Art is subjective.
It’s not an overstatement to say Buju’s EP was one of the most anticipated projects in the past decade. The build-up to the EP’s release saw us witness one of the most prolific runs in Nigerian music history. From midnight on May 7 when Ladipoe’s “Feeling” dropped till the month of October, every Friday witnessed a new song featuring Buju, real name Daniel Benson. From established stars like Timaya, Rexxie, Blaqbonez and Wizzy baby loke loke himself to up and comers like Savage and Anoti, the entire music industry was in need of his services. The craziest thing about this run was that he killed every single time, sometimes taking over the song and making it his own to the point where nobody knew who the lead artist was. Every week, fans gushed about how good he was and how they couldn’t wait for his own project.
* insert Wizkid tweet: “And I hope you know Buju’s voice na 1 of 1*
On October 16, he announced the project’s title: Sorry I’m Late. Worry about this project that seemed destined to never come turned into anticipation. So close you could taste it - after the year he’d had, surely there was no way the EP could fail, right? Sure, some people thought the title was a bit corny and cliche - I don’t know what they wanted, maybe something “original” like - I don’t know - My Time Is Now or Buju Buju Para. Whatever it was they wanted, they had to manage Sorry I’m Late. No wahala, expectations were still good. In the middle of all the commotion, his fans had features on “Your Body” and“Cold Outside” by Basketmouth and Timaya to enjoy. Tiktok vids were still going crazy with the remix of his refix of Fireboy DML’s “Peru.” Buju, para.
Fast Forward to midnight October 29th, Sorry I’m Late is released across all platforms. By morning, the verdicts start to drop and they’re not what we expected. “Mid”, “Disappointing”, “E no too tap” and the funniest one to me so far: “On the song with the Cavemen, I don’t think he was hearing his instruments well.” All in all, one thing was clear, the fans were not feeling it. Why? They don’t know. Maybe expectations were too high or maybe it’s one of those problems nobody can point out because it exists in the sentimental part of our mind. You know what I mean? When there’s nothing wrong with the song on surface-level, but you’re still not feeling it so you say things like “he could have gone harder”, or “that song deserves more” or a personal favourite: “It’s just lacking that x-factor.”
Buju thinks the problem is that the majority of naysayers don’t understand the intention behind the project, and I have to say that I agree with him. Now, there is a solid argument to be made that a good project slaps regardless of the artist’s intention or not, but I don’t think that’s the case every time. When a creative, in whatever field, produces a body of work, it’s almost never impulsive. A lot of thinking goes into the direction, how the artist wants to sound, what he wants to say etc. At the core, this creative vision is a personal one and is oftentimes disconnected from what the fans want or expect. They want to dance, meanwhile you want to talk about your God-given mandate to rule the industry over smooth mellow production.
But, in defense of the fans, music being a personal experience doesn’t apply to only artists. Fans, as consumers, don't have to accept everything you release and that’s okay. They have a right to be disappointed with the product, and a right to air their grievances. I mean, they were rooting for you. Of course, not all of them do so from a place of love - some have been waiting for you to fall and this is their haha moment. At this juncture, permit me to say anyone waiting for Buju to miss is a certified hater boy/girl and has my respect because it has taken a *very* long time. Personally, I think that the only problem with Buju’s EP is the series of tweets he posted to defend the project’s sound and direction. Except your art directly infringes on people’s rights, I don’t think any artist has to explain themselves to anyone. Art is meant to be interpreted, enjoyed and criticised by fans however they want. You don’t owe them tweets trying to make it more palatable. Explaining yourself on Twitter is almost as bad as Marcus Rashford’s apology essays when Manchester United or England lose a football match. Also, some of the tweets were just corny. Like the one where he said he wants to “move our minds.” Buju, plis.
I like Sorry I’m Late. I’ll admit that it took some time to grow on me, but after sitting with it for a while, I believe it’s a solid body of work. I think that Buju is too good a musician to flop anyways. He has a great understanding of melodies, and his ability to flow with different sounds means that he almost always leaves you impressed. On “Never Stopped”, his sing-rap style takes the jam to another level, and the outro “I Do” is a testament to his vocal ability. I think he heard the instruments on “Ogechukwu '' with The Cavemen, but his pitch seemed a bit too high for the sound he was going for. My biggest “miss” on the tape is “Kilometer” - not because it’s a bad song, but because I think it deserved more; It’s lacking that X-factor. But the songs are enjoyable and his message of hard work, determination and self-belief is passed across well.
To conclude, I have argued time and time again that there’s no such thing as a bad taste in music. Art is subjective and the ways we enjoy it will always differ. This doesn’t necessarily mean that things we appreciate cannot be disliked by others. And more importantly, you not liking a song or album doesn’t make it bad. It just means it’s not for you. Here’s a suggestion for you, however: give musicians the benefit of the doubt and try to see the vision they have for the project. It’s the least bit of respect you can give to their work. If e still no tap after that, no wahala, no one can say you didn’t give it a chance. But, try first. Sit with Sorry I’m Late for a little while. See if he can move your mind.
Stream Sorry I’m Late below.