Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu MFR[4] (born 2 July 1991),[1] known professionally as Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer.[5][2][6] He is credited for popularizing Afrobeats and Afrofusion globally.[7][8][9][10][11]

Burna Boy
Burna Boy performing in Ghana in 2014
Burna Boy performing in Ghana in 2014
Background information
Birth nameDamini Ebunoluwa Ogulu
Born (1991-07-02) 2 July 1991 (age 32)
Port Harcourt, Rivers State , Nigeria
Genres
Occupations
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active2010–present
LabelsAtlantic
Websitewww.onaspaceship.com

He rose to stardom in 2012 after releasing "Like to Party", the lead single from his debut studio album L.I.F.E (2013). In 2017, Burna Boy signed with Atlantic Records in the United States (and its parent company Warner Music Group internationally) to release his third studio album, Outside (2018).[12]

In 2019 he won Best International Act at the BET Awards, and was named an Apple Music Up Next artist. He also released his fourth studio album, African Giant, which went on to win Album of the Year at the All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.[13][14] He was awarded African Artist of the Year at the 2020 Ghana Music Awards. Burna Boy released his fifth studio album, Twice as Tall, in August 2020. It won Best World Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.[15][16] He again won Best International Act at the 2021 BET Awards.

Burna Boy's sixth studio album Love, Damini was released in 2022 and became the highest debut of an African album on the Billboard 200 chart. It also became the highest-charting African album in France, the Netherlands and the UK.[17] In October, Burna Boy was awarded the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic plaque for his achievements in music.[4] In 2023, Rolling Stone ranked him number 197 on its list of the 200 greatest singers of all time.[9] Burna Boy won his fourth Best International Act at the BET Awards in 2023.[18] He won The Headies Afrobeats Single of the Year category and also the Song of the Year for "Last Last".[19]

Life and career edit

Early life and education edit

Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu was born on July 2, 1991, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.[20] His mother Bose Ogulu worked as a language translator, and his father Samuel managed a wedding company. His maternal grandfather Benson Idonije once managed Fela Kuti.[21][22] His mother later became his manager.[23] Ogulu grew up in Southern Nigeria and began making his own beats using FL Studio.[21][24] He attended Corona Secondary School in Agbara, Ogun State, and relocated to London, England, to further his studies.[21][25] He studied media technology at the University of Sussex from 2008 to 2009,[26] and also studied media communications and culture at Oxford Brookes University from 2009 to 2010.[27] Burna Boy returned to Port Harcourt and took up a year-long internship at Rhythm 93.7 FM.[27] He launched his music career after returning to Lagos.[27][28]

2012–2015: L.I.F.E and On a Spaceship edit

 
Burna Boy performing at the Nativeland concert in Lagos, 2016

Burna Boy's debut studio album, L.I.F.E, was released on 12 August 2013, serving as the follow-up to his second mixtape Burn Identity (2011). The album sold 40,000 copies on the day of its release. Aristokrat Records later sold its marketing rights to Uba Pacific for ₦10 million.[29] The album's release was preceded by five singles: "Like to Party", "Tonight", "Always Love You", "Run My Race", and "Yawa Dey". L.I.F.E was produced entirely by Leriq and features guest appearances from 2face Idibia, M.I Abaga, Timaya, Olamide, Reminisce, and Wizkid, among others.[30] Nigeria Entertainment Today ranked the album 10th on its list of the 12th Best Albums of 2013.[31] The album's music was inspired by Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Bob Marley. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, who applauded its production. It was nominated for Best Album of the Year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. In August 2013, L.I.F.E peaked at number seven on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.[32]

In 2014 Burna Boy split from Aristokrat Records;[33] eight months later he founded the record label Spaceship Entertainment, in February 2015.[34] Burna Boy's second studio album, On a Spaceship, was released on November 25, 2015.[35] His 7-track debut extended play, Redemption, was released in September 2016. Its lead single, "Pree Me" debuted on Noisey.[36][37]

2018–2019: Outside and African Giant edit

On January 19, 2018, Burna Boy was featured on American rock band Fall Out Boy's song "Sunshine Riptide", a track from their seventh studio album Mania.[38] He released his third studio album, Outside, exactly a week later, on 26 January 2018. Described by the singer as a mixtape, Outside consists mostly of afrobeats, dancehall, reggae, and road rap. It features guest appearances from English musicians J Hus, Lily Allen, and Mabel. Outside was supported by six singles: "Rock Your Body", "Streets of Africa", "Koni Baje", "Sekkle Down", "Heaven's Gate" and "Ye". Its production was handled by Leriq, Baba Stiltz, Jae 5, Juls, Chopstix, Steel Banglez, Fred Gibson, Phantom, and FTSE. The album received positive critical acclaim and was ranked by Pulse Nigeria and Nigerian Entertainment Today as the best Nigerian album of 2018.[39][40] It won Album of the Year at the 2018 Nigeria Entertainment Awards.[41] In February 2018, Outside debuted at number three on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.[42] A single from the album, "Ye", ended up atop most Nigerian publications year-end list as the biggest song of 2018.[43][44]

On October 7, 2018, Burna Boy performed before a sold-out crowd at London's O2 Academy Brixton.[45] A day prior to the show, he held a pop-up event at Red by Little Farm and sold limited boxes of his Space Puffs cereal, as well as custom notepads, lighters, and graphic tee-shirts.[46] On October 9, 2018, he was announced as one of Spotify's new Afro Hub takeover artists.[47] The announcement coincided with him being named YouTube's Artist on the Rise for three months.[48]

On January 3, 2019, Burna Boy was announced alongside Mr Eazi as one of the artists performing at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.[49] He won four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival, including African Artiste of the Year, Listener's Choice, and Best Male MVP.[50] On March 21, 2019, Burna Boy released a 4-track collaborative EP with Los Angeles-based electronic duo DJDS, titled Steel & Copper.[51] The EP blends Burna Boy's upbeat melodies with DJDS' slinky trap beats.[52][53] Steel & Copper combines elements of dancehall and reggae music with Afropop and trap.[52][53]

On June 24, 2019, Burna Boy won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards.[54] In July 2019, he was announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist.[55] His inclusion in the program was accompanied by a Beats 1 interview with Julie Adenuga and a short documentary.[56] He recorded "Ja Ara E" (Yoruba: "wise up" or "use your head") for Beyoncé's The Lion King: The Gift and was the only guest artist with their own track on the soundtrack album.[57][58]

Burna Boy's fourth studio album, African Giant, was released on July 26, 2019. It was supported by six singles: "Gbona", "On the Low", Killin Dem", "Dangote", "Anybody" and "Pull Up". He began recording the album in 2018 and told Billboard that it was his most personal project yet.[59] He first revealed plans to release it in April 2019 and held a private listening session in Los Angeles.[60] Photos and videos from the listening session were shared on social media. African Giant was initially announced as a 16-track album.[60] To promote the album, Burna Boy headlined the African Giant Returns tour, the second leg of his African Giant tour.[61] Burna Boy recorded "My Money, My Baby", a track that appeared on Queen & Slim's soundtrack album.[62] Described as an "Afrobeat-tinged track", "My Money, My Baby" contains a sample of Fela Kuti's 1972 song "Shakara".[62] On November 22, 2019, Burna Boy was featured alongside English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran on British rapper Stormzy's single, "Own It", the fourth single from his second studio album, Heavy Is the Head.[63] In November 2019, he became the first Afrobeats artist to sell out the SSE Arena and was given a special plaque to mark his achievement.[64]

2020–2022: Twice as Tall and Love, Damini edit

In April 2020, Burna Boy performed in the One World: Together at Home special.[65] On June 19, 2020, he was featured on the remix of South African producer Master KG's viral song "Jerusalema".[66] Burna Boy used his signature afrobeats style on the song[67] and also partly sings in the isiZulu language.[66] On July 30, 2020, Burna Boy was featured on British singer Sam Smith's single, "My Oasis", the lead single from their third studio album, Love Goes.[68] His fifth studio album, Twice as Tall, was released on August 14, 2020. It was executive produced by Diddy and his mother, Bose Ogulu.[69][70] The album became his highest-charting project, debuting at number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart. On November 24, 2020, Twice as Tall was nominated for Best Global Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. It was the second consecutive year that Burna Boy received a nomination in this category.[71] He won an Edison Award in the World Album category for African Giant, and won Best International Act at the MOBO Awards on December 9, shaking off competition from Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby and Roddy Ricch.[72] At the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards held on March 15, 2021, he won the Grammy award for Best Global Music album. Burna Boy's song "Destiny" was included in the playlist at the inauguration of Joe Biden.[73] He won Best International Act at the 2021 BET Awards, becoming the first African artist to win the award three consecutive times.[74]

On March 19, 2021, Burna Boy was featured on Canadian singer Justin Bieber's song "Loved by You", a track from his sixth studio album, Justice.[75] On September 17, 2021, he was featured on American singer-songwriter Jon Bellion's single "I Feel It", which marked the first musical collaboration between the two, but the latter co-wrote "Loved by You" with Justin Bieber.[76] On June 4, 2022, Burna Boy performed at the Belgravia Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe, where he allegedly refused money to wear a ZANU-PF scarf as an endorsement of the Mnangagwa administration.[77]

In 2022, he was named the "Best Solo Act in the World" by NME.[78]

Burna Boy released his sixth studio album, Love, Damini, on July 8, 2022. Its release was preceded by the singles "Kilometre" and "Last Last".[79]

Burna Boy held his first concert in Jamaica on December 18, 2022, at the Jamaica National Stadium.[80]

2023-Present: I Told Them… edit

In April 2023, Burna Boy released a song titled Mera Na featuring Sidhu Moose Wala, In which he gave tribute to Sidhu. Mera Na charted on various international charts including Billboard Global 200, Canada Hot 100, and New Zealand Hot Singles chart .[81] In June, he released the single "Sittin' On Top Of The World", which heavily samples American singer Brandy's 1998 hit single "Top of the World".[82][83][84][85]

On June 10, 2023, Burna Boy became the first artist from Africa to perform at the UEFA Champions League Final Kick Off Show by Pepsi. The singer took the stage at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey, in front of more than 71,412 supporters and an audience of over 700 million people.[86][87] In July, he became the first African artist to headline and sell out a stadium show in the United States, headlining at Citi Field in New York.[88] He was named by Billboard magazine as the top afrobeats artist of the year 2023.[89] At the 2023 Billboard Music Awards, Burna was awarded the inaugural best afrobeats award becoming the first African artist to win a BBMA as lead artist alongside Rema who won best afrobeat song that night.[90] In November he was nominated for four Grammy awards, making him the most nominated Nigerian artist in Grammy history with ten total career nominations and the first Nigerian to have nominations in five consecutive years, from 2019 to 2023.[91] He was named as 2023 most streamed Sub-saharan African artists globally on Spotify, making it his second year in a row.[92] While congratulating African artists for their Grammy nominations, The Recording Academy described Burna boy as the biggest artist in Africa.[93] The Nation named him the entertainer of the year for having an unrivaled and outstanding year.[94]

"Sittin' on Top of the World" received a nomination for Best Melodic Rap Performance at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards.[95] Burna boy performed the song at the ceremony on February 4, 2024, alongside Brandy and 21 Savage.[96][97][98]

Personal life edit

Burna Boy dated British rapper Stefflon Don from 2018 [99] to 2022.[100]

Artistry edit

Burna Boy's music is mainly pop and Afrobeats. He describes his music as Afro-fusion, which blends the genres R&B, hip hop, dancehall, and reggae.[57][21] August Brown of the Los Angeles Times describes Burna Boy's sound as "savvy and modern but undistracted by obvious crossover moves".[101] Kittitian dancehall artist Byron Messia described him as an incredibly talented lyricist who doesn't write down lyrics or waste time in the studio to create a song.[102] The lyrical content of some of his songs, such as Real Life, confront the harsh realities of life and touches upon profound themes that resonate with listeners on a visceral level.[103] In an interview with The Punch, Burna boy shared how he gets inspiration "I get into the booth and lay down the melody and the music just comes to me. honestly, I can’t really explain it the inspiration and ideas just flow through me spiritually when I’m in the studio."[104] He has earned acclaim from fans and critics for his songs lyrical contents which stand apart from most Afrobeats songs being released today, in that they do not shy away from confronting the grim political landscape in Nigeria.[105] Nigerian singer Omah Lay proclaimed Burna boy as the best songwriter he has ever seen and an inspiration when it comes to the art of writing.[106]

Legacy edit

Burna Boy's success has led some to opine that he has cultivated a profile of a leading figure in Afrobeats.[107] Talent manager Kim Moore told CNN that "Burna Boy's (Grammy) win will inspire other African artistes to create projects that appeal to global audiences."[108] BBC radio presenter Darren Joseph described him as "an icon among a generation".[109]

"Burna Boy has not diluted his African heritage to reach his global audience, Instead he has placed an unmistakably African stamp on music drawn from all around Africa. A voice that exemplifies the West African cultural virtue of coolness, poise and control."

Jon Pareles, The New York Times[110]

Rolling Stone described him as a Nigerian cultural giant, who has become the ambassador of Afrobeats as a global movement, that can feel equally at home by climbing the European charts and maintaining a subtle emotional connection with past African genres like highlife."[111] Lloyd Bradley of The Guardian opined that Twice As Tall positions African music in the 21st century by using contemporary sounds for traditional melodies and rhythms.[112] In 2021, Pitchfork named him one of the most important artists of their first 25 years.[113]

BOF named him as one of the people shaping the global fashion industry 2023.[114] Lawrence Burney of Vulture has argued that Burna Boy's stylistic presentation and convincing interpretation of hip hop and dancehall won him more credibility and commercial success in the U.S. than his Naija contemporaries such as Davido and Wizkid received."[115] African artist Angélique Kidjo dedicated her Grammy win to Burna Boy, for changing the global perception of Africa and its music.[116] Aniefiok Ekpoudom of The Guardian said "Burna Boy is on a mission to remind Africans everywhere about their roots in the continent, and Afrobeats is his tool".[117]

Controversies edit

On June 8, 2022, Burna Boy's armed security escorts allegedly shot and wounded two people at a nightclub in Lagos. According to the wife of one of the victims, the incident began after she declined Burna Boy's invitation to join him in the VIP section.[118][119] Five security guards affiliated with Burna Boy were arrested and charged with attempted murder.[120] The victim later accused the singer and his family of trying to silence her family with hush money.[121] As of June 20, 2022, CCTV footage of the shooting had not been released by the club.[122] On January 1, 2023, during the Lagos leg of his Love, Damini tour, a visibly upset Burna Boy denied the nightclub shooting rumor and rumors about his mother being a former backup dancer for Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.[123][79]

Activism edit

Burna boy’s guiding philosophy is Pan-Africanism, as he firmly believes in rebuilding bridges with the African Diaspora, believing Africa as the Mother Continent and birthplace of humankind.[124] He has been a vocal advocate for social justice across the world,[125] Burna Boy's music is not just entertainment, it is a call to action as he uses his platform to speak truth to power and shine a light on issues affecting people in Nigeria and around the world.[126] In his fourth studio album African Giant, he probes Nigeria’s turbulent history by breaking down the narratives that have surrounded it since it gained independence.[127] Songs like “Another Story” condemn the negative impact of the Royal Niger Company in imposing colonial rule on Nigeria, “Collateral Damage” criticises the cowardice of Nigerians in not confronting their oppressors while “Wetin Man Go Do” laments the suffering of the masses.[128] BBC radio presenter DJ Target said, "He represents change, and speaks out against injustice while representing young Africa and making worldwide hits.[129] Following the 2019 Johannesburg riots in South Africa that targeted Africans living in the country, he vowed not to visit South Africa again if the government did not take necessary action to address the issue.[130] In 2020, he set up a relief fund for victims of #EndSARS anti-police brutality protests.[131] Estelle Uba of The Republic said Burna Boy’s powerful lyrics force not just Nigerians, but citizens from countries with a past of colonial subjugation in the Global South Africa, Asia, and South America to reckon with, and confront the reality of the neo-colonialism in their countries.[132] Through his single 20-10-20, released in solidarity to the 2020 Lekki shooting, he gave an active voice against the alleged shooting of #EndSARS protesters, bad governance, corruption, and police brutality in Nigeria.[133][134]

Awards and nominations edit

Discography edit

See also edit

References edit

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