Buju’s journey and path have been dipped in the sauce of cinematic unorthodoxy, while being grilled in the full glare of human optics. That naturally comes with judgement and perception bias from the audience. As a high school student, Daniel Benson lost his mom to cancer. Just before then, he witnessed her brave battle with the illness.
Buju’s ‘Sorry I’m Late’ projects confidence, wins and ‘comfort’ [Pulse EP Review]
Buju should be applauded for his linguistic dexterity and the perfect sequence of this EP, as aided by its tracklist.
In 2020, this writer had a vulnerable conversation with a bare Buju in Burna Boy’s house. While smoking up on some ‘good,’ he explains how his path could have been different, had he grown up with his mom. But he was also quick to accept the realities of uncertainty, which he tagged as, ‘exciting.’
He seemed to revel in the thrills of uncertainty, while betting on himself and wearing a confident, yet innocent smile.
A few months after that conversation, Buju exited his contract with Spaceship Records, amidst hush-tuned suggestions of friction. Those suggestions were backed by Buju’s sparse record of releases throughout his one year on the label, during which his high-calibre stock massively dipped in market capital, brand equity and perception bias.
But over the past few months, Buju hasn’t just surged back into relevance, he has not just won back his open market capital and brand equity, he has increased them and skyrocketed. He then broadened his horizon and has become the artist that Do2dtun kept telling everybody that he could be in 2018/2019.
Buju’s embrace of ‘uncertainty,’ while heavily betting on himself have been key to his comeback. In 2021, Buju’s story and impact on the mainstream soundscape presents him as Nigeria’s MVP of 2021. He’s followed that up with an aptly-titled 7-track EP, Sorry I’m Late - another reflection of his unorthodox journey and path.
Across seven tracks, Buju coasts like the quintessential contemporary Afro-pop artist, armed with the cadences and technique of a Hip-Hop artist. On ‘Daniel Benson,’ he delivers rap-esque metaphors about Josh2Funy. On ‘Kilometre,’ he flexes and delivers another sex-ed innuendo around Jaido P and his song, ‘Tesinapot.’
He then capped it on ‘Never Stopped’ verse two, where he likened himself to a rapper and literally punched holes and pockets into the beat.
‘Sorry I’m Late’ drips with charming, near-amiable authentic exactitude. If one examines the last eight months for Buju’s career, it becomes apparent that his lyrics, stories and even weird flexes are not embellished or exaggerated.
When he flexes his fire rhythm or likens himself to Michael Jackson, the sucker for ‘good stories’ in the writer couldn't help but crack a smile. Buju’s real life experiences have also turned him into an incredible, well-rounded songwriter, whose topical conversations have significantly evolved beyond topics of love, romance and sex - things he was quite good at expressing.
When artists tap into pain to create records like ‘Outside’ and then the emanating wins to write and deliver a record like ‘Never Stopped,’ you gotta respect them.
'Sorry I'm Late' also charts the high level of Buju’s current confidence. As much as artists need narcissism to survive, just one year ago, Buju might have lacked the confidence to say “my sh*t legit” on ‘Never Stopped,’ demand his money as a moving train with no brakes on ‘Kilometre’ or to put out a self-adulatory ode like ‘Daniel Benson.’
He even fancies himself as a potpourri of 2Baba, Burna Boy and Frank Ocean traits. While the first two are plausible, only the moody, avant-garde sonics validate the Frank Ocean comparisons - not much else.
At other times - as on ‘I Do,’ Buju’s sophomore EP equally feels like a manifesto, through which he speaks great tidings into his own future with positive affirmations, in the form of braggadocio.
Buju also discusses detraction at length. Records like ‘Daniel Benson’ and ‘Never Stopped’ particularly feel like Buju’s reply or a giant middle finger to his doubters. And it feels like he doesn’t even realize. But as ‘Ogechukwu’ reflects, it feels like Buju is constantly aware of his detractors and he uses them as fuel to fire.
Buju was good in his opening tracks, but it was on his final two tracks that he truly delivered his two best songs on this EP. ‘For Here’ sounds like a single, as it coasts with shiny midtempo Afro-pop rhythms, ‘African Queen’ esque riffs and Buju’s tales of romance, while ‘I Do’ is simply one of Nigeria’s best songs of 2021.
Quit simply, the record has everything.
Buju was honest throughout this EP, but the sincerity on ‘I Do’ is poignant, chilling and stark. Afro-pop artists are seldom this authentic.
‘Sorry I’m Late’ is good, but it’s an acquired taste - mostly because it’s quite sonically safe. Buju slightly stuck to his comfort zone with familiar producers and familiar - not the same - sonics.
For that reason, most people who strictly perceive Buju as a pop artist might struggle to genuinely appreciate this EP as one body of work - at least not instantly. A lot of those who will grow into enjoy it as one body of work will probably be converted fans of successful singles.
As much as the beats for ‘Never Stopped’ and ‘Something Sweet’ are laced with Afrobeat - without the ‘s’ - elements and 'I Do' is Reggae-Fusion, the BPM, woozy strings, chillwave-esque melodies and chord progressions bring those records right back into ‘Buju territory.’
While the sonic safety further projects what the ‘Buju sound’ is and that is a good thing, it also creates a veil of familiarity. With the right bit of experimental or expansive production, Buju will make greatness, which just about eludes ‘Sorry I’m Late’ as a body of work - not as one project of seven individual songs, some of which are spectacular.
At his best, Buju is a blessed enigma and range personified. He has enough to be an Afro-pop artist, enough to be R&B, enough to be Alternative and enough to be whatever else. But in its element, this EP seems to stick to one overarching sonic side to Buju.
Even when he tries to explore expansive sounds and producers outside his ‘comfort zone,’ he does obvious things like work with Nigeria’s Lamba Lord also known as Rexxie on a trendy Amapiano-infused sound or work with The Cavemen, Nigeria’s go-to-formula to project ‘range.’
In fact, that ‘Kilometre’ hook feels like something that Buju could have done two years ago - the Amapiano elements aside. As good as ‘Ogechukwu’ is, it needs another layer of proper A&R to hit its full potential. The genuine sonic diversity of the latter record is also insufficient to take this EP out of that ‘acquired taste realm.'
Nonetheless, the mostly midtempo, moody pop sonics of ‘Sorry I’m Late’ falls right into Gen Z territory, which represents a majority of Nigeria’s demographic. Thus, individual songs on this EP are bound to grow out and develop a life of their own, and that might usher in higher appreciation and warp 'greatness' in its favour.
In the end, Buju should be applauded for his linguistic dexterity and the perfect sequence of this EP, as aided by its tracklist.
• 0-1.9: Flop
• 2.0-3.9: Near fall
• 4.0-5.9: Average
• 6.0-7.9: Victory
• 8.0-10: Champion
Pulse Rating: /10
Album Sequencing: 1.9/2
Themes, Songwriting and Delivery: 1.7/2
Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.3/2
7.3 - Victory
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