Davido’s Dream of Headlining Madison Square Garden Is Part of a Bigger One: ‘We’re Changing the Narrative of Being African in America’

2024-04-05T19:44:33+00:00April 5th, 2024|News|

Davido spoke with Billboard about his upcoming headlining concert at Madison Square Garden, relationship with Chris Brown, new album and more.

Davido has been on a victory lap since last March when he dropped his fourth studio album Timeless, which earned the Afrobeats heavyweight three Grammy nominations this year. But on April 17, he’ll celebrate a very special stop: his first headlining show at NYC’s Madison Square Garden.

“I always said I want to be at the Garden. I think that’s every artist’s dream. The greats have performed there, like Michael Jackson,” he tells Billboard over Zoom while on the set of his music video for the Fave-assisted “Kante.” “I did five arenas last year for the Timeless Tour. But we didn’t have New York, so definitely this time, we wanted to add New York.”

The North American leg of the Timeless Tour included stops in Washington, D.C., Houston, Chicago, Boston, Toronto and Atlanta (the last stop was part of Davido’s A.W.A.Y Fest, which featured additional performances from his “Unavailable” collaborator Musa Keys, Spinall, Victony, King Promise and more). Following his summer stint, Davido embarked on the European leg, which had stops in the U.K., Germany, Denmark, Sweden and France. He ended 2023 back home with three performances in Abuja, Port Harcourt and Lagos. His MSG show is the first of three additional North American arena dates, which continue with a show at Montreal’s Place Bell on April 19 and end with a show at Orlando’s Additional Financial Arena on April 24.

“My show right now is over two hours [long]. And my new setup for tour, there’s a Stage A and there’s a Stage B, so I’m running up and down the whole night,” he says. “To produce the Davido show right now, we’re talking about $400,000, almost $500,000 – just for production alone. That’s one thing I think we’ve improved on a lot. And I have an amazing band, The Compozers. It’s the full package.”

Davido says he always has a new favorite Timeless track that he enjoys playing live, but “I definitely love performing ‘Feel,’ ‘cause it’s a very energetic record and it’s a feel-good song.” But when it comes to Davido’s other timeless records, he says the crowd still goes crazy over his 2013 track “Skelewu.” “I don’t feel like there’s a major formula to making timeless music. To me, it just comes naturally.” There is, however, one key ingredient needed for Davido’s pre-show ritual. “I definitely need to get my massage, a little 40-minute massage in,” he adds. “I eat, but I don’t like to eat too much ‘cause I don’t want to be too full ‘cause I gotta move around. And 20 minutes before I get on stage, I like to have a little bit of quiet time to myself.”

Performing in New York has also become a special ritual. The first time the Atlanta-born Nigerian artist born David Adedeji Adeleke performed in New York was in 2014 at the Pulse 48 nightclub in Brooklyn, which the New York Police Department had to shut down because the show was overbooked. “I’ve been coming back to New York almost every year since then,” he says. “New York was one of the first cities that was really putting on for African music in the mainstream. The first song that I got on the radio was in New York, so New York has a special place in my heart.”

His 2017 single “Fall,” which was later included on his sophomore album A Good Time, gradually took over U.S. airwaves two years after its release, reaching No. 13 on R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and No. 14 on Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay in 2019. And listeners were eager to discover exactly who was behind it: In New York City, “Fall” became a top 10 record on Shazam in 2019, Rolling Stone reported at the time, while “If,” another big Davido record from 2017, was a top 50 Shazam record two years after it came out.

Davido recently scored another hit with his apperance on Chris Brown’s “Sensational,” which earned Davido and fellow featured artist Lojay their first entries on the Billboard Hot 100. “I feel like I should have 100 entries, bro, but they finally let a n—a in!” he laughs. “Shoutout to CB. Me and him have an amazing working relationship, [we’ve] been working for years now, we got a couple records, performed all over the world with my brother. Me and CB ‘bout to drop more records, too. I think we drop another one in a couple of weeks, so watch out for that.” The two have collaborated on “Blow My Mind” and “Lower Body” in 2019, “Shopping Spree” (also with Young Thug) in 2020 and “Nobody Has to Know” in 2022.

His fans will also have to watch out for his upcoming album (“It’s another classic, trust me,” Davido teases) that he’s currently working on – even while he’s on tour. “We got a mobile studio, so I can literally record anywhere. Inspiration can come anytime whether I’m on stage, whether I’m on the road,” says Davido. “I’ll always set up a studio and I have my producers fly with me, travel with me.”

And as he continues to spread African music and culture across the globe through his recorded and live music, Davido wants his African fans who will be attending the MSG show to “leave and be proud to be who they are, proud of the culture, proud of how far we’ve come. As Africans, we’re changing the narrative of being African in America. Years ago, it was a different thing. Now, when you say you’re African, you’re proud to say it, eat the food, wear the clothes, play the music,” he says. “And [for] the people that are coming to experience African culture for the first time, I want them to leave knowing that they’re never going to forget this.”

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