“King Don Come” shows pop star can still make great music, but he still misses the point

There are two sides to D'banj's new album; good and bad, dope and ugly.

D'banj

Many people demand more from D’banj and they’re right to do so. As fans and listeners of the music, it is ok to ask for art that contains enough quality to stimulate, inspire, provoke and provide a connection.

That art has to be of the highest quality, and when you are an artist in the mould of D’banj there’s very little room for error.

D’banj’s new album “King Don Come” is out. The 12-track album is his first solo outing since 2008’s “Entertainer.” The album which is a classic cemented the Koko Master as a cultural icon. It also created a deep-seated emotional connection between the artist and fans, leading many to be hooked on to the witty, and energetic entertainer who rode records like a boss and had the celebrity to carry them.

But then Kanye West happened, and Mo’Hits broke up. And D’banj struggled to make pop records. To be honest, D’banj’s 2013 compilation album “D’King’s Men” contained quality music.

D’banj and Don Jazzy had a perfect working relationship. One made the music, the other delivered and sold it with vim to an adoring audience. It was a tactic that worked. All they achieved, they built on that partnership. There was no outside influence, just D’banj, Don Jazzy and other members of Mo’Hits records putting together the biggest records.

Losing Don Jazzy was painful. No matter how you look at it, it would always be painful. Partnerships exist for a reason; for people with different strengths to lean on each other, and together provide a better product, put up a stronger front, or as it’s usually the case, to be more efficient. D’banj and Don Jazzy ticked all these boxes. The music was amazing, the record label was tight, and the brand dominated the African continent.

But they split, and the flaws began to show. D’banj was never that singer who could create records on his own, source for the right production and kill it. His job is simply to kill it in the delivery and on stage.

“When they say D’banj are you a singer? Are you a rapper? I say no, I’m an entertainer,” D’banj said when asked why he was Africa’s Michael Jackson, during an interview with Apple Music’s Beats 1.

“Because you put me on stage I would like to entertain you and that’s what I’ll do and that’s what Michael does. If you ever go to Michael’s concert even though I never went, but from watching and seeing his life you know that he will never leave you the same.

“The way that he would come with a whole arrangement, with a whole package. He would just make sure that you were entertained. So that’s how I was found myself as a full entertainer. I think when I started doing that, of course, Africa could see. African Michael Jackson and I put it in my song in 2008.”

Learning to make music without Don Jazzy was admittedly hard for D’banj. He had to build a whole new enterprise, while also dealing with adapting to Kanye West’s demands for the American market. It was new and rigorous.

But all that is in the past. “King Don Come” is right in front of us, and it contains new D’banj music. While we have grappled with what he has released in the past, we are presented with a new opportunity to evaluate the singer based on his latest project.

What does “King Don Come” show us about D’banj’s musical ability?

It shows that D’banj can swing both ways. He can still make good music. Songs such as ‘El Chapo’ contain the singer’s ability to leave his comfort zone and push for more. The arguments amongst fans and critics have swung both ways. Many believe it’s the best version of D’banj that has been on display since his Mo’Hits days. Others think the song’s lyrical composition is weak. Either way, the victory here is that he dropped something capable of stirring a conversation. For him, it’s good news.

Other songs such as ‘Turn down for what’, (Which is a reworked version of ‘Focus’) show the singer has an Afrobeat layer that works. When D’banj dropped focus in 2016, it was dead on arrival. The song which was a knock off of his hit single ‘Emergency’, received very little acceptance and failed at flying. But D’banj has got something up his sleeve. The singer took it back into the studio to recreate the record. This time, the interacting Afrobeat rhythms are impressive, with an ominous background chant that layers it with darkness.

‘Ntswempu’ is another good record. If you loved House music and its influences on Nigerian music, then you would appreciate D’banj’s work on this record. Sampling nostalgic synths from ‘Oliver Twist’, the song features Bucie and Busiswa, two South African divas who bring enough dynamism to turn the record on its head and make it a real dance fest.

But there are also records which make you understand that D’banj does intentionally ruin it all. ‘Shoulda’ the final song on the project should have been left on the hard drive. ‘Egweji’ too. These records should never have turned up, but they did. Their importance to the project isn’t obvious, neither do they serve a greater good other than to populate the album.

Understandably, not every artist can make great music every time they hit the mic. In the same way, I can’t write great articles every time I stare at a blank screen. We are all human, we weren’t built to be perfect. But, the difference is, in the same way, I can decide to not share the poor articles. The artist can choose to not release the poor music. It doesn’t help, it only hurts.

What “King Don Come” and the quality of music contained in it shows is that D’banj has the ability to make great music. Sometimes he taps into that to create it, other times, he simply just shares his uninspired creations with us all.

Perhaps he shouldn’t?

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