Nigerian Afropop Singer Adekunle Gold Signs With Def Jam: Exclusive
Nigerian Afropop singer Adekunle Gold has officially signed with Def Jam Recordings, the company tells Billboard.
“I’ve been following Adekunle Gold since I first heard his record ‘Sade’ in 2016. Over the years, everything in AG’s world has elevated — his songwriting has refined, the scope of his artistry has widened, his vocals have strengthened, his approach to fashion is more distinct, and his showmanship and performance ability have grown exponentially,” says Def Jam CEO/chairman Tunji Balogun in a statement to Billboard. “He’s stepped into stardom on his own terms and is completely comfortable being his true self.”
Balogun added, “When I started at Def Jam, I knew I wanted to bring the label into the Afrobeats space tastefully, with the right artists and partnership. Adekunle felt like the perfect fit – he’d already done so much work on his own to build a base, but I knew that we could scale his audience to an even bigger level if we combined our energies and worked together.”
Gold (real name Adekunle Almoruf Kosoko) describes his signing as a “full circle moment” after Balogun tried signing him years ago, prior to the executive’s 2022 arrival at Def Jam. The “5 Star” singer said that because he and Balogun share Nigerian roots, “he understands it, so signing to Tunji makes sense. He’s like my studio buddy that just comes everywhere I go. The day he doesn’t have time to be there, I know he must’ve been like stupidly busy. He’s great.”
When it comes to signing with Def Jam, Gold continued, “The track record is there. The history is there. They break artists, and they have niche, unique artists like me, so I think it’s the right move for me. All of the things that I’ve done for myself already, they know already and that’s why they’re on board.”
Balogun was in Lagos, Nigeria, says Gold, when he and fellow Nigerian singer Zinoleesky were writing and recording “Party No Dey Stop,” Gold’s new single featuring Zinoleesky that marks his Def Jam debut. “When we started to make the music, it was so easy for me to go in and just attack the song. I wrote my verse, I wrote the chorus, and it was a rap. I knew from then that this song was a jam,” Gold says of the track.
“Party No Dey Stop” arrives ahead of Gold’s fifth studio album due in June. In support of the project, he’ll embark on a four-month world tour that’s set to kick off in North America in September and run through the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the Caribbean through next year.
Gold first rose to fame in 2015 with the single “Sade,” a highlife love song that samples instrumentals from One Direction‘s 2013 hit “Story of My Life.” “Sade” went on to win best alternative song at the 2015 edition of The Headies, a Nigerian music awards show. Gold eventually signed his first record label deal with Olamide‘s YBNL Nation and released his debut studio album, Gold, in 2017. It peaked at No. 7 on Billboard‘s World Albums chart.
After Gold’s YBNL Nation contract expired, “I didn’t quite know what to do,” he says. “I was signed for two years, fresh off the industry. I was just thinking, ‘What am I going to do from here?’ [And] I’m like, ‘You know what? I got this. Let me just start my own thing.'”
The Afrobeats star then started his own label, Afro Urban Records — “one of the best decisions I’ve made,” he says — and put out two albums: 2018’s About 30 and 2022’s Catch Me If You Can. He released his 2020 album, Afro Pop, Vol. 1, under EMI.
In a previous Billboard interview, Gold explained why he switched labels and the benefits of working with distributor Platoon, which helped with the rollout for his last album, Catch Me If You Can, featuring Davido, Lucky Daye, Fatoumata Diawara, Fousheé, Ty Dolla $ign and Stefflon Don. “When I was fully Afro Urban Records and no distribution label, me and my manager [Elizabeth Sobowale] had to do a lot of work. Platoon has the best hands in everything from PR to marketing,” he said at the time. “All I had to do was work on the music and they’re ready to take the rest upon themselves.”
After his groundbreaking success with Wizkid and Tems during his tenure as executive vp of A&R at RCA, Balogun has been playing a monumental role in bolstering Def Jam’s roster with more talent from the African diaspora. In September 2022, the label signed an exclusive worldwide joint venture with Native Records to develop African artists.
“I think AG is a truly global artist, and a rightful ambassador for Nigerian music and the emerging Afrobeats scene,” Balogun says. “He has the talent, virtuosity, focus, work ethic and temperament required to be a worldwide superstar. I’m excited to work with him and the Def Jam team to bring more fans into his world.”
“Hear it from me,” Gold says. “Afrobeats is taking over the world.”