What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up.
“Man Like” is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.
The subject of today’s “Man Like” is Adekunle Gold (AG baby), a singer, songwriter and fashion icon. Adekunle Gold tells us about enjoying his fatherhood journey, learning and unlearning stereotypes Nigerian men are raised with, and takes us on a brief history of his evolution from Ikotun to his current reality.
Everyone gets their “man now” moment. When was yours?
I think this was 2011/2012 when I moved out of my parent’s house. I was 25 years old, and for the first time, I had to cater for myself — buy food in the house, buy fuel, pay light bills. I was like, yes, I’m now on my own.
LMAO. What pushed you to leave?
I’d always wanted to leave my parent’s house since I was 18, but I couldn’t afford to. I grew up in Ikotun and I didn’t like the area at the time, so I wanted to leave to see the world. I still remember when my friends and I went to one area outside Ikotun to find out the cost of a mini-flat. That’s how badly we wanted to leave. By the time I finished NYSC, I felt it was time, so I packed my bags and moved to Lekki.
Ahan. Biggest boy.
LMAO. My parents thought I was mad. They kept asking how I could afford to move from Ikotun to Lekki. I told them that I’d be fine. I didn’t have more than a year’s rent neither did I have a car. The only thing I had was my energy, which is to always do things nervously. I’m grateful I moved because going from Ikotun to Lekki exposed me and changed my life.
Noted. I too will move to Lekki.
What was the toughest part of moving out?
Ọmọ, everything was tough. When I lived in Ikotun, my transport fare was ₦100 to most places, but in Lekki, because there were barely public buses, I was spending ₦2,000 daily on transport to work. In between transport, stocking up my house and still trying to do omo boy, I was struggling. It was tough but at least it pushed me to increase my earnings.
How much were you earning during this period?
My brother, I was earning ₦150,000 before tax and spending like ₦40,000 out of that money on transport. That’s how badly I wanted to leave home.
Mahn. What drove you then and what drives you now?
I didn’t have a lot of exposure growing up — I can count on one hand the number of times I went to Lagos Island before I turned 18 — but I always knew there was better beyond my environment. Stepping outside Alimosho LGA to the island was a dream for many kids in my area, and I wanted to see why.
I’ve never been comfortable with a fixed idea of me because there has to be more to the type of conversations I’m having, more to the type of sound I’m making, more to what I can become. I’ve always been a curious person who is all about more.
Hmm. How does this play out in your life?
One major place is my sound. If you take my first recording as the final version, you’ll be disappointed. I easily change my mind. I can decide to change the tempo of the song or remove an instrument from the background. I’ve learnt to detach from the idea that there’s a fixed version of me.
Interesting. Doesn’t constant change scare you?
Most definitely. There’s nothing I’ve tried that I haven’t done nervously. One thing I’ll never do is hold back. Not trying will bother and fill me with regret. If I fail, at least I know that I tried. It might sound stupid, but I don’t see how anyone can thrive by playing safe. Everything I’ve done, I did it afraid.
Tell me about your biggest failure.
Anytime I “failed”, it turned out to be a stepping stone. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, but God found ways to switch it around because there’s no way my decisions have been perfect. I won’t say I’ve never made mistakes, but I don’t see them as failures. THEY all added up.
AG baby is Jesus’ baby oh.
I’m curious about your sense of style. Tell me about it.
From my sense of style, you can already tell that I’m a spontaneous person — if I think it, I’m doing that shit because I don’t believe there should be fashion rules. Wear the shit that looks good on you: If you like palazzo, wear it. If it’s beads you like, wear it. If you want to dye your hair, dye it. Life is too broad, too wide and short to be worrying about how fashion should be done.
The most important thing is that you’re comfortable with your style. I know it comes across like I have my fashion shit together but the truth is that I don’t overthink these things.
My president! Has there been pushback?
So many times, and it’s not limited to fashion alone. There are decisions I’ve made that people around me were not happy with. I remember losing friends when I switched to Afropop. I kept on hearing, “You’re the King Sunny Ade [KSA] of our time, why do you want to switch?” I told them that I’m AG and not KSA, so I’m going to live life and make art on my own terms. I’m not going to allow anyone to project their fears on me. The switch to Afropop was scary, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.
AG baby is our baby!
What are some things that give you joy?
Quality time with my friends and family. I’m happy playing PS 4 or 5 with my boys in the house. Or when my boys are in the house, and we spend time throwing banter. Then of course, I enjoy spending time with my girls because they give me the most beautiful feeling in the world. I’m at peace just chilling with them.
My chest. I want to hear about your fatherhood journey.
Even though I’m still fresh, I enjoy being a dad so much. I enjoy being responsible for raising a beautiful girl. Fatherhood is such a beautiful feeling and my prayer is that my daughter grows up in a world where she’s able to do whatever she wants. I want my daughter to live her life and grow up to be an amazing person.
Did anything prepare you for fatherhood?
I’ve always liked the idea of starting my own family, so I was looking forward to fatherhood. I was curious about the type of man I’d be with a child, and I don’t think I’m doing badly so far.
One minute while I confirm from Simi.
You can ask her. LMAO.
What would you say has changed since you became a father?
I make sure I don’t use swear words around my daughter because I’m very conscious about how my actions can influence her. I know she’s still small, but kids these days are very smart and this is a foundational period for her. I also spend more time at home — if it’s not money, you will always catch me in the house with my girls.
Family seems important to you. Would you say your background influenced your love for family?
I didn’t have a good family experience growing up and that’s why I’ve always desired to have my own beautiful family. Because my experience wasn’t something I wanted to carry on, I made a covenant to do better when I got the chance to start my own family.
What would you do differently from the way our parents raised us?
I’m never going to beat my child the way my father beat me. I’m not one of those “but I turned out good” gang. I’ve also learned that communication is important, and I’m going to ensure that I create an environment where my child is comfortable enough to tell me anything.
Can you adopt me?
I’m curious about what you think is different about being a man in Nigeria.
Growing up as a man in Nigeria requires a lot of work. “To Be A Man Na Wah” is still a valid song because it’s not easy. My desire is that as men raised in Nigeria, we do a lot of unlearning especially regarding understanding and respecting women. I’m hopeful that in a few years, we raise mindful men who know to not harass women, unlike the current way where we raise women to be careful of men. I know that it’ll take a while because Nigerian men are raised on pure vibes.
Dead. I’m curious about the things you had to unlearn.
First thing is that rubbish mentality we had about not marrying a woman who can’t cook. Who says that a woman has to cook? If you can afford to hire a chef, do that shit. I’ve also learned that house chores are not a woman’s responsibility. You’re living with your friend, not your slave. Some people have told me that I’m not the lord of the house because I’m not “controlling” my wife. In marriage, you’re not lord anything. Ogbeni better calm down.
I feel you.
How would you describe your masculinity?
I am a guy-guy. If I like something, I show it. I cry if I’m emotional about something. I’m also clearly a lover boy.
LMAO. Has anything ever threatened this idea?
That one is normal everyday yarns for Nigerian men. That’s why you’ll find men who find it hard to say “I love you, bro” to their fellow men. It’s also why you’ll tell your dad you love him and he goes cold and says, “God bless you.”
You’re a man doesn’t mean you’re a rock. Men also run on blood and emotions, so farabale and loosen up because life is not hard.
I love you, AG!
What has changed between Ikotun AG baby and the current you?
One thing that hasn’t changed is Ikotun. LMAO. I’m still that excitable boy who doesn’t know how to form — if I like or dislike something, you can tell on my face. One of my prayers is that I never lose my sense of wonder because I’m still that Ikotun boy who is learning and unlearning about life.
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