Burna Boy has more than earned his place as one of Nigeria’s biggest contemporary exports. Quickly amassing a cult following in the UK with infectious early releases ‘Like To Party’ and ‘Yawa Dey’ in the early ’10s, he followed up after being allowed back in the country in 2016 (he was banned for alleged criminality) with his legendary sold-out Hammersmith Apollo ‘Homecoming’ concert.
Marinating a sound that encompasses traces of Afrobeat and throws in hip-hop, dancehall and afro-fusion for good measure, 29-year-old Damini Ogulu has spent the past few years concentrating on global expansion. He hypnotised with third studio release ‘Outside’, earned a Grammy nomination for last year’s international breakthrough ‘African Giant’ and now continues his reign with ‘Twice As Tall’.
The record was executive produced by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, but – the moody, operatic ‘Alarm Clock’ aside – the mogul largely leaves his charge to blaze his own trail. That track leans on hand-drums and saxophones as the mighty Burna Boy awakens, eager to mark his arrival and demanding attention. “You better set your alarm clock,” he warns as the song closes.
‘Way Too Big’ finds Burna Boy on self-confident form, as he relays his intention to avoid bad company: “I’m way too smart to be f*cking with you”. Here, Burna Boy acknowledges his roots, praising his homeland (and its “Nigerian breweries”) as subtle violin runs cushion his vocals. This standout songs proves just how experimental afro-fusion can be.
Burna Boy loosens up further into the record, reviving his well-known charm on ‘Naughty By Nature’, jokily telling his lover that she won’t be able to handle him. It’s a pretty tongue-in-cheek affair, filled with saucy lyrics (“I was born naughty by nature,” he winks), and instantly feels like one of Diddy’s executive choices, a vintage East Coast flair adorning steel-pan led tune.
Read more: On the cover – Burna Boy: “A revolution is needed. I want to inspire it”
While much of ‘Twice As Tall’ finds Burna Boy in an unbreakable pan-African euphoria, the highly anticipated Chris Martin collaboration ‘Monsters You Made’ presents him at his most frustrated. The sombre number speaks for the disenfranchised and challenges governments to pay attention to the plight of an entire race. Martin’s smooth vocals here complement Burna’s hoarse, cathartic proclamations: “It’s like the heads of the state / Ain’t comprehending the hate / That the oppressed generate / When they’ve been working like slaves”.