The personal and spiritual growth doesn’t stop in Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall | Music Review | Chicago Reader

The personal and spiritual growth doesn’t stop in Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall 

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click to enlarge Burna Boy

Burna Boy

Courtesy the Artist

As much as mainstream Western music-media outlets compare contemporary African artists to one another, often flattening the expansiveness of their sounds under a single Afrobeats umbrella, some musicians from the continent continue to prove they’re in a league of their own with every new release. Burna Boy’s new fifth studio album, Twice as Tall, is the latest testament in this ongoing story. From the start of the album, the London-based Nigerian singer-songwriter (born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu) leans into his ability to make you dance while digesting his many messages, including the importance of persisting through self-doubt and not letting naysayers control how you move in the world and perceive yourself. On “Level Up” he confesses that a lack of establishment validation from the Grammy Awards nearly made him second-guess his calling, while on “Way Too Big” he gets deep in his bag, proclaiming that he’s on a path of unending greatness—a theme in line with the titles of the new record and of last year’s African Giant. Though the recording hybridizes drum-filled Nigerian rhythms even more thoroughly with popular mainstream hip-hop and pop than Burna Boy’s previous work, he never budges when it comes to his native tongue, seamlessly singing in Yoruba and Nigerian pidgin English throughout. He also continues to call out modern colonialism, exploitive international relations, and their impact on the corruption in his country’s government. The Nigeria-London connection is ever-present in the African diaspora, and London’s impact can be heard in most of Burna Boy’s music—but what stands out on this record is increased collaboration with African-American artists. Diddy served as executive producer and contributed voice-overs, and the track “Naughty by Nature” is named for and features the legendary hip-hop trio. Burna Boy recently made appearances on the posthumous Pop Smoke album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, and on Twice as Tall closing track “Bank on It,” he reflects on the Brooklyn rapper’s death as a reminder that everyone should live their lives to the fullest. Burna Boy’s international sound continues to conjure a collective awakening for Black people across the world; though our music may sound different, it all stems from the same place. On Twice as Tall he stands in this global nexus, proclaiming a better understanding of himself and his people, and brings joy to the forefront while acknowledging the complicated past and present—and likely future—of Black people everywhere.   v

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