Let’s hit you with the truth straight up!
For an artist who takes immense pride in blowing his trumpet all by himself, either you do or not for him, Burna Boy’s recent sixth studio album, “I Told Them”, is a masterfully crafted ‘below expectation’ project. Note that this article does not in any way intend to totally critique his work and deny him his flower, but what you’re currently reading is a point of his self-confidence being a multidimensional weapon fashioned against him.
When Burna Boy made his interview earlier this week with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, rubbishing the dearly beloved Afrobeats and tagging it to be a music genre that lacks substance, it was well known to Nigerians his gimmicks; everyone understood clearly the football game the artist was attempting to play—lead himself into a controversy and maintain that build-up into the release of his music project during the early hours of Friday, 25th August, 2023.
While we cannot deny that the Port-Harcourt born star is indeed a national treasure, and acknowledge that his music is anything but mid, might we conclude that his recently dropped album, “I Told Them”, is a lacy mix of good and bad, and for someone who made so much noise about his artistry prior to this moment, the album fell short of expectations; by a notch.
If you’ll be graceful enough to rummage through social media, particularly Twitter (or X as you now call it), the battle lies between critics of the new album and lovers of it, at the same time; and in all honesty, this writer understands. It’s one good album, but after so much noise trumping on a music genre that Nigerian artists largely make, Burna Boy’s attempt at having an album worthy of a 9/10 rate was a weak one.
However, for what is worth, the artist did a fair job of raising the bar slightly high by having an album better than the last, “Love, Damini”, which when you look at that angle, is a win-win.
Although Burna Boy might not have anything to prove to lovers of his work, or naysayers, the artist does an impressive one with putting in the effort—with each music project, it’s as though he has a point to prove and will continually do so till he takes a bow out of music.
You possibly can’t fault the Odogwu for condemning Afrobeats, or totally overruling the Nigerian demographic; after all, for someone with such magnificent artistry, he was practically snubbed for years of his hard-work, not until the moment when in 2018, “Ye”, shot him up to the top where he rightfully belonged. (Don’t come for me, if you know, you know).
With an inspection of his album based on first-listen, “I Told Them”, starts out on a very wrong note—you’re not faulted if you turn it right off, and it’s understandable if you keep going, to simply understand the chronology of the project.
This writer believes it’s a chaotic kickstart and much better was expected from Burna Boy; however, the message intended to understand from “I Told Them”, featuring GZA is clearly gotten—reflecting his music journey, appreciation of his self-worth and regarding himself as the highest of all. In the track, he passionately calls himself ‘giant’, stating that his titled Odogwu, goes beyond being a nickname. So, a second listen, would probably have you contemplating the worth of the introductory track.
One intentional act not clearly understood in the album is the part where rather than enjoying the flow of the tracks, Burna Boy, proceeds to sprinkle ‘aspire to maguire’ speech at the start and ending of some tracks such as “On Form”; it’s slurry, cringe and the ones with patience, can cool till it gets to the main business of ‘the day’.
Permit the pen behind this piece to go personal as I state that despite the waviness of the first three tracks, the real journey begins with “Sitting On Top Of The World” featuring 21 Savage and as the sampling god that Burna Boy is, he accurately laces Brandy featuring Ma$se’s “Top Of The World” into the track, which has a rightful ease to it and at this moment, you remember the giant for who he is.
“I Told Them” Packs a narrowed-down range of styles employed by the artist, where after his ‘lack of substance’ wordings, he leans heavily on western style adoption in the project, taking it to the letter with even features of international stars such as J Cole, GZA, RZA, Dave and 21 Savage.
Still on the conversation of sampling, Burna Boy does same with the infamous “City Boys”, sampling Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex”. The artist with this track has perhaps struck gold with it, and as rightfully said earlier, Burna Boy found a balance with other tracks but the first three. It amply follows a defined path and structure, and the understanding of his conversation (which will not be forgotten soon, it seems).
His track featuring Seyi Vibez, “Giza”, is anything but Afro-fusion, as Burna Boy cited as the kind of music he makes – the track is a jiggy upbeat street-hop and amapiano tune. Will it do wonders on the streets and top charts, as well as make it to party playlists? We’ll see!
One thing about Burna Boy is his lack of initiative to make out the line between criticisms and hate, where he dedicates a sarcastic track to every single person, and listener of his work; considering how even lovers of his music took jabs in the track. “Thanks” featuring J Cole displays his lack of understanding on people’s critic of his actions and music all together, highlighting his flawed actions over the years, while crooning “is this the motherfucking love I get?”— and in response to the lyric, the ideal response will be, YES.
It speaks a thing of Burna with this, his lack of self-accountability and expectation of Nigerians to erase his errors because of his proven contributions to the Nigerian music industry. Cancel culture might not work in Nigeria but we definitely are skilled in calling an artist out.
Burna Boy’s sampling perfection, his exploration of styles, his ability to find a balance all together and his proven flow on western music has earned his album, “I Told Them”, a rightful 7/10. While his album did not live up to the hype surrounding it, there is the ability for it to grow through the weeks out of constant replay.