A 1-Listen Review Of Bella Shmurda’s Debut Album ‘Hypertension’
the Nigerian singer's anticipated debut album
the Nigerian singer's anticipated debut album
Bella Shmurda’s breakthrough came in 2019 with the Olamide-assisted remix of his single “Vision 2020.” The song captured an energy buoyed by the hunger to succeed and anger at a government’s failure to act to build a stable system for everyone to make it out of lack. A disciple of Nigeria’s street-pop scene, Bella poured his desires and aspirations into his well-received debut EP ‘High Tension.’ In one year, Bella Shmurda moved from a newbie to a promising star with an assemblage of impressive singles and guest appearances.
In 2021, he released ‘High Tension 2.0,’ the follow-up to his debut effort. The project marked a shift in Bella’s career; it bore the evidence of a change of fortunes: where ‘High Tension’ questioned the possibility of his dreams, ‘High Tension 2.0’ affirmed his new status while he worried about the pressures that came with his good fortunes. But Bella, while he struggled with label woes, kept his mind on the music.
A continuation of the electricity-themed projects, Bella has been teasing his debut album ‘Hypertension’ for a while. This is Bella’s way of saying he is operating at his highest form. He gave listeners a taste of the project with “New Born Fela” and the Omah Lay-featuring “Philo.” Now, the 15-track album ‘Hypertension’ is here. Time to give it a spin.
View this post on Instagram
Confession time: When “New Born Fela” initially dropped in August, I wasn’t feeling it. It was no fault of Bella but I just couldn’t connect with the direction I sensed Bella might be heading for the album. Since then, I haven’t given it another listen. But listening to it now, it’s making sense. This is Bella’s manifesto; he is backing himself on the new journey he is embarking on. And I absolutely love the use of the saxophone on this.
A smooth transition from “New Born Fela.” The saxophone is still playing. Now, the rhythm has shifted to a drums-and-percussion-driven one. The saxophone still plays underneath the drums and percussion, though. This is a prayer-filled track from Bella to his loved ones and the listeners.
Sonically, this one has no flourishes. It moves away from the lavish instrumentation on the previous tracks. Bella moves from singing to a lover to kicking against bad energy from detractors. Mellow vibe but is still a good one.
A mid-tempo romantic tune on ‘Hypertension.’ I love Bella’s flow at the tail end of his first verse where he uses the words “Baby flamingo,” “Nintendo,” “Telemundo,” “Ata rodo” and “Commando.” Simi does a good job with her verse. She and Bella are feeding off each other energy on this track.
It is a Dancehall vibe. “Pass me the kpoli make I feel alright/Make nobody come stress me tonight,” Bella sings. Here, he is in a playful mode; this is just an easygoing track to vibe to. There is a saxophone solo in the middle of the song. So far, I appreciate the attention to production on this project.
Instantly, the beat demands you to dance. Wait, what language is Bella singing? Igbo? LOL. Appreciate the effort but please don’t beat up the language if you can’t speak it well. Amid the jolly mode, Bella drops some introspection, singing, “Latеly/I’ve been on my toes I’m working (Daily)/Daily (Daily)/Many friends dem dey for jail (Jail).” It is a southeastern affair as Phyno adds his Igbo raps to the love tune; a great choice for this track, indeed.
Interesting production from Jimohsoundz. This track has a Dancehall rhythm to it but traditional African drums are playing underneath the beat. Bella gives a list of exotic activities he and his love interest can partake in. But he still has time for his haters as he sings, “Thunder fire busy body, talking my matter busy body.” Again, shout out to Jimohsoundz. His production is a standout feature here.
Groovy guitar chords, followed by the saxophone. I like the beat, another Jimohsoundz production. “Many people dey for Lagos/Many car wey no be Lexus/Many fish wey No be Titus,” Bella sings. This is his ode to Lagos.
The emotion in Bella’s singing recalls “Ginger Me” from ‘High Tension.’ Here, he is praying for elevation so he can provide a good life for his family. Bella shows that despite his star status, there is still more for him to achieve.
My jam! This track got me hyped for ‘Hypertension.’ I never knew a collaboration between Bella Shmurda and Omah Lay would sound really good. Omah Lay is clearly in his ‘Boy Alone’ zone and he delivers a short yet excellent verse. Also, KrizBeatz’s production is a sonic delight.
British artists Not3s and BackRoad Gee bring their distinct styles to this intercontinental collaboration. Together with the Nigerian artists Bella and L.A.X., they flow well on ATG’s bouncy beat. Not much lyrically, though. Just something to bob heads to.
I like the beat already. Dancehall stuff happening here. Quite funny when Bella tells his lover he wants “no other girl just my mother.” A short verse from Victony but it adds colour to the track, and his vocals are so enjoyable. KrizBeatz does another magic with the instruments enmeshed into one another. Excellent song with great potential to be a hit.
The mood is solemn. The percussion and drums are mid-tempo. “Mother selling pikin and the father marry daughter/Just for the money and the boy kill hin papa/Little children hawking and the government buy the water/Fake life fake news, who dey talk the matter?” Bella sings. Philosophical Bella is back; reminds me of “World.”
Do not let Magik’s bouncy production deceive you. There is a dark theme here. Bella sings about indulging in drugs, alcohol and wild lifestyles. “Maami I’m addicted,” he sings. There is no plea for restitution though. “Nonstop, it’s the life that we chose,” he adds.
The oldest track on the album. It follows the vulnerability of “Addicted.” Bella and Popcaan sing about the harsh realities in their lives, in Nigeria and Jamaica respectively. They share the pains caused by ineffective governments and the desire to create a habitable space in these realities. “Ain’t givin’ up the fight ‘til it’s over, yeah,” Popcaan sings. The grind for a better life goes on.
‘Hypertension’ proves that Bella Shmurda has matured as an artist, most especially with the production. The instrumentation on most of the tracks is intricate and the producers do a good job of offering Bella a sonic template that matches his ambitions. They are the stars of this album.
Thematically, there is no cohesion here. It feels more like a playlist that Bella uses to display his skills as an artist. He moves from braggadocio to romance to vulnerability but the songs would have hit harder if a thread connected them. Bella’s last project that had that cohesion was ‘High Tension.’ I came off that project realising that I had just listened to the aches and joys of an artist hungry for success. Such a connection can’t be found on ‘Hypertension.’
Still, I’m impressed by Bella’s effort. Hopefully, with time and experience, he will deliver a classic album.
Listen to ‘Hypertension’ here.
Featured image credits/NATIVE