The “African Giant” also known as Burna Boy, released his fifth studio album on Friday the 14th of August! The build-up to the album was quite small as we were only really given details towards the final week of promo. Burna Boy’s previous 2019 album “African Giant” was critically acclaimed and considered by most people (including me – https://musicandlifeblog.com/2019/08/19/album-review-why-i-think-burna-boy-african-giant-2019-is-a-work-of-art/ ) as his best album to date. With such high praise from an album, it was always going to be an almost impossible uphill task to live up to the same expectations. Due to this, I decided to try my best to listen to this new album with fresh ears, trying not to compare his previous genius album to it. Albums are always a reflection of where the artist is at that moment, no album is gonna be from the same frame of mind.
With the first few minutes of me digesting the album, I won’t lie, I had quite a few questions. Admittedly, from the first few listens I was a bit confused at the direction of the project. I gave it time and with further listens I began to genuinely enjoy a lot of the songs. I feel this album is an introduction of Burna Boy to the global audience. It feels that the title “Twice as Tall” is in reference to the magnitude of Burna’s rising success worldwide. A major and important fact people need to remember when listening to Burna Boy is that Burna’s music goes way beyond just beats and rhymes. His music clearly takes inspiration from politics, his spirituality, culture and activism. On this album, in particular, he takes inspiration from many other African countries. I think this is why Burna Boy never really loses his flavour in his songs regardless of what the tone of the song may be. This album is a continuation and sequel of his previous work. He never forgets his roots despite the unnecessary Diddy noises and clear American influence through features.
I would have preferred for him to be singing more in the Yoruba dialect or Igbo that he does so well (Similar to how he uses it in the song ‘Bebo‘) but I can see that in regards to a global stage, the more English the easier for others to digest.
I believe it is only fair to listen and take in this album as a solo project and not a comparison to his previous album.
It will be interesting to see how Burna Boy follows this project up and what direction he will now head into but I know that wherever he goes, Burna’s unique sound will never be far away.
Below are some of the key songs I took from the album:
Level Up (Twice As Tall) Ft. Youssou N’Dour
I really liked this intro track featuring the Senegalese singer. Straight in, Burna goes personal with his journey starting from the beginning of his career; “I remember when I couldn’t level up. I was trying, but I couldn’t level up. It was rough, you see“. The whole song focuses on the theme of never giving up and keeping the faith. It’s interesting that this is the intro track as usually people would end an album with this inspirational message proving that they are a product of keeping the faith. I really liked the vibe of this song, very laid back but motivational. It’s not surprising Diddy had a little speech on this song as after finding out he was part of the album process, this message is very on-brand with his motto, to also keep going. I personally didn’t think his input was necessary at all and is part of the new direction I was not a fan of on this album.
Way Too Big
I really liked this song and I think this was one of the songs from the album that I can see getting really good reception if played with a crowd. The song also works well with the title of the album, emphasising Burna’s journey to success. I always think when an artist is as big as Burna, they have the right to have a song with bragging rights at least. i can see crowds singing this song back to Burna at concerts or events. It also is a small reminder of Nigerian confidence and pride, to acknowledge that you are worth too much to lower your standards for anyone. This is definitely one of my favourites from the album.
I’ve previously spoken about my love for this song. This is without a doubt my favourite song on the album. We were treated to this song earlier on before the album release and I thought that this was a taster of the kind of direction Burna was going for on this album. Having heard all the songs, I now believe this song is a bit out of place with the rest of the songs. This song is pure Nigerian music. It has the inspired instruments, the tone, the beat, the feel and the language. It is impossible to listen to this song without finding yourself moving some part of your body somehow!
This is the love song for this album. The name of the song was originally in reference to the Nigerian singer Onyeka Onwenu. However, Burna Boy has said that the song is now more of a general song and can be in reference to all women. The song also references an Igbo highlife classic from Chief Stephen Osadebe titled “Osondi Owendi“. You can actually hear the similarities with the backing production of this track and the backing production of ‘Onyeka’. This is one of the many examples of how educated Burna Boy is with previous Nigerian music and how he uses it to inspire his music of today.
Naughty By Nature Ft. Naughty By Nature
Hmmmmmmmm. I don’t know where to begin with this song. To be honest when I first heard this song, I was shocked and almost offended. I think it was the complete change in pace and of how different this song was from Burna’s usual music. However, as I listened to the song more, I started to warm to it a lot more. The song reminds me of a previous song called ‘Ice Cream Man’ that Burna featured on one of his previous tapes. The song has an almost nursery rhyme theme to it. The part for me where I find is wrong is the feature from Naughty by Nature. I understand their talents separately as an established hip hop group but I really do not believe their sound goes well with the Burna sound on this song. It sounds like a very random match. If I could hear a version of this song without NbN I would definitely rate it higher. Have a listen to ‘Ice Cream Man‘ to see if you can hear the similarities.
No Fit Vex:
I really enjoyed the slowed-down pace on this track especially as it followed the very hype song “Comma”. The title of the song is pidgin for saying “No Hard Feelings”. The song is very positive and focuses on the fact that Burna Boy is just living his life and has no hard feelings for anyone.
Another emotional song from Burna Boy. With this song, he reflects on his success again but this time using Michael Jordan’s signature ’23’ number. He mentions in the introduction; “The music make me feel I be Jordan, now I understand why them say aiye gbon gan”, meaning that he understands why they say there’s enough space. Even though he is not a basketball player like Michael Jordan, he is experiencing what it’s like to also be at the top of his respective field, in this case music. The song almost sounds like we are hearing his personal thoughts of reflection as well as gratitude. This song will be so beautiful to hear with a live band stripped back.
Time Flies Ft. Sauti Sol
This song is the perfect follow up to ’23’ in terms of keeping a similar mood. It took me a few listens to pick up this song and I worry that this song could be overlooked. In terms of African music however, this song is a perfect example of the beauty of what the continent contains. The song features the Kenyan group Sauti Sol. It’s clear that Burna took a lot of joy dipping into so many African countries on this album, again exploring his global impact. The backing vocals and production of the song definitely explore the beauty of Kenyan music. In the chorus, “Siwezi wacha rhumba” is sung which is Swahili for “I’ll never stop partying” and I can see how that motto fits with the tone of the song. Burna Boy’s vocals on this song are so soothing, this is the kinf of song that makes you want to close your eyes and really take everything in.
Real Life Ft. Stormzy
Burna Boy and Stormzy have already collaborated on the smash hit song “Own It” also featuring Ed Sheeran. I already knew that they potentially would make another great song but I did not expect the direction this song went in. I’m a Stormzy fan but I’m not so fond of his singing on songs, HOWEVER, this song put all my doubt to rest. Stormzy’s singing was the perfect component to this song. I had this song on repeat when I first heard it. This is another beautiful song and I loved the fact Stormzy was able to do something different on this record. They are both superstars in the music world for different reasons and this song is an example of how beautiful they can sound merged together.
Bank On It (Produced by JAE5)
What a track! As soon as I heard the drop I knew it was a JAE5 produced track. Burna and Jae have collaborated on quite a few tracks now and it is clear they always make hits. The song almost reminds me of one of their songs “Calm Down” in the sense of a similar drop. It is a great way to end the album as the song reflects on the fact that life is precious and that we are all human and will make mistakes in life. Despite anything and everything that may happen in this life though, Burna Boy wants to make it clear that he will continue being successful.
Overall, this is an album you really need to take in to understand Burna Boy’s new perspective. There is alot of gratitude, praise and success mentioned on this album and it is clear this is the journey of a huge star.