DND is a sleek and fresh return by Bella Shmurda. The statement is loud and clear…
By Emmanuel Daraloye
Nigerian artiste, Bella Shmurda, made a grand statement in the year 2019, with the release of the song “Vision 2020.” The single got a boost via a brilliant sixteen-verse contribution from Nigerian rapper, Olamide, for its remix. It was a cultural moment. The title is a swipe at a failed economic postulation made by the Nigerian government. The song became a catalyst for Shmurda’s full introduction to Nigerians. He raised questions about the state of the nation, but answers were not provided. Nigerians danced, made merry, and kept it going.
It has been four years since. Bella Shmurda has continued to grow from strength to strength. An album has been released, two extended plays have been churned out, and his latest EP, titled DND, was released on July 26, 2023, under the artiste’s record label Dagbana Republik. In the course of his career development, Bella Shmurda has been involved in label issues, controversy with colleagues, show flops, and many more. These are what make up the industry, and he has been an unlucky victim.
Bella Shmurda has always been a fan of Fuji music, it shows in his songs. His debut EP, High Tension, was filled with Fuji tunes mixed with Afrobeats, with topics swirling between personal struggles, tribulation, and triumph. But things took another turn on his last album, Hypertension, as he explored the high sides of life. The project failed to elicit much reaction from fans and music critics.
DND, the new EP, sounds like a way to right the wrongs of the previous album, with Bella Shmurda returning to his Fuji forte. The six-track project had sonic support from Tiwa Savage, Pheelz, and Lil Kesh. The project rollout began in March 2023. Slowly, it seems the fans started to get the memo that he’s not joking with his craft.
The title of the tracks on this EP read like a statement, perhaps, Bella Shmurda has a message for everyone that is listening. “In Charge,” the project opener, serves as a statement of purpose, as Shmurda alludes to his strength, street credibility, and his innate ability to be loved by many. The track is helmed by a poignant drum, a maverick choir, with a bright Amapiano log drum. “Bella Tide, Oh oh Ah,” is a line that is difficult to forget. At the end of the track, you’ll find it difficult to spot which artiste Bella Shmurda had a problem with, but you won’t miss the fact that he is truly ready for them. His beef with Marlian record owner, Naira Marley, and Street-Hiphop artiste, Cblack, is still fresh in the memory of the fans. Starting the project with “In Charge” is Bella Shmurda’s subtle way of setting the record straight — he still holds his craft down and is not scared to tell anyone who cares to listen.
Released in March 2023, the uptempo record, “Ara,” finds Bella Shmurda in a reflective and prayerful mood. The drums and strings on the instrumental seem to drive the track. It gives off a Fuji music aura. It is an easy route for Bella Shmurda, yet, the simplicity of the writing is difficult to overlook. The double entendre in the songs is glaring, and sometimes hilarious. Lines like “Shey oh bother, moh Seme border, toba Cotonou, moh ma semo bo,” make you laugh. It’s a beautiful play on the Seme and Cotonou border (in Benin Republic). The playfulness of the song might make the message the track is passing less noticeable.
African Bad Gyal, Tiwa Savage, lends her sultry vocals to “NSV,” a brilliant rendition by both artistes. The lyrics switch between life, people, and parties. In all shades, this track is Fuji mixed with a bit of Amapiano. The Fuji sound is more poignant. It shows how Bella Shmurda takes his music seriously, and the lengths he is willing to go to give the fans a different version of himself as he sweetly mixed Amapiano with Fuji. On this track, Bella Shmurda is unafraid to explore sounds, he stretches himself, and in the end, this alluring track gets created.
The title track “DND” features former YBNL star, Lil Kesh. The track is centred around sex. This is the type of track Mr Keshiro (Kesh) loves, and truly, he comes with his A-level game. Lil Kesh’s verse opens the track, and Shmurda is unable to usurp what Lil Kesh has done with the first verse. The song is that good. Beyond the mixing, which sometimes cracks, the track is a near-perfect one, with both artistes making an indelible impact with their contributions.
Pheelz, Mr Producer, becomes the yin to Bella Shmurda’s yang on “Bankruptcy,” but the EP could have been better off without this track. At the end of the spin, it glaring that not enough thought was deployed into making this song. It sounds more like a freestyle than a song. Nevertheless, Pheelz ’s production on this track is impeccable.
DND ends with “Jojo,” which means dance. The track has elements of Dancehall, perhaps, Bella Shmurda curated this track for the Caribbeans, perhaps a gift to fans from that part of the world.
Bella Shmurda has had a long and impeccable journey from his debut EP High Tension and now to the latest project to DND. The differences between both projects are glaring. The days of struggle-pivoted writing seem to be taking the back seat. Right now, Bella Shmurda seems to be on the move. He now curates songs for enjoyment, parties, and perhaps, something for lovers.
DND is a sleek and fresh return by Bella Shmurda. The statement is loud and clear. Welcome back!
Lyricism – 1
Tracklisting – 1
Sound Engineering – 1
Vocalisation – 1
Listening Experience – 2
Rating – 6/10
Emmanuel Daraloye is Africa’s Most Prolific Freelance Music Critic. He has over 600 album reviews in his archive.