Eight years ago, Adekunle Gold performed at Afropolitan Vibes at Freedom Park in Lagos. At the time he had released two singles – “Sade” and “Orente”. He would return to that stage as the show headliner a year later, belting out a medley of hits into a gold-plated microphone. Those in the audience knew a particular kind of star was born.
Five albums later, the 36-year-old, Lagos-born former graphic designer is an established Afrobeats icon making solid inroads into the global space.
He started with his sophomore album About 30, which was completed on his third album Afropop Vol. 1, a classic.
“With every album, I take on a new persona, like a method actor getting into character,” he says.
His latest LP Tequila Ever After, coined in the euphoria of a mood-lifting shot of liquor, sees him exude more confidence on his popstar trajectory, with ditties like ‘Party No Dey Stop’, ‘Soro’, ‘Ogaranya’, and ‘Sisi Ganja’, making for a cohesive body of work.
Ahead of his North American tour, The Africa Report speaks to Adekunle Gold, who enjoys talking about music, his obsession.
Recording his new album Tequila Ever After was not at the top of Gold’s list, especially after the release of his previous album, Catch Me If You Can was postponed.
Liquor is quicker
“I was livid. Someone brought me a bottle of Patron, I drank one shot, and I felt good instantly. I told myself I wanted to describe that feeling,” he says.
That action was the inspiration for his nickname Tio Tequila – tio means uncle in Spanish.
“Tequila makes everything light-hearted, so the songs I was making reflected that state of mind. The album should be viewed from the perspective of having conversations with friends over some shots,” he says.
“This record opened me to a new process of making music,” he adds.
Some of the studio sessions for Tequila Ever After took place outside Nigeria – ‘Falling Up’ was notably recorded in Miami – but Gold disagrees with the notion that foreign booths hold any consequences for the flavour and grounding of a Nigerian record.
“Your voice is your voice, and it goes with you wherever you are. I’m not sure the location where you record a song influences the music in any way,” he says.
Gold’s artistic rebrand has included his transformation into a fashion icon, a fact that he acknowledges. For him, style is an integral part of the Afrobeats subset.
“When it comes to fashion, I advocate that people break the rules and be fluid,” he says.
The Afrobeats master is aware that certain audiences are drawn to the traditional infusions that characterised his earlier work, but he refuses to let anyone police his craft, maintaining that creatives must be allowed to grow.
“I pride myself in training my listeners; the idea is that as I am growing, they are growing as well. I made ‘Orente’ and ‘Ire’, and I’m the same person who made ‘Chasing Peace of Mind’,” he says, referring to his past hits.
“Everything I’ve made, I can back up, and I still perform those songs. The joy of being a creative is being able to move with the times,” he adds.
He pays homage to the musicians who inspired him and came before, such as 2Baba, Dbanj and Don Jazzy.
“We should never forget the ones that came before us.”
Brain drain and Afrobeats?
Although one might attribute the global success of Afrobeats to the Nigerian brain drain, Gold says the music itself has assumed a life of its own.
“Nigerians move to other continents every time, and it’s to our advantage, even if you just feel that poor leadership has contributed to the spate of migration over the years,” he says.
The teeming population helps, of course, says Gold, but our music also travels rapidly out of Nigeria on its own merit.
“Our sound is beautiful, and it resonates with multiple demographics. It is a testament to the brilliance of our artistes,” he says.
Tequila Ever After is available on all streaming platforms, and Adekunle Gold’s North American tour kicks off on 22 September in Dallas, Texas.
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