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Adekunle Gold, the Lagos-born prolific singer, is one of the handful of Nigerian artists who can boast of a lasting presence in the highly competitive space that is the country’s music industry. His was a journey of talent, consistency, invention and reinvention.

He was born Adekunle Kosoko, a member of the royal Kosoko family of Lagos Island, so when he chose to follow his passion in music, the name Gold readily appealed to him. Days spent riding to school with his father while they played Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, as well as lullabies sung by his aunt at bedtime, planted a love for music in the young Adekunle. With time, his love for listening to music spurred him to create his own. Like many other budding artists, he cultivated his talents first by joining the junior choir in his church and later, by forming a band with a close friend, Michael Bakare, before deciding to pursue a career as a solo artist. Michael remains a major musical pillar of Adekunle Gold’s career, his songwriting and production credits can be found as recently as Adekunle’s latest album.

Nigeria’s first introduction to the artist, however, was through his creative work as a photo editor. Prior to the release of “Sade” in December 2015, Gold had been given the title of ‘King of Photoshop’ for his creative editing of his images on pictures of actress Tonto Dike, OAP, Toolz and especially afrobeats queen, Tiwa Savage. A young Adekunle Gold had finished school with a diploma in Arts and Industrial Design and was putting his degree to good use, doing graphic design work for a number of YBNL artists, including ViktohLil Kesh and even street-pop legend Olamide.

In 2014, Adekunle Gold released “Sade”, a cover of One direction’s “Story of my Life”, and based upon a real life Sade who had turned his affections down. As the song gained ground, Pheelz, YBNL’s in-house producer, saw there was more To Adekunle Gold’s creativity than visual arts, and after conversations with label huncho, OlamideAdekunle Gold was unveiled as a YBNL artist in March 2015. Then, he got a chance at a proper debut single, and “Orente” was born; a folksy Yoruba-supported love ballad, featuring distinct Yoruba instrumentation, which would grow to become his signature style. He followed this up with “Pick up”, which amped up production for a Juju-influenced song that would be an excellent fit for a live band.

All these built up to the release of his first studio album in July 2016, Gold that featured successes such as “Work”, “Ariwo Ko”, and another all time classic, “No forget”, a duet with Simi, a friend and fellow artist who had previously mixed and mastered songs for him. His debut album was a critically acclaimed success, peaking at no. 7 on the Billboard World Album Chart.

His next studio album, About 30, was released in 2018 after exchanging amicable farewells with YBNL. He assembled a team of instrumentalists into a live band, named the 79th Element (Gold), and headed by Michael Bakare. As a result the album drew chiefly from his unique upbeat trad-style music which he christened Urban Highlife, and it housed a number of memorable songs like the energetic “Money”, the evocative “Ire” and the sombre “Fame”.

Until 2019 Adekunle Gold had operated firmly within the boundaries of his self-styled Afro Urban genre, where live instruments could meet with intoned delivery to channel some of the essence of Yoruba Juju music in a more modern setting. For the next step, though, it was time for an artistic refresh, and to achieve it, he will have to sacrifice some of his folksy essence for better mainstream appeal. And so he braided his boyish afro into a macho cornrow, while he discarded the Adire shirts for brightly coloured jackets and flowing kimonos, left unbuttoned to show his new buff physique, completing his look with tinted glasses and loose fitting pants. His switch in music was a lot less acute. For “Before You Wake Up”, his first solo single of 2019, he maintained a similar delivery but production was different, employing more studio-made Afrobeats rather than the live drums and keys he was more popular with. Also subtle was his use of English and Pidgin for the entirety of the single, in the past Adekunle Gold had relied chiefly on Yoruba.

It was in 2020 that he properly donned the artistic personality he would take for his next era. First came “Jore”, a duet with Kizz Daniel that leaned into Kizz’s brand of casual afropop that was backed by catchy lyrics and a flowing beat. Then he released “Something Different”, which was as it was named, a continual of the sonic detour he was making towards the mainstream. In mid 2020, “AG Baby” was released, the manifesto for his artistic vision; on the track he alludes to being the “street boy popping on the mainstream shit”. “AG Baby’ was homonymous with his new persona, and on his next album, “Afro-Pop Vol. 1”, he delved properly into who he was now and what to expect of him. A song like “Okay” handled this orientation nicely, as he spun the mid-tempo pop groove into a song deriding his haters.

While AG Baby was morphing into the popstar, Adekunle Gold was settling into family life. His marriage to Simi was for many a bolt from the blue, but insiders into the couple’s lives knew they had been an item even before either of them made their debuts in the industry. Simi had produced, as well as mixed and mastered a chunk of Adekunle Gold’s Gold album, and Adekunle has gone on record to credit her with helping him find his music style. The pair had collaborated across a number of tracks over the years, each time bringing amazing chemistry that most fans did not know was the product of real life love they shared. On January 17th they released “Promise”, a tribute to their new union and the first official announcement of it. A little over a year later, in May 2021, “Happy Birthday”was released; a love letter to their daughter, Adejare on her first birthday.

2021 also saw him release three successful singles that would appear on his next album, “Catch me if You Can”, “Sinner” and “It Is What It Is” followed the laid back, less-is-more delivery of his newly perfected style. But “High”, featuring industry heavyweight Davido, was a different dish altogether; an Amapiano heavy hit, foreshadowing another shedding, or perhaps more accurately, an extra layering of personality that would lead AG Baby to give way to Tio Tequila. The lover boy Adekunle who had withstood the transition from Adekunle Gold to AG Baby evolved to another man for whom “Love is not enough”.

His latest project, Tequila Ever After, is named after this new persona, and here he slows down his Afropop cadences to take in parts of Dancehall and RnB. By far his biggest project, Adekunle Gold assembled RnB megastars like Pharrell Williams and Khalid as well as budding Nigerian street stars like Zinoleesky and Odumodublvck. He has already hit the charts with two singles, “Ogaranya” and “Party No Dey Stop”, so he will be hopeful others can quickly follow suit. More importantly, though, he will hope his new project, and the persona he introduces with it, can significantly advance his global intentions. Adekunle Gold has described his latest project as a celebration of his wins so far.

With a solid discography encompassing five successful projects, a recently bagged contract with an international label in Def Jam Records and a career about to reach the 10 year mark, a celebration is much needed and well deserved. As the artist readies himself to consolidate his position in the Nigerian market and expand his wings even further beyond the shores of the country, he can take a shot of Tequila and toast to his wins so far, because it only gets better from here.

This article was written by Afrobeats City Contributor Ezema Patrick – @ezemapatrick (Twitter)

Afrobeats City doesn’t own the right to the images – image source: Instagram – @Adekunlegold

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