ALBUM REVIEW: ‘OUTSIDE’ — Burna Boy is a jerk, who is also a Genius
The above headline was one famously adopted by popular American magazine USA TODAY in their review of Kanye West’s ‘Life of Pablo’ album. And following the release of Burna Boy’s sixth project titled ‘Outside’ (which he conveniently calls a mix-tape, maybe because of some uncleared samples) on Friday, the 26th of January, I find myself comparing Burna Boy to Kanye West on several levels.
Prior to the release of the album, OluwaBurna had shut down the internet. The social media-sphere in its usual easily triggered manner went agog with accolades and eulogies when he put out one of the lead singles off the project in ‘Heaven’s Gate’ which features English singer, songwriter, actress and Grammy award nominee Lily Allen. ‘Heaven’s Gate’ was the third single being promoted and with this track, Burna created a monster sound that peaked at a place close to perfection, reminding music lovers of what he is about. But Burna has however also been a jerk, like Kanye, he has been engaged in endless streams of controversies that have done him no good over the course of his career. From his rumored stabbing to death of someone in London, which he denied, to several fights with fellow artistes,his rant at his non-nomination at the MAMAs, brandishing a gun on his Instagram Page, threatening to kill bloggers and many more which accumulated with his involvement in fellow artist Mr. 2Kay’s robbery attack late 2017 leading to the arrest of his manager and him being questioned by the police, which led to the cancellation of his proposed headline show denying his fans who had booked tickets ahead a piece of their superstar. Burna has championed the bad boy image and embraced the headlines more for controversies than the accolades that his talent truly deserves especially in recent times.
Following the lack luster reception of his last project, the Redemption EP, Burna was out to prove a point with ‘Outside’and make his doubters believers yet again. The project which contains 13 tracks and 3 guest appearances in Jhus, Lily Allen and Mabel is blessed with an array of beats from producers from Nigeria and Britain like Leriq, Jae 5, Jhuls, Chopstix, Steel Banglez and Fred Gibson.
More Life’ is that track that was supposedly meant for Drake but only got to be used as a chopped outro, so Burna decides to bring the full version as his intro, perhaps to quell the rumors about him working with the 6god. You however get an immediate feel that the track which is smooth and brings a different appeal doesn’t quite suit the thematic direction of the project and fails to hit off with an instant bang.
Burna has always been proud of where he is from and this he expresses on two tracks. on PH City Vibration,which is more of a city anthem than a song, Burna serves as a tour guide for his fans who have never been to the Rivers State capital as he bares it all, capturing life on the streets of PH city and walking us through the timeline of his life from the exact place and date when he was born, his favorite meal, frequent troubles that led to visits to the police station (apparently he is not new to this) and glorifying the positive sides of his city. This is a personal and intimate joint that helps form a bond between the artist and his fans, his flow and lyrical style are also potent as ever as he bounced off the beat in a creative and engaging way.Where I’m From is more like the reverse as he details the ills, genocide in the ghetto and drama that has casted PH city in a negative light.
If there is one thing that stands Burna out, it is his artistry and adroitness in his style, almost no one does it as he can. The distinct feel when he is in the mood that allows him to rise above the mediocre industry standard is witnessed on tracks like ‘Sekkle Down’ which features Jhus, the absolutely mind blowing ‘Heaven’s gate’ with Lily Allen and Giddem, which is a well delivered mellow dance hall tune that commands you to hit the dance floor.
He has always associated himself with the Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, even once performing at Felabration in just his pants like the Abami Eda and on tracks like ‘Ye’, which is another favorite off the project, he samples lines off ‘Sorrow, Tears and Blood’, this joint is vibrant as his melody and lyrics blend well with the message in reflecting on the struggles and the lamentations of surviving as a Nigerian. Another joint where Fela gets name dropped is On Streets of Africa,where Burna again creates something magical as he delivers a jolly-good-fellow happy song of an African who declares ‘I am Fela Kuti with the hoes, shirt off like I ain’t got no clothes’, the only down side of this joint is the cheesy hook which has the sprinkle of a nursery rhyme like Jidenna’s Bambi.
Rock your body is the first single released and in some ways reminds me of his 2012 hit single ‘Like to Party’ in the same sensual teasing way, Calm Down is a personal favorite because of its soothing flow with the melodies which is embossed by the synth beat and helps the joint find that extra edge that gives it a lovely ballad feel. Outside climaxes with the title track which features Mabel and closes the curtain perfectly on an entertaining ride.
The mark of a genius is their ability to do things in a different way and push the boundaries of their genre or discipline and at the end of this 13 track journey, Burna Boy has made music that is listenable, not totally deviating from what he wants to do but yet making it attractive for the mainstream audience. Like Kanye, he comes across as arrogant, self-destructive and at-times individualistic and the duo have failed to communicate their genius to the world when not in form of a song but that’s where the comparison ends, cause while Kanye has moved beyond these distractions to carve his niche even outside the music industry and sneaks into the debate as arguably the most influential artist of this century, Burna has failed to attain those heights and earn his due recognition.
Another attribute of a genius is their dynamic energy to keep creating and the singer already announced via a tweet late last year that he has begun work on his next project to be released later in the year. On Outside, backed by some solid production assists, Burna is in top form almost through the entire ’90 Minutes’ with his delivery, concept and lyrics as he creates a sound worthy of experiment and totally fresh from the ‘shaku shaku’ noise influencing the Pop culture presently. In previous projects since L.I.F.E, he has displayed glimpses, serving us piece meals when he deems fit without been exactly time defining or intentional, but on this project, he manages to put it together as a collective once again, capturing the mood, synergy, melodies and rhythm into one well-cooked dancehall-very introspective-happy-RnB effort that fully showcases his person in entirety. Like someone tweeted, Burna Boy is a musical genre all by himself and with this body of work, he was able to quiet his demons and focus his energy positively into bringing to life the genius that lies in him.