In January, “Own It,” a skipping, hummable collaboration between the English rapper Stormzy and the Nigerian singer Burna Boy, reached Number One on the U.K. charts.
The two reunite on “Real Life,” a highlight that appears near the end of Burna Boy’s new album Twice as Tall. The track endears itself immediately with cooing backing vocals that evoke T-Pain’s classic “I’m Sprung.” Burna Boy sings with his usual charisma, adding emotional heft to a lean, slippery beat, and Stormzy follows his collaborator’s lead, choosing to stay away from the terse couplets that initially made him a star. Instead, the U.K. rapper transforms into a soft crooner, singing a honeyed hook that wouldn’t be out of place on R&B radio: “I’ll give you something to believe in.”
Twice as Tall follows last year’s African Giant, which earned Burna Boy a Grammy nomination for Best World Music Album. The singer lost to Angélique Kidjo, an incident that haunts the album opener “Level Up:” “I remember when I couldn’t ever love ’cause the Grammys had me feeling sick as fuck, throwin’ up and shit.”
But Burna Boy soldiered on, releasing his own songs — “Odogwu” and Twice as Tall lead single “Wonderful” — while continuing his streak of high-profile collaborations, contributing to Pop Smoke’s posthumous album Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon and teaming up with Sam Smith on “My Oasis.” Twice as Tall includes guest appearances from Naughty by Nature, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Sauti Sol, and Youssou N’Dour.
The album was executive produced by P. Diddy, who can be heard near the start of “Real Life.” “The music you makin’ is life,” Diddy says. “It’s like new life. It’s important for me to understand the state of mind and the life you live and where you’re at right now.”