Album Review: Burna Boy’s ‘African Giant’ Is A Bold Statement To The World
The Nigerian superstar has come a long way, from a renowned artist in his home country to making hits with top UK acts, performing at this year’s Coachella and most recently featured on Beyonce’s latest project ‘The Gift’ album. Burna Boy has had a wonderful streak of successes that have propelled him to one of the most sought after artists from Africa, and he does not seem to want to take a pause anymore…. The African giant roars.
Burna Boy, currently signed to Atlantic Records, crowned his achievements with a new album ‘African Giant’ which was officially released on July 26, 2019. The new project features notable acts and is positioned to reshape the perception of music from the African continent and strategically placed to appeal to the wider western entertainment scene.
Since his breakthrough, he has activated a sense of Africanism, dominance and pride among his fans. This new project is nothing different, the singer takes the big brother tone while championing the African cause with proper consciousness, there are moments in the album where he educates on Nigeria’s political background and its history together with what ails the society at the same time reminding the African listener of their culture and traditions by capitalizing on what bonds the people of the continent share.
The ‘African Giant’ is about an hour long, a transition from various themes with that ultimate elevation. The first song ‘African Giant’ strikes an African chord as he calls on his roots with that affirmation that the African is much bigger. The composition is anchored on traditional music structures, he sings; ‘Tell em African we don’t tire/So here comes the African giant’. From the onset Burna Boy takes a leader’s approach and puts the listener in a follower’s trance. This goes on throughout the session with moments where one feels like they are being preached to, some kind of spiritual call to order. The singer graces us with his musical presence, not just his performance skills and a visualization of Fela Kuti influences, revealing his personal believes and interpretation of the modern Africa and global music world.
‘Anybody’ pulls a mixture of Latin influences woven into a structured haze of Afropop, the song release preceded the album and drew impressive acceptance, a sexed up delivery and packaged for radio before freeing the listener to the more reflective gem ‘Wetin Man Go Do’. It is as if Burna Boy reveals the best off his album at the start and hiding some of the tunes that reflect on our spiritualism between the more pop leaning offerings. Other previously released tracks on this album include: ‘On The Low,’ ‘Gbona,’ ‘Killing Dem’ ft. Zlatan and ‘Dangote.’
Burna Boy enlists UK sensation Jorja Smith on ‘Gum Body’ a tacky single heavy on R&B, the duo’s expressive delivery refines romance as the English singer lays her vocals on the bright percussion plucks in a kind of back and forth, moments guided by sanguine trumpets. The singer then lets us in a “Shaku’ vibe before ‘Omo’ where he intimates to his girlfriend; love, fears, vulnerability, passion and its complexities. ‘Secret’ ropes in Jeremih and Serani on gravitating instrumentals whose captivating vocals lure the listener to a fetish fantasy world, or if you prefer bedroom wyne vibe. The song borders more on the pop fusing a feel of Caribbean vibe and Afropop soundscapes orderly not so abstract but dazzling experience.
‘Collateral Damage’ bounces off string-laden instrumental, with static and bopping bass as the singer exposes his conscious side. Burna Boy is a student of Fela in many ways, his DJ grandfather was once the Afrobeat icon’s manager. He has drawn some characteristics from the Nigerian legend and on this track he tackles issues affecting Nigeria and shared among many African countries. The track feels closer home with rich Afro structure as the guitar riffs guide his flow, the artist has sampled Fela’s ‘Sorrow, Tears & Blood’. Burna Boy’s embodiment of Fela on this album and this track is much proof that he is a grounded artist, political and non-conformist. When he poses that people are often followers and too afraid to lead or challenge their leaders ‘On the hook he goes ‘When dem say make we jump we go jump Some people go somersault’ it is reminiscent of Fela Kuti’s ‘Zombie’ and ‘Monkey Banana’ where the legend would sing; ‘Before I jump like monkey, give me banana, Make you hear, yes sir’. The singer speaks of those in leadership reaping of the backs of their followers and the people’s fear of fighting for their rights all this fueled by the existence of evil leaders and how people find refuge in religion.
Burna Boy proceeds with this message this time round inviting Ghanaian Hip Hop act M.anifest on the politically charged ‘Another Story’. At the start, the song gives a little perspective of how the Nigerian state came into being ; out of a major business deal. This would be one of the tracks where the singer gets serious and speaks his truth, he carries the message in the best way. M.anifest seconds the singer with his wordplay, he paints a picture of Ghana which is not so different from Nigerias ‘ Som time I for dey move away, maybe a month/More or less more yawa/less people power/ Same shit Ghana-Naija man tire’ he lets out his distaste for the current situation.
‘Pull Up’ and ‘Destiny’ have the artist just expressing himself, an easy flow of impressive vibes, as the track locks that love-fun struck theme ‘Destiny’ has the singer on that rave kind of mood, feeling good as he breezes through life, confident of his destiny, his past, unafraid of exploring life. The singer ropes in Jamaican dancehall act Damian Marley and iconic US based Beninese songstress Angelique Kidjo on ‘Different’, the album is diverse in sound. This energy packed song brings out the unique personalities and cultures we exist in and at the same time how similar we are as a people. Kidjo’s vocals holds the listener dead in their feelings, and sends them into progressive state, the song is a statement rich in interpretation. The track also dares to show how much of a giant the singer has become as he chases growth, a dash of arrogance but with respect.
As the album nears the end the familiar tunes like ‘Gbona’ and ‘On The Low’. American rapper Future gets on the trap influenced track ‘Show & Tell’ where he goes head to head with Burna Boy. the song breaks further on a similarly laid down, pop, Hip Hop and R&B buds ‘This Side’ featuring another American rapper YG. Though a singer, Burna Boy, outdoes himself, not to be dimmed he expressively takes the hard delivery with his singing and owns the track, he lets none of the acts outshine him in his songs.
The project closes with ‘spiritual’ a reflective track heavy on African soundscapes, spiritual drum structure you could say as he traces African spirituality. Burna Boy’s mother Bose Gulu then closes the project with these words; an excerpt from her acceptance speech at the BET awards for Burna Boy’s Award For Best International Act Win. “And, the message from Burna I believe would be that every black person should please remember you were Africans before you became anything else”
For Burna Boy, this 7th project featuring some of the key global performers kind of opens doors for his music in the larger global scene and positions him as the African musical leader, he has strategically used this project to show that he is one artist to reckon with and draws a kind of message for Africa and its artists to take charge and make waves globally…
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