D’banj was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria to a military officer who commanded an artillery regiment and a church dignitary mother who hailed from Shagamu in Ogun State. Due to his father’s profession he moved several times within Nigeria and later moved to England. D’banj was expected to follow his father’s military career and was enrolled to the Nigerian Military School at age eleven. However, D’banj resisted the system and disenrolled from the school after three years. While at the Military school he was a member of the elite drum corp of the Nigerian Army. From the Nigerian Military School he proceeded to another military owned institution Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Ibara, Abeokuta where he completed his secondary school education.
D’banj was introduced to the harmonica by his late older brother, Femi Oyebanjo, who died in a plane crash at age seventeen.With D’banj’s love for music being greater than his parents’ military aspirations, he struggled for his parents’ approval; this can be best heard through an album track, All Da Way from his debut album.
Following the death of his 17-year-old brother, D’banj arranged all his possessions on his bed after they were brought home and just picked up his harmonica. I’d play it to remember him.” Later, at university, he realised what his new skills with the instrument could bring him. “I’d go to the female hostel after lectures, and even if there was no electricity I could play there.” He remembers learning Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” after Titanic came out – “and that got me a lot of girls!”
D’banj then proceeded to the Lagos State University to study Mechanical engineering but due to the constant strikes and several irregularities in the school he decided to withdraw. Plans to continue his studies as a mechanical engineer in London were derailed when he arrived in the UK in 2001, and met DonJazzy who was trying to make it as a songwriter and producer. D’Banj started hanging around the studio, making ends meet while working as a security guard. “It was OK, because I did nights,” he says, “so I could listen to music on my headphones.”
Don Jazzy told D’Banj he thought he was a star in the making, and sensing that the music scene in Nigeria was “blossoming”, the pair returned to Lagos in 2004. That same year came the single “Tongolo”; the video was paid for by D’Banj’s mother. His first endorsement was with an energy drink called Power Fist.
In April 2011, D’banj was interviewed by BET’s April Woodard. The interview, titled “Welcome to America”, was a platform for D’banj to introduce himself to the American Music Industry and audience which he stated he was going to get into. In the interview, D’banj spoke on a wide range of topics including his music, artists he’d like to work with, his parents, Mo’Hits Records, his love life, and his role models: Kanye West, Usher, Jay-Z, R. Kelly, and others. The interview lasted 125 minutes, and was the avenue used to formally declare his determination to lead African music into many quarters that its yet to reach.
As a tribute to his mentor Fela, D’banj uses a fusion of Afrobeat and Afropop to bring his music to life and into the 21st century with breathless enthusiasm as well as a good dose of humour. His songs are based on his life, often hilarious but with a deeper meaning which documents the struggle of a young Nigerian trying to achieve his dreams. He performs in Yoruba, English and Pidgin English.
2005: No Long Thing
D’banj’s debut album, No Long Thing, was released in 2005. It yielded several singles with Tongolo as the lead single. This proved to be his breakthrough single and a hit. It also provided his Koko Master persona, with the term, koko, taking on a variety of meanings. D’banj’s debut success led to collaborations with other artists, including Dare Art Alade and Ikechukwu. D’Banj’s single koko was used by the PDP (ruling political party in Nigeria) as its campaign theme for the 2007 general elections.
2006: Rundown Funk U Up
D’banj’s second album Rundown Funk U Up, which was released in 2006, yielded several singles including the club single, Tongolo (Remix), and the lead singleWhy Me?. This proved to be another hit.
2007–2008: Curriculum Vitae & The Entertainer
D’banj, as an artist of Mo’ Hits Records, is also a member of its collective group, Mo’ Hits Allstars (includes artists Dr SID, Wande Coal, KaySwitch, and D’Prince). He has once been spotted with one of Nigeria’s most talented singers, “Smile Lasisi”. The collective’s debut album, Curriculum Vitae, was released in December 2007. It included hit singles, “Be Close To You”, “Booty Call” and “Move Your Body”, which was the lead single. D’banj was featured in Ikechukwu’s 2008 hit, “Wind Am Well”.
July 2008 saw the release of D’banj’s third album, The Entertainer, with the singles “Gbono Feli Feli”, “Kimon”, “Olorun Maje” and “Entertainer”.
In June 2011, D’banj was signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music record label as an artiste. On 9 June 2011, D’banj wrote on his Twitter account, @iamdbanj, “Just like yesterday, myself and my brother did Tongolo. 7 years later, Mo’Hits signs with GOOD Music. Best Birthday gift ever. God thank you.”
After several months of speculation and wild rumours, ace producer, Don Jazzy confirmed via his Twitter account the break-up of Mo’Hits. After the break-up,Don Jazzy, D’Prince, Dr SID, Wande Coal started Mavin Records while D’banj founded DB Records and as expected, he signed his younger brother Kayswitch to the label alongside two producers, Jaysleek and Deevee.
Sony Entertainment Deal
In December 2012 D’banj signed a mega deal with Sony,Speaking on the importance of the deal to Sony, Managing Director of Sony Music Entertainment Sean Watson said: “Partnering with D’Banj is a seminal event for us at Sony Music Entertainment Africa. We’ve always admired his talent and to be able to assist with bringing D’Banj’s music to millions of fans, established and new, across the continent is an honour for us. We are very excited about being a part of it.”
The deal is being described as a “Pan African, multi-album deal with Sony Music’s RCA Records. It also involves an exclusive management deal with Sony Music and strategic partner ROCKSTAR4000 for the continent. Add to that a multi-album, worldwide exclusive contract with emerging Nigerian singer-songwriter star Kayswitch and a strategic partnership with D’Banj’s Nigerian record label DB Records”.
The forthcoming single “Bother You”, inspired by the film Half of a Yellow Sun, was released on 7 April 2013, by Mi7 Records and D’banj’s label DKM. In June 2014 D’banj introduces artists under his record label, which includes himself, younger brother K-Switch, brothers MossKriss and Ralph Kriss and Tonto Dikeh and Ebenez Tizzy.
D’banj is a regular performer for the annual ThisDay Africa Rising Music Festival. He has performed at Femi Kuti’s new Afrikan Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos as well as the Shrine Synchro System’s regular London Night at Cargo. He performed at the Black President Concert in memory of Fela’s art and legacy at the Barbicanin London, and also alongside many international artists in Nigeria like Kelly Rowland at the 1st Edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards 2008 in Abuja, Nigeria.
He was involved in one of the most anticipated events of the season ‘Koko Concert’. This concert consisted of D’Banj, Don Jazzy, Dr SID, Wande Coal, D’Prince, new Mo Hits recruit Ikechukwu plus a few guest appearances including May7ven and comedian Tunde Ednut. The stage was set for a thrilling night – the Koko effect is definitely LIVE in London as fans of D’Banj and Mo’ Hits filled the O2 arena to capacity. As expected, the hits just kept coming and the momentum was sustained with on-stage antics from all the artists. In December 2010, the Mo’ Hits All Stars brought Koko Concert to Lagos and D’banj kept belting out energetic performances that kept the audience screaming. Colleagues like M.I, eLDee, Jesse Jagz, and Wizkid also joined up on stage. There was also a global premiere of the highly anticipated “Mr Endowed (Remix)” featuring Snoop Dogg and also a recent track “Blame It on the Money” featuring the Californian native and Big Sean.
On 23 June 2012, D’banj performed at the Hackney Weekend to celebrate the2012 Summer Olympics, which was headlined by Jay-Z and Rihanna. He performed alongside his friend, and fellow Universal Music Group label mate,Rita Ora on 30 August 2012 at the SCALA London Live Music, Clubs and Arts Venue to celebrate the release of her debut album Ora.He also performed at the AFCON 2013 closing ceremony held in South Africa.On 18 April 2015, D’banj performed at the Global citizen earth day a Free Concert on Capitol Hill (Washington Monument Grounds) for the 45th Anniversary of Earth Day put on by Global Poverty Project and the Earth Day Network
With D’banj’s first album came his first endorsement from an energy drink called Power Fist. In May 2013, D’banj was named the Bank of Industry (BOI) ambassador.In November 2013, D’banj re-signed a multi-million Naira deal with Globacom, the company he parted ways with in 2010.In June 2014 D’Banj Secures Deal With Heritage Bank.In October 2014, D’banj was named the official African ambassador for Beats by Dre.In February 2015, D’banj was named the official African ambassador for Ciroc Nigeria. In an exclusive story on Tush Magazine Issue 11, Banky W and Dbanj shed more lights on how they became Ciroc Ambassadors. In September 2015,D’banj was made the brand ambassador of SLOT, a popular mobile phone, and electronic gadget retail outfit.Dbanj is now the most richest Hip-Hop artist in Nigeria
D’banj is the founder of Koko Foundation for Youth and Peace Development. He is also Nigeria’s first United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace.Dbanj is aONE campaign ambassador; he released the song “Cocoa Na Chocolate” in support of agriculture investments.’Cocoa Na Chocolate’ featured 18 other African artists and won Best African Collaboration at the All Africa Music Awards in 2014.
In 2015, he was applauded by World Bank Chief, Jim Yong Kim for using his music power and high celebrity status to bringing attention to serious and critical issues in Africa with special focus on agriculture and poverty alleviation. Jim Yong Kim was quoted saying that “I had the pleasure of meeting D’banj last month and seeing him perform. I’m thrilled he is the first artists to take part in our new Music4Dev series encouraging global artist to raise awareness about poverty and related issues.
In 2015 D’banj released the video to Extraordinary to raise awareness on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. World bank endorsed song as a song for Women awareness.
D’banj came to prominence following the release of his debut album No Long Thing (2005). He won the Best Newcomer award at the 2006 Channel O Music Video Awards for “Tongolo”, a song off his aforementioned album.In 2005, D’banj won the Most Promising Male Artist award at the 2005 Kora Awards.
His follow-up album, RunDown Funk U Up (2006), included the hit single “Why Me” whose music video included the receipt of 1 Channel O Music Video Awards out of 3 nominations in 2007.
On May 23, 2010 and February 9, 2011, the Kokomaster released “Mr Endowed” and “Mr Endowed (Remix)” respectively. The former was nominated for Hottest Single of the Year at the 2011 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.The music video for the former was nominated in the Best Afro Pop Video and Video of the Year categories at the 2010 Nigeria Music Video Awards (NMWA).] Moreover, D’banj was nominated for the Best Use of Effects at the aforementioned awards for the music video. On the other hand, the music video for the latter won the Most Gifted Male Video award, and was nominated for Most Gifted Video of The Year at the 2011 Channel O Music Video Awards.It was also nominated for Best Afro Pop Video award at the 2011 Nigeria Music Video Awards (NMWA).
D’Kings Men, his 2013 compilation album, included the hit single “Oliver Twist”. The music video for “Oliver Twist” won the Most Gifted Male Video and Most Gifted Video of the Year awards at the 2012 Channel O Music Video Awards.”Oliver Twist” won the Song of the Year award, and was nominated for Best Pop Single at The Headies 2012.D’banj received the Best Male West Africa nomination at the 2012 Kora Awards for “Oliver Twist”.Furthermore, the song was nominated for Hottest Single of the Year at the 2012 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.
In 2012 the koko master won MTV Europe Music awards for best african artist alongside with MOBO.
Koko master won world music awards in 2014 for best selling african artist.