Self-acclaimed “African Giant”, and popularly known as Burna Boy, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu is an afrobeat, Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is in the third tier of his life and has accomplished much for himself and his music career. In 2019, he won Best International Act at the BET Awards; his fourth and fifth albums, “African Giant” and “Twice as Tall” were nominated at the 62nd and 63rd Grammy Awards, respectively. “Twice as Tall” won Best World Music Album at the 63rd Grammy Awards. He also released his sixth album in 2022, titled ‘Love, Damini’.
Review of “Twice as Tall” Album by Burna Boy
Burna Boy’s fifth album “Twice as Tall” was released in August 2020; this was during the covid-19 pandemic that resulted in total lockdowns in all countries in the world. He did most of the song recording in Ahoada, Rivers State, Nigeria, and because of the pandemic, he worked together with his music producer through virtual files transfer and Zoom calls. The album is about a period of time in the musician’s life, “it is the album about the struggle for freedom, about life in general, real life, good times, bad times, happy times, sad times, and great times”, Burna said in a press release.
In terms of production, it was mainly produced by Telz, with others including Rexxie, Timbaland, and DJDS. The album also featured guest appearances from Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour, American Hip Hip trio, Naughty by Nature, Kenyan Afropop band, Sauti Sol, Chris Martin, and Stormzy.
The album also had an animated comic book ‘The Secret Flame’ that was narrated by the singer’s grandfather, Benson Idonije. It highlighted Burna’s self-discovery and the very moments that brought him to where he is standing tall today. The artwork depicted him in cartoon form as a titan, marching over modern roads and ancient monuments. Burna said the art was an exact depiction of what he wanted to portray.
In the aspect of song composition, the album ‘Twice as Tall” is a blend of Afrobeats, Afrobeat, dancehall, pop, and hip-hop. It is Burna’s battle cry written and put in songs; it can feel heavy under the weight of Burna’s personal reflection and Pan-African crusade. The twist and mix of Afrobeat, reggae, dancehall, and hip-hop; scream his passion.
In the first track “Level up”
Burna recounted his wild rise and celebrated his achievements. He featured Youssou N’Dour on this track, revisiting times when he was not there yet and struggled with whether he should give up or not. He recounted when he lost the Best World Music Album Awards to Beninese Angelique Kidjo, who he reverenced so much although, the loss sickened him; “I remember when me couldn’t level up cause the Grammys had me feeling sick as fuck”. He also recounted times he that’s felt small, and initiated a familiar, satisfying arc of a hero’s journey.
The beat of this track has a contemporary Afro-pop sound in outlook and is heavily influenced by Fela’s Afrobeat ear in delivery. It is the short track on the album. It started with a spoken intro from the executive producer Diddy and a sudden rush of melody by a saxophone. It kind of has a danceable tune; for anyone looking for a song to dance and vibe to, it is definitely one.
“Way Too Big”
Burna is seen in a self-confident form, relaying his intention to avoid bad company as subtle violin runs cushion his vocals. He noted that he’s bigger than some things and also liked himself with Muri. Burna vaunts his greatness in this track, he sings “Your back and spinal cord go break if you carry my weight”. The ‘Way Too Big’ track is just a vibe song, not a danceable one. It gives this vibe of ‘im bigger than haters or enemies.
In ‘Bebo’, Burna discussed his unwillingness to pretense. He incorporated some Yoruba words in the song and expressed how he is a jovial person and not the one to snub a familiar face. He also acknowledge God as his source and rebuked the devil. The track was produced by Rexxie.
On the fifth track, “Wonderful”
Produced by Telz, Burna expressed excitement about his people and the globalization of Afrobeat. It has an infusion of Nigerian pidgin and Yoruba. He described Afrobeat as a “banga” and how anyone who listens feels it from their feet. It reveals the mystery of rhythm and hustle, and what sounds and drums can evoke; how they can make you happy and move from your toes to your scalp. According to Burna, it is about the wonders of seeing the impact of music on people’s lives. It is the song for that sad mood.
It was also produced by Telz and has this happy and triumphant tune. It has lyrics that anyone could relate to and gyrate to. It is a scampish love song to his love, as he made mention of “Onyeka” inspired by Onyeka Onwennu, the Nigerian diva and activist.
In the seventh track “Naughty Nature”,
He featured the American hip-hop trio, Naughty by Nature. Burna talked about his journey to where he is now and his experiences with ladies; he called himself Naughty by Nature. He also expressed his dislike for politics and the hip-hop trio did a rap verse. It has a slow danceable hip-hop tempo that allows anyone listening, to move slowly from left to right.
In the song Burna used the Port Harcourt slang “comma” to describe flaws in ladies especially in their cosmetic procedures. It is the party anthem like “Killing Dem” that has a danceable beat.
“No Fit Vex”
The track was produced by LeriQ and Burna was giving positive twists. He pointed out that life is not easy and understands the hustle and struggles of life. He described himself as a man who is less interested in his petty side; he would celebrate with his friends when he sees them winning.
Burna sees himself as similar to Micheal Jordan, the Basketball legend, in the music industry; he says “No act like say I no deserve am”. The track features a piano-assisted instrumental from the beginning. He pointed out that he does not trust anyone because there are many pretenders and hypocrites who are identical to the devil.
Burna featured vocals from Sauti Sol with a spoken outro from his mother Bose Ogulu. “Time Flies” insert Marc Anthony’s “I Need You”. It talks about how time waits for no one; “time flies like a thief in the night” and everyone has a story to tell.
“Monsters You Made”
The song is a politically charged Reggae-Fusion that explores the historical injustices on an oppressed race that is convinced enough should be enough. The song addresses African and African-American experiences with prejudice and explores subjects like slavery and miseducation. The song is also filled with suffering, rage, and plenty of defiance relating to Africa. It features Chris Martin on vocals and a spoken outro by Ghanaian author and poet Ama Ata Aidoo.
“Wettin Dey Sup”
In this song, Burna speaks against gun violence and police brutality although it is mainly personal. He revisits his root as a Port Harcourt boy with street nugget “Wettin Dey Sup” which in English literally means “What’s Happening”. He started the song with controversial line “I nor be one of those men who dey fear toto fuck nyash, check am na pa koro pa…”, which is a street proverb that refers to the absence of hypocrisy or factual statement.
Burna featured Stormzy on this track. Here he was dishing out the “Im trying to find my peace” vibe. It has the true R&B style with Stormzy crooning and the aid of a vocoder.
“Bank on It”
Burna explores his belief in a supreme being and has relied on it in the face of a potential setback. He also begs for forgiveness if he makes a mistake and protection from his adversaries; the line that says “so forgive me if I fumble cause I am only human”. “Somebody move that I don’t know, hit them with the seven-box combo”, this line denotes protection from anyone planning evil against him. The song came to a close with the choir harmonizing as the main hook.
Seeing that this album won the ‘Best World Music Album’ at the 63rd Grammys, it is most definitely a hit. The album combines hip-shaking beats and upbeat cries for Black solidarity with a contagious sense of independence. ‘Twice as Tall’ is an album that’s worth giving ears to.