, the heavily rhythmic and danceable sound really helped Nigerian artists create a golden era out of their successes in the years that followed.

Wizkid would in 2017 after his deal with Sony Music release the ''Sounds From The Other Side'' EP, and just like Davido the year before, the numbers it gained were really weak to force a budge through the North American doors with a few only taking notice of these attempts from a safe distance.

Critics have also expressed cynicism towards the fixation with the US region, Pulse's Senior Editor Ayomide Tayo shared his thoughts in his piece on 'Why Afrobeats needs to come home', ''The most viable market for Nigerian pop music shouldn't be in London or Manchester but in Nigeria.''

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While others have pointed them in the direction of other markets where Afrobeats is being accepted but poorly promoted.

But why not the United States, I ask? If this is what the artist truly wants, then It is not fair to tell them to do otherwise and if they are able to create this much triumphs from a non-existent industry, then who is to say, they can't make it happen even in the most unwelcoming terrains?

Why Davido may actually have a chance this time

The maxim, ''Once beaten twice shy'' is one that Davido is applying this time around as he seeks to turn an illusion into a reality.

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Late in 2018, news filtered in that his single 'Fall' released the year before had become the most Shazamed song by New York listeners following sustained spins on local radio stations.

This led to listeners getting curious and asking, who is Davido?

'Fall' also surfaced on the Billboard charts and is constantly rising with every week, recently climbing to the 29th position on the charts, later becoming the longest charting Nigerian song spending over four weeks on the charts.

This time, unlike in 2016, when in his naivety, he made it his life ambition, Davido says the strategy is to pay less focus on breaking into the scene and put more efforts instead into his music and catering to his fans.

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''Honestly when I tried to cross to the American market, it didn't work, when I didn't try, it worked.'' He said in an interview with Shade 45's Sirius XM during his radio tour of the United States on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

And in the last three months, the tropical pop tune 'Fall' has ensured he racked up plays and palpable placements in key US platforms.

 In 2017, Davido on his independent platform, DMW Records, released the song, 'If' which was an instant anthem becoming the most successful single of his career. He then followed it up with songs like 'FIA', 'Fall' and 'Like Dat', amplified by his social media presence helped him gain increased popularity across a wider audience.

The success of this run coincided with the fallout of Wizkid's success with 'Ojuelegba' and collaboration with Drake on 'One Dance' released the year before, further arousing interest in the sounds coming from the motherland with Davido benefiting from the ripple effect.

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Davido has realized that his major success lies mostly in his fan base back in Nigeria, a country of close to 200M people, and a continent packed with fans of his 30BG movement that worship his every move.

So having fully established his place on the home-front, a powerful combination of his streaming and social media numbers emboldened Davido confront his international label to renegotiate a deal that is now more suited in his favor.

Just so we clear, for most international artists, it's a tough road to make it to the playlist of U.S. stations and the 'sudden' radio love for 'Fall' over the past few months is not really down to anything extra that Davido may have done, but simply based on renewed promotion push from his label.

While radio may not be as essential a cog as it was decades ago with millennials depending more on the internet, it continues to play an essential role in places where the industry is properly structured to break new artists to their audience.

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Thirdly, Davido has also recognized the place of more collaborations in expanding his fan base which led to him working with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Popcaan and lately American rapper Casanova on his single '2 AM,' with Casanova visiting Nigeria to shoot some scenes for the video.

Cracking the North American scene is the holy grail for a number of artistes who dare to dream and are willing to pursue the dream. It takes way more than just talent, it involves exploring new sounds, the right team, well calculated moves and alliances, impressive collaborations and continuously building a loyal fan base that makes you impossible to ignore.

These are boxes that Davido has ticked in recent years and while the journey ahead stays uncertain, with nothing assured, he seems to be doing everything right, the bubbles are beginning to take their place in the clouds and one can only hope that this time his efforts don't only end up as a knock on the doors but actually opens it and allow other African talents in.

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