I’ve been sitting here long enough to gather dust, shutting up, minding my business, waiting along with the rest of my damn country for Burna to land a hat trick with African Giant so we can call it a day and bully everything else off the top 10’s for a couple of months, maybe forever, I don’t make the rules.
If Burna drops an album with 19 tracks, 20 will be hits; argue with yourself! Infinite ideas are happening at the same time all the time, some better than others, some altogether useless and some that need to be Ctrl+z’d off the face of the earth. But by and large, African Giant is the Nigerian situation. Culling Hank Moody, when Burna makes art, he paints with the full set of oils, other acts are just busy doodling with crayons. Each chord on the album was strung by a ghost of 1960 and everything that has and hasn’t happened there on after. I live in Nigeria but Nigeria lives in the past. Banks turn to bukas as society eats itself and Ferraris race themselves on highways, weaving potholes that stairwell all the way down to Hell. There’re speed bumps in the hallways and development in all the wrong places. We’re done for, but still breathing.
The year is 2000 & gbese, the day is Friday; the mosquitoes leave a sermon on your back in braille, your stomach is backup singing for a squad of niggas, afros growing out of their armpits, freestyling on the balcony. Not a spoon of food in your mouth, not a drop of water on your tongue, you can’t see for sh*t but you don’t need to because there’s nothing left to see. You’re sitting in your dude’s apartment wondering why you can’t pay your rent, unknown to you that you were only born because your mom needed to pay her own rent, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘it’s about time to take my Life’. But life na multiple-choice, so today, you go with ‘none of the above’. You plug in your earphones and plug out of present-day Naija.
If I drank every time Burna dropped eternal fire, my liver would’ve filed charges by now. My shuffle wormholes me from dancehall to whatever new genre that man made on this album. As “Wetin Man Go Do” segues into the Caribbean melt of chords playing ‘now you see me now you don’t’ on every other track on African Giant. With a roster of white-hot singles already in the tuck, you already know it’s about to be a cosmic groove. Welcome to the place where time stands still, the shekpe flows and always will, your liver never rots, and your heart pumps quasars. Three tracks and two hundred Zlatan ad-libs in, I’m convinced I need a pair of red bottoms and a banging party to wear them to; where the women are beautiful and the bass is life-threating. But I was taught respect, and my pockets are equally entitled to that, so I hold my peace.
As chord coincides with cadence and tone meets phrase on happenstance tangents, Jamaica amalgamates with Nigeria on the frontiers of the Atlantic and identities spill over into themselves. With every blind turn the album takes, you can hardly ever tell whether you’re closer to or further away from the border than you were two minutes ago. I see fruiting coconut trees, lilted by the numb of the ganja, and still torn between the same two women from last year’s Felabration, but I don’t know where I am. The streets smell of Mushin, but the air tastes of Kingston. My sense of place is as mislayed as the palette of tones on swivel. One minute Jorja Smith is pulling you out of earshot of the album’s deeper conversations, and the next, Damian Marley’s pebbled patois pays a round trip ticket from the sepia tinge of a distant memory to the technicolor of present-day and back. When ‘Different’ comes on, everybody was probably expecting to see Burna riding shotgun from intro to outro, Damian flooring the gas all by his lonesome. But by the 1:41 minute mark, you can hear Damian Marley being thrown across the studio as Burna switches up with the descants and starts harmonizing as if his life hung in the balance, and pretty much giving us reasons to carve out the king-size bedposts we never knew we needed, ‘cuz we’ve been sleeping, and probably don’t look forward to waking up, because na part 2 dey always sweet pass.
‘Spiritual’ comes on and I know I’ve heard this beat in a dream before I ever heard it on a song, so you know there’re some things that were just meant to be. Basically, you have to hate yourself not to love this. And since we’re speaking about previous intuitions, I kept having this nightmare of Shattawale making a guest appearance on the album, so salute to the fact that that didn’t happen. And, salute to the fact that Burna went straight for the neck on ‘Another Story’, but if there’s a way to surgically remove or exorcise the ghost of R2Bees being channelled from the 3:32 mark to the end of M.anifest’s verse, I wouldn’t be mad at that either.
Burna Boy used to be the most underrated artiste in Nigeria NOT named Brymo. But table dey turn & chair dey change. I want us all to acknowledge the fact that there’s a fundamental difference between people that just sing over beats & make you want to buy a drink just ‘cuz say them pour the drink enter cup for advert AND people that actually make MUSIC.
First time ‘Anybody’ came on, I saw Chaka the Zulu stampede out of my speakers on a bison and I started accepting the fact that this album was probably going to be a classic. But, ‘Gbona’. There’s never been a track that sounded like this before. You have to have red stripes on your arms and ivory tusks hanging from your nose to make a song like this. This song should’ve had winged virgins with trumpets scratched out of bull horns riding on the backs of bronze elephants & gorillas walking on the walls of the Basilica off its strength alone.
But let me gossip small, I’ve finally worked out the motives behind the creation of the song ‘Killin Dem’. The drums kick in like automatic weapons and I won’t lie, I accidentally made a sign of the cross but you’re missing the point. I have no idea what hour in the day this song was recorded but I can hear ritual murders holding in the background and owls harassing infant boys and girls so reach your own conclusions. I don’t know how many goats this man used in the blood sacrifice that inspired him to make this song, and I won’t speak on the starving two-year old’s whose blood was poured for the 3 minutes & 41 seconds this song spent recording because that would be unofficial of me, so I won’t call any names but you already thought of Zlatan and that’s on you not me.
As for the song ‘Show & Tell’, I won’t lie and say I fell in love with it off-top, but it kept popping up every other 8 minutes and I kept not skipping it, so it sorta-kinda grew on me. But, ‘Destiny’. I’m not even going to pretend like I give a f*ck about this song. This is the one track on the album I find myself re-entering my password just to skip. Lass lass one man’s meat is another’s poison, but there’s not a soul alive that can tell me he/she didn’t low-key mouth the lyrics to that ‘Blak Ryno’ skit at a point in their lives. That joint sounded like something a young dumb & drunk Lucky Dube might’ve left behind in the studio one Wednesday. God bless the man behind that skit. I don’t know why he wasn’t mentioned, but God bless that man.
I can see Kel P’s footprints and fingerprints all over the next track. Awolowo and Azikiwe died and lived on as archangels so you know where the trumpets on ‘Dangote’ came from. As Burna gives the role call of billionaires that don’t need the money but haven’t stopped making it in the 30 seconds that close the song, I’m convinced of the song I want playing at my funeral as my casket departs into dark waters on a Viking longship set ablaze by my pallbearers…Or not. But that doesn’t change the fact that the track was much better than decent, and Burna professionally padded this entire album out with bangers. Not a single lukewarm/room temperature track on this project. Easy money.
If you can scroll through your phone and find up to 3 Reminisce songs there’s a good chance this album may not be for you.
I lean over to check the time and find myself waking up to another 5 a.m. in Nigeria. African Giant was accidentally stuck on repeat throughout the night, but we look forward to accidents like this. If Fela were to reincarnate as an audio file, he’d come back as this. And to put an end to this, African Giant is the best album to come out of Africa this year. Anybody that doesn’t share the same opinion, drop your location in the comments, I want to fight!
NB: Burna Boy is the only reason I drink Star to this day, so this review may have been written under the influence. I sha kack with my two bottles, dey wait make Grammy’s go meet who them suppose meet.
ff on instagram @sixisms. I love wine