Every year for the past three years, Afrobeats music has had that one staple album that fans and critics alike will tell you defined the genre. In 2011, it was Wizkid’s debut album Superstar which not only was met with critical acclaim by the genre’s tastemakers, it was also lauded by Afrobeats audiences across the world.
2012 saw Davido surpass all opposition to deliver the most popular album of the year in that genre. It may not have been the best body of work to come out that year but it will be the album that 2012 is remembered for. This year, many albums have already come and gone and of all those, one would’ve thought that Iyanya’s Iyanya vs Desire would have been heads and shoulders above the rest by now with that ‘staple album of 2013’ argument well and truly over and done with but alas…
Enter Burna Boy with his recently released debut album titled L.I.F.E (Leaving An Impact For Eternity) which is not just the best AfroPop/Afrobeats album I have heard all year but since Wizkid’s 2011 debut record, no album has quite captivated and enthralled me as much as this record. At 19 songs and lasting 73 minutes, this record (the deluxe version I should say) on paper reads for a rather daunting listening experience because albums are just not this long anymore. Couple that with our very low tolerance level for music that is not good, due to the infinite amount of music freely available at any given time, this album was seemingly doomed from the time the track-list was announced.
I am more than happy to tell you that my initial fear surrounding the sheer length of this album has proved to be unfounded and rather silly. If anybody can keep you listening to one album for well over an hour, it’s certainly Burna Boy! Having heard the four singles that were released as a precursor to the album, “Like To Party”, “Tonight”, “Run My Race” and “Yawa Dey”, you would’ve already gotten an inkling that Burna Boy was onto something here, a winning formula if you can call it that, and the rest of the album follows suit nicely where the singles left off.
There was simply no way you were expecting a bad record from Burna Boy with all of his singles being such strong songs but singles can be such a deceptive tool, just ask the listeners that thought Davido’s album and Iyanya’s album were both not that good (compared of course to their strong singles) and after seeing that long tracklist, this worry wasn’t ever lost on me.
The fact is that Burna Boy is an amazing artist and he has proven so by translating and extending four strong singles to one very excellent album, which could easily stand as a solid double album if he wanted and you know how terribly hard it is to deliver a solid double album. Of course there are songs on an album as long as L.I.F.E that will fit into the “filler” box but I can only count one – two if you push me – and that should tell you all that you need to know about how good this album is.
The chemistry between Burna Boy and his producer Leriq, who produces all the songs on this album, is one that cannot be described with simple words. They have it and they have it in large bounds and on track after track on L.I.F.E, both Burna and Leriq show it off well to their audiences. They make this album exactly what it is.
Even on the synth-heavy Dance tune “Always Love You” where Leriq is uncharacteristically lazy and unoriginal, Burna Boy carries his production and crafts out a rather decent song, and when Burna Boy is having an off-colour moment on “Guilty”, the smooth and soulful musical backdrop provided by Leriq is just so good that it lifts Burna’s performance and more importantly, it lifts the song from mediocrity to well above average.
“Always Love You”:
As for my favourite songs on L.I.F.E, I honestly do not know where to start and I simply do not want to reel out a list of eighteen or so song titles – that would be the entire album in essence. Without mentioning the four already released singles, I do especially love “Ma Loda Ma Motto”, “Smooth Sailing”, “Dem No Know”, “Don’t Run” which features Olamide and a very inspired Reminisce, and that’s even without mentioning the glorious “Abeg Abeg (Remix)” which not only sees music legend 2Face in an entire league of his own but sees Burna Boy and Timaya both raise their games exponentially to try and keep up with 2Face and it all makes for a massive tune.
In essence though, L.I.F.E is an exceptional record and is already my Afrobeats soundtrack for the rest of the year along with the debut EP from UK-based AfroPop newcomer Moelogo. Over the last few months, the anticipation for Burna Boy’s debut album has been at fever pitch and its great to see that the expectations haven’t gotten to him and as he alluded to on “Jahs Love Is True”, those that called him a “one mixtape wonder” will be eating their words after listening to L.I.F.E, the kid is definitely hear to stay for good!