Adonis Bosso finds his musical footing in fatherhood
In conversation with his son’s mother, Slick Woods, the alt-R&B artist discusses creativity in quarantine and his new animated music video, starring the pair as superheroes.
While you can’t choose your family, some simply draw a better hand. Two-year-old Saphir Bosso hit the jackpot. Not only is Saphir son of model and Rihanna muse, Slick Woods, but also Adonis Bosso, an accomplished model in his own right, who’s but a light breeze away from catapulting to alt-R&B stardom.
An Ivorian-Canadian raised in Montreal, Adonis has been teaching his son his native French — a language he’s also recorded in — alongside English while the pair quarantined in Toronto over the past six months. Caretaking comes naturally to the singer, who intended to pursue a career in special care counselling, inspired by his autistic brother. That all changed when he was signed on sight while visiting a modeling agency with a past girlfriend in 2009, and he went on to secure the attention of Versace, Tom Ford and Vivienne Westwood, among others.
Still, while navigating fatherhood and a burgeoning music career, Adonis remains committed to his former ambitions. At just 24, he founded the non-profit Centre D’Integration TSA, a refuge centre in Montreal, where children with mental or physical disabilities can be supported and stimulated. It’s to be the first location of many, as Adonis intends to expand across North America. In the meantime, Saphir has proved a constant source of inspiration for the singer. Adonis placates the toddler with a capella renditions of impending releases — his dulcet vocal fry impressing his son as much as it initially did Theophilus London, the singer’s first collaborator.
On “No More,” the now 30-year-old’s first single since midsummer’s “Alright,” Adonis narrates the conclusion of a relationship via a sensuous interpretation of R&B — one so purist, it's reminiscent of the genre’s greats. Adonis commissioned animations of himself and Slick for the accompanying visual, their cartoon incarnations embarking on an intergalactic adventure. The concept was a collaboration between the pair, conceived with Saphir in mind so that he might comprehend his father’s creative output. Below, Slick breaks down Adonis’ musical journey and then some, the duo covering processes, parenting and what it means to remain positive in the face of adversity.
Slick: Has it been challenging staying creative throughout quarantine?
Adonis: Quarantine has been so long that every month has felt like a different year. The first few months I tried to stay positive. I was reading a lot, exercising and cooking a lot. I took the free time to concentrate on guitar more and I learned how to record myself so I can have a home studio setup. But after the third month, I got a little uninspired. I’m so used to travelling all the time and finding my inspiration in experience and quarantine had limited that.
Once things started reopening and we were allowed to go to restaurants, I started exploring Toronto more. Connecting with like-minded people and discovering this new place I call home really lit back the spark of my creativity.
What has been your favourite part of us collaborating?
You’re very opinionated, and you are hard to please, but at the same time, if you like something, I usually know it’s great. You are also one of the rare people that shares my point of view on things you can’t necessarily say out loud, because people are not ready for those types of conversations.
Did the idea of an animated video for “No More” come before or after recording the single?
It was after. The idea of making a cartoon came around October 2019, while the song was made in May 2018. I wanted to leave something for Saphir (our son). He doesn’t get to see Mom and Papa together very often and I wanted him to have that in any shape or form. A way for him to know that no matter what, both his parents are superheroes and they will always be there to protect him.
What has been the biggest challenge and reward of creating a video with animation?
The biggest challenge was the time. I started asking around if people knew anyone who knew anything about animation and a good friend of mine put me in touch with Christos, who they went to high school with. I then drew each scene like a comic book and sent him moodboards and references on how I wanted things to look. Then it was patience. I just had to wait and see what the final product would be. I was super excited because it gave me the freedom to do anything — we could be in a spaceship or in flying horses. There are no limits with a cartoon. Once it was done, Saphir was the first to see it. I love how he recognised both of us in it.
I think I will keep building on this story. The “to be continued” at the end leaves the door open to create a whole universe. Maybe I will keep making cartoon music videos and make it a nice adventure for the whole family.
Describe fatherhood in three words.
Fulfilling, growth and unconditional. Nothing makes me happier than his hugs or his little smile. I love how it has made me grow as a man, as an adult and I can’t wait to see what fatherhood makes of me. The love is so unconditional I sometimes wonder if I understood love before I had a child. This is real unconditional love.
You’ve also recorded in French, why is it important to you to showcase your international upbringing in your music?
Music is my expression of experience. I think for my music to be fully authentic and really feel like a part of it, I have to pour everything into it. My heritage, my travels, my emotions, my languages, all of the things that make me who I am. French is my first language and I have been teaching it to our son. Something he can use to communicate and connect with his different parts of the world.
You have been raising awareness for racial justice on social media — not only in the US, but globally. Do you think artists have a certain responsibility to utilize their platform in the climate we are currently facing?
No matter the social climate, art has always expressed the reality of the people. Music is a spiritual thing that can ignite emotions, feelings, plant ideas and help cope. With great power comes a greater need for awareness. There is also a need to understand the good and bad that one can do with its power. People expect a lot from the one they choose to put on a pedestal but not everyone has the right tools or awareness to be a leader. I speak of my reality and I fight as much as I can to make this world a better place for my lineage and my people. We can’t truly strive until all my brothers and sisters are striving as well.
What was the moment you were inspired to pursue music?
I had a band with a few friends in high school. Then we split, and I didn’t pursue music because I didn’t believe in myself, but I still wrote poems. After coming to LA, my best friend Ugo Mozie heard me sing and kind of ambushed me into going to the studio with Theophilus London. I was super nervous. After the session, we told Theo it was my first time at the studio and he was pleasantly surprised.
After that, I hit up a few friends and started working and writing. One of the first songs I recorded was Jungle. When I played it to Theophilus, he loved it so much he asked me if he could have the track. That was the real spark. At that moment I started to believe in myself and what I was creating.
Describe your songwriting process.
It really depends, sometimes I’m at the studio and we make beats from the beginning, and I let the song be what it wants to be. I ride the beat creating melodies that would marry well with it, and from these wordless melodies, I let the song speak to me. Other times, the words pour into me like I am downloading information from the source. As if I’m only a vessel to bring into the physical world what is meant to exist in it. That is why I often say music doesn’t come from me, it just comes through me.
What’s a song that reminds you of love?
“How Could An Angel Break My Heart” by Toni Braxton. It’s sexy, it’s sad, it’s powerful and it’s about putting all that power in a person and how vulnerable it can make you. That’s love.