Album Review: African Giant; Burna Boy presents culturally rich, melodic beats on latest album inspired by West Africa

Burna Boy (pictured above) performs at a concert in Ghana. Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu — known musically as Burna Boy — creates songs in the genre known as Afro-fusion. African Giant focuses on Nigeria but also broadly comments on African culture and life (courtesy of Ameyaw Debrah).

African Giant is Burna Boy’s fourth studio album and was released on July 26 this summer. Clocking in at exactly one hour, the album blends a rich cultural history with melodic singing and rhythmic beats. This is a style that Burna Boy has dubbed “Afro-Fusion.” 

The album draws direct inspiration from dancehall, R&B and pop to create this distinct sound. The singer uses his voice as an instrument to the point where it can be difficult to distinguish his hums and ad-libs from the actual beat. 

African Giant is rich and colorful, bursting with triumphant horns and traditional African drums. It exudes confidence, summer and patriotism.

Burna Boy is Nigerian and proud. His home country and the entire continent of Africa are the settings that African Giant focuses on. The artist makes the music he wants to and sacrifices nothing for his western audiences. 

Across the album, Burna Boy seamlessly switches between English and the West African dialects of Yoruba and Igbo to create what sounds like a completely new language. He still manages to address complex social issues, even while his lyrics are often difficult to understand or seemingly simplistic. 

Burna Boy speaks about the rampant corruption in African politics on “Different,” featuring Damien Marley and Angelique Kidjo. He raps, “Every day a different problem / Different lie from the government … Different election, sell a different false hope / Then them hang us with a different rope.” 

On “Wetin Man Go Do” and “Dangote,” Burna Boy speaks about the economic struggle of the average Nigerian. He compares these struggles to the lives of the elite. The song title “Dangote” refers to the name of Africa’s richest man. 

Every track on the album is there for a reason. There are very few songs that feel like a filler, despite the album’s relative length. The album’s true standout tracks come near the end.

“Gbona” and “On The Low” come in quick succession and turn out to be the two best songs on the album. “Gbona” is a slower song, in which Burna Boy’s voice is low and dark over a beautiful guitar loop. The chorus is punctuated by horns, which, along with his layered voice, add flavor to the track. 

During “On The Low,” Burna Boy uses his wide vocal range and a layered beat to create a smooth love song. The hook is addictive, and the beat is perfectly molded around his voice. He mixes humming, West African dialects and English to create a song that you can’t entirely understand but can feel in your chest. 

The album has a strong list of features—including Future, YG and Jorja Smith—but none manage to outshine Burna Boy. Some of the features even feel awkward or unnecessary. YG spits a very out-of-place rap verse which ignores the album’s main themes and sounds stiff in the midst of Burna Boy’s melodic crooning. 

Jorja Smith worked on an excellent collaboration with Burna Boy in the past but now has disappointed fans with a rough contribution to the African Giant track “Gum Body.” 

Not all of the features were disappointing, though. Future’s style of autotune rap on “Show and Tell” perfectly matches Burna Boy’s style and helps to create one of the album’s better songs. The beat becomes excitingly unpredictable midway through the track because the rhythm is suddenly punctuated by erratic drums and fast-paced rapping. Unlike weaker features, Future and Burna Boy actively work together and create a kind of chemistry in their music. 

African Giant is easily one of the best projects to come out this year. The album is thematically and sonically cohesive, with each track flowing smoothly into the next. Burna Boy sounds great over the complex production and is worth checking out if you haven’t done so already.