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Ever since her first single, 2018’s “Mr. Rebel,” Tems’ music has been fluid and free of solid form, harmoniously splicing Afrobeats, amapiano, hip-hop, and R&B. Those same qualities define Born in the Wild, the Nigerian singer’s assured and ambitious debut album.   

“I go hard—that’s why they keep on talking,” she croons on “Wickedest,” noting that she’s “only just getting started.” Even still, her command is already impressive: Tems’ flowy penmanship is elevated by the album’s meditative percussion and guitar-heavy production, handled primarily alongside Ghanaian Afropop beatsmith GuiltyBeats. 

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Tems’ silky delivery reaches a deeper level of connectivity on Born in the Wild, bouncing from love ballads (“Love Me JeJe”) to others of emotional translucence (“Free Fall” and “Unfortunate”). Her vulnerability peaks on the closer “Hold On,” as she seeks a sense of internal solace. “I was one of the millions / Making anxious decisions,” she sings. “Looking for a remedy.”

There are no moments of stillness, only ones eloquently dipped in pools of tranquility, drawing from feelings of sanctity and empowerment. Songs like “Gangsta” take a more upbeat swing, matching the raised tempo with equally bold and cunning lyrics. “If you wanna rock, you can stick by me / Don’t nobody else do this shit like me,” Tems boasts. She even flashes MC skills on the Caribbean-style boom of “T-Unit” and the hypnotic “Turn Me Up.”

It’s been six years since Tems’ debut single, and this dexterity and notable openness has further broadened her reach. She’s now crossed continental lines—a growing influence underscored by a global tour. But there’s no bigger indication of her ascension than Born in the Wild: her biggest, boldest, and most earnest project to date. – GRADE: A-

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