We speak to the Nigerian star about how marriage and fatherhood have led him to find both newfound happiness and newfound freedom as an artist.
''I'm having the time of my life,'' says Adekunle Gold over a Zoom call while seated in his office in Lagos. ''I'm making songs that are so true to my current energy, my current vibe.'' When I got on the call with the 34-year-old artist on a Wednesday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was his hair tied up in little braids, the second was his wide smile. As we speak, the crooner laughs multiple times but it's his aura that shines through the computer screen, it lets you know better than his words that he's truly having the time of life.
Born Adekunle Kosoko, the popular Nigerian singer got married barely two years ago to fellow artist Simi. Last year, the power couple welcomed their first child. As we talk, Gold points to his journey as a father and a husband as some of the biggest inspirations at the moment not just as far as music goes but as his perspective in life and how he now approaches things.
''My [artistry] has changed a lot because being a father and being a husband has made me grow a lot and more.'' Adekunle Gold tells OkayAfrica. ''It has made me understand life a lot more too. I'm feeling more responsible for people. You know, now I have a kid to raise and I have a wife to support, to be a real man and husband and father for.'' He credits this journey with both his newfound happiness and a newfound freedom as an artist.
Photo: Kennedi Carter.
A few days after Adekunle Gold and I first talk, he released "It Is What It Is," a song where he meditates on life, as well as the subtle toxicity of some people. It features the line: 'keeping my distance oh, some people are worse than pandemic'. When you look at the song as well as his recent project over the last year, you notice a level of growth as well as an amount of commitment to artistic expression that few mainstream artists can boast of.
We spoke to Adekunle Gold about finding his way to music, the inspiration behind his latest releases and what having the time of his life means.
How did you find your way to music?
At first, I wanted to be a civil engineer but I was horrible at science so I went to my counselor, I told him I wanted to change to art class. And I went to the art class and then said I was going to do law. I knew that I didn't like to read then and how do you become a lawyer when you didn't even like to read? So, omo, I just told myself the truth: there's one thing I've always loved as a child and it's being creative. I was good at drawing, painting and all that so I'll focus on that.
Adekunle Gold - It Is What It Is (Official Video) youtu.be
How did you discover your interest in the creative arts?
My father was an artist. He was a visual artist. He painted, he was a sculptor. I knew I had that from him, but I was always telling myself, I don't want to become like my dad, I don't want to do what he does. I wanted to choose a different path. But the reality was that I was better at this thing than everything else — I was acing my final art classes exams. So I thought to myself, let me stop lying to myself and just do this thing. I later went to Lagos Polytechnique where I finished my higher education and graduated as the best in my class. But the passion for music was always there through all this. From wanting to become a civil engineer to a lawyer to a visual artist, music was always there. After I finished school, I went to NYSC and worked in three major companies in Africa. And then I decided, you know, in 2014, I decided it's time to face music.
Can you tell me about deciding to leave the 9 to 5 world?
I always knew I was going to do something great in music. But I just had to make a hard decision of doing the 9 to 5 life at first while trying this music thing. The whole time that I was working at a bank, which was my 9 to 5 back then, I was working on my music, and saving money and trying to make the 9 to 5 thing work. But you know how hard it is when you're working from Monday to Friday, from nine to five and the only time that you have to rest is Saturday or Sunday. It was never enough. So in 2014, I decided to quit the job. This was around when I recorded "Sade." Two weeks after I released it, the song started blowing up. I said to myself 'I guess it's time,' and I never looked back.
Photo: Kennedi Carter.
Speaking of "Sade," what was the story behind it?
It was about a girl that I liked. Simple, I liked a girl and she didn't like me back so I decided I'll write about it.
Is that how your songwriting process usually works? What typically inspires you?
Yes and no. I write my stories, my emotions, I narrate my ordeals, and sometimes even gist my friends tell me. I used to be on Twitter a lot, you know and sometimes I look at what's happening and allow things to inspire me to cook up stories. Like I could imagine, if I was a fisherman what kind of career would I have. Sometimes I'm driving and see a billboard and it just sparks something in me. I don't have any one thing that inspires me.
What artists inspire you?
Bruno Mars. Jacob Banks. And then, of course, Post Malone.
Very interesting selection of artists, why them?
I love their showmanship. I've seen Jacob Banks perform live and he is a crazy performer and I've seen Bruno Mars perform digitally and he's amazing and Post Malone too. I also love Frank Ocean. He's a fantastic writer. I love their minds. You know, I think that's it. I watch them perform and wonder how somebody reasons like this? That's what fascinates me about their art.
Adekunle Gold, Lucky Daye - Sinner (Official Music Video) youtu.be
You've recently release the singles "It Is What It Is" and "Sinner," and you have a few other projects in the pipeline, can you tell me about the inspiration behind them?
All the things and songs that I've ever recorded in my life, they're true. But now the songs I'm releasing now, they are extra true, you know. I'm saying things directly from my heart. No holding back. If I feel like cussing, I do it. And I'm happy that I don't have to censor myself anymore.
What does 'having the time of your life' mean to you?
It means I'm free and It feels good to be free. For a long time, I held myself to the standard that people created for me. People say and believe 'Adekunle Gold is a certain type of artist and this is the kind of music he should make.' I don't blame them because this is what I gave them at first. If I had come out and was singing about bum bum, I probably would have been able to get away with anything. That's okay. Because I don't necessarily want to talk about that. But if I feel like I want to talk about that, I should be able to, you know what I mean? So I'm happy that I am now at a place where I just feel free and what I'm releasing now reflects this.
What are your biggest inspirations these days?
My current energy is what is keeping me going and inspiring me. The freedom to say how it is, say how I'm feeling, tell my story and all without worrying about what people think are all the things that are fueling me. The new addition to my family, the peace of my mind, having people I love so much around me every day all feel so good and are all fueling and inspiring me as an artist.