4 takeaways from Adekunle Gold’s new album, ‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’

Don't get it twisted, AG Baby is still your baby

Two years and three months – that’s how long it’s taken Adekunle Gold to follow-up his sophomore album, ‘About 30’. In that period, the singer was anything but scarce, rolling out a handful of excellent standalone singles, and elevating his profile as one of the finest live performers around. His newly released album, ‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’, has been announced since last December, and it comes on the back of the recent announcement of his recording deal with UK-based Virgin EMI Records.

‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’ comes in a weekend packed with a slew of new full-length releases—Fireboy DML, Cuppy, The Cavemen—and based on a first few listens, it stands out positively as a quality body of work deserving of attention. Clocking in at half an hour, the 10-track set is a brisk listen that finds the singer fine-tuning his abilities as an album curator and embracing his growth into a pop star.

Here are four notable things we took away from ‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’.

The Confident Metamorphosis of Adekunle Gold

Adekunle Gold’s obsession with growth is remarkable. Over the course of his career, we’ve watched the singer break previous moulds of himself in a bid to remould and fine-tune his persona into something rounder, edgier and more captivating. While these transformations happen in real-time, they are overtly evident on any album they culminate into, and ‘Afro Pop’ is no different. In the two years since ‘About 30’, AG has grown into a bulkier physique, and it fits perfectly along with the self-assured ethos of his recent music.

On this album, “AG Baby” and “Okay” continue to trudge the same boastful line AG established with the excellent “Kelegbe Megbe”, and these songs sound even more veritable, because they match up with his current buff image. These are songs that likely wouldn’t have hit properly when he was showing us his everyman charm on his debut or while he was untangling the intricacies of fully stepping into adulthood on his last album. Like they say, jungle don mature and AG’s youthful charm has fully given way to a warmly confident gait, an evolution that’s as inspiring as it gets.

Pop Star AG is in full effect

When Adekunle Gold broke out, it was on the back of his rustic appeal. He christened his sound Urban Highlife, a nod towards the parochial nature of his major sonic influences, and also a befitting description of his relatively narrow concerns as a writer and singer. By his sophomore, he was taking more sonic risks, even though they didn’t all land cleanly. He continues to push past any preconceived boundaries of his palette on ‘Afro Pop’, going the very literal route of being as modish as possible. Across the 10 tracks here, AG bypasses his fascinations with older influences and leans into a varied soundscape that is very of the moment. In addition to highlife-tinged afropop cuts like “Sabina” and “Water Carry Me”, the singer deftly weaves around songs that infuse dancehall (“Pretty Girls”), EDM (“Exclusive”) and afro dance music (“AG Baby”).  It all ties together into a body of work that’s intentionally pop, a result that’s very fitting for a major label debut release.

Don’t get it twisted, though, AG Baby is still your baby

With all these adjustments, ‘Afro Pop’ continues to hone in on one of the things AG has proven himself a master of – crafting romantic bops. In addition to being as pristinely charming as a lot of his earlier work, the love songs on this album find AG being more a bit more imaginative and wholesome with the narratives he chooses to write.

While he’s already established that the bulk of his love songs will find him on the nice guy side of the spectrum, he adds some complexity to keep the romantic cuts on ‘Afro Pop’ from being needlessly sappy. On “Sabina”, he fights to keep the flame of a relationship going, “Firewood” uses the need for intimacy to broach carnal desires, while “Exclusive” is the entanglement anthem we deserve. AG has two babies (his wife and newborn child), but he’s clearly thinking of all his other babies when he’s penning his songs.

Visitors don’t have to be intruders

Adekunle Gold’s debut was remarkable for an overt lack of guest features—sans a sole Simi feature, he was the only voice on the album. For his follow-up, he tapped in a few assists which amounted more to intrusions rather than aiding visitors. AG seems to have fine-tuned this on ‘Afro Pop’, meshing well with the four featured artists that grace the album. On the intro track “AG Baby”, the Trini singer Nailah Blackman uses her alien beacon-like voice to reiterate AG’s unfazed stance; Patoranking forms a phenomenal partnership on the club-ready jam, “Pretty Girl”; and Tekno’s flair for occasional frivolity shines bright on “Firewood”.

Of the set of guests, NATIVE Fresh Meat alum Olayinka Ehi puts in the most mesmerising cameo on instant standout “Exclusive”. “I told her I wanted her to demo the second verse for a big r&b artist, and she didn’t know she was actually the feature”, AG said in an interview with Apple Music, explaining that he wanted to surprise Olayinka with an inclusion on the album all along. On “Exclusive”, Olayinka serves as the perfect foil for the two-sided narrative song, showcasing her immaculate chops as a singer-songwriter in the process. She adds to an album with many good choices, echoing the clear improvements Adekunle Gold has made as an album artist since we last got a full-length from him.

Listen to ‘Afro Pop, Vol. 1’ here.

Dennis is not an interesting person. Tweet Your Favourite Playboi Carti Songs at him @dennisadepeter