Burna Boy… Is This The Year Of African Giant?
Afro-fusion artiste Damini Ebumoluwa Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy, rose to prominence in 2012 after releasing the lead single Like To Party from his 2013 debut studio album, L.I.F.E. Five years, he followed up with his fourth studio album African Giant, which landed him his first Grammy Award nomination for Best World Music Album.
For those who’ve been following the 28-year-old’s career from its inception, this nod comes as no surprise. If anything, it’s about time.
A native Rivers State and the grandson of Benson Idonijie, Fela Kuti’s former manager, it seems that connection points to Burna’s destiny of being a rock star for the people. Over the year’s, he’s been unwavering in paying homage to the Afrobeat legend, even pre-African Giant.
Burna first made a statement with his debut studio album, L.I.F.E [Leaving an Impact For Eternity], which dropped in 2013 and peaked at Number 7 on Billboard’s Reggae Album Chart. That album holds his hits Like to Party, Tonight and Yawa Dey. His 2015 sophomore album, On A Spaceship, featured Soke, a reflective, critical track on the current state of Nigeria. Till date, the conscious track still enjoys massive rotation at parties.
Burna’s 2016 EP Redemption took it a step further, giving fans another eloquent, contemplative dingle with Pree Me.
Outside, Burna’s third studio album that peaked at Number 3 on the same reggae chart, was released in February 2018, and was ranked by Nigerian Entertainment Today as the Best Nigerian Album of 2018.
Described as a mix tape, Outside consists mostly of Afrobeats, dancehall, reggae and road-rap tracks commonly known as grime. It features guest vocals from English musicians J Hus, Lily Allen and Mabel and was supported by six singles, Rock Your Body, Streets of Africa, Koni Baje, Sekkle Down, Heaven’s Gate and Ye. The album received critical acclaim and won Album of The Year at the 2018 Nigerian Entertainment Awards and the album’s biggest single Ye ended top as the biggest song of 2018 and inadvertently ended up giving fans a temporary replacement for the Nigerian national anthem.
At the SoundCity MVP Awards Festival, he won four awards, including African Artiste of the Year, Listener’s Choice and Best Male MVP. On March 21, 2019, Burna Boy released a 4-track collaborative EP with Los Angeles – based electronic duo DJDS, titled Steel & Copper, as well as working with artistes Future, YG, Jorja Smith and others.
On June 24, 2019, he won Best International Act at the 2019 Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards and was announced as Apple Music’s Up Next Artiste. He recorded Ja Ara E (Yoruba word that means wise up or use your head) for Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift and was the only guest artiste with his own track on the soundtrack.
Burna has always had something for everyone in his projects and his most recent project African Giant was, in short, a mic drop and an extension of his global takeover. The album was released on July 26, 2019 and has been supported by six singles Gbona, On The Low, Killin Dem, Dangote, Anybody and Pull Up.
The undeniable thread that weaves Burna Boy’s story together is consistency. It would be wrong not to mention the foundation an artiste needs to execute such; a solid team who gets the vision and has the best interest of the artiste in mind. A team that can convince and show their artiste that following the plans will be worthwhile. From his manager and mother Bose Ogulu, who has been the propeller for Burna’s music career, to his sister and stylist Ronami Ogulu, his core collaborators at Atlantic Records… his team is rock solid.
Burna Boy has achieved much leading up to the two Grammy nods in the Best World Music Album and Best Pop Vocal Album categories for African Giant and Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift respectively from the Recording Academy. Whether he takes home a gold Gramophone or not in 2020, Burna will walk away a winner all the same. But, is this the year of African Giant? Only time shall tell.