“AG Baby” marks a transition in Adekunle Gold’s Discography – Adeola Adejuwon Gbalajobi

On the 9th of December 2014, Adekunle Gold released Sade, a cover of One Direction’s Story of My Life.

The move caught us by surprise. This was the internet’s acclaimed ‘King of Photoshop’ who once cropped himself into one of Tiwa Savage’s picture. No one saw the coming of his switch into music. Sade was an instant hit, though, rising to critical acclaim and eventually winning an award at the Headies the next year. 

It was 2016 and riding on the back of four hit singles, Adekunle Gold released his first album, Gold. His style was new, unheralded, relying heavily on the Yoruba language. He called this genre Urban highlife, proudly donning Ankara patterns and Agbada in videos. 

The next project was About 30, and one could feel a slight experimental twist in the album, with tracks like IreThere is a God and Call on Me veering off AG’s trademark highlife.  About 30 was a success in its own rights. It peaked at number 9 on the Billboard’s World Album charts. 

What we didn’t know was that before About 30, AG had begun experimenting with what he calls Afro-Pop. In his newsletter which he sends to millions of his followers all over the world, he wrote: So, Niyi and I came up with this idea to create a small EP of 4-6 songs which she genius-ly named Afro Pop. Off I went with the charge to create this experimental body of work which turned out to be so much fun. I went from 4 songs to 6 songs, to 12 songs to uncountable… I should say this, even before you heard About 30, my next 2 albums were already in the works.

February 28 2019, Adekunle Gold dropped Before You Wake up. He went full Pop on this one. However, it was a teaser. Something entirely new was coming from the man whose previous style was heavily influenced by the music of Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. 

Transitioning is not easy. It is like steering off familiar terrains to strange waters. One can get swallowed in hostile waves. AG’s transitioning wasn’t easy as well. While on his own side he has been able to create this entirely new sound, it was hard finding acceptance. This is why despite it being in the works since 2017, it wasn’t until late 2019 that we began to see the new colour off his shades. About the challenges he faced, he wrote: “So we had the delightful body of work that was no longer than 4 songs and we began shopping it around to any ear that would listen, designing pitches and presentations day after day, flight after flight, meeting after meeting, no one seemed to get it. I was met with a lot of “yeah, this is cool but…” “Yeah, this is interesting world music” “yeah I like your style, let’s speak again”. There were days where I would walk out of said meetings feeling smaller than a mouse. The denial was torture even though the goal wasn’t really a record deal, the goal was to be seen and supported. There is a difference and someday I will explain.

Adekunle Gold’s transition is not about his genre and sound alone. It is a complete metamorphosis which includes his branding and image. The legendary producer, Don Jazzy, was so impressed that he made a tweet: “From where I sit and what I know, without a doubt, Adekunle Gold has executed one of the best transitions into the Nigeria pop music industry. Image (Check), Sound (Check) Brand (Check).”

From Adekunle Gold, he became AG Baby, shedding off his Agbada and Ankara like a tree sheds off its old leaves. Now, AG Baby wears designer shirts, shoes and even has dreads. 

When AG Baby dropped Jore which, in a review on my Whatsapp status, I had noted that his voice, his elements, were drowned by Kizz Daniel’s alluring voice. A good song. But I didn’t hear Adekunle Gold in it. But that was exactly the point. I’m not supposed to hear Adekunle. I had totally missed it. This is a new season. This is AG Baby’s season. This is Afro-Pop.

Then came Something Different. Don’t be carried away by the melodic persuasion of the song. There is also a subtle change in the lyrical content of the song: this is AG Baby, the man who no longer praises his Orente for staying with him despite his penury. This is AG Baby, the man who no longer needs to go to another city to hustle to win his mother in-law’s approval. He doesn’t need a reminder to Don’t Forget his sweetheart. Sade would be regretting her decision for turning down the young man who was praying for Money begging Baba God to Pick Up. It’s rebirth. A metamorphosis. He told the lady:

It could have been something different

You say you want money, baby, oh

We could be loving, my honey

Kissing and cuddling live in Miami, oh

We could have been something different, oh

Here is AG Baby, the Made Man. A paradox. But a sweet one nonetheless.

A short while ago AG dropped AG Baby featuring Nailah Blackman, a Trinidadian singer and songwriter. I was up  at midnight writing, the first time I heard AG Baby. I had to cover my mouth to stop myself from screaming when I got to the middle of the song. AG Baby is sweet. A delight to the ears. I dropped my laptop on my worktable and provided a miracle of movements to the magic coming from this god. It was a calling: 

Gimme da

Gimme da bop

A A A AG baby don’t stop

And man did I give it!

AG Baby is an announcement of a paradigm shift in AG’s discography— a movement which AG wouldn’t shy away from boasting that he propagated:

Dem dey underate man

They don’t know nothing

(a pro-pa-gate)

The moment you see now

(see now)

Number one papa

Eh Original bad man trailer

(trailer)

AG Baby has transitioned with a bang. I mean, three hit singles back to back! That’s the stuff of stars, the trademark of genius; the stuff of someone who knows their onions like Messi knows the back of the net. Oha!

What makes Adekunle Gold’s transition from the Agbada wearing Urban highlife crooner to the king of Afro-Pop isn’t just the wholeness of it, but his ability to hold on to the core of what made him who he is in the first place. AG is a superb songwriter, and this still rubs off in his newest offerings. An amazing artiste in the age of auto-tunes, confident singing with his live band which he designated The 79th Element. And while I hate making comparisons, I easily rate AG as one of Nigeria’s best. He is at the very top of the chart.

Hear the man:

‘Number one you know I don’t fake this thing

Legendary stuff you can’t take this shit

I pull up in my stardom

(stand up)

You feel me put your hand up

(Hands up)’.

An EP is dropping soon, Afro Pop Vol 1AG Baby is but a herald. An appetiser from the buffet AG is offering, and our palates are ready to devour.

{Adejuwon writes from Lagos, Nigeria.)

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