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Unveiling Burna Boy’s Quest for Recognition in ‘I Told Them…’

Burna Boy I Told Them… album cover – (Atlantic Records)

Burna Boy delves into introspection through his latest album, ‘I Told Them…’, reaffirming his stature as an African Giant while sparking both admiration and critique.

Recently, Burna Boy introduced his seventh studio album, ‘I Told Them…’, to the world. The Nigerian artist has been on a remarkable trajectory, making history as the first African artist to sell out a U.S. stadium and headlining London Stadium, with a capacity of 80,000. Renowned for his Afro-fusion blend that intertwines dancehall, reggae, Afropop, and R&B, Burna Boy’s latest creation witnesses him expanding the horizons of his craft, melding Afro-fusion with hip-hop. However, while tracks like “Big 7” and “City Boys” showcase experimentation, they also hint at a creative rehash.

Embracing a larger-than-life persona, Burna Boy’s transition into the braggadocious realm of hip-hop in songs like “City Boys” seamlessly blends rap flow with his melodious style. This signature approach catapulted him into the spotlight years ago, but while it remains captivating, it lacks the element of novelty.

Burna Boy is seen on set of his music video in SoHo on July 06, 2023 in New York City. (PRaymond Hall/Getty)

The release of the pre-album single, “Big 7,” offered a glimpse into Burna’s evolving direction. The accompanying music video, shot in NYC, featured luminaries like RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, and Junior Mafia. Surprisingly, Burna Boy’s childhood influences include DMX, Wu-Tang Clan, and early ’90s hip-hop, as shared in an interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music.

WU-TANG INSPIRATION AND BOLD MOVE

Rapper and songwriter GZA of the iconic Wu-Tang Clan

Burna Boy’s 15-track album, ‘I Told Them…’, echoes the Wu-Tang Clan’s essence through a spoken-word performance by GZA and Shaolin kung-fu samples, which grace the entire album. Burna Boy attested that the Wu-Tang influence captured the energy he aimed to convey, and the kung-fu samples symbolized his emotional journey during album creation.

The opening track, “I Told Them,” serves as Burna Boy’s declaration to skeptics and critics who failed to recognize his greatness before he became a global sensation. With the proclamation “I’m a genius/I had to show them what the meaning is,” Burna Boy engages in introspection, reaffirming his status as an African giant and reminding the world of his long-standing claim to greatness.

Despite Burna Boy’s remarkable journey and commercial success, it’s evident that he still strives to prove himself, particularly to those who doubted his potential. Addressing naysayers, he uses his music as a channel to respond, channeling his feelings into records or albums.

SOUNDLY CRAFTED YET LACKING IN DEPTH

Although ‘I Told Them…’ boasts impressive sonic quality, it falls short in terms of thematic depth. Burna Boy’s album largely revolves around self-validation from listeners, overshadowing his socio-politically conscious persona, which he often presents in interviews.

While Burna Boy raises issues like visa denial in “Cheat on Me,” he doesn’t advocate for those affected. His album lacks the socio-economic commentary that artists like Omah Lay, Falz, and Lojay infuse into their music. While sonically appealing, ‘I Told Them…’ seems more about Burna Boy showcasing his musical prowess than engaging listeners in thought-provoking narratives.

Strategically woven with samples, the album breathes new life into existing tracks. In “Cheat on Me,” Burna Boy collaborates with UK artist Dave, melding Yoruba, English, and Pidgin seamlessly. Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex” features on “City Boys,” capturing Burna Boy’s venture into hip-hop and black American culture.

Through ‘I Told Them…’, Burna Boy remains faithful to his Afro-fusion roots, encompassing a blend of Yoruba, Pidgin, and a fusion of genres and cultures. His dedication to legendary figures like Virgil Abloh and Sidhu is evident, adding a personal touch to the album.

A JOURNEY OF EVOLUTION ‘I Told Them…’ marks Burna Boy’s endeavor to conquer the global mainstream without forsaking his Afro-fusion foundation. His album portrays his innovative musical evolution, evident in his commitment to diverse sounds and his resistance to being confined to a single genre.

Burna Boy’s artistic journey reflects his multi-dimensional personality, encapsulating both vulnerability and confidence. While ‘I Told Them…’ holds its own, it doesn’t quite match the originality of ‘African Giant’ or the critical acclaim of the Grammy-winning ‘Twice as Tall.’

In conclusion, ‘I Told Them…’ resonates with Burna Boy’s continued pursuit of musical evolution and recognition, encapsulating both the captivating and the contemplative sides of his artistry.

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