Afro-fusion star Shopé isn’t afraid to show his vulnerable side

Toronto-based Nigerian singer, Shopé discusses all ‘Things We Say’, his inclination to convey emotions, his songwriting process and more.

Breaking into the world of music with his self-titled project in 2014, Shopé quietly caused a storm with his new offering of afro-fusion. But now, he’s embracing his success, and with new releases, his goal has been to become more focused and to continue presenting fresh but familiar music. It has brought him accolades, including winning the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Music Searchlight in 2019, which had over 3,000 national contestants, and a two-time performance at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas. 

While Shopé (real name: Mosope Adeyemi) may be a newcomer to some, his ability to create tunes splashed with raw and honest feelings, alongside the flow of modern soundscapes are now picking up ten of thousands of streams. Although 2020 saw the power of his Rikiki EP, Shopé leveraged lockdown to reflect on the world around him, funnelling his thoughts into his latest EP, Things We Say. Here, he speaks to HUNGER about the EP, and we get an in-depth look into how he made it and many more. 

How are you?

I am good, I’m hopeful [chuckles]. A lot is going on, and I’m just in a period of working and hoping for the best.

How do you feel about your new project? Are you excited that it’s finally out?

The last body of work I put out was in 2020. It’s nice to be in a position to give people music two years later. You know, you just keep refining the sound and you keep getting better at what you are doing. I was just so happy when I put out any project. I am very excited about it and so far, the responses have been very good.

Would you say this is a very genuine project of the past year and all your experiences? 

Of course, it is a combination of what the last two years have been like as well as my take on different things. Some of them aren’t specifically focused on the last two years, but definitely, everything I have been through has formed how I begin to see some of these things that I am talking about in the record. It was influenced by what was happening in the world.

What did you do differently when working on this project, as compared to your previous projects?

One of the things I did differently was that I explored some themes, styles of writing, and collaborations I hadn’t done before. Anybody who follows my career would realize that I am a low-key guy. I am not super flashy, and that is not just my disposition. Getting the inspiration for a song like “Hey Lova” wasn’t something that I had planned to release before. It is different in the sense that I was open to new subjects altogether.

The opening track ‘Hey Lova’ showcases your lyrical abilities as an artist. But besides that, it also shows a bit of your vulnerable side. What’s your conception of love?

Love is patient, love is kind. (Laughs). I mean in everyday terms, love is understanding. I think real love comes to the table with the perception of ‘let’s build together’ which is the concept of ‘Hey Lova’. I am not everything I need to be and you are not everything you need to be, can we serve and help each other? I think relationships don’t work when each person is saying, ‘you need to fix this, you need to do this or you need to stop doing this.’ But I think it works best when each person is not just looking at themselves and thinking about how great they are, but the aspects of their character that they need to work on to make the relationship better. So each person is going in with vulnerability. To me, love is just like humility, patience, and being ok with being vulnerable. It’s not easy, but talking to people in good relationships, they say that’s how it’s been working for them. It’s not just going in to say ‘you have to do this and that,’ but rather how can you serve? How can I love you well? In essence, I believe love is humility and vulnerability.

Kindly talk me through your songwriting process. When do you know you have the first lyrics for a song? 

First of all, I listen to a beat. I feel like every beat has a story that needs to be told and in a sense, the music would tell you where to go. I may or may not have an idea depending on how I am feeling that day. Sometimes I just play some music, maybe any instrument. Sometimes, I could take the form of mumbling melodies or random words. Then, I’d listen back to see if there’s anything in there that I like and slowly, it builds that way. A lot of times, the beat just tells me where to go and at that point, I’d be asking myself if there’s a concept that comes to mind. I also have a list of voice notes and lyric notes where I record quick short ideas that come to mind. It is just like putting a puzzle together and you don’t exactly know what the end product looks like, which is an interesting thing.

What tracks on the project were the hardest to write?

Funny thing is that ‘Hey Lova’ was done in one session. Those words were written over a 6-8 hour session. I think I had ‘Break My Heart Again’ for a long time but I didn’t feel it was complete. I kept listening to it and I was like ‘it’s missing something,’ until I finally lived with it and eventually got the idea to introduce friends and so on. That might have been the hardest song to write and it took the longest.

How long have you been working on this project?

I think “Break My Heart Again” was first written in late 2020. Some of the other songs came quickly. Getting all the pieces together was kind of complicated but I just believed that when it is meant to be, it is. Despite the complications and the delays, we were able to put out a very solid project.

What was the deep inspiration behind this project? 

For the last two years, depending on what part of the world you are in, a lot of us have been isolated from friends, families, and even the people we love the most. Even with the people you love, you still need some kind of space and distance. More than ever, when I looked at how my significant other and I were getting along; sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Our ability to move and work was significantly hampered because of the pandemic. And when this happens, one starts saying what you don’t mean or things you mean but saying it in the wrong way. I’m hoping that through this, people can listen to the project and understand that we are humans and we need to be mindful of what we say to each other, especially to the people we love. We have to be conscious because some things cannot be taken back and even when you try to resolve some, there are still lingering damages. But in the end, communication is still important. So it came out of the understanding of how important words can be.

Who were some of the producers you worked with on that project? 

Generally, I have a tight-knit creative group. A good friend of mine named Adam Josh touched most of the songs. I have kept production in-house, but moving forward with more songs, I’m hoping to connect with many producers, especially those back home. I’m very grateful to my team, especially Adam Josh.

With your name already cemented in the Canadian and Nigerian music scene, who are some of your favorite artists? Who do you see yourself working with? 

I would love to work with Olamide because he is a very good rapper. I started off making rap music but over the years I have incorporated more Afro-fusion. I just love the way Olamide raps. He’s a guy I would love to work with. I like Omah Lay and the vibes he’s bringing to the music. It’d be great to get a record with Drake and Adekunle Gold too. 

What is the rest of 2022 going to look like? 

I’d love to touch Nigeria. Things We Say are not the same things that we feel so I’m working on that as well musically. (Laughs). I’d like to speak deep to the human heart on the things that move us, things people deal with when they are alone. Love is one of these things and I’d like to talk about things like that.

Things We Say is out now. 

  • Writer Robert Solomon

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