The title of the album suggests a strong self-confidence of the soul musician and songwriter Michael Kiwanuka. This impression is intensified by the album cover, which Kiwanuka presents in a pseudo-royal look with pharaonic appeal and lush facial hair. All this signals: "I am the greatest". Is Michael Kiwanuka really the greatest of his kind? We shall see.
It is amazing how variedly arranged KIWANUKA comes across. Even the usually very noisy backing crew shows itself in different light again and again. Their unmistakable, but colorfully varied contribution to most of the songs is sometimes interrupted by quiet passages that stand out like restful oases from the tumult of the gospel-like intoning choir. An example of this is "I've Been Dazed" or the second run of the soul title "Hero", which overall proves to be a welcome oasis of peace and quiet. The album starts with "You Ain't The Problem", extensively indulging in Afrobeat, in a rapid pace with a boisterous and tumultuous choral contribution. The album continues with the funk song "Rolling". Refreshing cooling of the already strongly heated atmosphere can be found in the quietly arranged sound oasis, which rests in the centre of the again very lively song "I've Been Dazed".
The introduction of "Piano Joint" is gospel-tuned. Cooling down from the clamor can be found in "Another Human Being". In "Living in Denial" Michael Kiwanuka tells his view of things in a rhythmically reserved way between threatening choral sequences. In the version of a two-part song, "Hero" is not the radiant hero one might expect from the song title, but rather a reserved, sympathetic role model of the everyday hero who strives to make life more pleasant for his fellow men. In this song Michael Kiwanuka skillfully mixes elements of the past with those of the present.
"Hard To Say Goodbye" is a highlight of the album with a calm pace, in which Michael Kiwanuka's voice is largely accompanied by a solo guitar, sometimes embedded in reverb, sometimes supported by heavy guitar riffs. After a soft solo guitar intro "Light" proves to be a string-saturated Good-By-Gospel, which rises softly from offstage, underlaid by the choir, and culminates in radiant heights, only to finally fade away in offstage.
KIWANUKA proves that Michael Kiwanuka is indeed the greatest in his own way. Quite impressively he demonstrates his singing ability and his chameleon-like skills as a songwriter and arranger. It is legitimate that he is inspired by the songwriting and instrumentation of, among others, folk-rock singers of the late sixties, especially since he does not do this in the form of a mere copy, but based on gospel singing with taste and cleverly translated into today.