Bella Shmurda, also known as Akinbiyi Abiola Ahmed, was one of the new street-pop stars who had a breakthrough year in 2019. He’s the kind of street pop performer who sings for people who believe that even though life has dealt them a bad hand, everything will turn out okay if they work hard, cling to God, and maintain their sanity by using unhealthy coping mechanisms.
He wrote the hit song “Vision 2020” while he was still a student at Lagos State University. However, the remix of the song featuring Olamide made it even more popular online. The song “Vision 2020” portrays the contagious enthusiasm of young people driven by their desire and hunger to succeed despite all obstacles, as well as the failure of the government to give them access to steady employment and a healthy economy.
After a year, Bella Shmurda became a street messenger because he differentiates his street songs with in-depth lyricism. The song was also the pre-released track ahead of his debut EP, “High Tension.” He released a number of noteworthy hit singles, including “Rush” and the Headies nominee “Cash App,” a street pop tune. He was featured on albums by A-list artists, such as Olamide’s Carpe Diem’s “Triumphant,” Davido’s “A Better Time”‘s “Fade,” and Wizkid’s “Made In Lagos” Deluxe Album’s “Anoti.”
By releasing his follow-up EP, “High Tension 2.0,” in 2021, he furthered his reputation as one of Nigeria’s most in-demand celebrities. Bella released “Philo” with Omah Lay and “New Born Fela” from his upcoming album “Hypertension” in 2022 to listeners.
“New Born Fela,” the album’s opening track, is a full Afrobeat tune with Fela’s model permeating the production. It’s loaded with confessions and manifestos, and Bella fancies himself as the next Fela Kuti. This song is self-aware. The sax flavored the song along with the ladies’ Fela-esque background voices.
Due to the seamless transition of the sax outro into the opening, it is difficult to tell that “Ase” is playing after the first track. Bella Shmurda offers prayers to his family, friends, and fans in the upbeat song Ase, which is filled with powerful percussion. He repeats Ase (which means Amen) at each of the following: “You go do foundation (Ase), You go build your mansion (Ase), You go do graduation (Ase), London fun vacation (Ase), and Celebration (Ase).”
Two tracks with peaceful vibes that diverged from the elaborate orchestration he started with are “Contraband” and “Loose It,” both of which feature Simi. “Contraband” is on some afro-jazz; there is Afropop and then there is Afro-jazz. Silky melodies and a smooth tone are complemented by jazzy instrumentals in the song. The verse Simi wrote for “Loose it” is incredible. You should feel inspired to slow dance while enjoying a fine wine with your significant other.
On the dancehall-influenced song “oh oh oh,” he reveals his vulnerable side as he pines for a wild getaway trip with the woman he wants to be with and the kpoli, which is another name for Indian hemp.
A love song, “Converse,” starring Phyno. Bella increases the dance rhythms and tempos of an upbeat ditty by chopping up an evergreen. Bella sings in Igbo, though not with enough fluency. The Igbo verse rap by Phyno elevates the song.
The “Fire” song’s mellow Lo-fi sound is a dancehall beat interwoven with jarring African rhythms. It serves as both a love letter to his partner and a subliminal rebuke to his detractors. Thunder fire busy body, talking my matter busy body, he remarked.
The guitar chords solo on the Jimohsoundz-produced song “Lagos City” stands out among the funky guitar chords and saxophone instrumentals. An ode to his city, Lagos, is made in the song’s refrain: “Lagos city, Ilu of ogbon, Lagos city, Eko ole, Lagos city, aromisa, Lagos city, konibaje.”
Bella Shmurda uses the crowd voice on the poignant song “Level Up.” It reminds me of the song “Ginger Me” from his self-titled debut EP.
Bella asks for development and growth in this song. He wants to improve his situation so he can give his family, especially his mother and lover, a happy life. “Mofe rale fun mommy mi, Lamborghini,” he exclaims. “Fun baby Mi, Omo Oba Temi Yemi,” which translates as “Only I understand, I want to buy a house for my mother and a Lamborghini for my child,”.
The second single from the upcoming album “Philo,” which features Omah Lay, is a bop. It appears that the two artists were competing to be the most vulgar in Omah Lay’s brief but brilliant verse, but it sounds like they were having fun making this. In the end, there is just as much profanity as there is melody. It sounds wonderful.
Although there isn’t much lyricism on the dancehall-influenced songs “Nakupenda” with L.A.X., not3s, and backroad gee and “No other” with Victony, the musicians flow nicely over a bouncing groove. Victony’s distinctive vocals stand out on the song “No other,” and his words make it simple to write outstanding Afropop lyrics. It has a lot of potential to be a smash and is a danceable love tune.
“Man of the Year” features an emotional Bella Shmurda. This song has a Fela-Esque vibe to it. As he reflects on life’s experiences, Bella Shmurda uses the vocal background voice in a call-and-response pattern.
Codeine, Hennessy, and Parkalin addictions were revealed by Bella Shmurda on the upbeat track “Addicted,” which was created by the Magik. He claims he is helpless without them. He discusses his lack of direction. He doesn’t know what to pick. “Maami, I would run it again if I say I won’t run,” he said. Bella informs his mom.
In the Caribbean afrobeat song “So Cold,” which serves as the song’s outro, Bella and Jamaican musician Popcaan are in a vulnerable state as they consider the harsh truths of life, criticize their anger as a big defect, and express the suffering brought on by bad leadership. Popcaan sings, “Ain’t givin’ up the fight ’til it’s over, yeah.”
In the end, “Hypertension” shines thanks to incredible production and the message that the album aims to convey. There is little doubt that Bella Shmurda strayed from his typical street pop vibe based on the caliber of the sound and the consistency of the instrumentation. He made a conscious effort to produce nothing less than excellence. The lyrics were insightful and profound. However, to make for a more airtight listening experience, a few songs could have been dropped from the album.