Album Review: Burna Boy – Outside
To start 2018 off right, the Nigerian Don Gorgon, Burna Boy, gave us his 6th project, Outside. Fans knew that Burna Boy has been in the studio, indicated by him consistently releasing well-received singles throughout 2017. He is often left out of the “top 3” conversations but now that he had less distractions with the law and more time to focus on music, he could now deliver the quality album we all know he could make. Four months later, we have had time to properly digest his album and here it goes. Press Play.
- “More Life”
Burna Boy starts the album with More Life, the same title as Drake’s playlist released last year in which Burna Boy is heard on the outro of “Get It Together”. There was some controversy whether Drake stole “More Life” from him but that’s neither here or there. Burna Boy gives his truth that he’s done and seen it all but still feels he has much more to achieve. This intro is pieced together very well, short, straight to the point, with great vocals and lyrics. The saxophone that matches Burna’s vocals are icing on the cake, utterly flawless. A testament to his talent, Burna Boy does a great job with a short but sweet 1 minute and 32 seconds. A favorite of mine from the album.
2. “Ph City Vibration”
From his, L.I.F.E. album, Burna Boy’s exitlude, “Outro: Remember Me” Burna sings on his home of PH City. (Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria). Here on the second song, Burna gives us a dancing autobiography. So while I was bobbing my head and dancing, I learned that Burna Boy was born July 2nd, 1991 in a teaching hospital, would eat bole, fish and yam and smoke high-grade ganja. He probably got into a lot of trouble if he frequently went to the police station, I hope it wasn’t for reloading his gun as he adds to describing himself in his hometown. To quench any doubt, his parents, sister and he himself are original Port Harcourt. But despite the sinister ways he saw in his city, Burna does have a spiritual side to him he adds. Somewhat of an reintroduction of Burna Boy. A very energetic song that makes you wish you were from Port Harcourt, for us not from there.
3. “Koni Baje”
A percussionists’ dream song would be filled with talking drums and congo/bongo drums, which is exactly what this song is. Burna sings in Yoruba to make the song traditional if not native. The title translates, “it won’t spoil/go bad/rotten”. Burna Boy can give you Juju music, with no issue, another proof of his talents. Burna Boy praises himself and calls out the fakes who only come around when the money comes. OluwaBurna’s bravado is surely here to stay with this song.
4. “Sekkle Down (feat. J Hus)”
Jae5 on production. So you need to add this song to your house party playlist, to be played at the height of the party when the dance floor is packed. Both Burna Boy and J Hus give the perfect amount of energy on this song. From the quick pauses, to the stutter like speech and clarity, Burna Boy is a flow master. No more description, give it a listen.
5. “Heaven’s Gate (feat Lily Allen)”
Do you know Lily Allen? Do you remember Lily Allen? While you look her up or not, she linked up with Burna Boy to make a very unique song. I was taken back when I first saw the announcement of the song. I personally like song, despite Burna Boy is singing about getting violent. This track in particular is an amazing example of Burna’s ability to switch things up. The song is very commercial to me, it’s either the beat or Lily Allen’s feature or both. The song pushes the border of Africans making “across continent” quality songs. This song isn’t well accepted by all, but regardless, this is undoubted versatility from the talented Burna Boy.
OluwaBurna gives us another timeless, pensive, introspective record. The background vocals looped in the instrumental compliments Burna perfectly. Burna Boy gives the mindset of the average Nigerian or African and anyone who have to hustle to get what they want. Burna sings, “Plenty, plenty, plenty, suffer wey we face, just to make sure money dey.” This is probably my favorite song from the album. Very soulful.
I believe the song samples the beginning of “So Into You”, Tamia’s song or Fabolous’ remake of the song in the early 2000s. If not, the guitar uses the most similar melody I’ve ever heard. But anyways, the guitar melody is arguably annoying and maybe cringe worthy when you first hear it but over time you resist it less and accept how nice it sounds. “You know I fresh pass Jidenna.” It’s a very catchy song, shoutout to Chopstix on the beat. From the guitar I know this song will sound amazing live.
8. “Streets of Africa”
This song almost taunts those who wish they were African, or those who try to claim to be African. This song may also be a message to those who are trying to steal our sound. Anyways, the child-like, nostalgic, Fisher Price piano synth elementary school melody loops over a trap beat with Burna’s catchy phrases like “I’m Fela Kuti with the hoes”, and “How could I not be happy all day? I’m from the streets of Africa.” Either you’ll love this song or skip it. But shoutout to Burna Boy referencing Speed Darlington! Bangdadang! If you know, then you know.
9. “Rock Your Body”
Burna Boy’s testament of his flow, melody, songwriting (if you can hear his vernacular), voice and beat mastery all in one is Rock Your Body. Shoutout to Julz on a phenomenal instrumental. The song was released in summer 2017 and gives Outside “more life” (I hope you got that). For me it’s a Burna Boy classic if not a classic record itself. Listen to the song if you haven’t already. “If you give me the shittor, I go ginger the jollof.” Enough said.
10. “Devil in California”
The song sounds an actual page in the life of Burna Boy. Story Story. Let me try to get it right. Burna Boy met “the devil” out in California. Sounds like Burna Boy popped a molly, has been drinking a lot and living on the edge but confident he won’t fall down. He has a big decision to make but he’s knows he’s not sober enough to call that decision. One of the more thought-provoking songs from the album with lyrics, “It’s like all my life I’ve been knowing somethings been missing, devil on my shoulder that’s why I can’t stay sober.” We hope Burna Boy shakes that devil off and shakes it well. The album is full of substance so far.
11. “Calm Down”
The song starts with a harmonized “do, do dodododooooo” (not Burna Boy) and Burna Boy sings over it with his personal confession of his knowledge of despair and numbing his pain with Styrofoam cup drinking. His baby girl complains of his absence but Burna Boy fulfills her needs and wants her to get on his level and calm down. “Life no easy for me, So don’t worry about what I’m drinking”, and “I don’t listen to nobody”, are to let you know Burna Boy should be left to his methods. Jae5 on production gives an amazing complex beat for the song, so complex I don’t want to describe it.
12. “Outside (feat. Mabel)”
Outside is the last song to the album. For a lot of us, it begs the question,“Where is this Outside Burna Boy speaks of?” With the intent to find the meaning of Burna Boy’s “Outside.” We are going to dissect the song. Burna Boy equates “Outside” to being the “Jungle”. Burna sings on starting with his brothers in the jungle but now he’s looking around and there’s no one he can run to. His people are plenty in the jungle but they claim to not know him anymore. “It’s everybody for themselves at the jungle”, as Burna Boy puts it. Burna Boy in his second verse admits he tried to ask for help but nobody could help him, they can’t even hear him. Burna Boy is pouring his heart out.
“If only Father God can talk to me, and tell me what He has in store in for me, could He let me know? ‘Cause only God knows the pain I feel, all day me never eat no meal…” and finally, Burna Boy gives an eerie end to his album with, “So before mi mother cry and I rest as well, cause her son end up like Vybz Kartel.” (If you don’t know what happened to Vybz Kartel, he was sentenced to life in prison for being convicted of murder of a man claimed to be an associate of his.
Overall, Outside is an attempt to please everyone album. Burna Boy has different kinds of songs for his new and current fans. Afrobeats, dancehall, reggae and hip hop blends and sounds all packaged into one album. Like his Redempton EP, Burna Boy is making more commercial music while keeping its high quality. Burna Boy is adventurous by using instrumentals that are almost unusual or not the norm for an afrobeats artist, but Burna Boy is clearly pushing the envelope by trying new sounds. Burna Boy’s songwriting is A1 along with his vocals and musical concepts. My only wish for “Outside” was for it to be more cohesive with a common theme to piece all the songs together. What makes Burna Boy unique among his peers (Afrobeats artists, African artists, Nigerian artists, etc.) is his constant songs about his adversities and pain that fans are able to relate to. Outside may just be ahead of its time.