On Burna Boy’s fifth album, the Nigerian Grammy award-winning artiste sounds accomplished, like he has completed an “Afro-Quest”, and having a victory lap, a lap overly powered by ego and bragging rights, showcasing Burna Boy in full.
The Road to his album has been a smooth one, he is currently the most streamed Nigerian Artiste on Apple Music, featured on Apple Music’s Live session with a legendary performance, had a successful run of shows, and has been nominated for the BET Hiphop Awards, securing seven nominations. Though the album’s lead singles weren’t widely received well by a vast part of his fanbase, everyone seems to have bought into it with time, an act fueled by some of music’s unsolved mysteries.
The surprise seems to come from the fact that we didn’t get a typical Burna-themed album, this feels new, well to others. But you pay close attention to the album and you’d realize this has always been Burna Boy, a big fan of Hip Hop. “Sitting on Top of the World”, which features 21 Savage, was sampled from Brandy’s 98’ hit song which goes by the same title. “Big 7” is not your pure leg-work type of record, observations that speak for themselves. The album’s intro leans on his achievements throughout his career, he reminisces on how he manifested everything around him happening now. The song is rounded off by Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA, whose outro reminds us why he was the “Spiritual head” of the group back in the day.
“Normal” and “On Form” hold dance floor material, and Burna’s bragging rights fit perfectly on pure Afrobeats elements, the same genre he criticized prior to the album’s release. With lyrics that dabble between English and Yoruba, Burna Boy shares his come-up from a first-person perspective, “O lọ jìnà, ó tún lọ far, and e no pass through Muritala”, claiming music took shot him into the global scene. The brightest moment on the album is all rolled up into one record, “Tested, Approved & Trusted” is a classic pre-Afro Burna Boy, thumping dancehall-Bass Lines produced by Yeti Beats, fruitful rhythms, soft, and smoky, elegant approach from Burna. It sounds like a song that will make it on Steel & Copper 2 if a follow-up is ever going to be made.
Burna and Dave show off their gifts as class artists that complement each other so well on “Cheated On Me”. Virgil’s creative direction is felt through the interlude. There are back-to-back club bangers after. Leriq’s full-fledged boppy production on “Dey Play ” allows Burna to build his hyper pop skills with a catchy chorus. “City Boy ” was already a fan favorite after Burna posted a tiktok video of him stomping the floor in a pair of Timbaland, a signature dance that has slowly turned into a challenge. Seyi Vibez is the only African artiste who gets a slot on the album as a featuring artiste on “Giza”, an Amapiano-inspired tune carried by Seyi’s energy.
RZA’s presence signifies Burna Boy’s love for Hip Hop as a culture, however, it’s the transition to “If I’m Lying” that displays sonic excellence here. On a wistful guitar riff, he pours all of his vulnerability here, and it’s touching enough to coax out oceans of iPhone flashlights at his show, a rather suiting outro. Instead, he saves all the drama for “Thanks”, a song that displays his egoistic self in full force. J. Cole’s perfect verse is enough to balance things, but to Nigerians especially, it feels like a dagger to the rib, a diving one. For some reason, Byron Messiah’s “Talibans” makes it as a bonus song, another club favorite.
The album is a stroll down memory lane for Burna, summoning rap’s favorite era, the one he grew up on, blending it with home’s sounds. A style that I feel would’ve been accepted if you canceled out all the drama surrounding the album.
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