By Muyiwa Olayinka
I’m sure Burna Boy real name (Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu) will be shocked how fast he has risen in his music career within a short time. Just like any other human being that had dreams and fantasies, he will be shocked how he had risen from a struggling and unknown artist in 2012 and suddenly became an African giant, an international brand that is being sought and courted for shows all over the globe.
Benson Idonije his maternal grandfather, a music critic and the former band manager of the late Afro beat legend; Fela Anikulapo Kuti said in a rare interview that he didn’t envisage Burna Boy would be this big.
Let us chronicle his journeys from level of obscurity to African giant and currently a Grammy nominee.
In the beginning……
Burna Boy was born Damini Ogulu in Ahoada Port Harcourt in July 2, 1991. He was born to Nigerian parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ogulu, partially raised there before the family moved to Lagos. He began making music at just ten years old to create his own beats with software on an old computer. Burna Boy attended Montessori International School in Lagos before moving to Corona, Agbara for his secondary education. As a Lagosian, he could express himself in Yoruba language, the language of the south west that features prominently in most of his songs.
After he graduated, he moved to London to attend a university, but he dropped out after two years and moved back to Nigeria. In 2010, the 19-year-old Ogulu traveled to Nigeria’s southern coast, where a mutual acquaintance, producer LeriQ, had some studio space. This marked a period when he began to connect to the music of his native country, Nigeria, having spent most of his youth immersed in American acts like DMX. He delved into the dancehall and reggae music his father listened to, and explored the Afro-beat music preferred by his grandfather, Benson Idonije (who had also been Fela Kuti’s first manager). As a result of his new discoveries, Ogulu created a confluence of genres of Afrobeats, Road rap, Dancehall Reggae
Burna Boy’s first successful outing
Burna Boy was based in England until he was banned for his part in an alleged gang related crime, he returned to Nigeria, hooked up with Aristokrat Records and released a singles “ Like to party”. The song became a smash hit that helped him establish his presence in the competitive Nigerian music industry.
This song made gave him recognition in Nigerian hip hop song that was dominated by the “big boys” like 2Face, D’banj and P square. There were other fast rising artists with hot songs like Davido’s Dami Duro, D’banj ft Naeto C Tony Montana to mention a few
He went ahead to release his first album in 2013 titled L.I.F.E (Living an Impact For Eternity) that contains other hit songs like Yawa Dey and Run my Race. He experimented with music and samples from the legends namely, King Sunny Ade KSA (juju), Fela (Afro beat) & Bob Marley (Reggae). The album was an instant success
Burna Boy’s strings of controversy
After the initial success of 2013, Burna Boy’s career went downhill in 2014 after he split with Aristokrat Records. His sophomore album “On A Spaceship” he released in 2015 containing songs like Oluwa burna, Sampudi, Only and Duro Nibe failed to ignite. Only ‘’ made it through to become a hit, and guess what? He fought that producer bitterly.
Controversy poured in from all corners, as he became a magnet for everything unsavory on the celebrity lifestyle. He once beat up a man, slapped a woman, fought with a producer and more. To make matters worse, he was dragged on social media by a lady, Uju Stella, who accused him of getting her pregnant. Stella also accused him of raping a girl in United Kingdom and abandoned his trial process. In response he admitted sleeping with the lady once but never resulted to pregnancy.
…..Beef with Mr 2Kay
In 2017, he had issue with a fellow Port Harcourt boy Mr 2Kay, real name David Abinye Jumbo. According to people close to both of them, they knew each other way back in Port Harcourt as rising stars but the origin of the beef between was not clear.
This tweet by Burna Boy may have caused the rift: “The way I genuinely dislike Pastors, preachers’ e.t.c. I might have to knock one of them the fuck out one of these days. I know God will be happy”
This response from Abinye Jumbo may have aggravated the matter
2Kay on his part was preparing for his performance at Buckwyldn Breathless. While rehearsing at Koga Studios, he was interviewed by HipTV and asked for his take on the matter. His reply was that Burna had no right to speak about ‘men of God’ like that. In his words, ‘It was wrong to say that about men of God…it’s a no from me… You can’t go and say that about native doctors so why are you saying that about pastors…’ And then he added at the end that he didn’t know if he was high when he tweeted that.
In response, Burna Boy told him he should be bold whenever they run into each other, he ended the message “Just have the same energy”.
Some few days after, Mr. 2Kay was left fighting for his life after he was beaten by three men in his Eko Hotel room after a performance.
Police stepped in and arrested the identified men. They later confessed Burna Boy sent them after they were paid N100, 000.
He was declared wanted, he made himself available and the case was settled out of court
Burna Boy’s second coming with the release Of ‘Ye’
The beef Burna Boy had with Mr 2Kay somehow contributed to his rising profile coupled with his bad boy image. We have had cases of legends like Fela Anikulapo Kuti who had major influence on Burna boy’s career, coming out with a monster hit ‘Beast of No Nation’, after he was released from Buhari/Idiagbon’s gulag. Also Naira Marley released a monster song ‘Soapy’ that rekindled his tottering career after coming out of EFCC’s detention.
‘Ye’ a singles from 2018 ‘Outside’ album re launched the career of Burna Boy, bringing him to the limelight. Its release coincided with American’s Kanye West’s ‘Ye’, shortened-version of his first name that caused confusion among fans. As fans were searching for the project all over streaming platforms, they did not only stumble on the new Kanye, the searches also brought up a totally different result: Burna Boy’s “Ye”. He acknowledged this when he said his album streams were up 200% because of the mix up; “Ye”
Burna Boy emerging as African Giant
By the time Burna Boy released his fourth studio album, African Giant in 2019, he had already etched his name in gold among Nigerians that love and appreciate good music. Behaving true to type, the album was a mixture of Afro-fusion, Afrobeat, dancehall, pop and hip hop. It was primarily produced by Kel P, the producer that understands his craft and style. The star studded album features guest appearances from international stars like Jorja Smith, Jeremih, Serani, M.anifest, Damian Marley, the legendary and Grammy award winner, Angelique Kidjo.
The only local artist that featured is Naira Marley, coincidentally the rave of the moment in Nigeria
African Giant was supported by hot six singles: “Gbona”, “On the Low”, Killin Dem”, “Dangote”, “Anybody” and “Pull Up”. It won Album of the Year at the 2019 All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the upcoming 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. This album births the African giant, Burna Boy.
African giant was nominated for The Best World music album at the Grammy 2020 that is scheduled to take place on January 27th at the Staple center, Los Angeles California. He joins list of past Nigerian great artists like:
a.) Artist: King Sunny Ade
Nominated For: Syncro System in (1984) and Odu in (1999)
Category: Best Ethnic of Traditional Folk Recording, Best World Music Album
b.) Artiste: Femi Kuti
Nominated For: Fight to Win (1999), Day By Day (2010), Africa for Africa (2012), No Place for My Dream (2014)
Category: Best World Music Album (1999, 2012, 2014), Best Contemporary World Music Album (2010)
c.) Artiste: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80
Category: Best World Music Album (2018)
d.) Artiste: Sikiru Adepoju
Nominated For: Love Drum Talk
Category: Best World Music Award (1998)
This is the moment every African and Nigerian is waiting for. This is our time Burna Boy will join the Benin Republic born queen, Angelique Kidjo, that won the Best World Music Album Grammy in 2016. Both of them ( Burna Boy and Angelique Kidjo were nominated for this category, but it’s our time now
All hail the African giant!!!