Our First Impressions of Bella Shmurda’s sophomore EP ‘High Tension 2.0’

A street poet with a voice of gold

Following a successful 2019 which culminated in the release of his breakout single “Vision 2020”, Bella Shmurda began the following year with a mission: to soundtrack the hardship on the streets as one who had lived it and grew from it. In February of that year, he released his debut EP ‘High Tension’, a 7-tracker with a nostalgic air of lived-in familiarity brought about by his gritty ghetto raps, clear metaphors, and a bundle of Yoruba folk traditions and references. It was infinitely clear that the street poet was on the cusp of a major explosion.

That time came at the tail end of 2020 when Bella Shmurda released “Cash App”, the smash hit single that featured Zlatan & Lincoln and further chronicled the realities of emanating from the streets of Lagos. While controversy trailed this particular release, it garnered over 11 million views on Youtube and rose to the top of Apple Music charts at the time of its release. The celebratory hitmaker now continues his penchant for making catchy music with a conscious message on his sophomore EP ‘High Tension 2.0’, the follow-up to his 2020 EP. Speaking to Apple Music about the release, the singer shares that “High Tension 2.0 is another dimension of Bella Shmurda. A new style, a new vibe, a new thing for my people. It’s like lightning. You can’t stop lightning from striking, and that’s the way I’m coming.”

So, what’s the project’s best song? Biggest skip? Most surprising moment? The NATIVE team have got you sorted as we deliver what we think are the standouts from ‘High Tension 2.0’. Here are our first impressions of Bella Shmurda’s sophomore EP.


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Best Song?

Ada: It’s really hard to pick a top song for me. My top 3 songs include “Rush” and “World” which are already in my opinion bangers and quite mainstream but my fave aside from these two will be “Lako”. It’s super catchy and you can dance to it. I see it becoming quite popular for sure. Also, keep an eye out for “Champion”, it seems like a sleeper hit that could definitely grow on many of us.

Dennis: Not to be captain obvious here, but I’m going with “Rush” as the best song here. Yeah, it was the lead single and an apparent smash hit immediately after its early year release, but on a slightly deeper level, it’s a phenomenal testament to Bella Shmurda’s musical veracity even as he’s making music for mainstream reception. If you asked me this same question about High Tension, I’d struggle because that EP represents the work of an artist figuring out his own version of what it means to be well-rounded. For 2.0, “Rush” is clear for me because it represents the Apex Bella Shmurda song till date, a distillation of his “live fast, live young” ethos into substantial lyricism and downright catchy songwriting over stunning production.

Woju: Bella Shmurda is a very detailed lyricist. A genre led by percussive elements predominantly, variations of Afropop tend towards linguistic simplicity, but Bella Shmurda’s output is vastly different, and that, to me, is where he soars. On this project, my favourite tracks are the ones with a prevalence of motivational bars, delivered in the relatable and digestible way, Bella Shmurda is accustomed to. The album close, “Champion” is a front runner of mine, with its self-affirming lyrics that appear earlier on in the project on “Rush”, a dynamic track that also emerges as a favourite of mine. Released ahead of the entire project, “Rush” is still a highlight, retaining its status as a jam and giving listeners a healthy dose of pompous self-congratulation and a humble acceptance for the fleeting reality of life. Encouraging his listeners to keep going, dishing out solid advice throughout the record, Bella Shmurda’s performance of “Out There” earns the number one spot for me. Especially knowing the actually crazy streets where Bella Shmurda is coming from, it’s particularly inspiring hearing the stories of perseverance and success through that, that Bella Shmurda shares on this song. It is such a poignant way to open a project and sets the bar almost unattainably high.

Biggest skip?

Wonu: The biggest skip for me would have to be “World”. This is not because it’s a bad song but because it’s been out for a while and I’m just tired of listening to it.

Shina: On first listen through the album, “Soldier Go” is the one song that didn’t pique my interest. Bella doesn’t sound his best like he does on every other song. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t sound as convincing and is un-relatable. Definitely hitting the skip button on this one.

Ada: Ugh this a hard one cause it really is a good project. I guess my least favourite would be “Soldier Go” and that is me just nit-picking.

Biggest surprise?

Wonu: The biggest surprise for me has to be the fact that there are no features on the project. I would have expected an Olamide or Zlatan verse assist on one of the tracks.

Rahman: What I find interesting about Bella Shmurda’s body of work is the fact that the album could be so good without features. I’m not going to lie, I expected at least 2 features but hearing and seeing no features means he has more in store for us and he is going to be deep in his bag soon.

Tami: The biggest surprise for me would be the fifth track “Lako” which is a very raunchy, dirty song about receiving head. It’s the biggest surprise for me because Bella Shmurda basically diverts from delivering conscious sounds and thought-provoking singles about his lover to requesting that he gets blown off by his lover. It’s the versatility for me, haha. Gotta love it, man.

Best verse?

Damilola: It’s not a verse, but my immediate favourite song is “World” and its’ because of the profound chorus. There were some sus parts in the second verse that I’ll wait to discuss in great detail when I’ve sat with my thoughts about it, but yeah the chorus really caught my attention. ‘If I ever lose to the world, I can never lose to myself’, feels like a mantra of sorts and the thumping bass in the background shows that he meant for it to catch one’s attention. It feels almost like he’s talking to himself but also everyone else who’s listening and two songs in, he’s maintained that deeply reflective energy he kept with the first High Tension EP.

Tami: The best verse for me came on the intro song “Out There”. Here, Bella Shmurda is talking directly to his fans and followers preparing them with the tools that they’ll need to survive the crazy war that is life. “I know it’s crazy out there.

Shina: Honestly expected Bella to start the album with the single “World”, a conscious song about the world we live in now but I understand why he opted for “Out There”. On all verses, Bella is basically speaking his truth and also sharing some tips on how to get by this crazy world because he’s lived it and understands how hard living in it is for everyone. Bella sees himself, you, and me as soldiers that have to win the battle of life and urges us to keep pushing no matter what. Definitely sign me up for any Bella Shmurda ‘how to’ masterclass.

Overall impressions

Wonu: My overall first impression: This has not exactly been one of my favorite first listens this year but all in all, it’s a good body of work with quality track arrangement. This is something I’d definitely playback once in a while.

Dennis: The one thing that kept popping into my head while listening to High Tension 2.0 is that, Bella Shmurda is a star and he knows it. It’s not vocally pronounced, but there’s a conviction on the surface and in every crevice of the project, that he’s doing exactly what he’s meant to be doing on this level. From the motivational intro song, “Out There,” you can tell he knows he’s eclipsed the overtly aspirational ethos that drove his breakout song, “Vision 2020,” and debut EP. Even when you compare last year’s hit “Sho Mo Mi” with the fourth track “Far Away,” both romance-themed songs, he’s left the posturing of the former for a more assured, plain-stated lyrical approach. 2.0 is a reflection of his deserved upgrade in status and, the best part is, you can tell he still has a few more levels to unlock. [Footnote: Watch “Lako” become his next street hit in 3, 2…]

Woju: ‘High Tension’ is a highly inspirational project, with songs such as “World” and “Champion” affirming the self. As such, one of the primary draws for me is the lyrical endowment of the project. The concise song lengths and Bella Shmurda’s unique delivery are also strong selling points for this project, but a slight drawback is the generic, almost basic sound that he peddles.
The Dance beat that opens “Lako” is arresting and immediately attracts, but as the song continues it quickly moves into generic territory. I appreciate the island vibe on “Soldier Go” as well as the horns on “World”, though the ubiquity of the particular production style Bella Shmurder is working with detracts from his unique talents as a recording artist. With that said, the ever-changing flow and melodic variations on “Far Away” makes for a delectable aspect of the sound. On “Rush” too, the trap influences, meticulously woven into the Afro-pop song that plays with an electronic led hook prove that with the right accompaniment, Bella Shmurda is more than capable of winning alternative-trained ears over.

Stream ‘High Tension 2.0’ below.

Featured image credits/BellaShmurda

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