Burna Boy: The case for African Giant
When Burna Boy appeared on The Daily Show, hosted by Trevor Noah, he was in the brightest mood ever, since his US press runs for his African Giant album. Comedy can be a stimulator for the mind, and as Burna Boy joked, laughed and compared Afrobeats to a pizza, the reaction in his home country of Nigeria was dominated by pride.
This is our Burna Boy. Here’s a son of these shores pushing through ceilings with an album that was conceptualized using the collective story of Nigerians as an anchor. It is that sense of ownership that has created sentiments of equity in a fan base that continues to expand into non-traditional spaces. African Giant is an impressive work of art, and the pride it inspires is a clear indicator of its acceptance back home.
Overseas, things are different. Burna Boy is being introduced into spaces where his art needs to flourish. While the proof of his viability as an investment by Atlantic Records lies in proven potential back home and beyond, this album carries a heavier bet on African music. It is expected to prosper far beyond the others, and all the resources to deliver that reality are being deployed. On this promo run for the new projects, Burna Boy has performed at two elite US late-night shows. ‘Anybody’ was performed in July on Jimmy Kimmel, while on The Daily Show, he fused it in with ‘Ye’, for a medley.
Nigerians are both stunned and inspired. There was a sense of what was to come for Burna Boy when ‘Ye’ performed magic around the globe in 2018. But few expected a campaign of this magnitude. In some corners, and across social media, there is strong chatter about his chances to become the first African pop act to reel in a Grammy for his efforts. There’s a fair chance for it to happen now. The campaign is impressive.
At the heart of it is Atlantic Records. For fans who are wondering why Burna Boy’s promo run isn’t the standard for every African artist looking to crossover, they should look no further than these giants. The singer is signed to a deal with the record label. They are investing heavily in making him the first African pop act to crossover into the US.
Burna Boy is ready, and he is in a partnership that affords him this privilege. It is the label structure and the deal that provides access to the US promo structure. The US music industry runs on an organized structure that stretches from creation to marketing, PR and consumption.
When a major label invests heavily on an artist, they take a risk, making a financial commitment that they have to recoup. Making back that money with a nice looking profit margin for everyone involved requires that the music is plugged in the most potent spaces for promotion. Label execs need these numbers to justify the bet, and that means they have designed a plan to push the albums into as many ears as possible. From radio interviews to digital shows, live performances and appearances on influential platforms, curated events to increase engagement, and enough press to make listening to the album unavoidable.
To make things rudimentary; You might go years without hearing from Adele or Bruno Mars. And one day, they show up with a bang, and the promise of an album. You then cannot take them out of the news because someone has invested in the music, and needs it to travel far and make as much money as possible. Burna Boy’s case is special because he is availed opportunities that are rarely offered to people from far-flung or peripheral markets.
All of these would not have happened if Burna Boy wasn’t ready. While the structures that prop our music industry locally can allow artists to show a measure of nonchalance to their art, it’s different in developed markets. Any artist who intends to surpass stiff competition needs to be ready. Readiness in both the quality of the music, the team around the artist, and the willingness of the musician to advance their career, with the least level of personal irresponsibility. Business is professional in these foreign spaces, and the problematic people get dumped.
Burna Boy has masterful orchestrators around him. His mother runs his business, his sister handles branding, and his media is managed by BukiHQ. They also have crucial support with Priye Isokariari of Aristokrat Records. It’s a full squad with the intersection of business and family.
Burna Boy’s success is inspirational. Each step he takes elevates himself, his business and his country. African Giants live for more than their pockets. And as Burna marches on, there’s a great chance that the doors he walks through, will be left open for others to emulate his progress.