Album – About 30
Artiste – Adekunle Gold
Features – Dyo, Seun Kuti, Flavour, LCGC, Jacob Banks
Record Label – Afro Urban Records/Empire (2018)
Duration: 14 Tracks, 2 Bonus (54 Minutes)
Who comes to sell traditional goods in a modern market where the craze is about the flashy, quick-serving new products? Only outliers like Adekunle Gold do that. Art like his are like folk lores from the mouth of grannies. Even with all the years of ‘advancement’, you still go back to them when you realise that in them are essentials of life that Google wouldn’t tell you.
‘Dekunle has been in the business of exploring the old ways since his 2016 breakthrough song – Sade. His art has remained true even through his time with a label known to sell a different art type. At YBNL, he released his debut album Gold – an artistic masterpiece rich in fiction, folk lore and relatable life narratives, whose critical credit was never in doubt but its commercial success played a role in changing standards and causing a revision of the old industry constitution that rates alternative music as a form of art suffering from lack of demand.
All of that has been clearly defined ahead of the release of ‘About 30’ – Mr. Gold’s sophomore project. The demand for his music now comes from inside the country and across western cities like U.K & Paris where he has held successful shows. Alternative or urban high life music like he brands his style of sound, isn’t doing bad after all.
Not when there’s The 79th element – a band of masterclass instrumentalists to perfect the sound composition and a mercenary writer like Simi; making sure good sound meets the right expression in words. Adekunle’s team is like an Avenger of artists bringing quality to every aspect of his art even down to the album cover art which depicts the panache of a journeying royalty – him, Adekunle Gold is the prince forging ahead in his journey of life. Interestingly, he just passed age 30 which definitely inspired the album title.
Gold started on a note of reflection before coursing through an experience focused on relationships, passion and aspirations, especially relating to love. About 30 continues in that pattern of reflection before epiphany. The tranquil guitar strumming and talking drum bounces on Ire, makes for an inviting opener. Down With You (DWY) maintains the chill of Ire but not it’s reflective theme, instead DWY explores the reality of a life-long love that sees ‘Dekunle and Dyo (the guest artist) exchange promises while you, the listener, bears witness.
It’s true that when in love, the toughest guys are the softest; like Adekunle Gold was on the bubbly high life instrumental of Surrenda but soft hearts are easier for (Damn) Delilahs to stake and rip to shreds. It’s wise to just let that hard-to-get girl know that this lover boy won’t stick around forever, if she ever needs you, she knows where to find you. That’s what Call On Me, the last part of the About 30 experience is about.
AG alternates between situationships relating to love for most part of the album, although once or twice he entered the realm of the spirits, attempting to prove the existence of the creator – citing beauties of the world and miracles of nature as proof. Oh how calming is the LCGC (Lagos Community Gospel Choir) medley which brought the church-aura to the song – There Is A God.
The spiritual AG comes with warnings for Pablo Ayodeji, the troublesome Twitter character, on Pablo Alakori which aptly translates to ‘Pablo The Stubborn man.’ But behind this successful Adekunle Gold’s rendition is jolly Ms Simisola, serving her dulcet sisi vocals. And maybe on Somebody too but sounding a little more comical like it’s one of the Chipmunks on the song adding ad-libs where the trumpet sound and the synth forms fine notes. And maybe like Orente, the song was written for her since it’s an assurance song on which AG is saying he won’t leave his brightly coloured place to chase after rainbows.
Somebody might be about Simi or someone else shrouded from his public life but Mama is certainly a thoughtful ode to his mother who he describes as selfless, priceless and a superhero. We often hear of the potency of a mother’s prayer but a son’s prayer can be equally moving if expressed like Adekunle Gold did on Mama. Mrs Fola Kosoko must feel so proud of her boy.
‘Today na your turn, tomorrow na my own o. Watch out for me, I go make am without you sho gbo?’ on Remember, is perhaps the album’s most striking line. Even more jolting than Ire’s ‘the grass is greener on the other side.’ It is a painful promise, a powerful statement of self-belief that resonates from a place of hurt. The type you tell an ex that leaves you for a rich yahoo boy or what you say to a higher placed person who punished you for refusing to be his stooge when you’re about to walk out of his office. It’s a free-from-trap, watch-me-glow-up soft toned rendition.
If Ire is a flash back to the past, Fame is Adekunle Gold’s mood of the moment – the pressing demands and restrictions that comes with being famous. The feeling of depressing loneliness caused by not wanting to share your struggles with people because it’s too much of a risk. It’s like Drake’s Trust Issues, only that it’s more of an alternative music created by the careful arrangement of running guitar sounds and traditional drums beats.
Back To Start is a instructive reminder of the beauty of our traditional roots and cultural pride – the nursery rhymes, the moonlight games and cultural spirit that made the social life of our fore bearers so desiring; not the habit of trolling and savagery that we practise on social media today. It makes me feel like a stranger in a place where my forefathers once lived and thrived. Mr Foolish almost has the same effect except the Fela-inspired Afrobeat number is more expansive on the silliness of today’s world – the rush for opioids and craze for social media relevance. Fela’s seed, Seun Kuti plants Afrobeat realness in the song.
Like Gold, About 30 is a special treat of high life classics. The smoothness, the sonorous sounds and compactness of the project proves Adekunle Gold knows what he’s doing with his art. Well, he has always said he prefers to be the flavour of a lifetime over being the spice of the moment. About 30 however has an improved sound technicality, which could be attributed to the input of the 79th element. AG himself growing in confidence and maturing as a singer but as a song composer, there isn’t much to show he got better.
Adekunle Gold’s art bears cultural and allegorical messages that seems to have been lost in the process of hybridizing our music. While his contemporaries are rushing to the next new trend, ‘Dekunle is retracing the steps of his music fore bearers like Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey & Fela; like a man convinced that something important that’d be useful now and in later times has been ignorantly left behind.
Adekunle Gold stuffed ‘About 30’ with the kind of music we, millennials have heard our parents speak so affectionately about – music that mirrors the society, music that eases through the layers one’s soul to make deeper meaning and still finds a place to for dance. ‘About 30’ is the kind of disc you’d slot into the player when sharing a ride with your dad and friendly uncles. Luckily, if the ride is 54minutes-plus long and you get to go through the entire album, you’re likely to leave the car feeling a strengthened bond between you, your dad and uncles because you can all relate with the narratives and expressions regardless of the age differences. The ‘About 30’ experience is one with the kind of magic that tightens the familial bond of sequent generations.
‘About 30’ is a classic material that if we’re not careful, the coming generation would have to tell us about its cultural wealth and forgotten essence that the momentary sensation derived from the casual Afro-pop we rave about today, has kept us blinded from. It’d mean an unfortunate turn of the table such that our place of wisdom would have been lost to our kids who would then have to tell us about life aspirations beyond everyday sex, transient drug-given bliss and money gotten but not earned; those dangerous pleasures our parents tried to protect us from.
‘Dekunle might be holding the long lost book of secrets to more life, from which he scoops his lyrics, styles them with new melodies and serves them in his songs; it’d be unwise to push these precious things aside and risk future insults from our scions who might point back to this time when we had Gold but failed to recognise it.
Written by Oluwatobi Ibironke