After coming of age on 2021’s Sorry I’m Late — released on the back of an unprecedented run of hitmaking features and inescapable singles that established him as one of Afropop’s most talented singer-songwriters — BNXN fka Buju is enjoying bringing his music to people across the world. Pieced together on many stops along his unending journeys crisscrossing the globe, BNXN’s sophomore project, Bad Since ’97, is an audacious attempt to situate himself among the greats of Afropop. If Sorry I’m Late was a long-winded apology to fans for a quiet 2020, Bad Since ’97 veers into self-mythology, positioning Buju as a peerless act operating at the zenith of his powers. “Right now, I’m in my bag, lyrically and musically,” he tells Apple Music. “The storytelling is 100 per cent better now—the delivery, the flow and everything. It is all well-put-together and the sound now is so mature, so confident. That is the stage I’m playing at.”
From the neo-Soul leanings of the title track to the Amapiano and Fuji-influenced delivery patterns of Loose Emotions, BNXN delicately considers destiny and reflects on soured romance at different turns, creating a body of work that’s just as braggadocious as it is pithy. In recognition of his status as one of Afropop’s most prodigious collaborators, BNXN’s coronation is annotated with contributions from Afropop royalty like Wizkid, Wande Coal and Olamide, while the singer’s dulcet vocals and immersive sonics proffer ample proof of his unrelenting genius. Read on as BNXN (Daniel Benson, formerly known as Buju) runs us through his sophomore project, track by track.
Bad Since ’97
“‘Bad Since ’97’ was produced by Denzel, a producer from Abuja. The beat gave me a movie soundtrack vibe. It felt like something you play when you’re about to make a statement or you’re about to say something really important. This is my opening statement. It’s me telling you that I’m a different breed entirely. There’s a whole new package when it comes to me. It’s just that self-proclamation that I have finally reached the stage where I feel like I’m unstoppable.”
Bad Man Wicked
“London was the first city I ever went to [outside Nigeria], and I got to understand what the culture was really about, in some sense—the segregation, the unity, but then still so much division. It’s a place where you have to identify yourself or you get lost. It’s almost like [that] everywhere, but it’s what I could pick out. So, ‘Bad Man Wicked’ was the first song I recorded with TSB. It’s the story of a boy in London Town for the first time. It’s the fact that this is a new place, and this is a new city, a new territory to even try and conquer. And by the grace of God, we’ve actually done that. We’ve subsequently gone past just recording that song to playing the O2 twice and having a show of my own at the Lafayette.”
Many Ways (feat. Wizkid)
“Initially, it was something I was supposed to do for Juls, but I was delaying on it because I always write to all my beats. One day, at about 3 am, I woke up and my producer Steph was [in the studio] having fun, so I decided to work on the beat a little. I recorded the original version that night. A few days after, Wiz came to Lagos. I went to his hotel, and we were just vibing—me, Wiz, Flavour, Masterkraft, Sarz, Lojay. I played ‘Many Ways’, and Wiz was shook [and eventually] jumped on it. I feel like it was a masterpiece that we created together because it’s a song that makes both of us happy.”
Kenkele [BNXN fka Buju & Wande Coal]
“‘Kenkele’ is one of my favourite songs ever in the world. I was in San Francisco with Wande Coal and a bunch of other artists. Wande dropped the hook to ‘Kenkele’, and because he had just done the hook, there were verses [open]. So, I went on, and I dropped the first verse, and I came out of the studio, and everybody’s like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy. This is hot.’ Wande was super excited. He was like, ‘Yo, you don’t collect the song for my hand.’ I was like, ‘Nah, bro.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, man. Trust me. This is you, bro. This is you.’ So, the song just became mine, in some sense. We had so much synergy on the song, me and Wande. It was meant to be.”
In My Mind
“On this song, I was trying to reflect on my experience with toxic relationships, and I wanted to paint a picture of one person in a relationship wanting the best for the relationship, and the other just bringing pain, trouble and agony into the relationship, and how it’s all a mess at the end of the day. But initially, the thought process would have been that this was probably the best relationship they could have. So, in this song, I’m being as vulnerable and as reflective as possible because I want people to understand how it was in my shoes.”
Modupe [BNXN fka Buju & Olamide]
“‘Modupe’ means I’m grateful in Yoruba. While I was recording this song, I was thinking about my journey and all the experiences I’ve been through to date, and how grateful I am for everything. I felt like [pouring] out my emotional side in gratitude to God for my success and everything that’s happened over time. When Olamide recorded it, he told me it was the first time in a long time that he had recorded on something that’s slow and inspirational, and he loves it.”
“‘Loose Emotions’ is more or less the sequel to ‘In My Mind’. At the time I recorded ‘Loose Emotions’, my goal was to make a happy song from a heartbreak song—more like a moving-on song. Like a song you play to celebrate, move on or break up with somebody. I felt like I could express that feeling of relief and joy that I had finally come out of a toxic relationship, and I was finally free to be myself and meet new people and experience love afresh.”
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