Much of the adjustment that has been moaned about in the immediate post-COVID-19 world is the pivot to virtual meet-ups that, while expedient because of the situation of the world right now, still feel annoyingly out of touch with the human instinct to meet and socialise in person. Very early into the Zoom meeting to acquaint himself with professionals working in the African and Nigerian music ecosystem, Toronto-based musician Shopé talked about wishing that the meeting was happening in person. “In an ideal world I’d actually have loved to do a listening session on ground,” he said. “Touching down in Naija, and that’s still on the table.”
Born and raised in Nigeria for much of his childhood before moving to Canada as an 11-year-old, Mosope Adeyemi carries the influence of both countries in his music: the signature grooving melodies of Nigerian music and the woozy, wintry hybrid of hip-hop and R&B that is currently making music from Toronto, Canada, some of the most ubiquitous in global pop, melding both sides for an innovative take on afro-fusion.
His forthcoming body of work, RIKIKI, is inspired by that blending of diverse influences but with a recognizable African theme centred at its root. And the Zoom meeting assembled a roll call of tastemakers, with guests from The Guardian to NATIVE and influential radio personalities in attendance on the 8th of September.
In the discussion, Shopé talked about being a Nigerian kid in Canada and having to deal with racial undertones that manifested in situations where other children asked if he lived in trees in Nigeria. It is a situation that, Shopé says, caused him not to value his African side for a while. “It’s not so much that I was ashamed of it (my African heritage), I just didn’t esteem it.” That period also coincided with him being heavily into hip-hop and R&B, but after a while, due to a series of internal monologues and reckonings, he came to the realisation that being Nigerian was one of his strengths.
What would ordinarily mean he could not exist fully in either world – Nigeria because he left as a young child and Canada because he wasn’t native – has now been reclaimed as a symbol of strength for Shopé, now instead focused on bringing his distinct sensibilities to the fore. “My life gives me a familiarity but uniqueness in both spaces, he says. “Because I’ve lived in both places, my afro-fusion is never going to sound like someone who’s only ever lived in Nigeria and, vice versa, my hip-hop/R&B is not going to sound like someone who’s only lived in Toronto.”
The quest for authenticity permeates RIKIKI, making it part music project and part declaration of sonic identity. Even the title is defiant, a creation of his mind that now means resilience even when being doubted; and the project had been at least two years in the making. “I think the earliest song on there was made in 2018, it was just a function of me living life and undergoing transformation as an artist.”
As each song from the E.P. plays out, the chats are filled with excited in-the-moment reactions from guests, and stories start to pour out of Shopé on how specific songs were made. For “Pepper Dem,” the project opener and R&B/Afro-fusion hybrid, he had his only guest on the project and described Angeloh as a good friend. “Angeloh is just super-talented and we had a connection.”The rest of the project is carried by Shopé’s presence with particular standouts on the titular track and “I Admit.”
What remains is the wait to September 18 when fans will get a first glimpse of the project with the first single, Pepper Dem. The complete RIKIKI EP will arrive 2 weeks later, October 2.
Pre-order Pepper Dem here