Burna Boy’s “Twice As Tall”: a Track By Track Review

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For all his impressiveness, Burna Boy is easily Nigeria’s most controversial act. If there’s a Grammy for this, there’ll be no conversation about who would clinch it. But one thing both naysayers and fans can agree on is that – Burna’s talent is undeniable. It wasn’t concocted from thin air. It has always been there – unapologetic, sure and steady. It is the one constant between his debut L.I.F.E. through to Twice As Tall. On this project, we see vulnerable Burna. We see an activist. We see a giant grow twice as tall. We also see guests who knew their jobs and did it.

Most reviews of Twice as Tall cite the perceived overshadowing impressiveness of prior projects and allegations of possible homophobia in “Wetin Dey Sup” as indications of Burna Boy’s failure to live up to being “Twice As Tall”. Some reviews even manage to call “Wonderful” a mid track.

The first response is, how do you review a 15-track album in less than 3 days? Did you listen because you genuinely wanted to enjoy the project or because you wanted to break the world record for writing a review?

Secondly, African Giant and Outside are the usual scapegoats for the “compared to prior projects, TAT didn’t do well” agenda. How do we measure this? Since numbers don’t lie, check the scoreboard – fastest Nigerian album to reach 10 million streams on Audiomack. In 24 hours, TAT was the Number 1 album in 11 countries. At the time of writing this review, it’s the number 1 album on Audiomack. As impressive as prior projects were, they didn’t do these kind of numbers.

Thirdly, “homophobia?”. The jury is still out on whether a line on Burna Boy’s “Wetin Dey Sup”is homophobic or not. Many argue that the line originates from a phrase commonly used in PH while others believe that the line is rooted in homophobia.

We’ve taken several long and hard listens, done some research, contributed on Genius and aggregated our thoughts. So, here’s what we think about the tracks on the Twice As Tall project. Where we have comments, you’ll be able to see through our eyes and disagree appropriately. It’ll take around 8 minutes to breeze through but you’ll enjoy it and most definitely learn a thing or two about this project.

1. Level Up (Twice As Tall)

Asides Burna’s verse, two elements work out perfectly on this particular song, the opening segment and the feature. The “jaunty” opening comes from the soundtrack to the 1959 film Journey to the Center of The Earth written by Sammy Cahn. If you don’t know who this is, he’s the guy that wrote Frozen’s, Let It Snow, Let It Snow”. Production credits fall to two longtime associates of Burna Boy – DJDS & LeriQ.

Music is a universal language – Youssou N’Dour drives this point home. Just like his vibe on Wyclef Jean’s “Diallo”, everytime Youssou N’Dour says: “Niafer Ko, Djek Djekal ko, You can do it”, you genuinely feel like “I’m black. Africa is my home. I can do anything”. Diddy’s voice on this track ties it to “Alarm Clock” and solidifies the sonic coherence in the album’s first half.

On Burna’s verse, we see a giant take a hit, “almost feeling envious” and declaring that the appropriate reaction to loss is to stand Twice As Tall. We see Burna being vulnerable, this is a rarity – it’s almost similar to a certain head of state staying within his own country during his first term. This vulnerability creates a bond, one that will express Burna’s theme – growth.

2. Alarm Clock

This track reawakens the sense of the African-self that we have somehow forgotten. Diddy’s sound bites come in at very important moments. The track literally sounds like an African mother giving advice to a child she loves. On “Alarm Clock”, P2J and Diddy ensure upper echelon production.

This track is a startling reminder of black excellence, something Burna Boy has always infused in his music. It is important to note that Diddy’s experiences of Black culture vary from Burna’s or the average Nigerian. It’ll be mighty pretentious to declare that they merge these experiences effortlessly especially when lyrics are examined closely. However, it is this diversity of experiences that creates the eerie beauty in this track – the beauty is in Mama Burna’s 2019 BET acceptance speech:

“every person should please remember that you were Africans before you were anything else”

Bose Ogulu— 2019 BET Awards

3. Way Too Big

The quickest way to understand Burna Boy’s perspectives on “Way Too Big” is to listen to intro on his sophomore project – On a Spaceship. Doing this will reveal the emotions that possibly inspired this track. For Burna, rather than fold up, his response to criticism is declaring that – 

“I’m way too big to be fucking with you. I’m way too smart to be falling in your trap. I’m way too cool to be losing my cool”

Burna’s confidence is palpable and almost infectious. He is sure no one else is better at music, at least none of his contemporaries. The production team make sure we see this confidence. That LeriQ-Burna synergy is complemented by Diddy’s production and Mike Dean’s rousing strings at the end. In our opinion, this track is one of the most thoughtfully placed songs on the project.

4. Bebo

On Bebo, Burna Boy describes himself as a fun-loving person who’s not one mellow down. He’s always at the center of life — where the action is. He’s not one to pretend or shy away from hearing people’s opinion of him.

However, he emphasizes that he is back to take his spot, on the charts and in life. Sure, he may have left for a while (did he really?), but yes, he’s back now and it’s in your best interest to leave his spot for him, since there’s really not a lot you could do to him.

5. Wonderful

This track is what you get when you combine the Nigerian dream, a mother’s earnest hopes and expert production. Upon its release, a handful of people considered this track as mid, however, within the larger context of the project – a bigger picture emerges.

Whether it is seen or not, this track is a message to hardworking Africans in the diaspora and the black race. Burna Boy creates a song that feels like a reminder on your iPhone – “pada wale” or “come back home”. If you’re about to say something like, “it’s still mid”, the numbers say otherwise. Plus, the pan-Africanist issues with the video shouldn’t take anything away from the beauty that this song is, especially within the context of the album – growth.

6. Onyeka (Baby)

On this track, Burna references Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe’s 80’s classic record “Osondi Owendi” which he wittily rhymes with Nigerian music and film legend Onyeka Onwenu as he successfully rides the highlife wave on this track. 

Telz charms the drums to give an almost spiritual vibe on this record, in addition to the near-heavenly horns that come in at the right time to emphasize Burna’s words. With this track, you can picture yourself with a gourd of palm wine in front of you, a beautiful woman and African classics bellowing softly in the background.

Remember this line – “you don do your booty, now your body better”. You’ll need it when we discuss “Comma”.

7. Naughty By Nature (feat. Naughty By Nature)

Following his “growth” theme, Burna takes us back to the type of lines that endeared him to his Pre-Outside fans. We hear his own certainty about his quality, especially in a time rife with sub-par releases touted as Afrobeats. On “Naughty by Nature” He’s confident enough to declare – 

“God go punish whoever no gbadun me”.

Burna Boy— Naughty by Nature

Naughty By Nature has been dropping albums since the 80’s. The group won Best Rap Album at the Grammys in the mid 90’s, and still came through with the OG rap flow on a self-titled peak Afrobeats record in 2020. That’s LEGENDARY. The production on this track is a solid plus point as, Diddy, Mario Winans, Telz and his “drums” did an absolute madness.

8. Comma

This tune certainly turns heads and raises numerous question marks. One of the concerns here is the outright body shaming. However, there just might be two interpretations for comma.

On the one hand, Burna might have meant “new body is still your body. Own it”. Case in point is how he gasses his lover up by saying “you don do your booty, now your body better” from “Onyeka (Baby)”. On the other hand, he might be questioning body alterations. In all honesty, it’s up to you (the listener) to make your pick.

Rexxie’s production makes this track a party hit but in our opinion, the album could have done without the ambiguity and the unnecessary controversy.

9. No Fit Vex

Burna Boy’s storytelling is peerless. We’ve seen this on records like “Pree Me” and “Dangote”. On this track we see the legendary link up between Burna boy and LeriQ one more time. LeriQ brings back his signature soft yet telling beat which yields itself to Burna’s attempt at vulnerability.

The song carries a much deeper meaning. For listeners, it’s not to judge people for their choices as “life e no easy”. For Burna, it’s a startling reminder of how distance and success should make the difference but shouldn’t make things different. This record is one of the classics on this project.

10. 23

By track 10, you would have come to terms with the fact that one of Burna’s top decisions on this project is his choice of producers. The choices so far have been inch perfect and French producer, Skread on this record furthers the notion that music is a universal language.

For Burna, the perfect follow up to “No Fit Vex”, has to be a reinforcement of self. Do you know how sure of your craft you have to be to compare yourself to Michael Jordan? On this track, Burna is more melancholic and this makes way for his more prophetic thoughts to emerge. Armed with his life’s lessons and journey, Burna Boy begins to take inspired shots, walk through his own fears and call out challengers.

11. Time Flies 

The first thing a keen ear would notice is the drums from Sade Adu’s “Sweetest Taboo”. As Sauti Sol blesses the song with their haunting vocals and production; the backing vocals help create an atmosphere that breeds honesty. “Time Flies” is the collaboration we never knew we needed. 

Sauti Sol and Burna find artistic balance as Burna tries to convince his girl to ride with him in the chorus. As Burna writes his growth story, he reminds us of Oma Wonder’s “Kokoma, I standby”. To conclude this record Bose “Mama Burna” Ogulu, makes a moving speech every person of black descent should listen to and digest.

12. Monsters You Made (feat. Chris Martin)

As we listen to “Monsters You Made”, we reminisce Michael Jackson’s own aggressiveness towards a groupie in “Dirty Diana”. The samples, production and message on this track conveys the African Giant’s understanding of Africa’s 500 year “entanglement” with the West.

Through the spectrum of Chris Martin’s choruses, Burna creates the “calm before the storm” effect throughout the track. This track is inch perfect especially as it ends with an Ama Ata Aidoo speech on the continued oppression by the West. If you’re one of those who can’t get enough of Burna’s Grammy nominated African Giant, you’ll applaud his bravery and direct stance on this protest record.

13. Wettin Dey Sup

A fitting prelude to this track is – “I nor be one of those men wey dey fear toto fuck yansh. This is PH pidgin for, taking responsibility for ones own actions. In retrospect, this has always been Burna’s MO. He makes his moves with his chest.

Whoever had the brilliant idea of placing gunshots and sirens in the mix deserves credit for considerable genius. However, we think that however poignant Diddy’s speech was – there was no real need for it. 

14. Real Life (feat. Stormzy)

Real life is a combination of hard truths, excellent production and sincerity. We hear Burna say – “If them wan fuck you for yansh, make you nor lie down.” This translates to – “if people want to take you for granted, resist!” Certain variants of pidgin have idioms that are crass enough to confuse, Burna is cut from a different cloth and it’s that PH boy garb he wears on this song.

Diddy’s voice is very welcome this time around, he sets the tone, his words (like an interviewer) arm Burna to tell his story. On the chorus, we find a certain sincerity and comfort in Stormzy’s voice. The background vocals bring balance to the song. The beautiful production from Telz with an assist from Mario Winans eases the delivery.

This reality check is a soothing step to the album’s outro.

15. Bank On It

“Anything I said, I stand pon it”

Burna Boy— Bank on It

At the end of it all Burna doesn’t want his adversaries to get one over him. He is sure that there’ll be misinterpretation. It is poetic how he prays for protection, strength and guidance on the track’s intro. Then switches up the tempo to a slight bop as he references his proximity to the site where Pop Smoke was killed as he reflects on the unpredictability of life itself.

On this track, JAE5 proves he’s the king of his lane. To his credit, he’s birthed a number of chart topping beats with this farmiliar beat sequence. The additional vocals and expert production make “Bank On It” all the more wholesome. We must appreciate the work Nosa and his choir did to ensure it served as as a befitting outro to an impressive album.

Final Thoughts on Twice As Tall

We must admit to ourselves that Burna Boy is playing the industry in hard mode. It’s been 3 record smashing albums in 3 years. Yet some doubt his ability unnecessarily. On this Album, it seems like Burna Boy is telling you:

“I created something to unite Africa. I aimed for heaven and my reach exceeded my grasp. As I fell, I decided to rise taller. In rising taller, I spoke of growth. This is a personal journey, come along with me. Or not. I am unapologetic about my greatness. Giants are allowed to be human. I understand my mission, I’m doing the Lord’s work. If this doesn’t convince you, then it’s your loss.”

Is it wrong to time your album to perfection, maximise PR and market your project properly? The answer is simple, it lies in an igbo proverb “Ahịa Oma Na-Ere Onwe Ya” – a great product sells itself. Is Twice As Tall Grammy bound? Why don’t we stop speculating, enjoy this beauty and leave that for the Academy to decide.

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Curious for Culture

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Gbọ́láhàn Adébíyì
Gbọ́láhàn Adébíyì
2 months ago

Beautiful review! Quite insightful.

Ikon
Ikon
2 months ago

Very good review👏🏿
I love the track by track analysis

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