D’banj was born into a military family in Kaduna State, northwest Nigeria. Seldom in one place, he moved around from one barrack to the next, idolizing the soldier’s life he saw around him.
A singer, harmonica-player, businessman and philanthropist, the 35-year-old is best known for his infectious 2012 hit “Oliver Twist” — the award-winning video for the which featured cameos from Kanye West and Big Sean and has been viewed 37 million times on YouTube.
“I grew up living in every part of Nigeria,” he explains, “loving the military… I wanted to be a superhero, I’m telling you, the first black superhero.
“Now I’m still doing the same thing. Instead of carrying the gun to save the world, I carry a microphone.”
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Dbanj originally wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and enroll in military school, but the tragic loss of his elder brother “changed my perspective,” he says.
“He was going to be a pilot,” D’banj recalls, the irony not lost on him that it was a plane crash that killed his brother.
“I’m going for [an] Oscar!” he explains. The speech is already in place, and — he hopes — coming to a TV screen near you one day.
“I love you all, I love you all… I want to thank my mother, I want to thank my father, and my granny… I want to tell my mother, I want to tell my father, I want to tell you, all of Africa… I want to thank you for having my back! Thank you all!”