How Davido Became African Pop Music's Fortunate Son

Once, while on a Greyhound layover in Birmingham, Alabama, David Adedeji Adeleke, the Nigerian pop star now better known as Davido, spotted a familiar face on the CD rack of a bus station rest stop. Packed between sections for Top 40 and oldies was an album by Asa, a Nigerian-French singer not widely known in America. Davido had visited this station before, on trips to and from his college in nearby Huntsville and the home of relatives in Atlanta. But this was the first time he’d seen Nigerian music earn shelf space in a random Southern town, and it felt like an omen.

Davido was 16 when he had arrived in Huntsville, a year earlier. His father, Dr. Adedeji Adeleke, a well-known businessman and Seventh-day Adventist in Nigeria with an estimated net worth of over $300 million, dropped him off with his passport, $2,000 cash, and freshman registration documents for Oakwood University, a historically black Christian college. (People often attach the honorific ‘Chief’ to Dr. Adeleke’s name, referring to his wealth and power, largely earned through his founding of Pacific Holdings, a company that deals in steel, oil, gas, and more.) Davido had already spent time in the U.S.—he was born in Atlanta, and sometimes visited in the summer—but much about life in the States was new to him. “That was the first time I had a phone in America. There was unlimited calling. I never saw nothing like that before,” he remembers. “In Nigeria, you gotta pay before you get what you want.”

Read more: How Davido Became African Pop Music’s Fortunate Son | The FADER

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