In Conversation With: Ayo Adepoju (We Plug Good Music)
It’s easy to lose track of achievements as far as time is concerned. For We Plug Good Music Founder, Ayo Adepoju, marking and remembering milestones is an important practice. Back in 2010, the music marketing platform and publication created their debut mixtape A Prelude to the Future, which was their guesstimation at the evolution of music and what it could possibly become. In the words of the Founder and Executive Producer, the mixtape contained “an array of passionate expressions sonically captured in an element of these artists’ historical journey”. To honour their original project, WPGM released a 10th Anniversary Remastered Edition. In realising how much the tape meant to Ayo and the rest of his team it was important to take him back, mentally, to its conception.
The Floor: If you had to pick an album that reminded you of when you started, uh, We Plug Good Music or inspired you to start, what would you say that would be and why?
Ayo Adepoju: Maybe not inspired me to start, but it reminds me of when we did start... It would be at Ed Sheeran’s No.5 Collaborations. That project alongside the Grime scene at the time, takes me back to when we were in the thick of We Plug Good Music as a media outlet. So I would say that is one album that takes me back there. Another album would be from a rapper called AKS. One of our first press campaigns that we did as a PR company was for his Bus Stop EP so the EP also reminds me of that time. So I would say those two.
You spoke briefly about PR. You do so many things within WPGM: there's the editorial department, there's PR, Social Media Marketing. Would you say that you started with one aspect and then built on it or was this always the game plan to have everything at once?
I think that we started off with one thing and then built on it, but me in my mind, it was easy to build on because as a foundation, the whole reason for WPGM was to promote and highlight the best in new and emerging music. Right? And so we went from one blog to two blogs to doing live concerts, to doing online radio and to doing press and PR. These are the ways that we can promote the best new and emerging artists or the best new and emerging music. Anything that we add on to that will just be another means to that end.
The main reason we specifically started PR is that we had been supporting artists, on the blogs, through live gigs and on the radio show, some of them asked us to help them get their music out or send their music to other media outlets and other publications, I guess they thought since we are in media outlets, we will have access to these other media publications. And so we did that for a few artists for a few months for free. I saw that we were good at it. We could do it. We were helping these new artists get on these media publications in these magazines and these blogs that they wouldn't otherwise be able to. As someone told me last week, that was our proof of concepts that we, you know, can offer this service.
As creative as the concept behind WPGM is, Ayo wouldn’t consider himself as someone who actively sought out a profession within the arts. In fact, the music outlet started off as a passion project whilst he was acquiring his charter certification in Financial Analysis. After deciding between the two paths, arts edged over the corporate route and opened up multiple avenues for Ayo to explore: both individually and as part of a creative team. A Prelude To the Future is a prime example of his dedication, as well as how his aspirations have broadened.
The name of the compilation project is very self explanatory but at the same time, it's saying a lot with very little.
I think that it's good to dream big. And at the time I had this idea of putting these projects out in a more regular fashion, right? So at this time we weren't even thinking of launching a PR firm. Using press on PR to help these artists wasn't even on the radar at that time. This was just one more tool to help get these artists out there, but in terms of the name: two things. These artists are on the precipice of doing really good things with their sound. Like they are making really interesting, forward-thinking music. We believed them to be the future. They would go on to do really, really amazing things. And we were trying to introduce them to the wider music industry or the wider music landscape at that time. On a more personal note, my idea was because this tape had a mixture of exclusive music. Some of the music was already released and so this was a way to kind of get these on one big project and amplify that music, but then the other, or the next plan was to bring them back or bring them all in again to record all brand new music, which we would call, The Future is Now.
Although being Executive Producer is an essential part of the project’s production team, Ayo entered with a blank slate and took it on as a learning experience.
All of the credits in terms of the technical aspects goes to the associates producers on the project. You know, for me, as an executive producer my thing was more just in terms of picking beats. Right. So we had Ossie, we had Kid Konnect, we had Remot and we had EOM who has now passed away, God rest his soul. So they sent me beat packs. Loads of beats. Some were half done, some were really, really, really, really, really great sounds. My job with the artists was to pick beats that the artists could work with. We tried our best to compliment artists with the production options that we had.
The project itself may have been future facing when it was first created, but as time has moved on we have seen both predictable and unexpected evolutions in music. Artists’ careers naturally progress and paths that seem laid out and straightforward often veer in different directions. For instance, Zenah Daze - the singer behind People of Poison (which also happens to be one of Ayo’s favourite songs that we worked on the mixtape), no longer makes music. However, her achievements and unique sound is immortalised through the project, and even revamped through the remastering. On the other side of the coin, A Prelude to the Future is fitting as a timestamp and milestone for careers that have blossomed over the past decade. Yomi Sode has grown from strength to strength in the Literary sphere through poetry and spoken word whereas AKS has steadily cultivated a fanbase and moulded his sound.
There have been drastic shifts in music over the last decade. If you were to redo the mixtape now, if you were to do The Future is Now for example, are there any other genres that you would include?
I actually don't think so. I think what the project would show now, if we were to do it now would be more subgenres. There would be Alté that would be Drill. In terms of any main genres that are not already there, I would say not. That probably goes back to what I was saying about my first love being, Black music and the strains of it. You've got old RnB, Neo Soul, you've got Rap, Grime, Drill, Afrobeats, you've got Afropop and then Afrosoul, which opens the album, you know what I mean?
Ayo’s answer took the discussion towards what truly defines genres and subgenres, as many would argue that the likes of Drill and other more recently coined sounds are genres within themselves with their own denominations and niche branches. With a confident and bold name such as We Plug Good Music, it’s important that they deliver in promoting and presenting the best and emerging music. In fact, Ayo himself said,
“We have always been about plugging the best new music, especially music that commercial or mainstream spaces overlook, while making sure that good music in all its different forms, and not only what the industry calls ‘good’, comes to the forefront.”
Do you reckon your definition of what you call good music has changed in those 10 years? Or would you say that the essence is the same?
I don't think it has changed. Even with music fans and in music spaces - before I started to put my thoughts in a blog, we would share music in Facebook groups and forums way back when. But I think for me, what I would call good music hasn't changed? And this regardless of genre. Because I can hear a Bubblegum Pop track and if it's good, it's good. There was a phase where I was a huge Carly Rae Jepsen fan, right? She makes the biggest Pop tunes. But for me, music has to resonate with me from a music fan’s perspective. But then from a media perspective now, from a media outlet's perspective where you are curating music for your leaders or for your listeners or for your audience, I think that on some level, even if this piece of music doesn't speak to me as a fan, I can still be objective and say...The vocals are great, the production is great. The lyrics are good. If those aspects are good, that already forms a foundation of what good music is.
*50% of all proceeds from the anniversary reissue will be donated to the Scleroderma Foundation in honour of EOM.*