[INTERVIEW] ADONIS BOSSO

The musician and model talks to VIPER about new music, fatherhood and inspiration…

A familiar face – and soon to be a familiar sound – Adonis Bosso has traversed the world of fashion and arrived at his original calling, in music. Though he released his first single in 2017, his musical talents date back as far as his teen years in a band. This passion was sustained through poetry and songwriting whilst he modelled in cities across the globe. 

As the poster boy for Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God, his striking features led him to work with the likes of Versace, Tom Ford, Yeezy, Fenty and more. The Ivorian-Canadian model absorbed his ever-changing surroundings and drew on his heritage to produce a unique, layered sound enriched from his experiences of becoming a father, falling in and out of love and exploring the world.

Mapping an eclectic soundscape inspired by his travels and experiences, Adonis crafts soulful spaces for his listeners to get out of their heads and into their feelings. The combination of smooth chord progressions and ethereal vocals on tracks such as ‘Alright’ and ‘Jungle’ transports us to a dreamy alt-R&B arcadia.

With his newest track, ‘No More’, Adonis takes us out of this world in pairing euphonic acoustics with sci-fi visuals to narrate an intergalactic voyage of love and loss, starring his co-parenting partner and fellow top model, Slick Woods, as an animated character. Space-age synth sounds bring the visuals to life whilst a classic R&B riff anchors the song in Adonis’ signature sound, reminiscent of the greats; of whom he quotes Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, and Babyface as being his influences growing up.

We had the chance to speak with Adonis about navigating his musical journey and fatherhood thus far, in addition to what else we can expect from him next.

There’s been a great shift in the past few years for you, from modelling to parenting and now beginning your music career. What inspired you to start focusing on music?

In 2016, I moved to LA and a really good friend of mine got me to go to the studio – at first, I was like, “nah man I’ve been down this road before,” because when I was younger, a really close friend of mine told me that she didn’t think I could sing, so my dreams of pursuing music were pushed to the side. But this friend in LA, he kinda tricked me into going to the studio with Theophilus London and I did the whole session super stressed, at the end I told Theophilus it was my first time and he was surprised, it was so cool and fun.

That’s how my feet went into music again, after that I started hitting up producers and I made two songs – one was a French poem I wrote and the other was ‘Jungle’ which I put out in 2017, when the song was finished I played it to Theophilus and he asked if he could get the song so he could do it. That was very rewarding for me, like my first song and this artist I really appreciate wants it so I’m like let me see how this goes. So since 2016 I’ve been recording, training and doing the work, so I can be comfortable performing and really learning the craft, learning how songs are made and everything so now I have about maybe 30 songs I’ve made. But now I’m just at the point where I’m finally comfortable and ready to share with the world. 

Between that time and now, you became a father to your beautiful son, Saphir, who just turned two and is already blowing up on social media thanks to the adorable father-son photoshoot you shared on socials. What have you loved about fatherhood so far?

I’ve been a dad for two years and I still can’t believe it. It’s gone really quickly and I love seeing him learn and grow – he knows all his colours and everything now. He speaks French and English and I think it’s a skill that everybody needs, I really want him to speak as many languages as he can. I’m getting my grandma to teach him our native African language as well, I don’t speak it but I would love for him to be able to communicate with family back home. 

With posting that photoshoot, I really appreciated all the support from other families and other Black people; the Black experience with our parents is very different, a lot of us have reconstructed families and I was blessed enough to have both of my parents with me. With me and my son’s mother being separated I want to make sure he still has the proper structure and the understanding of love and family, so I’m really grateful for all the support I get online.

You’re currently in Toronto with Saphir, which isn’t too far from where you started the Centre D’intergration TSA – a support centre for children with mental and physical disabilities. Music therapy has been found to help those with autism to build better relationships and feel more comfortable with themselves, is this something you implement at the centre and are they lucky enough to get any private concerts from yourself?

Yeah I studied special care counselling to work with kids with mental and physical impairment. Then modelling happened and I was like well this is a little more money and a bit more fun so I was in my last year and I dropped out to go do fashion and travel. In 2014, modelling was doing good, so me and my parents opened the centre. The main goal was to help the families because we saw how hard it was for us to deal with my brother’s autism so we wanted to create this safe haven, to give the parents a break and also equip them with the tools to empower themselves and improve themselves in their child’s development. We do art & music therapy, the kids play the music but that’s a good idea, I should give them a concert at some point.

Your music feels cathartic, like a liberated release with sombre undertones – what do you hope to inspire in others through your songs? Is it about opening up to vulnerability?

My music is mainly about love; to describe my music in three words, the only word I could think about is love so I’ll just use that three times. My music is a way for me to express how I feel love or how I deal with love but I feel like we don’t really have music of men being vulnerable anymore, there’s not so much music with men coping with their pain or their love or with their emotions. For me, music has been a way to express or deal with things that I can’t necessarily say. I just want my music to reflect my life experience as being a Black man of how I love, how I understand love, how I experience it, how I give it, or how I get hurt – it’s just like giving a piece of me. As a kid, I used to write a lot and I would write well, so I always liked to write and I always had a big imagination so all of that and everything I couldn’t express got put into the music. 

There’s a song I wrote called ‘Empty Bed’ and I love it so much because I really feel like I released myself with that song, it is exactly how I feel word for word and every time I hear it, it’s a little sad and it puts me in my feels, but I’m really proud because it really captured the emotions I was going through. I think that’s the goal in my music, to always portray emotion in the most authentic way. 

I wrote ‘Alright’ in my bedroom and it still blows my mind that something me and my friend made in my bedroom is an actual song. I remember he made the beat and I was like “this is dope,” I just went to the mic and the song poured out. It really represented my emotions back when Saphir’s mom and I broke up; the song was a love-letter but also helped me cope, like it is done but there are no hard feelings and I still love you and I still appreciate everything we’ve been through. That song is a little part of me.

Your beats are so unique and layered, there is a hint of a West African inspired guitar rhythms mixed up with your smooth vocals – how do you draw on your heritage and travels for inspiration?

‘Jungle’ is the first song I put out and I was like, “wow this sounds like me,” I recognise myself in this sound and in this music. I wrote ‘Jungle’ about New York, about grind, just me trying to make it all the time – being a model, going to castings, running around, trying to help my family; me being an African boy trying to make it in the big city, I’m in the concrete jungle. I just had a lot of emotions inside, this need to break free and grind. ‘Jungle’ was about the journey of travelling around and always being on the go and having a dream on your mind.

I think music is mainly about experience, I feel like good music comes from experience and vulnerability. Every place I’ve been to, every country I’ve discovered, it influences my music a little bit. I remember when I was modelling in Milan, I used to turn on MTV and see the hits from Milan and Paris, you get a little feel of what the people enjoy in the country and a sense of the culture and everything, I’ve always taken that and put it into my music – there’s the vibes of the rainy streets in London, the artsy streets of Paris, the chaotic rhythmic streets in Nigeria, everything I’ve seen has helped develop my music and artistry and just my awareness of the world so I put that in the music as well. There’s definitely my personal African heritage from the Ivory Coast, like these African artists my parents would listen to and also the R&B so I feel like the music someone makes is a product of their life experience and their understanding of everything so everywhere I’ve been to and everywhere I’ve seen really inspires my music. 

We get stuck into the same music so it’s a good time to explore and expand and just be creative with it. Now more and more artists out of Africa are getting recognition. People are getting tired of the same thing. There are always great artists I discover on my way, all this inspired me to explore music and at the end of the day, we have to have fun with it and we can’t stress it too much, everyone is trying to make money and make it but you’re creating so there’s no pressure, it’s time to explore and take inspiration from all around the world.

Tell me about the makings of ‘No More’, how did you initiate the creative process for this song?

The way this song came about, I was told to meet up with the producer and that we would vibe so I went to New York for Fashion Week and then I met Ikenna, the producer, for a session. I got to his house, he was already working on the beat, and I don’t think we said two words to each other. I heard the beat and I thought this is really cool so I started writing the song, we were both in our zone. We just really got into it, the energy and the music, we were in a cool creative vibe and a creative flow so we barely talked to each other. Maybe an hour and a half, or two hours later, we were both done so we took a break and we were like “So what’s up, how are you! Who are you and everything?!. We started talking and we realised we were in similar situations when it comes to relationships, I was going through the breakup with Saphir’s mom and he was going through a breakup as well. So when we put the song together, we were like oh this makes so much sense because this is really what we’re going through. We were on the same wavelength because we created something meaningful to both of us, that was a reflection of where we were and it’s beautiful.

Clearly the music video is an echo of the hyper-creativity in the studio that day, the visuals are so creative and inspired – how did the idea for this animated adventure come about?

I made the song before my son was born and then I started putting out music after he was born. The main idea behind the music video was to give him something because he doesn’t get to see his parents together a lot so I thought I could make a cartoon. I love cartoons, I’ve been drawing my whole life, I was the kid drawing at school, you’d find me on my table not listening because I’m drawing inside the book! 

It really brings me back to my roots but it’s also a gift for Saphir to see his parents in a cartoon. I think it was my dream to be a cartoon and to be a superhero but what kid wouldn’t love to see his parents as superheroes? I drew it all out scene by scene, everything including the outfits, and then I sent it to Christos Perry, a mutual friend who I found online and I hit him up. He has an animation company and he did an amazing job, it looks so good, even if I didn’t make this I would want to watch it. I’d love for it to become a series, like the Septum Papi series.

At the end of the video, Slick holds out her hands and in true Matrix style, she has one blue pill and one red, which one would you choose?

Before, the pills had writing on them, because there is a song lyric which goes “I just gotta find out if I really wanna stay,” so the pills used to say “stay” or “leave” so you have to choose but I think you will have to wait to find out what I choose in the next video.

Is there anything exciting we can expect for the future? 

I have this song called ‘Galaxy’, the song I did in the studio the first time, it was a poem I wrote about modelling actually, it was about being on the road and missing someone. The first time I went to the studio, we just turned the poem into a song. I might drop that in like early January maybe or at the end of the year. Also, definitely soon you will hear some French music from me!

@septumpapi

Interview by Ema Lillie.

Images courtesy of Kadeem Ellis.