From the very beginning of his career, Burna Boy has always moved with the disposition of a misunderstood and underappreciated virtuoso. There was the statement-making 2013 debut L.I.F.E – Leaving an Impact for Eternity, controversy-addressing releases like 2015’s On a Spaceship and 2016’s Redemption, and the self-assured groove of 2018’s Outside that re-centred his journey and set the stage for further success on 2019’s era-defining, self-mythologising African Giant.
By the time he won a Grammy for 2020’s Twice as Tall, Burna Boy was already at the forefront of popular African music, regularly being referenced as one of global pop’s most incisive acts. A left turn on 2022’s emotionally charged and personally reflective Love, Damini has done nothing to diminish Burna’s powers, while the resounding success of his Toni Braxton-sampling 2022 hit “Last Last” has only further propped up his international profile.
All of these triumphs have left Burna Boy walking in rarified air and appreciative of sticking to his convictions. In keeping with his penchant for not holding back on his most cogent thoughts, it’s no surprise that the first words uttered on his new album I Told Them… is a cheeky reminder to long-time detractors and onlookers. “It’s fun to tell people something is true, and they doubt—and then they end up seeing it. There’s no greater feeling,” Burna Boy tells Apple Music. “You can go back to my old tweets and stuff. I basically predicted everything that’s happening now. So this is basically that.” Where Love, Damini was primarily a revelatory, genre-bending immersion into Burna Boy’s world, I Told Them… is hip-hop inspired, cocksure, and blunt, offering a glimpse at Burna’s future with backstory from his past.
Whether warning haters not to be surprised by his successes on “On Form” or reeling off said successes on glitzy cuts like “Big 7” and “Sittin’ on Top of the World”, Burna is keen to make it clear that he’s in a new place, and he taps J. Cole for a withering dress-down of his critics on “Thanks”. Still adept at pulling musical influences from all over into a fully realised musical vision, Burna Boy recruits newcomer Seyi Vibez for a cinematic reimagining of street pop on “Giza”. He barely breaks a sweat swapping verses with Byron Messia on “Talibans II”, but the emotional core of I Told Them… comes on “If I’m Lying”, a wispy ballad where he admits to losing control at times over an alluring instrumental by Steel Banglez.