Nigerian superstar Burna Boy – aka Damini Ogulu – continues his reign as one of the best musical acts of the present African diaspora with powerful musical stories that’s explorative yet completely true to his roots. Following his international breakthrough with last year’s Grammy-nominated album African Giant, Burna delivers a collection of personal reflections drowned in the diverse musicality of his newly discovered Afro-fusion sound on the latest LP Twice as Tall.
With a rich, passionate blend of afrobeat, reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, EDM, and everything in-between, the album is an introspective yet outward-facing journey that moves simultaneously through the world’s failures and individual successes.
On album opener “Level Up,” Burna delves into the hidden corners of his heart as he recounts instances in his life where he felt powerless. With the pensive tones of this first track, the somber synth stylings of soaring offering “Way Too Big”, and the foreboding presence of Anderson .Paak’s drum work on saxophone-led “Alarm Clock,” Burna establishes that Twice as Tall isn’t as danceable and fun as his previous projects; but it’s filled with a kind of impassioned levity that doesn’t allow it go ignored.
Where most of the record – executive produced by Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs – is ambitiously rooted in Burna’s hyper-focused mission of bringing in every fold of the diaspora into his music, he allows himself and the listeners a reprieve from his crusading fury with dance tracks Wonderful,” “Onyeka (Baby),” “Naughty by Nature,” and “Comma.”
Veering from the heaviness he holds throughout most of the album, the 29-year-old artist indulges in the anthemic vibe of “Comma,” the superficiality of the catchy love song “Onyeka (Baby),” about Nigerian diva and activist Onyeka Onwenu, and tongue-in-cheek “Naughty by Nature,” where he calls upon his well-known charm.
While a lot of Twice As Tall, hinges off Burna’s confidence in the path he has chosen, his faith in higher powers and genuine pride in his hard-won success, the album’s peak comes when he is in his most euphoric, frenzied state on highly anticipated Chris Martin collaboration “Monsters You Made. A moody, serious offering which speaks of disenfranchisement and challenges governments to pay attention to the plight of an entire race, this track is a much-needed exercise in catharsis not only for Burna – as he proclaims, “It’s like the heads of the state / Ain’t comprehending the hate / That the oppressed generate / When they’ve been working like slaves”- but for the world.
In the heavy silence that follows, Burna brings the album to a tactful close with another collaboration, this time UK rapper and singer Stormzy who offers assurance in the soothing salve of “Real Life,” before Burna closes it off with “Bank on It,” providing a human juxtaposition to his superhuman efforts to encourage Black unity and self-reliance.
Overall, Twice As Tall may not as impressive as the feel-good hits of times past, but it’s commendable for not taking the easy route and its ability to call for serious change without missing the beat on infectious, unforgettable rhythm.