Burna Boy’s seventh album, I Told Them, is the shiny new object everyone is all over since its release on August 25, 2023. We sat down, pressed play, and this is what we thought on first listen.
I Told Them starts with its titular track. After 24 seconds of instrumental and chants that give Caribbean bonfire vibes, Burna Boy, in his natural cocky state, begins to reiterate that he announced his own greatness even when people didn’t believe in him.
Towards the end of the 3:09 track, a kung-fu movie skit comes in, to indicate GZA’s presence on the song — his group, the Wu-Tang, is heavily associated with Chinese martial art culture. In a deep 16-bar delivery, GZA spits “I’m in a place where perception is developed / If you can’t walk in these shoes, then your feet would swell up / A medium by which thoughts are made clear / Beneath the surface, but only hurting the inner ear” to summarise why Odogwu grunts at the “little thanks” he gets from his fans.
Normal opens with a hyped Burna tearing through the beat, talking about counting money, being rich even before he signed to music labels, keeping few friends and how the perks of being a star are now normal to him. On Form plays next, and it’s groovy AF. Odogwu is obviously having fun, but his lyrics aren’t lighthearted; his current phase is just a start and anyone who dares to fuck with him should expect a dangerous reaction.
On track four, Burna hangs with 21 Savage who opens his verse with “I can help you shit on anyone you ever hated.” Who asked him? I guess it’s easy to do when you’re Sittin’ On Top Of The World.
Tested, Approved & Trusted is Burna giving a review of his game to a babe in three words. On the Dave-assisted Cheat On Me, Burna realises how he’s been cheating himself out of opportunities by putting others before himself. The seventh track is an interlude called Virgil — in honour of the late Virgil Abloh who Burna name-dropped on his 2021 single, Want It All. The song features a voice note from the iconic designer, analysing the art of traditional album promotion.
Big 7 comes after, banging with heavy hip-hop influence in sound and delivery. Burna Boy is intoxicated, living every day like a holiday and celebrating himself. Dey Play
If this Burna album gets a Grammy nod, Seyi Vibez will join the list of new cats Odogwu has taken to the prestigious global awards, after Zlatan (African Giant) and Victony (Love, Damini). On Giza, he and the self-acclaimed Vibe Boy sing about smoking sativa and other hedonist pursuits.
Next, RZA, another founding member of the Wu-tang Clan, gives Burna the 12 Jewels — a list of important acquisitions every man should strive for — knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality, shelter, food, clothing, love, peace and happiness.
The album gets closer to its end on If I’m Lying, which goes acoustic as Burna Boy gives gratitude to his creator. He offers his shoulders to those crying and begs birds to stop flying, seas to stop flowing and trees to start dying if he’s not sincere about the things he says. Well… these things are scientifically impossible.
On the 14th track, Thanks featuring J. Cole, Burna Boy brings up his club incident of 2022 and the never-ending rumour about his mum dancing for Fela Kuti. He’s allowed to address these issues, but he insults us when he goes on reduce the huge love and pride the motherland shows him to rumours about him. We first heard Taliban II in July when Jamaican artist, Bryon Messia, brought Burna on it. Now, it’s the bonus and final track on I Told Them, as the well-rounded album completes its spin.
Burna Boy’s early hip-hop, reggae and dancehall influences are present in the sound and vocal delivery on this latest body of work. However, it becomes clearer that the afro-fusion narrative is more a means of standing out under the saturated umbrella of “afrobeats”, as Burna expands and penetrates different cultures. His “afro-fusion” comes from smoothly fusing elements of foreign genres with African classics, the same components that make up afrobeats.
But, I Told Them is still a tale of fun, celebration, brilliance and I-told-you-I’m-the-fucking-best-ism at its best.