ADVERTISEMENT

Adekunle Gold: The journey to 'Afro-pop Vol. 1' [Pulse Interview]

Adekunle Gold tells Pulse about Afro pop Vol. 1, his 'rebrand.' his style, the role of fans and more

Adekunle Gold tells Pulse about Afro pop Vol. 1, his 'rebrand.' his style, the role of fans and more. (Twitter/AMusicInTime)
ADVERTISEMENT

With a combination of the swagger and stage presence of King Sunny Ade, the soul of a Fuji/Apala singer, a slight glean of 9ice and the mind of a millennial, he found a way to document the life of the Nigerian youth - one word at a time. Sometimes, it was by way of a love song like, ‘Sade.’ Other times, it was by a solemn prayer for wealth like, ‘Pick Up.

Whatever the case was, he kept excelling. After his second album, About 30 dropped, the industry was agog with reasons why Adekunle Gold needed a rebrand and why his Folksy sound was not sustainable. What happened next, ‘Before You Wake Up’ which came after a handful of songs.

Adekunle Gold then slowly shed off the vestiges of the brand he had crafted for himself over the three years prior to that. The Sunny Ade-esque crown was replaced with braids, the slim arms were chiseled by intense gym work, the more bougie outfits were replaced with more casual outfits. Beads found their way onto arms and into locks and sneakers fused with jeans for a more contemporary brand.

At his wife, Simi’s amazing Trace LIVE! event in October 2019, he came onto the stage in a mix of Lagos mainstream style and alte aesthetics with his choice of pants. He also moved with a swagger. Everybody asked; ‘Is Adekunle Gold rebranding?’ Yes, it looked like that.

He became AG Baby and the traditional percussion of, ‘Pick Up’ was replaced with uptempo pop sounds like, ‘Young Love.’ Love songs like, ‘Sade’ were replaced with fast-paced Afro-pop like, ‘Jore.’

People called it ‘change,’ but was it really ‘change’?

Adekunle Gold says, “I wouldn’t exactly call it a rebrand. I don’t think I ever really set out to change anything because of what people were saying. I get why it might look like [it’s about comments], and that would be fair, but nah, it’s not.

“It’s just about who I am naturally. I don’t think I would be here if my career was about people’s comments. I mean, no man is an island… But, the idea for Afro-pop was born while I was making my debut album, Gold - it dropped on July 25, 2016. It was then that I realized that I wanted my next album to sound more pop.

“While I was working on About 30 - which I felt needed to be heard first, I commenced work on the vision for Afro-pop. Then in November 2017, I had a conversation with Niyi - my manager - that I wanted to do something different. Three years later, I’m actually doing it. With this in mind, you might understand that it’s just how I am.

“I just wanted to do Afro pop and that’s it. I was feeling like, ‘Kelegbe Megbe’ and ‘Something Different’ right from 2017 and even had the album title. To be honest, I changed my sound to Highlife around the middle of the decade.

At the start of the last decade, he was in a band called, The Bridge alongside Seyi - now a producer who made ‘1 Milli’ for Davido, he was making Afro-pop music. At the time, his dream was to become a pop star. Songs like, ‘Live Today,’ ‘No Sleeping On The Bicycle,’ ‘Make It Happen’ and ‘Non-breaker’ were pop songs recorded at that time.

Then in 2013, he recorded ‘Omolade,’ which was a cover of, ‘Ada Ada’ by Flavour. It was also a time that saw him sing heavily in Yoruba.

He says, “I felt I didn’t sound bad [scoffs] on it. I thought my voice sounded sweet and I felt good making it. Next thing, I released, ‘Let It Stop’ in May 2013 and then, ‘Sade.’ At that moment, I felt the world was ready for Adekunle Gold.’ Something about the agreement of the sound and my voice sold value and attraction to me and I thought my audience would like it.”

The journey to Gold was more about expantiating on what worked and having a brand - that was achieved.

When Adekunle Gold realized that he wanted to go back to his Afro-pop, he wrote and recorded, ‘Call On Me’ off About 30. When you listen to it critically, a few records off About 30 like ‘Ire’ were pop records - the same thing with, ‘Paradise’ off Gold.Surrender’ was an Afro-pop record.

Adekunle Gold raises a valid point, “People equate me singing in Yoruba with the presence of Highlife and the absence of pop [laughs]. Maybe it’s because of my voice type or something, I don’t know [laughs].”

The man now known as Daddy Adejare wanted About 30 to be a total pop album but he shelved those plans. It was in those moments that change started, the audience just hadn’t caught up because they had expectations of the Gold sound.

For that reason, the album was not well-received - especially at first. Adekunle Gold responds, “I get it; people didn’t understand it or what I was doing because they had different expectations and that’s fine. When you switch up on people sometimes, they’re like, ‘Alaye, what’s happening?’ [laughs].

“But it’s just funny that everyone might be tempted to tag this phase a ‘rebrand’ when it’s been there all along. I was ready to be patient, so people could get it and now we realize that people wanted this along - that’s the thing [scoffs] you realize when you’ve won. When you attempt something like this, the first set of feedback you’ll get will be critique.

“Then, certain people will warm up to the idea after initially taking a backseat to the more dominant voices of critics. Everybody else then follows. Let me tell you something, my brother; that’s what’s happening now. It took About 30, ‘Kelegbe Megbe,’ ‘Young Love,’ ‘Before You Wake Up’ and ‘Jore’ to get here, but we are here.”

The most important pop record that really drove the point home was, ‘Before You Wake Up.’ Its acceptance drove what most people now refer to as ‘Adekunle Gold’s rebrand.’

Despite the critique, Adekunle Gold felt the need to keep going. He admits that it was disappointing not to get the reaction he desired, but that moment made him more willing to see the journey till the end than abandon it.

The reason was that, “If you live your life for validation, it will be hard to change and when you don’t change, you will forever live in a decorated box where people put you. If I hadn’t done what I wanted to do, I would have been classified a legend barely three years after my debut album because people were already likening me to legends.

“And when people call you a legend when they shouldn’t, it’s a decent way of saying, ‘You’re good at that, but it’s okay.’ Unknowingly, fans give artists a room - or a number of years - to shine and once that elapses, you’re overdoing it.

“When I came out, I was hot in my first three years. If I had continued doing the same thing, there would have been no room to talk about me like they are now. What’s important to me is that I express myself with freedom. What would break me and kill me is if I find myself in a box where I only wear kampala and sing in Yoruba.

But in the end, Gold admits that it’s still the fan’s prerogative to like it or not and that he’s not entitled to a positive reaction. But he would also like a similar mindset from fans.

These days, thoughts of Adekunle Gold immediately trigger the words, ‘AG Baby Is Your Baby.’ The first time the world got it was on, ‘Jore.’ But that moment was years in the making. His manager always called him, ‘AG’ before other friends joined in. On ‘Kelegbe Megbe,’ he called himself, “Don Dada” and “AG Baby.”

While recording ‘Jore’ with Kizz Daniel, he needed an intro to announce his presence. He jokes, “Kizz Daniel has “Flyboy” and he suggested that I used I intro. I stepped into the booth and ‘AG Baby Is Your Baby’ and that became my flex [laughs].”

He then jokes that, “If AG Baby is not your baby, then what are you doing?

When Adekunle Gold had that conversation with his manager, Niyi in 2017, Afro-pop Vol. 1 was meant to be an EP of four songs to show his diversity and the density of his artistry. The direction of this album was heavily influenced by sound, but Adekunle Gold also uses the album to discuss some topics he never touched on previous albums.

He jokes that, “I kinda overwrote on this album [laughs]. By the time I knew it, I had written 25 songs.”

It was during these recording processes that Adekunle Gold engineered his only veritable genuine rebrand - his style and looks. He grew his hair and locked, he started visiting the gym more to grow his muscles and started wearing more jewelry.

He jokes, “I don’t want to be cute, I want to be f***ing hot. How could I be 30 and still be that lean?” He continues, “To be honest, there’s not been any plan or gimmick, everything you see is the result of how I feel when I wake up. That’s also not to say that it’s bad to plan, I have made plans that I ended up cancelling.”

‘Kelegbe Megbe’ and ‘Jore’ didn’t make the album for what Adekunle Gold calls, “choice.” He says, “The only singles that make the album from 2020 are, ‘Something Different’ and ‘AG Baby.’ It’s just a choice, I just wanted people to listen to something new entirely.

Some people will listen to Afro Pop Vol. 1 and think that Adekunle Gold is trying to appeal to certain foreign markets, but he says that he has never thought that strategically about making music. To him, the music has to come organically first. He says, “If a producer sends me a beat and I like it, I’ll write to it. I think about music first…”

In 2017, Adekunle Gold knew what he wanted to do. But these days, he doesn’t. He will only let the music lead him. But while he was making Afro pop Vol. 1, he got an idea for two other albums.

On ‘Ire,’ Adekunle Gold said, “If I had known that the life I was searching for was already my own.” What he didn’t add was, “I would have stressed a lot less..”

He continues, “ Life is a mystery, nothing is promised and that’s the beauty of working hard. My idea of stress is more from the mental part, I would still have worked hard. If I knew I would be where I am now in 2013, I probably wouldn’t have worked as hard. The beauty of becoming ‘this guy’ after all the sleepless nights gives me incredible satisfaction.”

When he was younger, he used to wonder what he was going to be. He was in Science class at some point, but that didn’t work out well.

He then wanted to be a Lawyer and a lot of things. He studied art, made graphics and finally decided to focus on music full-time. Adekunle Gold wanted this sound and style for his fans. He wanted them to get something different from him and understand him as a symbol of hope.

Adekunle Gold also hopes that creatives take more control and have greater freedom to experiment. He aims to be a great dad and a great husband, not just a great man. He thinks about how to raise a beautiful, brown skin girl in this crazy world, but he’s not too disturbed by it because he knows he has a great wife in Simi.

However, he jokingly rejects notions that marriage made him more good looking. He says everybody peddling that notion can collect side eye. In the end, he wants the world to respect women more.

JOIN OUR PULSE COMMUNITY!

Unblock notifications in browser settings.
ADVERTISEMENT

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or:

Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng

Recommended articles

Kizz Daniel's 'Buga' is the most searched song in Nigeria in 2022

Kizz Daniel's 'Buga' is the most searched song in Nigeria in 2022

Oxlade is the most searched artist on Google in Nigeria in 2022

Oxlade is the most searched artist on Google in Nigeria in 2022

Man who stole Lady Gaga’s dogs to spend 21 years behind bars

Man who stole Lady Gaga’s dogs to spend 21 years behind bars

AV's 'Thug Love' is strikingly familiar [Pulse Album Review]

AV's 'Thug Love' is strikingly familiar [Pulse Album Review]

Flytime Festival tickets for December concerts go on sale

Flytime Festival tickets for December concerts go on sale

Broda Shaggi begs African fathers to hug their children

Broda Shaggi begs African fathers to hug their children

Tems' 'Free Mind' enters 20th week on Billboard Hot 100

Tems' 'Free Mind' enters 20th week on Billboard Hot 100

ICPC arrests, detains D'banj for alleged embezzlement

ICPC arrests, detains D'banj for alleged embezzlement

Burna Boy set to drop documentary for single, 'Whiskey'

Burna Boy set to drop documentary for single, 'Whiskey'

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT