Burna Boy is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, and record producer who has taken the world by storm with his unique blend of Afrobeat, dancehall, hip-hop, R&B, and more. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and successful African artists of his generation, having won numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award in 2021. But how did he rise from a local talent to a global superstar? What are the factors that shaped his musical style and vision? And what are the challenges and opportunities that he faces as an African artist in the international music scene? In this article, we will explore Burna Boy’s journey to international fame, from his early influences and struggles to his breakthroughs and achievements.
Early life and influences
Burna Boy was born Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu on July 2, 1991, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. His mother, Bose Ogulu, worked as a language translator, and his father, Samuel, managed a welding company. His maternal grandfather, Benson Idonije, was the first manager of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, a fact that greatly inspired Burna Boy, who is often dubbed Fela’s heir apparent. He grew up listening to different genres of music, such as reggae, dancehall, R&B, hip-hop, and Afrobeat, and began making his own beats using FL Studio at the age of 10. He attended Corona Secondary School in Agbara, Ogun State, and later relocated to London, England, to further his studies. He studied media technology at the University of Sussex from 2008 to 2009, and media communications and culture at Oxford Brookes University from 2009 to 2010. He returned to Nigeria and took up a year-long internship at Rhythm 93.7 FM, where he learned the ropes of the music industry.
Career beginnings and challenges
Burna Boy launched his music career in 2010 and released his first record Shobeedo in 2011. He signed a deal with Aristokrat Records in 2012 and released his debut studio album L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact for Eternity) in 2013. The album featured the hit singles Like to Party, Tonight, and Run My Race, and was nominated for several awards, including the Headies and the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. He also won the Best New Act of the Year at the South-South Music Awards and the Nigeria Entertainment Awards in 2013. He left Aristokrat Records in 2014 and established his own label, Spaceship Entertainment. He released his second studio album On a Spaceship in 2015, which received mixed reviews from critics and fans. He also faced some legal troubles and controversies, such as being banned from entering the UK for 15 years due to his involvement in a gang-related stabbing in 2010 and being accused of sending thugs to attack fellow artist Mr 2Kay in 2017.
Breakthrough and success
Burna Boy’s breakthrough came in 2018 when he released his third studio album Outside, which marked his major-label debut with Atlantic Records and Warner Music Group. The album featured the smash hit Ye, which became an anthem for the Nigerian youth and a global sensation. The album also included collaborations with international artists such as Lily Allen, J Hus, and Mabel. It peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and won the Album of the Year at the Nigeria Entertainment Awards. He also won the Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards and the Best International Act at the BET Awards in 2019. He was also announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist in 2019, and performed on several international platforms, such as Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He also recorded Ja Ara E for Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift album in 2019 and was the only guest artist with their own track on the soundtrack album. He also featured on the official soundtrack album of the award-winning Hollywood movie Queen & Slim, with his song My Money, My Baby.
Burna Boy released his fourth studio album African Giant in 2019, which was a critical and commercial success. The album featured collaborations with artists such as Angelique Kidjo, Damian Marley, Future, YG, and Jeremih. It won the Album of the Year at the All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for the Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, making him the first Nigerian artist to be nominated in that category. He also won the African Artiste of the Year at the Ghana Music Awards and the Future Award Prize for Music and Young Person of the Year in 2019. He also performed at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2019, where he demanded that his name be written in a bigger font on the festival’s poster, claiming that he was an African giant and deserved more respect.
Burna Boy released his fifth studio album Twice as Tall in 2020, which was executive produced by American rapper and mogul Diddy. The album featured guest appearances from artists such as Chris Martin, Stormzy, Naughty by Nature, and Sauti Sol. It debuted at number 54 on the Billboard 200, making it his highest-charting project so far. It also won the Best World Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making him the first Nigerian artist to win a Grammy Award. He also won the Best International Act at the BET Awards for the second time in 2020. He also performed at the Global Citizen Live concert in 2020, alongside artists such as Coldplay, Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran, and Lizzo.
Burna Boy released his sixth studio album Love, Damini in 2021, which became the highest debut of an African album on the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at number 28. It also became the highest-charted African album in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and France. The album featured collaborations with artists such as Don Jazzy, Polo G, Ari Lennox, and Justin Bieber. It received positive reviews from critics and fans, who praised its versatility, production, and lyrics. He also won the Best International Act at the BET Awards for the third time in 2021 and was awarded the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic plaque for his achievements in music in 2021. He also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone UK in 2021 and was ranked number 197 on its list of the 200 greatest singers of all time in 2021. He also won the Headies Afrobeats Single of the Year and Song of the Year for Last Last in 2021.
Musical style and influences
Burna Boy’s musical style is influenced by Afrobeat, hip hop, ragga, grime, drum ‘n’ bass, and dub-related sounds. His sound is a meld of Afrobeat, dancehall, R&B, reggae, hip-hop, and more, which he’s dubbed “Afrofusion”. He belongs to the broadly defined music genre Afrobeats, but he has pronounced that his music was Afrofusion. He has cited Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Sizzla, 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., DMX, and Buju Banton as some of his major influences. He has also been influenced by ragga, dub, and grime ever since his days as a student in the UK. He sings in a mix of English, Pidgin, Yoruba, and Igbo, and often incorporates Nigerian slang, proverbs, and references in his lyrics. He is known for his charismatic and energetic stage presence, as well as his distinctive voice and delivery.
Challenges and opportunities
Burna Boy has faced some challenges and controversies in his career, such as legal issues, beefs with other artists, accusations of plagiarism and cultural appropriation, and criticism for his outspoken and sometimes arrogant attitude. He has also faced some backlash for his political and social views, such as his support for the End SARS movement, his rejection of the African Giant label, and his criticism of the Nigerian government and media. He has also faced some competition and rivalry from other African artists, such as Davido, Wizkid, AKA, and Mr Eazi, who have also achieved international recognition and success.
However, Burna Boy has also seized some opportunities and advantages in his career, such as his collaborations with global stars, his exposure to diverse audiences and markets, his endorsement deals and awards, and his role as a cultural ambassador and influencer. He has also used his platform and voice to raise awareness and support for various causes and issues, such as the African identity and pride, the African diaspora and unity, the Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the youth empowerment and development. He has also inspired and mentored many upcoming and aspiring artists, both in Nigeria and across the world.
Burna Boy is a Nigerian artist who has risen from a local talent to a global superstar, with his unique blend of Afrobeat, dancehall, hip-hop, R&B and more. He has won numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, and has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry. He has also faced some challenges and controversies, but has also seized some opportunities and advantages. He has also influenced and inspired many people with his music, style and vision. He is one of the most influential and successful African artists of his generation, and a true African giant.
- Q: When and where was Burna Boy born?
- A: Burna Boy was born on July 2, 1991, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.
- Q: What is Burna Boy’s real name
- A: Burna Boy’s real name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu.
- Q: What are some of Burna Boy’s most popular songs?
- A: Some of Burna Boy’s most popular songs are Ye, On the Low, Gbona, Anybody, Wonderful, Odogwu, Kilometre and Question.