Burna Boy Album Review: The ‘Redemption’ The Release of the EP, Redemption, by Burna Boy coincides with the restoration of his status to visit the United Kingdom after he broke the law a few years ago. If this EP was to serve promotional purposes upon his return to the U.K, its aesthetics hardly pander to this demography.
It would seem that in this latest EP, Redemption, Burna Boy retraces his steps from his errant Spaceship voyage. In place of the unfortunate dabbling characteristic of his sophomore, this album returns to mid-tempo, with that retro feel, and only occasionally does it flirt with pop aesthetics. It hardly tries to catch that energetic swing characteristic of grime. Like with EPs, Burna enjoys the creative leeway that the confines of the LP hardly allow. He experiments with his sound but from the secure base of his strengths.
At seven tracks lasting about twenty-two minutes and enjoying production credits from his longtime collaborator, LeriQ, Burna Boy’s Redemption is quite the return to vintage Burna. Unarguably, vintage Burna is that Burna sound on his debut album, L.I.F.E, which came fresh out of the factory pressed with the classic insignia.
To reiterate Burna’s strength will require a word or two on his musical pedigree which is not at the risk of being over-flogged as it is integral to Burna’s sophisticated sound. Burna Boy is grandson to Benson Idonije, the octogenarian and veteran music journalist who, amongst other things, was one time Fela Kuti’s band manager. From an early age, Burna must have been exposed to an avalanche of music influences from highlife to juju music to jazz. Burna Boy quotes Fela as one of his idols and he is in the habit of energizing Fela’s song ever so often. Another of his influences is Sizzla Kalonji, the reggae/dancehall maestro. Between Fela and Sizzla is a sheaf of influences too copious to be mentioned, and of course, there is that signature that is unmistakably Burna’s.
On the music scene, sounding different comes with the severe risk of becoming unpopular – a tendency only a few artistes with unusual temperaments can brave. But then, even in the kiln of sounding alternative, there is a shared kinship amongst the likes of Burna Boy, Mr Eazi and Black Magic. If Black Magic stays on the far left with the most unlikely chance of striking a bargain of super commercial breakthrough, Mr Eazi is the new kid on the block, fresh with a Ghanaian charm and novelty. Burna Boy sits in the middle of the two trying to navigate his career to new grounds. It is from this restlessness that his latest EP is born.
However struggle hardly always brings triumph. On Body to Body, Burna spoofs Craig David, melding the familiar and nostalgic with what is definitively new and America. When he says, “you know I read your mind soon as I get inside”, the seductive arc is complete and exempts the critic. It is unlikely not to want to vibe to this music.
Boshe nlo drops close to home with that Burna drawl which is effective especially in Yoruba, but the song itself pales from a distinct lack of ambition. Fa So La Ti Do delivers on the promise of artful play on sonic tolfas. And with very few inventive changes, a new sexual meaning is born on a mid-tempo rhythm.
Mary Jane starts off as a spin-off of Minnie Ripperton’s Loving You but departs on its journey to become a serious song about difficult relationships. Plenty Song reflects in patois over a dancehall riddim on a number of things—his discography and being a 90s Baby. Pree Me still wings that dancehall riddim albeit in a more up-tempo manner and talks about the hoopla of Burna’s artistic career. He sings, “I have a lot of enemies, some of them used to be my friends.” But the general hang of the song is more reflective and perhaps more philosophical than it is angry.
We on, one of the shorter songs of the album, enjoys top-grade production of trap drums. It is inadvertently something you can dab to.
It might not be far-fetched to call Burna’s latest effort a prodigal move back to his place of comfort and tested methods. That is some sort of redemption.
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