Burna Boy takes pride in what he considers to be a national tradition of schadenfreude but the said art has been nothing short of a disappointment.
Burna Boy’s ‘I Told Them,’ a study of Afrobeats and Hip Hop that ultimately falls flat, is a triumphant retort to what he sees as a widespread national distaste for him.
“There’s nothing I’m doing now that I didn’t tell them,” Burna Boy told Ebro before his historic London Stadium concert.
Just days before the release of his seventh studio album, ‘I Told Them,’ he reiterated this sentiment to Zane Lowe.
What Burna Boy left out of his boasting, however, was the reality that he has never been the target of widespread schadenfreude in Nigeria.
The people of Nigeria have always had faith in his abilities and knew he would eventually achieve great success. It was his ability to overcome obstacles and control his demons that was called into doubt.
Burna Boy has achieved a level of success that speaks for itself after his meteoric rise to fame around the world. But he doesn’t appreciate that, despite his success, his victories aren’t lauded to the extent that would satisfy his ego.
In “I Told Them,” Burna Boy recounts his experience of living in three different cultures at once (Nigeria, the United Kingdom/United States, and the Caribbean).
Despite his criticism of Afrobeat and Hip Hop’s distinguishing cultural characteristics, he incorporates them into his own work.
He has made “Lamba” and “Vibes” driven singles like “Giza,” while lately incorrectly claiming that Afrobeats lacks substance.
Despite his claims that African Americans lack awareness of their own culture, this CD delves deeply into Hip Hop. Perhaps these wavering leanings are what gave ‘I Told Them’ its brilliantly limbic atmosphere.
Burna Boy seems to be artistically constrained in terms of the styles of music he wants to create and the audiences he envisions hearing it.
Unlike his previous albums, “African Giant” and “Twice As Tall,” which both represent his newfound international fame, “I Told Them” floats between Hip Hop and Afrobeats without providing the finest of each genre.
The lack of sound exploration and the creator’s “I Told You So” attitude detract from what could have been an exciting record.
Even though he collaborated with his childhood music heroes RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan to provide depth to his Hip Hop research, the result satisfies more critical sentiments.
The majority of the record sounds like recycled classics. The delivery, melody, and technique of tracks like “Big 7,” “Dey Play,” and “City Boys” give hip-hop and Afro hybrids, but they sound quite similar.
Burna Boy’s strongest work on the album comes when he refrains from boasting and instead makes straightforward Pop recordings.
The aural appeal and effortless listening of tracks like “Tested, Approved & Trusted,” “Giza” starring Seyi Vibez, and “Talibans II” with Byron Messia are appreciated.
In paying tribute to the late Creative Design pioneer Virgil Abloh and the late rapper Sidhu, the record touches on some deeply personal themes.
In ‘If I’m Lying,’ he too appears to use vulnerability to express himself, but unlike in ‘Alone,’ the song doesn’t fare as well.