Review: Bella Shmurda oozes rapid maturity on his debut album, Hypertension.

Bella Shmurda slits open his debut album with a persuasion of his listener; the young chappy instructively enlivens the idea that he is yet another Fela in disguise. Bella Shmurda’s opening of the Hypertension album throws words at the listeners that he, the act, strongly conceives himself as the continuity of the deceased pioneer of the highly revered Afrobeat sound. Subconsciously, the Yoruba ancient belief in reincarnation is restamped in a world that is hastily hurrying away from the perceived primitive traditional state of being.

Bella Shmurda shimmers in a topic relating to Dammy Krane’s famous Amin on the Fuji-characterized Ase. Bella deems it a necessity to use prayers, a universal practice. Here, his listeners are put into consideration. The singer is not selfish and at the same time, will not forget himself when he personalizes the same prayers on Level Up. Wishes are very glaring properties of both songs.

Bella Shmurda’s value of backup singers is dominant on this project. A huge part of the album explores backup vocals. One also notices that Bella Shmurda fills this project with more Dancehall sounds at the expense of the trial of a vastness of genres. You are tempted to think it is his comfort zone and he is not adventurous enough to explore other genres. However, you cannot shy away from the importance of coherence on a project. And speaking about coherence, the subjects of the project are there to speak for Bella Shmurda.

Bella Shmurda preaches right to one’s privacy on Contraband. In a world where everyone has a say in any matter on social media, Contraband is a message for the individual to be mindful of their say in the life experiences of others.

Bella Shmurda’s Hypertension cover art.

Oh Oh Oh is a search for peace, rest, ease and any other idea used to refer to individual happiness. Bella Shmurda thinks keeping company of a woman, sex, drug intake can be explored to that effect. However, the negative effects of these things should be considered on the long run. And when they hit back, one realizes that happiness is temporal or occasional as the case may be. Life is a mixture of happiness and its numerous opposites.

Aside Oh Oh Oh, other delicate topics on the project are addressed on So Cold, Man of the Year and Addicted. So Cold is a lamentation of dashed hopes, mistrust, violation of human rights and bad governance put together. Man of the Year empowers the weak with motivation while betrayal, wickedness and several crimes against humanity are condemned. These three songs are highly meditative and are on the album to not only present Bella Shmurda has a singer who’s got range, but also, as a Nigerian that is very reasonable and not myopic to the countless evils that have plagued the citizens of his homeland, Nigeria, since independence. Addicted, in-between Man of the Year and So Cold, highlights drug addiction and the heartless happenings like killings etc, that occasion drug abuse in the search for mental escape.

Of course, what’s an Afrobeats project without a motif on love, sex and women? To contribute to this foundational culture of Afrobeats, Loose It, Converse, Fire, Philo and No Other are on the line up on Hypertension.

Bella Shmurda.

One of the few distractions from the scribbles about women that line the first seven tracks of the album is the song Lagos City. Bella Shmurda joins a host of Afrobeats/Nigerian acts who have devoted their singing to idolizing Lagos: on the list are Brymo, Olamide, Wizkid, Kizz Daniel, Mr Eazi, Niniola and now, Bella Shmurda, with Lagos City. Three references to Lagos, aside the song titling, include the words “many people”, “many cars” and “many fish”. As “many people” reiterates Lagos as one of the most populous cities in Africa, “many cars” draws attention to the aching dissatisfying traffic gridlock that is peculiar to the urban Nigerian landscape, while “many fish” is a succinct mention of the highly industrious mindset of the populace of the city as well as the very booming economy of the industries scattered here and there in Lagos.

From a singer who broke out with an uptempo but rather little-to-no-serious-message in music to one who had label issues, was endorsed by Wizkid, and openly rejected an offer to complete his college degree in a Lagos-based institution, Bella Shmurda has done excellently well to dish out a very appealing project that I predict will go a long way to be referenced in the conversations about groundbreaking debuts like Wizkid’s Superstar, Kizz Daniel’s New Era and Fireboy’s Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps. Yeah! Two things that are completely tenacious on Bella Shmurda’s Hypertension are the maturity and growth that have happened to the singer in songwriting and song themes in the space of two years. This reality in the art of Bella Shmurda is worthy of every commendation available for him to shoot beyond this present horizon on his sophomore.

Sam George Mac is a music journalist known for the reviews of several music albums and songs. He is a singer and songwriter of Afrobeats, Dancehall, Highlife and RnB with the stage name SGM — a graduate of Mass Communication from The West African Union University, Cotonou.

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