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As a disclaimer, I once mistakenly gave this man’s first album a 1/5. Honestly, that first tape was too ahead of its time for me, and I wrote a flop review about a masterpiece. I did not see things the way Burna does. This is the culmination of years of tweaking and progression; the result is an album that is a melting pot of black culture and sub-cultures.
Starting with my personal favourite Cloak and Dagger, featuring the phenomenal UK rapper J Hus. Those who are fans of Santan Dave will know this to be his evil partner in rhymes and beats. I say evil as he gives off a slight jail house vibe; he did do a bid for a little ruffian behaviour. In fact, the hit song, Location, featuring Burna Boy, is about him - the whole bit about “my dawg is on probation” …that was Hus.
Now, free from the feds, J Hus together with Dave have located a pocket in which raps can coexist with Afrobeats as if the two styles were always destined for each other. Hus - a London-based rapper of Gambian descent - falls into a category of artists who fuse raps with singing over these beats, giving rise to a style often referred to as Afroswing. Mixing British Ebonics, pidgin and patois, Hus rides over this brooding beat with Burna and expresses how they move around with Cloaks and Daggers to throw off the opps.
The beat shows that producers of this genre are doing everything to move the sounds that are sheltered beneath the umbrella of Afrobeats forward, which is hugely refreshing and brave. Amapiano heads are worried about chasing down hip-hop when Afrobeats is leagues ahead. Burna even uses a bit of the beloved log drum influence of piano on the sweet-sounding Different Size, featuring Victony. The album is strewn with a subtle genuflection of his love for South Africa.
The track, Kilometre, is just as Burna says in the beginning, “a big tune”. He is able to cultivate a tropical and yet cinematic sound all without that much to offer as far as vocal range. It matters not in some cases, as his voice is consistently tantalising to the ears.
This is the perfect song for a single with underlying elements of the reggae subgenre of dub with guitar strings left to echo on and on, falling perfectly into each other, creating a beat that will leave you uncontrollably revelling in a fast-slow wind. Another intersection of two black cultures is very cleverly shaped to almost give this album the feel of an audio tour.
He also cleverly fitted the sensational acapella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the intro to the album-Glory-as well as the title track as the closer.
In between those two songs are a mix of chilled, new and expected tracks. We can’t get sick of hearing the Burna on Jagele. But, hearing how he also has an ear for a good sample-based beat, as is the case on his second single Last Last, is dope. The song rests on the foundation of America’s Toni Braxton’s He Wasn’t Man Enough for Me - borrowing the Darkchild-produced guitar lick.
Some people feel it is perhaps too heavily sampled but it’s an undeniable bop. As is this whole album. He even ropes in popular singers - who maybe aren’t that gifted or are just simply annoying like Ed Sheeran - and makes them sound beyond tolerable. Ed Sheeran is the only reason this album doesn’t get a five. The single For My Hand is a burner.
Singer Kehlani was stretched and renders a vocal arrangement that we could use more of from her on the Afro/US west coast crossover Solid. Along with rapper Blxst, they profess the integrity of the connection they share with their significant others as being solid. Yet again, he visits another part of the diaspora, and it sounds like it was always meant to be.
Some people decry youngsters who adopt dialects and slang from around the diaspora as being disingenuous or forced. I say to them that kind of thought leads to albums as well put together as this. There are no tracks that should be skipped, including the Khalid track Wild Dreams, which sounds serene. The album is also littered with romantic melodies with the always sneaky saxophone hallmark trait of a Burna ballad.
The subtle nuances in the music make this his most well-rounded and digestible album. African Giant (2019) was classic but Twice as Tall (2020) had more slumps and peaks. This, however, is in the pocket from start to finish and is a buffet of beats-a feast for the ears and a thirst quencher for the soul. So far … album of the year, comfortably.
It sounds like what Drake tried to do but floundered. He should have put in a call to this bro. To have this dude visit our shores on the backs of a release like this is parallel to the Migos touring their momentous Culture opus here, or 6lack freeing his impressive first album to a slightly docile crowd at Joburg stadium. Burna’s set at Delicious is primed to be anything but.