‘On a Spaceship’. That was the title of Burna Boy’s 2015 sophomore album which was received with mixed feelings. It was disappointing for most, bang average for many and great for probably a non-existent few. I relate with this quote by Pulse’s Joey Akan in describing that particular album “Burna Boy lined up this LP with just enough sonic fuel to launch, but not enough to hit the moon, and break through the galaxies on a Spaceship.” Yeah they were a few decent songs on the album but the bulk of it was a run-off-the-mill. I remember after listening to that album, I started doubting Burna’s potential. How silly was I? I received a bit of healing when he reunited with long-time producer Leriq on 2016’s Redemption EP. Things seemed like they were back to normal, as he released free music at intervals, made guest appearances on major songs & projects, and things got better when pictures of the link up with Drake appeared on the internet. I was relieved; it seemed he was finally on the upward trajectory his talents deserved. Then news broke again, that he was involved in the assault and robbery of Nigerian singer Mr 2kay. What?? I had no doubt he had lost the plot and I was going to pull the plug on any sort of belief I had left in him. That was it! For that reason, I went into listening to this album with feelings of betrayal and resentment.
The album’s opener ‘More Life’ has strong leaning towards jazz with soothing trumpets blazing underneath some delightful drum patterns. It’s a song with a backstory, as he had earlier revealed at the album’s listening party how it was sampled beyond recognition and placed on the outro of Drake’s song ‘Get It Together’ off his criminally named playlist ‘More life’. Read more on the gist here.
Burna Boy has the ability to make the most squalid of situations look appealing, and he makes recreational drug use sound pious on ‘Calm Down’ as he sings, “…so i just put all my pain and my problems in this styrofoam cup and drink it all away” over a beat that would be perfect theme music for a grand angelic entry. His birth city is a recurring theme of the album and on ‘City Vibration’ he speaks of it with pride as he tells tales about the city. It’s reggae-pop done with good imagery, as you begin to feel as though you were walking through the places he name-drops as you listen. On ‘Where I’m from’ he’s reflective and vulnerable on a beat with a well chopped, misty sample. He speaks of a genocide from his past, the lack of belief by the people around him and how he had to inevitably self-motivate himself.
On Koni Baje he humorously says “me i no come here to sing song wey make you come dey dance azonto” but it’s weirdly move-bodyworthy. Giddem is laid back, slow tempo party music; that creatively fuses trickling afrobeat rhythm with some of pop’s irresistible pull. The chorus to ‘Ye’ resonates with every class of the society, as he asks “my nigga what’s it gon be, G-wagon or the Bentley?” For the rich it’s simply a call to make a decision, for the broke it serves as a rare glimpse of the life of the rich; in hopes to motivate us. Interestingly, I have it playing as I write this, and it’s the song I’ve had to give more spins cos I can’t get enough of it just yet. Sekkle Down is a bashment cut with RnB sprinklings, that sees J Hus and Burna Boy collaborate once again after party anthem Good Time off J Hus’ Common Sense album. JAE5’s production is infectious and both artistes seem to have developed good chemistry.
Outside ironically sees Burna Boy revealing his inner self and fears unashamedly. If On a Spaceship was diluted, Outside is concentrated. It’s Burna Boy in raw form, he is at the core of his elements as he puts together a catalogue of songs filled with brazen honesty and unending vibes. Admittedly, some of the music has its roots from foreign grounds, but Burna firmly brings the bold aura of a Port Harcourt boy to these songs to create a blooming body of work. There’s something in there for every one; no matter what genre may be your favourite. I’m going to break all grammatical and writing rules (there are no rules actually), and straight up say I think this album is very sweet, it tastes sweet to the ears. This is sweet music.