by Wilfred Okiche
Damini Ogulu, the Rivers state born phenomenon better known as Burna Boy probably gets a life pass for his first major single, ‘Like to party’ a refreshing 90s anthem that calls to mind Will Smith in his Fresh Prince heyday. Quietly creeping into mainstream consciousness, the song was so good. It made 19 year old Ogulu a star and it would have been perfectly understandable if he took his 5 minutes, enjoyed it and then disappeared into whatever happened to status, that unpopular destination of one hit wonders.
But our guy stuck around and rebounded with ‘Tonight’ a crowd pleasing sing along affair that ensured people would never ask ‘Burna who?’ for as long as he is relevant. He then outdid himself with the mechanical anthemic chant of ‘Run my race’, an afrobeat-inspired powerhouse with a relentless beat and a call to just let him be. Who could resist him? Eager beavers quickly (and maybe prematurely ) annointed him the future of music and the young man, quietly taking notice of such gushes of praise, went about making an album that hints at brilliance at times but ultimately fails to be as arresting as it could have been.
Burna Boy is an unusual lad. Appearing years older than his 19 years, on his debut album ‘Leaving an Impact For Eternity’ (cheesy title no less) he shares the cover art generously with legends like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley, pointing at his musical influences and hinting at the kind of career he envisages for himself. This one has no intentions of becoming a one hit wonder.
The sound on ‘L.I.F.E’ is also his own. Drawing heavily from the music of the earlier mentioned maestros, he updates the mix to a contemporary sound that is instantly fresh, organic and nostalgic all at once. It is the afrobeat sound of the 70s, the hip hop sounds of the nineties and today’s trippy club music with every passing phase in between. His vocal abilities will not win him any singing competitions but he uses them maximally, hitting smooth baritones alongside lower register crooning.
The intro makes for a charming opening and Burna talks some gibberish before his grand dad Benson Idonije who once managed Fela phones in some ‘washings’. The first song ‘No no no’ a weird blend of Fuji and dancehall isn’t particularly memorable and only serves as a primer to ‘Say so’, the groovy jazzy highlight with an irresistible saxophone riff. The warm feelings continue with ‘Roses’ (Na so e suppose be) and ‘Yawa dey’, a trip back to the galala days of the Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo era. Parents might want to plug their kids ears for the sex drenched ‘Boom boom boom’ though.
The duds appear when he tries to keep up with current club hopping trends (ma loada ma motto) and everytime he has a big name collaboration (Abeg abeg remix with 2face and Timaya) with 2face failing dismally to impress and ‘Don’t run’ (with a bored Olamide and a cant-be-bothered Reminisce). Wizkid on the other hand hasn’t found a chorus he couldn’t steal and brightens the drab ‘Jah’s love is true’.
Witht the bulk of the material produced by Aristokrat records in house man Leriq, ‘L.I.F.E’ is a fair attempt at a debut album. It avoids the pitfalls of monotony and boredom that could easily have befallen the disc but the overall sound is still a tad unsatisfying, like there is stuff Burna Boy is holding back. It is the bare basics expected of a debut album but because in recent times, the bar has been lowered cosiderably and audiences have embraced mediocre fare from upstarts like Davido, May D and even established guns like P-Square, ‘L.I.F.E’ at times begins to play like a breath of fresh air and Burna Boy erroneously appears a Messiah.
Like he says on the outro, he is just a young boy attempting to leave his mark, hoping all the while that you will remember him. Let’s let him have his fun, he has a long time to prove his talent. No pressure.
The writer tweets from @drwill20