My fascination with West African music was ignited by the revelation of Cathrin Finch & Seckou Kiatra, a harmonious musical duo crafting ethereal Kora & harp melodies. During my stay in the UK, serendipity led me to encounter Burna Boy, a trailblazer propelling Afrobeats (also known as Afro-pop or Afro-fusion) to the forefront of popular musical genres. His previous masterpiece, “Love Damini,” not only achieved commercial success but also soared to the Zenith of Nigerian albums on the Billboard chart, making his latest effort a remarkable comeback.
The album’s titular track, “I Told Them” (feat. GZA), not only inaugurates the album but also encapsulates its essence with masterful precision. Its sonic tapestry evokes a symphony of sounds reminiscent of Shaggy’s iconic works from the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Similarly, tracks like “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” (feat. 21 Savage) carry a backbeat akin to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me,” while “Thanks” (feat. J. Cole) exudes similar qualities. Of note is the captivating spoken-word interlude within the titular track.
Other instances of spoken-word artistry grace this album, with one of the most noteworthy and touching being “12 Jewels,” where RZA eloquently encapsulates a collection of intrinsic values: knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality, food, clothing, shelter, love, peace, and happiness. It retains a raw production quality akin to the distinct quality of an iPhone recording.
Significantly, there’s a touch of UK-drill influence evident in this album. In “Cheat on Me,” Dave infuses the track with the rhythmic sway and expressive characteristics of UK Drill. The persistent high hats on the track exhibit a trap-like vibe, a common element in drill music. Furthermore, “Big 7” resonates with “UK-drill” language and slang, seamlessly integrating this stylistic aspect into the album.
Amidst the collection of vibrant West African pop hits, it’s the moments of simplicity that wield remarkable power, as exemplified by “If I’m Lying,” a particularly impactful composition carrying a genuine and heartening message. This album, lyrically, provokes a lot of thought and reflection. It stands as a strong body of work.
Here’s my rating for each song on a scale of (1-10):
“I Told Them” (feat. GZA) – 10
“Normal” – 7
“On Form” – 7
“Sittin’ On Top Of The World” (feat. 21 Savage) – 10
“Tested, Approved & Trusted” – 7
“Cheat On Me” (feat. Dave) – 8
“Virgil” – 7
“Big 7” – 10
“Dey Play” – 6
“City Boys” – 9
“Giza” – 10
“12 Jewels” – 10
“If I’m Lying” – 10
“Thanks” (feat. J. Cole) – 10
“Talibans II” – 6
Rating/Excellent – This will be on my rotation.
[We rank albums on a scale of: Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]