The wait is finally over; Burna Boy’s ‘African Giant’ was released in the early hours of Friday, 26th July, 2019. The title of the album sparks the idea of greatness coming from a continent wrapping it with satirical theme.
The phrase, ‘African Giant’ became popular by the artiste after the unhappy incident with Coachella. This was followed by the album announcement later on. The last album, ‘Outside’ was released in 2018 which became critical acclaim and bagged the best album of the year on popular award shows. Burna Boy has been having an impressive run from the start of 2018 with his ground-breaking hits coupled with fan love.
‘African Giant’ is a project borne out of societal issues. The pre-released singles like ‘Dangote’, ‘On the low’ and ‘Gbona’ shows the veracity of the album title and Burna boy has been conveniently able to fit into the street culture that has dominated the pop scene with ‘Killing Dem’ ft Zlatan. One of the highlights of 2019 mainstream scene has been Burna boy with his improvement, consistency, and ingenuity.
Now, let us deconstruct the album.
The album title track, ‘African Giant’ wraps it contents up in hope and confidence. This track serves as an overview of what is expected to originate from other tracks in the album.
The track, ‘Anybody’ was performed on the Jimmy Kimmel live show; two nights before the album release. This outstanding move by the A-list artiste further pushed the album to the hearts of many music lovers all over the world. ‘Anybody’ has an irresistible rhythmic pattern with the rich strength of popular music instruments like Saxophone, drums, piano. Burna Boy infuses slangs and popular street references like ‘Anybody wey no wan soji, anybody wey no wan carry body, knack am something’ to create an easy and relatable groove.
The track, ‘Gum body’ featuring Jorja Smith is a detour from the African story shaped from the beginning of the album. The track is packed with the experimentation of neo-soul– afrobeats fusion. One must say that the upgraded style of afrobeats must be applauded on this album. Burna Boy understands the idea of creating different sounds to ensure responsiveness from diverse fans.
‘Killing Dem’ is that kind of song you don’t really want to say so much about because you become lost in the ambiance of the track.
‘Omo’ bears the interest of raga love. ‘Omo’(Yoruba) which translates directly to ‘Child’. This word in this indigenous language can also be used to qualify and compliment a gorgeous looking lady. The artiste has adopted the later meaning by likening her look with other beautiful women ‘fine like Omotola’. The track, ‘Secret’ opens a pathway into the dark side of love.
‘Collateral Damage’ is one of the potential hit on the album. It has a concise message swathed with electronic sound; mashed with a mild drum beat. It is also one of my personal favourite.
‘Another Story’ is not a story for another day but a story Burna Boy addressed roughly but backed with heart striking truth. He unhappily shows the pain behind the formation of the Nigeria territory during colonial times. Burna boy did not only portray his dexterity as an artiste on this album but he further reassures everyone on the essence of keeping abreast of one’s history to solve the socio-economic problem that has been an emerging issue. The collaboration with M.anifest (a Ghanian artiste) brings back a memory of the 1694- 1700 era when Royal African Company was a participant in the Komenda Wars in the old city of Eguafo Kingdom in modern-day Ghana. Collaborating with a fellow Ghanian artiste might be an underlying message that the participation of this buoyant company was also extended to the shores of Ghana. A music video showing the idea behind this track will create more understanding round it.
The track, ‘Pull up’ has a familiar modern time palm wine music vibe. Featuring one of the SDC crew (Tec or Ghost) might have done much justice to it.
‘Different’ with the iconic Damian Marley and Angelique Kidjo spurs up the idea of positivity in our diversity as a continent. The closing part of the song starts an interlude into the song, ‘Gbona’ serving as a continuation for the theme generated.
‘On the low’ was one of the late hit releases of 2018 that has proved up to the test of relevance in 2019.
Future on ‘Show & Tell’ track might not be the best choice of collaboration especially in the form of dancehall beat but putting up a future collaboration is a positive move from Burna boy. Burna boy revealed on his breakfast interview last week that most of the collaboration on the album came organically. Future’s impact on the track is additional proof of it.
YG brings his gangster attitude to finesse the flow of vibe and to an extent, he did considerably well.
On the issue of collaboration, there were a lot of collaborating artistes that would have not been necessary on some tracks. An example of that is Future on ‘Show and Tell’ and Jeremih on ‘Secrets’. The artistes sounded too forced to this kind of sound they are unfamiliar with but on a general note, most of the collaborating were at their top class.
Usually, on long length projects, the last song runs into an eclipse. ‘Spiritual’ is the opposite feel from other projects. The best way to listen to this track might be a spiritual connection to something high. The album ends with the golden voice of the superwoman (Burna’s mother) in his life.
One of the things uncontroversial about this album is the massive impact that has been formed for the continent as a whole. The album shows the true essence and depicts the true essence of afrobeats as one of the sources of black music all over the world. It is popularly known that Africa house a lot of genres but all encapsulated into afrobeats. Judgementally, the album has not been able to complete an impressive run the artiste has been on. There is no doubt that the album will garner impressive record sales.
Also, afro-fusion is claimed to be created by the artiste but over the years, he has not been adequately able to cement the veracity of this claim; not even on this new album. The fusion on these tracks was adequately structured well but no clear definition or breakdown can be drawn out to finalise the idea of afro-fusion as a genre or sub-genre.
In conclusion, can ‘African Giant’ reach the conversation of being called a potential classic? That is a question for you to answer in the comment section below.
Ogunleye Oluwakorede writes mainly on entertainment, history and
socio-economic matters. He has previously released works like album reviews and content information. He is also a music critic and analyst particularly on Nigerian music entertainment.