Culture and Lifestyle

Burna Boy: Bringing the World Closer to Africa

Burna Boy recently released his fifth studio album, Twice as Tall. Since its release, the album has continued to enjoy rave reviews as well as massive airplays the world over. The album was technically perfected by world experts of sounds and production; Telz, P2J, Timbaland, Leriq, Rexxie, Skread, Andre Harris, Jae5, Mike Dean and P Diddy. This refined the artist’s musical oeuvre affirming that the ‘Anybody’ crooner has just started his music journey into new realms. The Executive producers of the Album were Bosede Ogulu (his mother and manager) and Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs.

By this effort, the Grammy-award nominee Damini Ogulu explores other areas of his musical niche, his album hopes to break new grounds in musical composition, sound arrangements, and set to establish a unique cross-border musical alliance. To say that Burna Boy is an ‘’African Giant’’ as suggested by the previous Grammy nominated album would only be an understatement in comparism to what is obtained listening to this new album, Twice as Tall.

In his words of the Afro-fusion proponent, Twice as Tall is the album about a period of time in my life. It’s the album about the struggle for freedom. It’s the album about life in general, real life, good times, bad times, happy times, sad times, great times.’  Would it be the much-awaited album for a Nigerian pop act to clinch the Grammy at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards? Burna Boy’s ‘Twice as Tall’ made history by achieving a No. 54 on the Billboard 200, made available via Billboard Charts, a new record for any Nigerian album on America’s verified album chart rating site.

Burna Boy is no longer a stranger to the world stage. He has won big at the MTV Base awards in two consecutive years, and has been nominated for the Best World Music Album category of the Record Academy’s Annual Grammy Awards. The hope that Oluwa-Burna may bring home the gramophone-styled award is good faith channeled on the right course.

The Twice as Tall album is not without its shortcomings; nonetheless one would agree that the production team did an excellent job in making this album at a time when COVID-19 ravaged every corner of the world.

Burna Boy’s latest Twice as Tall may be a response to his near miss at last year’s Grammy. The album peeps into a 15-track musical odyssey thickened with nostalgia and creates a distinct musical frontier for the pop culture. In a rare showcase of creativity, Burna Boy maintains originality as much as he tries to raise high the flag of brotherhood, love and respect for all races.

The first track on the album, ‘Level Up’ opens with a sampling of the 1959 soundtrack for the film Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The singer, Pat Boone with baritone voice echoing, ‘Oh, I’d have to be twice as tall, at least, to view better than I do’ takes listeners on a wild journey to the 20th century. The reggae/ dancehall number underscores the singer’s attestation of his undoubting strength against the odds. He features the Senegalese music legend, Youssou N’Dour who brings the Wolof flavour into the track as the track merges both the old and new school music in one, without any losing its unique creative allure. This is what can be at best considered to a break from the norm.

Read Also: Burna Boy Now Twice as Tall with New Grammy Award

Followed up by ‘Alarm Clock’, the track’s intro was a short-spoken word piece done by Sean ‘P. Diddy ‘Combs accompanied by a felaesque saxophone infusion. The black American star performs: ‘God made us, he made the magical being, it is important how you view yourself, how you look at your brother, how you look at your sister…. it is black love…’. Once the voice of P Diddy trails off, Burna Boy cues into an upbeat, danceable track flavoured with Afrobeat. The sounds produced by Anderson Paak’s drums is ideal for the Nigerian music market as against the notion that Burna Boy might have ‘sold out’ to the international musical market.

Listening to ‘Way Too Big’, the unmistakable voice of Burna Boy shadows the near funky influence that plays throughout the track. In the song, he clears the air about certain doubts and misrepresentation about him, reeling out his achievements for the mischief makers. Attempts by Burna Boy to maintain his Nigeria representation was nearly marred as the melodic outro lingered for a while. ‘Bebo’ sustains the momentum with a systemic rhythm that swiftly transitions into a ‘gbese’ or ‘gwaragwara’ dance movements – something for the ‘streets’. This track is heavily influenced with Afrobeat sounds.

‘Wonderful’ is a club banger anytime. The track takes its roots in the Afro-pop genre, a modern musical style that combines African beats with foreign sounds. With ‘Onyeka’, a love song, Burna Boy puts his highlife credibility to good use. He references ‘Osondi Owendi’ by Late Chief Osita Osadebe, an all-time favourite lover of highlife. Burna Boy employs the horns and percussion brings back good memories for the old folks while keeping the young folks aware of a musical history. For the younger generation, Burna Boy’s Onyeka calls all to the dance floor.

In ‘Naughty by Nature’ which is typically Hip-Hop, Burna Boy is joined by Anthony Criss and Vin Rock. The track can almost be mistaken for American styled HipHop, yet Burna Boy uses vernacular blends with the killer.  In the ‘Comma’ track, Burna Boy addresses his metaphorical ‘comma babes’. Burna waxes poetically while he takes a swipe at his detractors. Towards the end, he remarks about the fake life of some young women of this generation. He describes the fake ‘’Silicon’’ breast, and bleaching as the markers of the ‘comma babes’.  

‘No Fit Vex’ is a slow RnB and motivational song that confronts the realities of everyday living. The Pop artiste emphasizes on hard work. I can’t deny the fact that the track ‘23’ is my favourite of all the songs on the Twice as Tall album. It is a mid-tempo rap song which sure gives his fans one more for the road. ‘Time flies’ samples beat from Sexual Healing by late American sensational act, Mavin Gaye. Burna Boy turns philosophical as he teams up with the Kenyan ‘Sauti Sol’ telling us that ‘we all have got a story to write’. The song creates a rich African symphony aced with Burna Boy’s midas’ touch and the Swahili duo, Sauti Sol. The song preaches black identity and consciousness, same stance entrenched by Bose Ogulu, Burna Boy’s mother and manager when she said in the outro: ‘From Niger Delta to all the corners of Africa, America and the world, black people are turning the tables, taking back our place, we will be heard because we matter’.

The twelfth track, ‘The Monsters You made’ is a soft rock rap song featuring Chris Martins of Cold play. Of the song, Burna Boy said, ‘that song comes from a lot of anger and pain and me having to witness firsthand what my people go through and how my people see themselves. I see how many people are deceived and confused. I just try to blend all of that in and make it understood that we’re all going through the same problems. We just speak different languages.’ With Burna boy expressing his fury accentuated with stimulating drums, his UK counterpart Martin maintains his unflappable chorus on the electric bass.

In ‘Wetin Dey Sup’, Burna Boy, in the fashion of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat speaks up against certain ills in society. The follow-up RnB ‘Real Life’ co-written by Michael Omari is produced by Mario Winans and Telz. The track features Stormzy, the song is an interpolation of T Pain’s ‘I’m Sprung’. The last track ‘Bank on it’ is slow-paced, RnB with emphatic drums adding force to the words of a retrospective Burna Boy who is later joined by a choir.

The Twice as Tall album affirms that Burna Boy is growing fast into a man. Would he consider changing the suffix of his stage? More than ever, Burna explores old and new styles, brings to his music a mix of influences with the contribution of featured artistes, co-writers and producers who add their own signature to his own. This hybrid would appeal to music lovers who are looking for new sounds without losing touch with people who are already glued to Burna Boy’s music verve. Although his experimentation in Twice as Tall may not be seen as deeply original like ‘African Giant’.

Categories: Culture and Lifestyle