Acclaimed singer-songwriter and the reigning king of the summer, Burna Boy, has emerged as Africa's global Afro-fusion sensation. However, his sound has helped redefine pop music, not just in the United States but across the globe. His versatility as an artist, as recently seen on the remix of Byron Messia’s “Talibans,” has shaped his ascent to stardom. From his humble beginnings in Port Harcourt, where his interest in music began, Burna Boy has taken the world by storm with his intricate and infectious blend of Afrobeat, reggae, and R&B.
Burna Boy's Early Beginnings
Born as Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu on July 2, 1991, in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Burna Boy's passion for music was nurtured in a family deeply connected to the industry. His grandfather, Benson Idonije, served as the manager of iconic Afrobeats pioneer Fela Kuti. It’s no surprise that Afrobeats runs through his blood, but ultimately, his ability to tap into different genres and infuse them with homegrown sounds allowed him to stand out.
Rise In The Afrobeats Scene
Between 2011 and 2012, Burna Boy began carving out his name with a pair of mixtapes, Burn Notice and Burn Identity. These projects helped establish his voice as a leading one in the African music scene, but what cemented it was L.I.F.E, his debut studio album released in 2013. The project moved 40,000 units in its first day alone – a massive milestone that predicted his success a decade later. Furthermore, the project peaked at No. 7 on Billboard’s Reggae Albums chart.
How Burna Boy Broke Out In The United Kingdom
Although he gained esteem in the United States, it’s hard to deny his international fans' impact on bringing him to this level. Burna Boy moved to London in the late aughts to pursue higher education, but in the following decade, the U.K. market proved to have some of his most dedicated fans outside of the continent of Africa. Evidently, projects like 2018’s Outside, his major label debut under Atlantic, took influence from the melting pot of sounds in the UK, including road rap. Additionally, artists like J Hus, Lily Allen, and Mabel also appeared on the tracklist, which included hit records like “Sekkle Down” and “Ye.”
Breakout In The United States
Between Spotify listing him as one of their Afro Hub takeover artists and YouTube declaring him as the Artist on the Rise for three months straight, 2018 laid the foundation for his inevitable breakout moment in the United States. The following year, he cemented himself as a leading global force with the release of African Giant – a title that was actually inspired by his lash out towards Coachella festival organizers who printed his name in tiny font. Ultimately, African Giant proved he is a force to be reckoned with globally. The body of work ultimately won him a Grammy nomination and kept him on steady rotation on American airwaves and playlists.
The album’s success led Burna Boy to bring on Sean “Diddy” Combs as the executive producer of his 2020 album, Twice As Tall. The project won Best Global Music at the Grammys in 2021. In 2022, he blessed fans with his latest body of work, Love, Damini, which boasted the hit record “Last Last.”
Burna Boy’s talent and rise to fame is worthy of its own documentary, even if his story’s yet to conclude. Earlier this year, Burna Boy unveiled his latest single, “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” which samples Brandy feat. Mase's "Top of the World.” He later enlisted 21 Savage for the remix, and it looks like a follow-up to Love, Damini could be arriving soon. However, with the release of Byron Messia’s “Talibans II,” Burna Boy already has summer 2023 on lock.