Burna Boy's 'Twice as Tall " Album Drops 13th August
Burna Boy — the Nigerian songwriter, singer and rapper who was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu — once thought he’d be content writing the sleek, self-assured party tunes that first drew fans to his mixtapes in the early 2010s. But as his popularity spread worldwide, the spirits who guide his songwriting had other plans for him. Soon, he was taking up broader, more consequential ideas.
“Music is a spiritual thing,” he said in an interview via video call from his studio in Lagos. Wearing a white Uber jersey and puffing a hand-rolled smoke, with jeweled rings glittering on his fingers, Burna Boy spoke about his fifth album, “Twice as Tall,” which was still getting some finishing touches ahead of its Aug. 13 release date.
“I’ve never picked up a pen and paper and written down a song in my life,” he said. “It all just comes, like someone is standing there and telling me what to say. It’s all according to the spirits. Some of us are put on this earth to do what we do.”
For “Twice as Tall,” Burna Boy enlisted an American executive producer: Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy, who has long guided rappers and singers (most famously the Notorious B.I.G. and Mary J. Blige) toward wider audiences. “I’m on record that I like hit records. If they’re not hit records, I don’t like them,” Combs said via FaceTime from Los Angeles.
“A lot of times when an artist wants to be coached or pushed to maybe a greater level, that’s where I’ve come in,” he said. “He, as every artist, he wants his music to be heard by the world. He doesn’t care about crossing over. You know, he’s not trying to get hot. He’s not, like, ‘I want to be a big pop star’ — he’s already a star. He wants his music to be heard, his message, his people.”
Most of the album was recorded during the pandemic, and Burna Boy and Combs collaborated across an eight-hour time difference via frequent Zoom calls and file transfers. Combs brought in musical contributions including drums from Anderson .Paak on the foreboding “Alarm Clock” and additional production from Timbaland on “Wetin Dey Sup,” a song punctuated by gunshots and sirens that warns, “They only respect the money and the violence.”
Combs also makes his presence audible with voice-over intros on some songs, briefly upstaging Burna Boy. But he said that the music was about 80 percent complete, including all of the songwriting, before he was brought in to provide “fresh ears” and his sense of detail. The album he added, is “a modern but pure, unapologetic African body of work.”
For the most part, Burna Boy hasn’t diluted his African heritage to reach his global audience. Instead, he has placed an unmistakably African stamp on music drawn from all around Africa and from across the African diaspora. He has a calm, husky, resolute voice that exemplifies the West African cultural virtue of coolness: poise and control transcending any commotion. His melodic sense is rooted in pentatonic African modes but unconstrained by them, and he has a stable of producers who deliver some of the most innovative rhythm tracks in 21st-century pop — usually working alongside Burna Boy in his studio, he said. He sings, most often, in a pidgin of English and Yoruba, confident that his meaning will get through even if listeners don’t recognize all the words.
Curated from NEW YORK TIMES