Davolee: Fighting through the darkness with light dreams [Pulse Interview]
In his life, Davolee had to be left alone by his older siblings. As the last child of the family, he had abandonment issues that made him resolute, defensive, self-sufficient and determined to make it with wild individualism.
‘Festival Bar’ might have a cult following, but it also represents the truth that eludes most Nigerians. During this chat, Davolee was so grudgingly compliant while displaying a fleeting nonchalance as his voice portrayed a distant defiance. In his resolution to this world, it becomes obvious that Davolee had seen the worst.
Having lost both of his parents before he turned five, Davolee has lived with over 20 families across several neighborhoods in Lagos, Nigeria. The uncertainty of his background means he finds it hard to make long-term plans. He also enjoys producing music ‘on the fly.’
Growing up in uncertain circumstances will rob you of your chance to dream. Any appropriate setting can be taken from you at any time. “Even my album, I don’t have plans for it yet. When I’m ready, I’m ready (laughs). I’m just grateful that my team has grown to understand me.” Davolee says.
With labels, Davolee says Olamide once told him, “You can’t be under anybody… You are a complex character.” While Davolee didn’t understand it at the time, he gets it now. His independence is more steadfast and his life is more complex.
His peers in the Nigerian music industry have faded away or succeeded. But he is still trying to find a way towards consistency. Instead of looking at what he doesn’t have, he’s looking to attain heights. But in all of it, there are dark and light tales.
Depression, smoking and dark thoughts
In his life, Davolee had to be left alone by his older siblings. As the last child of the family, he had abandonment issues that made him resolute, defensive, self-sufficient and determined to make it with wild individualism. But as success has taken time to find him, Davolee has fallen into depression.
Some of these issues were highlighted on Festival Bar III and IV. Davolee rapped about himself in the body of Segun, the kid who needed to win, but struggled to win. Responses from fans were also so sparse that hype from a club gave him inspiration.
“I’m going through a lot, bro. I just can’t say them to you - the only way I can express these things is through my music which is my medium to lighten my load. Talking about my trials could make me a motivational speaker (laughs), but I don’t want to be rhyming stupid words (laughs),” Davolee says.
When I then asked him if he had mental health issues, Davolee says that he recently realized that he had some and he’s in the process of finding a way to manage them. Davolee hates talking about these things because people would think he’s using pity as a marketing tool.
However he says, “Bro, I only started smoking weed about a year ago as a coping mechanism for professional and personal struggles. Since then, it’s given me clarity about my mental state. Anytime I smoke, I start having conversations with myself about why I’m making my music and about my own mental health.
“In those moments, doubt creeps in. Sometimes, the dark thoughts I have make me feel like I’m going nuts and I admit that my mental health is on edge. But then, I pray that I don’t succumb to these dark thoughts.”
Festival Bar EP
The first ‘Festival Bar’ was released in 2017 and the second in early 2019. At the end of the second ‘Festival Bar,’ Davolee promised us more content. He duly delivered on Festival Bar EP with two new installments of a continued story that’s still not at an end.
The inspiration for each ‘Festival Bar’ comes to Davolee in moments, bits and pieces. When the inspiration comes, he calls people to remember names, places and ascertain scenarios. He doesn’t write his raps - what he does is something he calls, “meditation.” That process sees him build up the stories in his head enough to get a drive. When he gets a studio opportunity, he then pours it all out.
Sometimes, these “ideas” take weeks and months in the “meditation” phase where he’s writing the story in his head. After he finally pours the story down, he feels creatively drained and he usually needs a while to get his energy back.
The first ‘Festival Bar’ was an idea that Davolee got while working at Festival Bar, Ikotun. Through meditation, he would build the stories in his head. After he left Festival Bar and was working as a ‘motor boy,’ he performed it for friends who felt it was amazing. One day, he found a beat online and recorded the original ‘Festival Bar’ on it.
When Olamide heard that the beat was downloaded online, he made B-Banks produce another beat and that’s what became the ‘Festival Bar 1’ we now know.
With street spirit, he says, “‘This isn’t even just about money, it’s also about the creativity I put into it. It’s my story and I know every angle, but when I made part one I didn’t know there would be part two. When I made part two, I didn’t know I would make part three.
“I know I always tell people that “story continues,” but that’s usually me trying to build expectation from my listeners. Making these episodes don’t scare me, I just like measuring responses and knowing that my fans want them before I record them. It takes a lot from me financially and creatively.
“In a country that doesn’t appreciate Hip-Hop, I don’t want to make art that nobody would want. It pains me whenever nobody feels my music while I see other people get hyped for theirs. It’s unfair…
“Sometimes, I feel like killing that Twitter bird (laughs) when I release music that nobody talks about (laughs). I even have to ask if people on Twitter have no ears. For example, I tweeted about ‘Festival Bar’ and people demanded for part 3, so I took weeks to make it. My art takes me time, but I get it - I have to work harder and that’s what I’ll do.”
On ‘Festival Bar’ installments, Davolee also likes controlling the amount of information that goes out. When I asked him if this was about his background, he shrugged with a “maybe’ response. However, he feels like it’s only natural that you want to control your narrative.
As a rapper who grew up listening to Olamide, DaGrin, Reminisce, MI Abaga. Eedris Abdulkareem and more, Davolee’s orientation is very Nigerian. These rappers thought Davolee honesty. When he then goes out and sees his fans, he wants to also have a reputation for honesty and integrity that they can emulate.
Davolee’s one thousand ears
Davolee measures his own honesty, level of revelations and quality by using “a thousand ears” through each step of his creative process. Each ear differs in quality and judgement from the previous one. Born in Isolo, Davolee moved to Sabo-Yaba, then back to Isolo, then Mushin and then Idi-Araba.
It was in those moments Davolee found his calling to make music after he managed to complete high school. With no support, he became his own critic and his thousand ears were birthed.
Olamide and record labels
Before Davolee met Olamide, he was getting inspired by Olamide’s rap career. Even his name is subtly inspired by Olamide. One of his names is David, but he was reluctant to use that as a stage name. When Olamide called himself ‘Baddolee’ on ‘Durosoke,’ he decided to add ‘Lee’ to parts of his ‘David.’
Davolee’s story is told on Festival Bar. Asides Iya Onike and a few other people, nobody has Davolee’s gratitude like Olamide. The story of how they met can be heard between ‘Festival Bar 2’ and ‘Festival Bar 3.’ What caused his split from YBNL came in the final moments of ‘Festival Bar 4.’
While the relationship might not have ended on the best note, Davolee still sees Olamide as a fountain of knowledge from which he drinks anytime he gets the opportunity to converse.
Davolee was never signed to YBNL, but it was just a working relationship during which Olamide treated Davolee like a brother. He also “blessed” Davolee financially on occasion to take care of his needs. Davolee severed ties with Olamide when he felt the need to do something different after getting fed up with the turn-by-turn label policy.
After exiting YBNL, Davolee joined another label-related engagement in 2019. 'Way,' was released on that label, but he opted out again. Now, he's pushing himself with his own funding as Rodolites Sounds. It's not easy, but he continues.
"I'm happy on my own. There are better things than chasing a record deal - what will they give me? Benz and a house? If I make my own money, I can always get those things on my own. It doesn't have to be a record deal - I can always get an investor or get into partnership. I just hate being cheated," Davolee says.
These days, funding comes from Davolee's brother in the US, his fans and people who love his music.
In October 2019, Davolee released a diss song titled, ‘Giveaway’ and it was aimed at Blaqbonez. Falz, MI Abaga, AQ, LadiPoe and more also got hit in the process. In October 2019, Blaqbonez visited Pulse Nigeria and said that he didn’t understand why Davolee dissed him.
Blaqbonez said that he was the one who told Davolee that Olamide needed to see him. Davolee denies that bit and says that Olamide sent him a DM just 10 minutes after he got disqualified from Hennessy VS Class in 2017.
Davolee also says, “I don’t have a problem with Blaqbonez. I just woke up one day to noise that he took shots at me. I then read that he was saying my name on blogs, so I just had to address it. If I offended any other person in the process of doing that, I apologize. I only mentioned those names because I felt Blaqbonez wouldn’t have given me enough buzz.
“I never thought I would record such a song in my life. The issue only got my attention because someone reached out to my management that he would drop one million for Davolee to battle Blaqbonez - this was after he also tweeted the same thing. In September 2019, he then said my name on ‘Define Rap 2’ and on another blog, so I decided to reply.
“In fact, ‘Giveaway’ was recorded in Zlatan’s house when Jaido P and I went to get Zlatan’s verse for ‘E Get Reason.’ It was also the same day that Zlatan recorded that Tacha song on Instagram. We were downstairs, he was upstairs causing that stir (laughs) when Zaki Magic told me about the beat. I went in on it and the rest is history.”
In the end, Davolee stays on brand as a voice for the streets. Davolee is grateful to God for the response he's received since Festival Bar EP dropped. He knows he's touched people with his music, but he prays for more luck.
You can listen to 'Festival Bar EP' HERE.
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