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“Sincerely, Benson” Review: Bnxn Makes a Bold, Brazen Debut as One of Afrobeats’ Finest Artistes

“Sincerely, Benson” Review: Bnxn Makes a Bold, Brazen Debut as One of Afrobeats’ Finest Artistes

Sincerely, Benson by Bnxn review on Afrocritik

While some might argue that a few tracks adhere closely to their respective genres without groundbreaking innovation, this is not necessarily a drawback. Bnxn’s vocals and lyrics are the driving force, and the production serves as the platform upon which he can perform his musical magic…

By Emmanuel Daraloye, Yinoluwa Olowofoyekun, and Emmanuel Okoro

Five years after roving in the music scene, Bnxn, the former Spaceship Records’ signed artiste finally puts out his debut long play. It is a beautiful mix of sound with a delicate selection of featured artistes that he aptly titles Sincerely, Benson. The album’s title is directly inspired by Burna Boy’s sixth album Love, Damini, released last year, and it was Burna Boy himself who told him to look for a creative way to introduce his real name ‘Benson’ to the world, after his name change from ‘Buju’ to ‘Bnxn’. This album comes conveniently after the release of his first two EPs, the 2021 Sorry I’m Late and Bad Since ‘97 which followed a year later. 

Sincerely, Benson holds some level of cultural relevance for Bnxn, arriving on his own terms, away from the goading of the music industry, with a project that could make or mar him. For an artiste who has been touted as a ‘collaboration’ artiste by cynics, – the type who only shines on features – Bnxn is deliberately solo on a plethora of the songs, with just six featured artistes on the 15-track album.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, this album solidifies such acclaim, with lyrics delivered from the standpoint of an artiste who is mature,  introspective, and full of life. However, the new album comes a few weeks after his presumed rival, Ruger’s RU The World debut project, and there is no doubt this Bnxn’s album will spark yet another bout of comparisons and supremacy battle between two of Afrobeats’ best songwriters. 

The album commences with “My Life”, a track that hints at the contrast between his past and present, where some people may not fully grasp the challenges he has faced on his walk to fame. It lays the groundwork for high expectations for the entire project. On “Mukulu”, Bnxn temporarily shifts away from profound lyricism to deliver a groovy, rhythm-focused number. 

“Pidgin & English” and “Realise” showcase Bnxn’s introspective side, as he reflects on past romantic relationships, wondering how he could have been a better partner in the affairs now turned sour. “Sweet Tea (Aduke)” delves deep into the emotions of longing and frustration stemming from unrequited love. 

Sincerely, Benson by Bnxn tracklist - Afrocritik
Sincerely, Benson tracklist

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The line, “I enter from Abuja go Gwagwalada” from the hit single, “Gwagwalada”, symbolises Bnxn’s deliberate recluse from the bustles of life and prying eyes of the media to seek solace in a quieter, safer space. While “Say My Name” is a delightful callback to Nigerian nursery rhymes, injecting a dose of nostalgia to the mix, “Pray” sees Bnxn focusing on a higher power for guidance as he navigates the treacherous waters of fame. 

On “Regret”, both Bnxn and Nigerian legend, 2Baba, examine their missteps and how it has caused a wedge in their relationships. Lines like “Ahead ahead, there’s no debating/ I wan start afresh, clean slate” resonate with a commitment to rectify past wrongs.

Sincerely, Benson excels in its curated track listing, providing an enjoyable experience from start to finish. Throughout the album, Bnxn navigates diverse sonic landscapes and themes while maintaining his signature laid-back vocal poise. From his vulnerability echoing in tracks like “Toxic” and “Pidgin & English” to stingers like “Pray” and “Party Don’t Stop”, Bnxn finds pockets of sheer brilliance. The result is an album that balances sonic diversity without compromising its harmonious essence. 

Noticeably, in terms of its vocal leanings, the album – for the most part – maintains a stoic, groovy state as Bnxn progresses through each track. His sound, melodies, and riffs are particularly second-to-none in the music scene in Nigeria, and this takes centre stage on the album. 

Nonetheless, there are moments of revelation on Sincerely, Benson with tracks like “Realise”, “Regret”, and “Final Answer”, where Bnxn gracefully slips away from his comfort zone and immerses himself in the world of the featured artistes. In some way, this demonstrates his ability to engage in creative exchange while preserving his identity. 

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Bnxn’s musical pedigree has afforded him the unique opportunity to collaborate with some of the brightest talents in the music production game. With luminaries such as LeriQ, Sarz, Magicsticks, ATG, and Jae5 at the helm, it is no wonder that the production of his latest album stands out as a testament to his elevated status in the industry. 

The production across the entire album provides the perfect backdrop for Bnxn’s exceptional strengths to shine through. It serves as the sonic canvas upon which he expertly layers his versatile melodies. Tracks like “Pidgin & English”, “Sweet Tea”, “Say My Name”, and “Regret” exemplify how the space afforded by a lot of the production allows Bnxn’s vocals to sit solidly within the soundscape. 

Being the main crux of the sound, the Afrobeats production on the album is particularly noteworthy. We get sonic delight characterised by smooth, soft keys or pads, passages with lively guitars and sampled brass, rich basslines, and swinging groove-setting drums. Songs like “My Life”, “Mukulu”, the hit track “Gwagwalada”, and “Right Energy” exemplify the effectiveness of the delivered production.

Sincerely, Benson by Bnxn review on Afrocritik
Sincerely, Benson album cover

In other parts, the production is called upon to diversify the album’s soundscapes. The beats that sway from the Afrobeats’ path all draw out different dimensions of Bnxn’s artistry. “Maximum Damage” brings a bouncy Afroswing flair, “Realise” delves into melodic Hip-Hop inspiration, “Party Don’t Stop” channels the wildly energetic drum and bandpass, while “Toxic” takes a measured R&B-leaning approach, and “Final Answer” infuses elements of Dancehall. It is an impressive display of versatility, both on Bnxn’s part and from the production team.

In summary, the production quality across the entire album, as expected with such top-notch production credits, is nothing short of stellar. While Bnxn’s vocal prowess carries the musicality of the songs, it is essential to note that the instrumentals themselves are far from mere background noise. 

Each beat bursts with colour and charm, making them enjoyable in their own right. While some might argue that a few tracks adhere closely to their respective genres without groundbreaking innovation, this is not necessarily a drawback. Bnxn’s vocals and lyrics are the driving force, and the production serves as the platform upon which he can perform his musical magic. The beats are finely tuned to enhance his vocal performances, creating a harmonious synergy that defines the album’s overall sound and vibe. 

Bnxn - Afrocritik
Bnxn

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Shifting the focus to the engineering aspect of the album, there are a few areas where it could be subject to critique. In “My Life”, the use of pitched-up vocals occasionally clashes with the main vocals, causing a slight interference. This interference is compounded by the presence of vocal effect samples, which, while creatively intriguing, can sometimes overshadow the primary vocal track. A similar issue arises in “Mukulu”, where certain backing vocals appear to get lost within the sonic landscape, leading to moments of audio muddiness.

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It is important to note that these concerns are, for the most part, minor, and could be considered nitpicking. They do little to detract from the overall brilliance displayed throughout the project — from composition and production to engineering and finishing touches. Despite these minor gripes, the creative and technical excellence of the album shines through, ensuring that it remains a captivating listening experience from start to finish.

Sincerely, Benson properly situates Bnxn as one of the Afrobeats artistes who can effortlessly create an album. The days of hanging on to features seem to be on hiatus and for once,  Bnxn comes through in his elements. The album finds him switching from Afrobeats to R&B, and even Reggae, with limited collaborations gathered from demographies like the UK, the Caribbean, and Nigeria. And while at it, he smartly lends a helping hand to the rising underground artiste, Taves.

Lyricism – 2

Tracklisting – 1.5

Sound Engineering – 1.6

Vocalisation – 1.6

Listening Experience – 1.7

Rating – 8.4/10

Listed twice by “Black Pride Magazine” as one of the top 5 Music Journalists in Nigeria, Emmanuel Daraloye has over 600 album reviews in his archive.

Yinoluwa “Yinoluu” Olowofoyeku is a multi-disciplinary artist and creative who finds expression in various media. His music can be found across all platforms and he welcomes interaction on his social media @Yinoluu.

Emmanuel ‘Waziri’ Okoro is a content writer and journo with an insatiable knack for music and pop culture. When he’s not writing, you will find him arguing why Arsenal FC is the best football club in the multiverse. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Threads: @BughiLorde

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