Earlier this year, the “African Giant” raised eyebrows when he claimed that he was the best Afrobeat artist since Fela Anikulapo Kuti, while some might disagree with his stance, there is no doubt that his last two studio albums lend credence to his claims. Just thirteen months after his critically acclaimed and Grammy-nominated “African Giant” album hit the mainstream, Burna Boy is not resting on his laurels and he is back with “Twice As Tall” which appears to be making a statement about how far he has come in the music industry.
Consisting of 15 tracks, Burna Boy’s fifth studio album saw him lay his vulnerabilities bare for the world to see while masking it with braggadocio one would expect from the self-proclaimed “African Giant”. He also succeeds in bringing attention to issues affecting the entire black community. The album kicks off with Level Up which opens with an extract from the 1959 movie “Journey to the Centre of the Moon” in which Pat Boone sang a song called “Twice As Tall”. It then transitions into Burna Boy reminiscing about the earlier years of his career and comparing it to the last few years which has been quite successful. Youssou N’Dour brings his A-game on this track, as he successfully transmits Senegalese vibes throughout and motivates the listener to not give up on his or her dreams. The transition from the extract to Burna’s verse is so smooth and it makes for a rousing intro.
“Alarm clock” continues with Diddy’s message from the previous track and immediately goes into bop mode. The use of traditional drums and Fela inspired adlibs on the production brings in a nostalgic feel as one is quickly reminded of Fela’s classics. However, it only lasts for 132 seconds. The subsequent track, “Way Too Big” oozes class all over, from the production to Burna Boy’s delivery to the lyrics, they were all top-notch. As the track name suggests, Burna Boy brags about his status in the music industry right now as he croons “because I’m way too big, way too big to be f**ing with you”. While some might claim this is a wake-up call to the entire Nigerian music industry, there is no doubt that the braggadocio is well conveyed in this track. An instant banger, no doubt. The next track, Bebo is a glorious follow-up to the preceding track as he continues to assert his dominance in the industry. He also references a slang “Bebo” which he refers to as a guy who flees the bar without paying for his drinks after having a good time.
The project continues with “Wonderful” which is an expression of the beauty of West Africa. Burna Boy makes it known that there is no place like home throughout this song and goes on to highlight the beauty of his motherland. The production highlights the essence of the track, the use of African drums and gongs goes on to send the message across to the listener. The next track, ”Onyeka” is a song that pays tribute to Nigerian singer, Onyeka Onwenu. It highlights the beauty of African women. The production reflects that this track is inspired by Eastern Nigeria, the drums and gongs used in the track are commonly associated with the Igbo people. An Owambe jam perfect for all kinds of joyful occasions.
The next track, Naughty by Nature is a mixture of afro-beats and hip hop. The collaboration between Naughty by Nature and Burna boy gives one a feel of how rap was done in the 90s. The next track, “Comma” sees Burna Boy pointing out what he feels are red flags in ladies. He calls out girls who bleach their skin and, also those who undergo procedures to increase the size of their bottom and boobs. While there are subtle hints of body shaming on this track, there is no doubt that this would be an anthem for the guys.
Burna Boy rages on with “No fit Vex” where he talks about the struggles the average Nigerian faces daily, he also seems to be engaging in a deep conversation with an estranged friend with whom he got separated from due to their different destinies. In an interview with Apple Music, he explains this as a way of saying no hard feelings to anyone as everyone is just trying to make ends meet. This song would resonate well with almost the entire Nigerian populace. The production also conveys the message. On the subsequent track “23” which is a tribute to Micheal Jordan, Damini goes full introspective mode as he feels that the fact that he shares the same mindset Micheal Jordan has contributed to pushing him to the level he is right now. He talks abot how his artistry and greatness was inspired by the veteran basketballer.
Kenyan group, Sauti Sol collaborates with Burna Boy on the inspirational track “Time Flies”, the delivery and lyrics from the Kenyan group bring in East African vibes which permeate through this track. It ends with a firm message of defiance that blacks would be heard all over the world because they matter. The next track, “Monsters You Made” is a beautiful song that calls out systemic racism and black struggles. It also sheds light on the hypocrisy of the colonialists. Burna gets political on this track dissing Mungo Park, who was claimed to have founded River Niger. Coldplay’s Chris Martin nails the hook, it’s one of the best if not the best track on the album.
Burna Boy goes into street mode for the next track titled “Wetin Dey Sup” which is translated to “what is going on”. On this track, he makes use of Pidgin English to pass his message across to youths. While this track has generated controversy over alleged homophobic lyrics, it still makes for one hell of a street banger. “Real Life” sees Burna Boy team up with Stormzy for a soulful R&B ballad. The African giant’s braggadocio is ever-present on this one and Stormzy cool, calm, and collected delivery makes for a good listen. On the final track of the album “Bank On It”, Burna Boy croons about the uncertainty of life and pledges to live his to the fullest while he can. In his interview with Apple Music, he highlights Pop Smoke’s death as one of the reasons for writing this song. A beautiful outro to an intriguing project.
In an interview with NME, Buna Boy made a bold claim stating “A revolution is needed, I want to inspire it” and he is well on his way to doing so. With “African Giant” and “Twice As Tall”, Burna Boy is setting the bar higher for how albums should be made in the Nigerian music industry. Corny love songs and songs without proper meanings have been a mainstay in the music industry for a while and Burna Boy is leading a revolution to change this. This cohesive project is certainly leading the race for best album of the year at the moment and rightly so. The production is on point throughout, as producers such as Diddy, P2J, Mike Dean, Rexxie, and others did not put a foot wrong throughout the project’s entirety. The artistes featured also were carefully handpicked by the African giant himself.
Except for one or two unmemorable tracks, Twice As Tall is quite an enjoyable body of work. Although there are lyrics that give hints of homophobia and body shaming, Burna’s songwriting was also topnotch throughout.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: Monsters You Made, Way Too Big.