Album Reviews

I Told Them By Burna Boy: More Hip-Hop, Less Afrobeats

Burna Boy's cruise to the top hasn't been met with smooth sailing all through

Burna Boy I Told Them album review
Burna Boy [Instagram/@burnaboygram]

Here is the Burna Boy I Told Them album review! Unarguably, Damini Ogulu is at the astronomical stage of his musical career, and it will take only a ghastly whirlwind to set him aback. The Port Harcourt native’s professional trajectory has transcended even his ambitious expectations, and that is saying something. 

Lately, Burna Boy shares rapport with his childhood heroes (Wu-Tang, etc.) and summons the clout of a global superstar. Of course, the African Giant’s view is Twice as Tall (pun intended). 

However, Burna Boy’s cruise to the top hasn’t been smooth sailing all through. Only last year, he missed out on claiming a second and third Grammy nod, as he lost in both nominated categories: Best Global Music Performance (South Africa’s Watter Kellerman won) and Best Global Music Album (Masa Takumi of Japan won). 

As if the Grammy sting wasn’t efficient enough to burn Burna to the core, the scathing online mockery by fellow Nigerians due to the Grammy snub relinquished any signs of a soft cushion. To many Nigerians online, It was a moment of Karma, and they couldn’t miss out on the chance to taunt him, considering that he had made a virtual statement saying that he wasn’t a Nigerian artist, a claim many Nigerians digested and perceived to be derogatory, condescending, narcissistic, and wholeheartedly conceited. In addition, he bewilderingly displayed a lack of enthusiasm towards concert-goers in Nigeria, which included violent stage attacks and insensitive remarks. 

The year that will ensue will have Burna Boy live up to his sonic stance as he heavily explores retrograde hip-hop ‘Sitting on Top of The World’ (feat 21 Savage) and was more Western inclined as far as his entire disposition towards music was concerned.  To cement his shift from the Afrocentric sonics that birthed him, in a recent interview with American media personality, Zane Lowe, Burna Boy watered down the quality of Afrobeats music, labelling it as mediocre and in his words, lacking Substance.

While many debunked and called for a general rebuttal concerning Burna Boy’s ‘colossal’ spat, others viewed the moment as a stunt to get buzz for his forthcoming and seventh studio album ‘I Told Them’.

The album’s opener takes a calligraphic semblance with its title and introduces the general concept of the album as Burna spews lyrics such as “I told them I am a genius, I had to show them what the meaning is”, just before the poetic lines of Wu Tang’s Gza marks a befitting close to a standard introductory track.

‘Normal’ is ironic considering the “No Substance” rhetoric spawned by him as he blazes through a series of Lambas and a few coherent thoughts. ‘On Form’, Burna Boy briefly references an R. Kelly classic ‘Step In the Name of Love’ before rhyming over Afro cadences and jazzy horns. 

The sensual ‘Tested, Approved, and Trusted’ brings back Dancehall Burna into the picture as he breezes through mid-tempo snare patterns and emotional instrumentations reminiscent of a classic Popcaan record. 

‘Virgil’ gives off an apparent telephone conversation between the late Iconic Virgil Abloh and Burna Boy. In the snippet, Virgil appears to be divulging some of his creative insights to Burna Boy, just before a sequence shifts toward  ‘Big 7’.

‘Dey Play’ explores the trendy Nigerian Neologism as Burna fits in introspective storytelling whilst implementing humour. Notably, the song climaxes with a Wu-Tang reference (a trait found in most of the album’s tracks) which begs the question if there is a brooding partnership between Burna and the legendary hip-hop group.  The chest-thumping ‘City Boys’ is just as riveting and dynamic as the snippet, the record displays braggadocio in esteemed ramification.

Speaking of Hip-Hop legends, J.Cole made an appearance on the confrontational ‘Thanks’. In the song, Burna blindly tackles the narratives spewed by fellow Nigerians about his personae while the American rapper tries to match his collaborator’s thematic expressions with contrived comparisons “Me and Burna are like Shaq and Kobe”.

In conclusion, ‘I Told Them’ is a remarkable album that further accentuates Burna Boy’s spot as one of the most dynamic and gifted African artists of his generation despite being on the verge of a seeming self-destruct.

Burna Boy I Told Them album review
Review Overview

In summary, 'I Told Them' stands as a remarkable album that magnificently underscores Burna Boy's position as one of the most versatile and talented African artists of his era, even as he hovers on the brink of what might appear as self-destructive tendencies.

  • Songwriting8
  • Production8
  • Sequence7
  • Enjoyability8
  • Delivery10
Stream 'I Told Them'

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