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Plans to remake Disney’s Lion King were confirmed in September 2016 following the success of the recreated hyper-realistic computer animation of The Jungle Book. Fans waited long for the film to hit the big screens, but the best surprise and gift truly came from 66 times grammy award winner singer and performer, Beyoncé Knowles. Beyoncé is the executive producer of “The Gift”, an album featuring some of the most talented artists from Africa. She said:

“I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa and not just use some of the sounds and do my interpretation of it. I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.” 

Many African producers, song writers and engineers worked with Beyoncé to help construct this album. She speaks on love, family and life in a grand cinematic way. Let’s delve in, the first song on the album “BIGGER”, is a mood setter which she sings and raps over chords and chimes. When you listen to “FIND YOUR WAY BACK”, it’s clear she attached the relationship she had with her father and how much he pushed her to pursue her music career. The song is much lighter than the first track, with Bubele Boii and Magwenzi providing a beat that bounces in a way that beckons drunk footwork. “DON’T JELOUS ME” featured three of the biggest acts from Nigeria. The track featured Tekno, Yemi Alade & Mr. Eazi. I predict this song will lead to some of the wildest Zankus’s we’ve ever seen. Then we have the only artist, also Nigerian, who has a track with no features – The African Giant himself, Burna Boy gifted us with “JA ARA E”. 

MOOD 4 EVA” starts with what sounds like Zulu chants, an upbeat tune featuring Childish Gambino and her husband, Jay-Z. The lyrics to this song referenced a lot of African leaders and historical context, the instrumentals at the end blended so well and Beyoncé really nailed afro-pop on this one. Cameroonian artist Salatiel makes a brief but bright appearance on ‘WATER’ leaving us craving even more of his unique and sexy voice. Then we have by far my favourite track and the most controversial song on the album “BROWN SKIN GIRL”. The song features Blue Ivy, Beyoncé’s daughter and Naija’s very own Starboy, Wizkid. The song controversy started when intense debates online flared up about whether being a brown skin girl applied to all Black women, regardless of complexion. 

With lyrics like, “Melanin too dark to throw her shade” and calling out women like supermodel Naomi Campbell and actress Lupita Nyong’o, we can see why the presumption is that the song refers to darker skinned women. I believe it’s a song for the Black community at large and its a shame people chose to be intentionally obtuse and even worse, took a moment to marginalize women. Beyoncé wanted to celebrate African women and yes specifically for darker skinned Black women but all women should be to able to appreciate and love the song.

Tiwa Savage and Mr. Eazi sounded great play off of each other on ‘KEYS TO THE KINGDOM’ a sunny, heartfelt song about believing in yourself. These are just a few of the songs on the album and it was an accurate reflection of Nigeria’s importance to the current state of pop music. The album really embodies the spirit of Lion King in a way that feels authentic despite it being another cash cow for Disney. The album celebrates cultural appreciation. Many question why the voices of East Africa did not translate across the album like West and South Africans, and their omission is a mark against the album that was packaged as a gift for Africa. Nevertheless I appreciate Beyoncé’s interpretation of African music fused with pop.

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