Burna Boy's 'African Giant' is Much Bigger than We're Yet to Realize
Evan Dale // Aug 12, 2019
Diving into the explosion of the world’s largest current cultural phenomenon – A West African Renaissance of sorts enveloping everything from music to fashion to cinematography and reaching everywhere the West African cultural diaspora has expanded globally – highlighting the Caribbean, North America, and the UK in particular – would be superfluous without discussing Burna Boy. The Nigerian artist is transcendental – marked by Nigerian Alté, West African Afropop, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Neo-Soul and their grand coalescence in a post-genre era. His career is defined by nearly a decade of limelight exposure at home and a burgeoning influence as king of the West African Cultural Renaissance’s international music-driven directive. Onwards from his 2018 album, Outside (the fifth of his career), he has only ramped up the prolificity in mirroring with his global notoriety – dropping a collaborative project with Los Angeles-based production duo DJDS, Steel & Copper, six singles, Gbona, On The Low, Killin Dem, Dangote, Anybody, and Pull Up, and featuring across an innumerable amount of further tracks and projects, lending his uniquely sought-after aesthetic across the stylistic spectrum. If that weren’t somehow enough, he won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards, was named Apple Music’s Up Next Artist in early July, and dropped his sixth career album, African Giant, on July 25.
The project is more than timely, arriving as yet another 2019 exhibition on the glory of modern Afrofuturism from a veteran that helped seed it all in the first place. It’s also a further exploration of Burna Boy’s own sound, rounding out into his most personal and most refined to date. Lastly, it’s simply the latest collection proving that seemingly everyone in music is on board with the West African movement. Akin to other 2019 projects from West African Cultural Renaissance artists like Santi’s Mandy & The Jungle and projects from the arena’s greater influence like GoldLink’s Diaspora and Alxndr London’s IVMERIN, African Giant is littered with guest spots and praise.
The featured names alone grant some semblance to the scope of the West African Cultural Renaissance’s greater reach. British R&B vocalist Jorja Smith helps turn Gum Body into an upbeat romantic Summer nights anthem. Nigerian lyricist, Zlatan collaborates seamlessly with his countryman to make Killin Dem a fiery exhibition of West African hip-hop. Expert on mainstream sensuality, Jeremih, and Kingston dancehall artist, Serani make Secret another club burner. Ghanaian Retrofuturism revisionist, M.anifest paints the bridge between this modern international movement and the importance of its difficult roots on Another Story. Afropop legend, Angelique Kidjo and Reggae heir, Damian Marely team up, leaving Different as the project’s most star-studded. Future & YG each shine in their ability to marry West African and American hip-hop sensibilities on Show & Tell and This Side, respectively.
In result, African Giant’s features paint a grand image of West Africa’s importance on international culture – North American hip-hop, British Neo-Soul, Caribbean reggae. But in almost equal weight, they paint a picture of Burna Boy’s. His understanding into the intricacies of the lane he largely paved are omnipotent. And as that lane has been guided towards international focus, everyone wants a piece of what Bruna Boy is bringing to the table.
More than anything, he’s bringing positivity, emotion, and unending vibes of romanticism, love, and overcoming struggle. African Giant is the kind of perfected Summer album that could make any season a little warmer, from the kind of artist that is finally as hot as he has deserved to be for almost a decade.
Sans a decent understanding of Nigerian musical modernity, it at times might seem off-paced or non-fluid. But, the beauty of Nigerian, Ghanaian, and greater West African music, fashion, art, photography, and cinematography lies in its ability to inspire and draw inspiration in circularity from anywhere across the greater West African diaspora, resulting in brash changes of stylistic pace. Thankfully, Burna Boy – in a successful effort to assure his art be not consumed without thought, understanding, and philosophy – drops quips on the reasons for that diaspora’s diversity and darker history. Listen to Another Story and get learned on how it is that Nigeria and Ghana in particular have so much emotion and ferocity to share with the world through art.
At a time when the sounds and sights of West Africa are being put on a cultural pedestal, all praise to Burna Boy for marrying his best album to date with important discussion. African Giant is much bigger than we’re yet to realize.