[The Music Blog] The Kokomaster strategy and how D’banj stays winning

A look at D’banj’s interview on Apple Beats 1 radio Ebro Darden would glean pretty much all the things we have come to attune to the Entertainer. That there is very little calculation to his approach and he has backpacked his entire career on innate self-confidence and power of a supreme being. In truth some of the events that culminated D’banj’s life and times scale to phantasmagoric proportions that could’ve been easily considered farce if we didn’t see it all happen during our lifetime.

A typical example of one of such fortuitous situations is the story of how D’banj met Kanye West in 2010 right after being mistaken for his soon-to-be new label boss in Dubai. According to D’banj, he’d politely told the eager fans calling him “Mr West” at airport that he was D’banj from Africa instead, unbeknownst to him that Kanye was to fly on the same plane he had first class tickets to. On the flight, a member of his team quickly approached Kanye West with a pitch that sold D’banj as African Micheal Jackson. The rest of this story is what we watched play out in D’banj’s stint with Kanye West’s record label, GOOD Music for nearly three years.

Even in 2010, the fifth year of what seemed like a successful half decade career run for D’banj there is no denying that D’banj’s African Micheal Jackson pitch was not entirely true. Elsewhere during the course of his Beat 1 interview, he tells a different story of how Wyclef Jean had dubbed him the title after a performance at the MOBO Awards, but to have pitched D’banj as an African MJ would have meant he had considerable influence in Lusophone, Francophone and quite probably Arabophone Africa. Which he did not. The Kokomaster and his co-owned record label, MoHits recorded considerable success in English-speaking parts of Africa, particularly South and West Africa. However, what he lacked in a verifiable back story he made up for with unmistakable charisma with one ethos: to be the best entertainer of his time.

Even today with the release of his fourth studio album, King Don Come, nearly eight years after his last solo project, The Entertainer, D’banj restates his dedication to entertaining by reinventing himself at different points during the project. The drug-dealing D’banj you hear on trap opener “El Chapo” is very different from the casanova party-animal the Kokomaster becomes on “Turn Down For What”. Like his many monikers every angle D’banj works though vaguely curated is ultimately driven to achieve a purpose. So it comes as no surprise when D’banj told Ebro the reason he included “Ntswempu”, featuring South African singers Bucie and Busiswa because he “put an eye on that market”. More or less hinting the track as a strategic move to score airplay in South Africa rather than an overarching thematic decision in line with the rest of the project. The most obvious seemingly random but not so random occurrence on D’banj’s latest album is the inclusion of “Oliver Twist”, a five-year-old single he released during his last days with MoHits. No doubt, “Oliver Twist” is probably his most successful single till date but to include it on an album five years later could either make D’banj a man stuck in the past or indicate another strategically driven decision.

Since the RIAA began incorporating digital streams to count for album sales last February, artists have found it easier to reach certification milestones. With RIAA’s revised model 1500 streams equal ten album sales. Statistically, this does not only mean album streams alone account for sales, it also means multiple streams of individual singles will be added to the total album sales. This means globally charted single like “Oliver Twist” would add all of its initial streams to the total album sales for the album. Technically this would mean D’banj had already amassed over 30,000 sales of his album before it dropped, going by “Oliver Twist” stream count of nearly 43 million on YouTube alone.

Perhaps the reason fans think little of D’banj’s ability to navigate the industry with precisely calculated moves is because of a comical cadence that supersedes every other part of him. Nonetheless, the Kokomaster strategy is not without purpose. That we don’t conventionally consider the man a ‘musician’, doesn’t mean he has been running his entire career of luck. After all, if you look closely for long enough, you’d notice a pattern to every madness.

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