Afropop artist Adekunle Gold has a rare gift - he’s able to transcend a message through his art with the intention of speaking to the whole world. It’s made him a growing global superstar.
First coming to prominence with his very first release “Sade” a love song that sampled instrumentals from One Direction’s “Story of My Life”, he gained recognition for transforming an already popular song and putting a ‘Gold’ twist on it. We got to see very early on a perfect example as to why Adekunle would then later become a household name. The song rose to critical acclaim and was nominated for Best Alternative Song at The Headies 2015, he was willing to explore his musical talent and take risks beyond his own familiarity.
Doors began opening up for Adekunle off the back of his debut single, leading to opportunities that would help propel his career to the next level. Contacted by one of Africa’s biggest acts, Olamide, he was asked to join his music imprint for two years, YBNL. This in return then lead to the talented artist releasing three albums: Gold (debuting at #7 on the Billboard World Albums Chart), About 30 (shortlisted for the GRAMMY® Best World Album), and AfroPop Vol 1 with the global hit records “Okay” and “Something Different”.
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Renowned for his niche ‘highlife’ singing style, a sound that had not yet reached the likes of the UK and other regions alike, this popularised music genre derived from Ghana and uses traditional melodic and rhythmic structures paired with Western instruments, a sound where more than one cultural tradition intermingles. We can hear the characterised guitar and up-tempo beat flow throughout all of Adekunle’s songs. A more modernised sound is what we come to hear now, a sound slightly tweaked over the years as the genre became popular in Gold’s hometown of Nigeria, and is now the country’s most popular genre to date.
With a stream of accolades under his belt, including a nomination for the Most Promising Act of the Year category at the 2015 City People Entertainment Awards, the prolific artist is back on the scene and gracing us all with his presence, having released his first single and visual ‘It is What It Is’ from his highly anticipated forthcoming studio album.
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The fourth album to his discography and set for a late spring release, tranquillity is one word to describe the song, with Gold himself stating “The truth about freedom is it is only found in clarity of self. I believe this song is about letting yourself be free from every other voice but the one guiding you internally.” Most certainly a continuation of what we all know Adekunle for best, which is none other than creating music that speaks to the world.
We most certainly see a more elevated and polished Adekunle on this track, the pioneer of the Afropop genre exudes nothing but elegance with a cool edge on the song. Notion caught up with Gold to discuss the meaning behind his new single, what we can expect from his upcoming album and the importance of integrating his culture throughout his music.
Your song “It Is What It Is’” was the first single off your highly anticipated album – what made you want to lead with this track? What is the context behind the song’s narrative ‘It Is What It Is’ – what are you trying to tell your audience through this song? Is there a significant message?
I led with it because that’s where I am now. Leaving and letting be. I see this track as an announcement of some sort. It was inspired by the thought of not doing things that cause you discomfort or costs you peace. You know what I mean? At this stage in life, leave and let be is honestly a great policy, and strongly believe that we need to start curating the experiences we can control.
You’ve just dropped the new single “Sinner” with Lucky Daye. Can you tell us the story behind the track?
I’m not sure if you are familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba in the Bible. It’s tragic actually, David sees the wife of one of his soldiers bathing and falls in lust with her. He sends his soldier into the front lines so he could get killed and he could covet his wife. I often wonder about those transient emotions that would lead to someone doing something so foul and my shallow thoughts were not that David was undisciplined but that Sheba was baddddddd, she had to be, hence the line, “Sheba, girl you make me a sinner”. God forgive me!
You’re considered as one of the pioneers of the Afropop genre – what do you think makes you unique as an artist that enables you to be in your own lane?
I’m not sure really what enables me but I do know, I am least happy when I am paying attention to other people, I am exhausted trying to be anyone but myself. I always try to remind myself that if I’m straining, then I am distracted or misaligned. I stay in my own lane and run my race because in my lane, no one is competing with me but me. I am thankful that people respond to what it is I do, I am grateful; but! I gotta do it for myself first.
You’re known for creating music native to your roots that speaks to the world. Do you think it’s important for you to express your heritage and individuality to communicate with your supporters, so they have an understanding of who you are?
I think that’s what music is, communication through melodies and words, it in itself is a language, that language carries culture, history and experience. Every time I put out a song, I am basically packaging myself into a little mp3, and when it’s played back, the history and culture and experience should be honest, it should be true “for the record”, all metaphors intended.
Your upcoming album is set to showcase the Black experience across music, art, and style – can you give us more of an insight as to what that will sound/look like on the album?
Vibes man, vibes. Lol. I started slowing things down sonically on Afropop Vol 1. My intention with the new project is to keep you hyped and calm at the same time. To make you close your eyes and say “hmmm! That’s deep” or “ayeeee, that’s my jam” whiskey or tea in hand, swaying back and forth, rewinding and rinsing. I’m gonna keep you engaged!
I loved the opening narration on “It Is What It Is”. What was the story behind that? It seemed very sentimental.
Shout out to my sister Adekunbi for rendering that masterpiece. To think we didn’t even plan for that. Again, my team thought it would be dope if there was an oriki (panegyric) before the song starts to set the tone right.
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The dancing in the music video for “It Is What It Is” also captured my attention, the movements were very expressive – did the choreography play into the themes of freedom and letting go?
The is a common thread around my fans that I dance funny. Well, I decided to even dance funnier. Lol. They clown me when I do, so you know what I do, I do it some more. Makes me happy, why stop?
I enjoyed the cohesive storytelling of the visual. Where did you shoot the video, was it in one location? How much of a role did you play in the concept?
Shout out to my team and MOM the directors, it was shot in the middle of the desert, they came up with the concept, I just showed up. This is rare actually as I am usually heavily involved but they totally killed it.
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You’re based between Nigeria, where you were born and raised, but have you picked up any inspiration musically by spending a lot of time in the States? How has your time there changed you as an artist?
I’m just here working on a film project and also rounding up my album. Nothing has changed, still an African man blessing them with this golden voice outchea. Haha.
But on a more serious note, one of the perks of being here is that I get to work with different producers outside my scope and that has been going really well. Catching new vibes and making new friends.
What do you want people to take away from the upcoming record – in terms of thoughts and feelings?
I want them to make babies to the record but I won’t responsible for the babies. AG Baby and Lucky Daye on a song?! you know what time it is. *winks*
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