Hypertension

Bella Shmurda

Hypertension

In the three years since Bella Shmurda captivated mainstream audiences with his vivid memoir of inner-city Lagos lives and hopes on the Olamide-assisted “Vision 2020 Remix,” the singer has casually cultivated the image of a street poet. Born Akinbiyi Abiola Ahmed, Bella has received critical praise for the incisive storytelling and unflinching messaging that made High Tension and High Tension 2.0 compelling listens while attracting high-profile fans like Runtown, Davido, and Wizkid, who soon turned collaborators. Across Hypertension’s 15 songs, that image of street poet is accompanied by a more cogent picture of the singer as a young man at peace with life in the bright lights. Translating his newfound zest for life into engaging reflections on current interests, Bella reveals a worldview that’s shaped by positive day-to-day experiences. “Everything has been happening [for me]—good things mostly. I’ve been working, I’ve been getting money, and I’ve been doing all sorts of things just to stay true to life,” he tells Apple Music. “Staying true to life means doing the right things. Just being myself and getting my goals right and working towards the things I want to achieve.” He’s clearly used to the good life, as he intimates with his first words on Hypertension, and from that high point, we’re immersed in a playful, lighthearted dispatch throbbing with themes of love, lust, success, and encouragement. Many times, on Hypertension, it’s as if Bella has hacked life by living in the moment while keeping memories of his past safe in his heart and resolving any tension by leaning into the explosive candor that introduced him as a compelling listen. Read on as the singer runs us through key tracks from the project. “New Born Fela” “‘New Born Fela’ is inspired by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. I see his attributes in me. I see it from the way he does his things, the way he looks, and the way he speaks. I just see Fela in me; we have similarities even though we are not related. ‘New Born Fela’ is just a way to let people know that Bella is still here, Bella is still alive, and Bella can tap into that conscious sound.” “Ase” “‘Ase’ means amen in Yoruba. It’s a song with a prayerful theme that I made for my people back in the hood. I wanted to make something for them and send prayers out to them, but it’s not limited to just my people. It’s for whoever needs it or to whoever needs those prayers at any time in their lives. It was produced by P.Priime and the Kazez Boys.” “Contraband” “This one explains the message of Hypertension very well. Hypertension is about lust. It’s talking about Bella’s lust. It’s basically Bella in love and Bella in lust as well. So, I’m expressing myself and explaining to someone I love that I can do anything [for them], even if it involves contraband and having to bring it in for them.” “Loose It” [Bella Shmurda & Simi] “‘Loose It’ is a song about heartbreak, and I featured Simi on this one to allow the parts about experiencing heartbreak to feel real. I got her vocals back in less than a week, and the song was ready.” “Oh Oh Oh” “This one was produced by Killertunes. ‘Oh Oh Oh’ is also another song about lust. I’m in the middle of several romantic dynamics, trying out different things but at the same time not wanting to fall in love. I’m just saying that I want to enjoy myself and work on understanding myself at the same time. It’s a song about having fun and just being free.” “Converse” [Bella Shmurda & Phyno] “‘Converse’ is kind of a love song. It’s me speaking to a girl. I’m trying to converse with her, and that’s what inspires this song. Shout-out to Phyno—he gave me the vocals in under 24 hours, and I’m grateful for that. I’m really happy to have him on the album.” “Fire” “‘Fire’ is heavily influenced by a local style called sanko. It was just something I made in the moment that was just pure vibes, but I was also trying to pass a message as well. The message was about me working hard, trying to make money—and I obviously don’t want to be stressed. That’s the message: I don’t need or want to be stressed at this point in my life because I value my peace of mind.” “Lagos City” “I’m talking about Lagos, my city, and all the things that happen here. I wanted to give people a glimpse into what we face, what we feel, and how we live. As an artist inspired by Lagos, I feel like the vibes in this city are contagious. Anyone that comes here can feel it. You just have to adapt to the lifestyle in Lagos because it is different from everywhere else. At the same time, Lagos is fun, and it’s also in my sound because I’m a Lagosian. It’s me letting the world know about where I’m from.” “Level Up” “‘Level Up’ is me just talking about myself and saying that through all the struggles and strife that I face, I have to make it for my family and myself. I have to level up, and I must get to that high position in life each day that I wake up. Shout-out to Ladipoe; it was a really great collaboration that ties into the theme of the track because I keep having different aims and objectives. I want to be a better artist, a bigger artist operating on a global level. I want to be known everywhere, not just in Lagos or Nigeria or the UK—I want the whole world to know me.”’ “Philo” [Bella Shmurda & Omah Lay] “‘Philo’ is also a love song. It’s me just talking to a lady and letting her know that there’s nothing I won’t do for her. I’d finished making the song, and I just played it for Omah Lay to see if he’d like it. I wasn’t going to put him on it; I was just playing it for a friend and colleague to see if he had tips on how to make it better. But immediately, he was like, ‘Yo, I’m jumping on this one,’ and that’s how it happened.” “Nakupenda” (feat. L.A.X) [Bella Shmurda, Backroad Gee, Pa Salieu & Not3s] “I made this song in London. Somehow, everyone on the song was in the same studio on that day, but I was originally scheduled to have a session with just Pa Salieu. After a while, Not3s came through to say hi. L.A.X also came through to say hi, and they all ended up being on the song. ‘Nakupenda’ is a song about my experiences—the pain and joys and everything coming together.” “Man of the Year” “‘Man of the Year’ is a song encouraging people that whatever the situation might be, things can be better. Right now, people are facing a lot of tough situations, and many things are on our shoulders, but regardless, you have to be encouraged, and you have to move on with life. I want both men and women to be able to listen to it and know that things will go well for them at the end of the day. I think encouragement is my calling; that’s the best part of Bella Shmurda’s music. If I was not an artist, I think I’d probably be a pastor or a motivational speaker because it’s just in me naturally to encourage.” “Addicted” “‘Addicted’ is a song talking about lust and all that comes with it. It’s me saying I’m addicted to the lifestyle, the way we live, and I’m not trying to run away from it because I’m comfortable with it. I’m addicted to the lifestyle and there’s no running away. It reflects where I am in my life right now.” “So Cold” [Bella Shmurda & Popcaan] “‘So Cold’ is also talking about pain and trying to encourage people as well. Shout-out to Popcaan. My team reached out to him, and he worked on the song with us. Collaborations like this are important because it’s good for my growth, for my audience, and for being able to reach more people. You have to leave your comfort zone to be a better person, and that’s what this album is talking about: leaving my comfort zone for new challenges.”

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