This year, Frank Ocean, Drake, Kanye West and a handful of other Grammy favourites announced they would be boycotting the event due to low representation for persons of colour. The growing disconnect between critical reviews and public acceptance have dulled the influence of award-shows on music. As a response, some award-show organisers like MTV have abolished Best Male & Best Female categories at the European Music Awards, replacing them with a more inclusive Best Artist category instead —Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus, Shawn Mendes and Taylor Swift are some of this year’s fielded nominees. Wizkid and Davido have also been nominated for the highly coveted MTV Best African Act category and though they’ve both been nominated at least twice (with Wizkid winning last year) this is the first time both will vie for the position at the same time. As expected, much of the media rhetoric that followed the EMA nominations touted their listing as a potential battle for supremacy between the two artists.
The on-going Wizkid and Davido comparisons is similar to every competition borne of related phenominal trajectories in pop-culture ever. Think Micheal Jackson and Prince, Apple and Samsung or Uber and Taxify. The list goes on. By design, the Wizkid and Davido comparisons are borne of such natural public responses to two artists being the most progressive voices of their era. The early years of Davido and Wizkid’s career particularly made it nearly impossible to avoid comparing both artists. They both leaned towards the R&B, Hip-Hop and Afro-Carribean sounds, sometimes simultaneously incorporating all these elements at once and largely creating the wave we recognise today as the sound of modern Afropop.
Over the years, most of the conversations about Davido and Wizkid have often centred around character judgements, measurable achievements and sound comparisons, although valid, they have often condensed into inconclusive debates about Wiz’ apparent vocal dexterity over OBO. On the other hand, what has fallen into Davido’s favour is his strong suit for songwriting, he initially leveraged this on romantic numbers with the poetic infusion of Yoruba language. Davido has since gradually transformed this skill into a means of making bold statements. The results are in controversial tracks like “All Of You” and his explosive guest verses on Falz’s “Bahd, Baddo Baddest” and Humblesmith’s “Osinachi” Remix, amongst others.
In recent times, both Wizkid and Davido have increasingly differentiated their artistry even further. Starting with Davido’s global distribution deal with Sony and a follow-up deal with RCA last year, many expected the OBO to push outwards towards international markets. This came amidst rumours linking Wizkid to some major labels like Universal, it was simultenously anticipated that Davido would tip towards his counterpart’s new global outlook, especially with the release of a Son of Mercy EP—a project laced with a genre-blending mash of R&B-Pop, Trap and Afro-Caribbean sounds. But in a turn of events, while Wizkid has focused on reining in on the global mainstream with Afro-Carribean and EDM-tinged music that make up his Sounds From The Other Side debut under RCA, Davido has dominated the year with “IF” and “Fall”, two songs that aptly capture the feel and texture of mid-tempo Afropop of this era.
This is not to say fans who will expect a Davido-Vs-Wizkid face-off at the EMAs would be wholly disappointed. After all, the category features four other nominees including South-African artists, Nasty C and Babes Wodumo, who are also having their respective moments. Wizkid and Davido dominating conversations, if anything will prove the sustenance of Afropop when stacked against other genres of music (despite jollof music’s low critical value). MTV EMA Best African Act nominations has re-hashed a Wizkid vs Davido rivalry that hasn’t gone away since the becoming of both artists, but going by their shared (but divergent) success in 2017, it’s safe to say this rivalry is merely conspiratorial and fan-made at this point in their careers. Fandoms may disagree, but there’s indeed room for everyone to be great without pulling down the other.
Angola’s Pedro and Kenya’s Nyashinksi are also nominated alongside Wizkid and Davido for the Best African Act category of MTV EMA.
You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu