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‘I Told Them’ by Burna Boy: an exit from Afrobeats?

Written By: Calista Davis

Burna Boy released his seventh studio album on August 25th, 2023 enlisting the likes of Dave, J Cole, Bryson Messia, 21 Savage and Seyi Vibez. The 15–track LP has voicenotes and spoken words from RZA, GZA, J Hus, and Virgil Abloh.

Damini Ogulu’s journey to the world wide musical stage has been undoubtedly consistent. The Grammy award winning artist has never doubted his exceptional musical talent and prowess it’s
why his new album “I Told Them” brags about his undeniable successes, struggles & fame throughout his ride to stardom.

This album seems to be an exist to Afrobeat as he once boldly informed his Naija audience that he’s not a Nigerian artist. Although, the LP comprises of a couple of catchy tunes that would
swerve your whole body, it ultimately lacks organization. Additionally, some of the features seemed disjointed & lacked synchrony.

However, the album still stuck with the theme of self-belief and confidence especially in terms of exploring new and audacious sounds.

‘I Told Them’ embodies cross-continental sounds. Burna blends, of course his invented sound — Afro-fusion, UK/Caribbean dancehall, Afroswing, American 90’s Hip-hop, and Fela’s pioneering
sound – Afrobeat.

The intro track – ‘I Told Them’, starts on a looped Spanish guitar backed with mid tempo percussions, ‘has Burna Boy boasting about his global musical ascendance to those who once doubted him. He reminds us that he used to tell people that he’s “a genius/ real African giant.” The track ends with poetic words from GZA a member of the hiphop group – Wu Tang Clan.

Although, ‘On Form’ lacks lyrical concreteness for someone who claims that Afrobeat is a genre of no substance. Burna Boy jumps on the up tempo, sax filled afrobeat instrumental to sing about
absolutely anything that comes to his mind. Despite the track being incoherent, it definitely would put you on your feet dancing.

Again, it remains extremely ironic that Burna Boy has a song like ‘Giza’ featuring Seyi Vibez, an afrobeat street-pop musician on this album. The amapiano track laced with ‘vibes and inshallah’
suffers lyrical juice. After his recent interview with Zane Lowe where he gloated about “ Afrobeats as people call it is mostly about nothing. Literally nothing. There’s no substance to it like this” it is expected of him to produce only quality records of substance and value, otherwise he should embrace some form of decorum.

It is of no news that the self-acclaimed African Giant sampled his way to the top. In his usual element, ‘Sittin On Top of The World’ is sampled from Brandy ft ‘Top Of The World’ featuring Mase.

On this track appears Atlanta based rapper, 21 Savage. The heavy bassline hiphop instrumental has Damini encouraging his lover to keep embracing the pleasures of life. This track deeps into the vulnerable and romantic side of these two thugs.

Similarly, If I’m lying appears to be more personal as Burna Boy, on an acoustic guitar backed with choral vocals, humbly proves his love to his girl. The vulnerability of this track gives a sober insight into Damini’s love life as he wishes for the “oceans & seas start dryin/ the birds in the sky stop flyin’/ the trees in the world start dyin’ as he fights to win the heart of his lover.

Four years after releasing a smashing hit ‘Location,’ Burna Boy and Dave return with ‘Cheated on me.’ This track majorly encapsulate the obstacles Africans experience when immigrating or traveling around the world especially in terms of obtaining a visa – “make embassy no deny me visa/for the fact I have to fight for my visa.” They sing about wanting to freedom and explore the luxuries of life globally.
During Ogulu’s ascension to limelight, he battled with people who tried to box him as a dancehall artist.

‘Tested, Approved, & Trusted’ has Burna boy embracing what he once rejected, Dancehall. T.A.T is a sexy, slow tempo, sensual song that has Burna Boy assuring a new girl that his body is
a safe space for her to explore.

Another Caribbean influence on the album is ‘Talibans II’, a joint
track with St Kittian upcoming dancehall artist, Bryson Messia.
The self-acclaimed African Giant on ‘Big 7’ starts with paying a tribute to late Virgil – “first of all, rest in peace Virgil Abloh” and subsequently to rapper “Sidhu.” The term may symbolize his
seventh studio album – “I Told Them…” and the number 7 signifies perfection. Could it be Burna Boy implying that this album will be his best ? Similarly, ‘Big 7,’ ‘Dey Play’ & ‘City Boys’ offer same energy, lyrical delivery in terms of his achievements, accomplishments & status in music worldwide. Thanks has Oluwa Burna gaslighting Nigerians for under-appreciating his efforts for putting the
country on the global stage – “Is this the mother fucking thanks I get”.

He raises some controversial statements made about him that seemed to either be mocking or accusing: “You
say my mama dance for Fela/You say I no get baby mama/You say I shoot person for Cubana.”

This track has Burna longing for appreciation and understanding especially from his Nigerian audience. It’s evident that Burna lacks self-awareness because he’s known to bully his Nigerian
fans. Flash back to his last concert in Lagos where violently attacked an attendee on stage.

Rating – 7.5/10

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