Africa’s music has been on the rise on the global stage with the exploits of Afrobeats. The genre is driving a youthful narrative for African creatives while gaining the attention of heavyweight music icons and major labels world over. It remains to be seen where the goal shifting heads this year but crucial albums expected of the genre’s headline acts such as Burna Boy, Wizkid and Davido when delivered will spark another win and launch a new phase for recognition, success, and impact on the continent’s music business.
The journey begins. Midnight, August 14, Burna Boy, Afrobeats most prominent poster boy dropped his much anticipated “Twice AsTall” album. Nominated for the Grammys last year courtesy his groundbreaking African Giant album but losing out to an African music legend, Angelique Kidjo, in the World Music category, a statement needs to be made for another shot at the prestigious awards. It, therefore, came as no coincidence when the album was announced for release with music business mogul and producer, Diddy (Sean Combs), scoring an executive production role for the album, leading the charge amidst the promise of merch and comic book with the album. Burna would later reveal Diddy joining the ship just at the right time when the album was 80% done.
Armed with an enviable production team made up of Burna’s long time collaborators in Leriq, Telz and Rexie (from Nigeria), P2J and JAE5 (UK), Skread (France) and contributions from the accomplished US bunch of Mike Dean, Mario Winans, Andre Harris, and Timbaland, “Twice As Tall” is a sonic celebration needed for Burna’s next steps.
The album starts with great opening tracks – “Level Up” and “Alarm Clock”- and picks up with the groovy “Way Too Big”, “Bebo” and the album’s prelude single, “Wonderful”. The listener is introduced to Burna Boy’s commanding energy that runs through his vocal delivery, skillfully complimenting each production. Next “Onyeka”, “Naughty by Nature” and “Comma” spiced up the album some more.
“Twice at All” sounds a bit more polished sonically than “African Giant” for it to be referred to as a through and through Afrobeats album. Fans expecting another African Giant album won’t get it. One wonders if “Twice as Tall” is more about elevating the Afrobeats sound but the expansive range is planned so it resonates with new markets – an ambitious move forewarned in recent collabs prior to the album
“Twice as Tall” extends beyond the Afrobeats circuit for its expansive palette of sonic design. It would engagement with new demographics as well. Poignant themes relating to the Black Struggle, Life, Politics, Motivation, and more are covered with the album’s best described as a classic Afro-fusion project.
On the project’s collaborations, the featuring acts delivered as expected. Youssou N’dour blessed the album’s opening with his signature vocals while Naughty By Nature flexed their muscles on their titled track. However, the stellar appearances belonged to Sauti Sol and Chris Martin (Coldplay) on “Time Flies” and “Monsters You Made”.
If there is the noticeable sacrifice of content for production on “Twice as Tall”? Burna answers with his most aggressive tackle of the Black Struggle on “Monsters You Made”. Nothing on African Giant addresses this theme better. Then again Burna drops many life jewels on “Twice as Tall” but they are spread across the album than concentrated into specific tracks. “No Fit Vex”, “Wettin Dey Sup” and “Real Life” are heavy in this regard. The listener wonders the need for Diddy’s commentary across the album but that’s another power move to gain a specific audience – a sacrifice is needed for certain doors that need opening. This notwithstanding, the album could do without Diddy’s commentary of course.
Also notable on the album is Burna Boy addressing his critics. They have been a few backlashes online including false news and stories about him. He addressed Sho Majozi’s allegations on “Real Life”. Interestingly, it is the same record that features Stormzy. Stormzy provides a mellow contribution with his feature on the record. Nevertheless, the best sequencing on “Twice as Tall” is from the 10th track, “23”, till the album ends where you will find the project’s standout tracks: “23”, “Monsters You Made”, “Time Flies” and “Real Life”.
“Twice as Tall” is Burna taking his destiny in his own hands as he attempts to get the attention of the Grammy academy with an eclectic album. He is catering to a bigger audience and pushing the envelopes beyond the Afrobeats tag. He wants to be heard & noticed as doing it his way. The album speaks growth for Burna. It makes a case for Afrobeats as having the adaptability to a global audience yet charting its own course. Unlike the African Giant which was riddled with many danceable hits, “Twice as Tall” is generally reflective. It will serve Burna’s pursuits well. The ball is in the court of his Afrobeats frontline peers – Wizkid, Davido, and Tiwa Savage – to also meet fans’ expectations when they drop their album. Afrobeats wins in the end!
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Stroy by Paul Azumah-Ayitey
Twitter & IG: @kojoayitey