No one person can represent an entire continent. But sometimes it seems as though Burna Boy is expected to. At the 2020 Grammys, the Beninese legend Angélique Kidjo dedicated her trophy for Best World Music to her fellow nominee, saying he was “changing the way our continent is perceived.” And Damini Ogulu, known as Burna Boy, isn’t shying away from the responsibility– Andrew Chow- Time Magazine’s The real Africa has not been Shown
But if there was ever a public nomination process for selecting astute youths who can confidently interpret Nigeria’s vast socio-cultural dynamism in accordance with ongoing sophisticated modernism around the world today, Burna Boy would definitely make everyone’s top 3 or 5.
Born and raised in the gyration city of Port Harcourt, then obtaining secondary school education in mentor Fela’s Lagos, before migrating to study Media Technology and Media Communications at two separate American Universities. This interesting background provides elementary insight into the fiery spirit of an enigma that the whole world has come to love and respect as Burna.
Having spent majority of the last decade expounding the refined mindset of most African youths, using his signature fusion of Afrobeats, dancehall, reggae and rap since Burn Notice around 2011 to Twice as Tall era this 2020, Burna Boy is aware of the region’s many systemic failings. Especially living in Lagos during the recent Covid19 lockdown which he described as a “reality check.” “The majority of people in Nigeria operate on the idea of, ‘I sell this today, that’s what I have today” he explains. “So now you shut that down for everyone, it’s just mad hunger.” These have joined to earn Burna hundreds of millions of streams and a growing list of admirers, from Kidjo to Beyoncé to Barack Obama.
Basically, Burna Boy has been to Nigerian music what legendary Fela remains to Nigerian politics- a phenomenal voice of his generation.
The stern voice known to address matters accordingly, such that even his silence speaks volumes. Burna also represents a rebranded Africa, which erases the stereotypes of starving children but instead a lifestyle of breaking barriers and making new opportunities.
“It’s like the heads of the state ain’t comprehending the hate that the oppressed generate
When they been working like slaves to get a minimum wage
You turn around and you blame them for their anger and rage”
When Burna Boy performed the song at the 2020 Virtual March on Washington in August and expressed solidarity with racial-justice protests around the world, he redirected the focal lens of the movement back to Africa. “Now is the time to return and go back to the royalty that we were. In order for black lives to matter, Africa must matter” he said while accepting a BET Award in June.
When the #EndSars protests began in October, Burna Boy was preoccupied with serious family matters but after being called out by fans and youths alike, his reply captured global headlines.
“This is the most important moment in Nigeria’s history… that is what we are witnessing right now because if nothing changes after this, if this doesn’t work, then it is over“- Burna Boy, to Sky News.
So far, He has put up billboards in Nigeria with the hashtag #EndSARS, created a fund for those harmed or arrested during the protests, and also announced a campaign aimed at combating misinformation.
Burna’s admirable resilience till stardom and subsequent international conquests tell a larger than life story of an African giant. Whose acquaintance with accountability has befriended him notable personalities and major powerbrokers around the world, especially P-Diddy and DJ Khaled, who are undeniably Hip-hop’s biggest executives.
The worst we can expect with Burna in leadership is a Grammy winning President glued to our screens- or a National Assembly budget approved for digital streams- making Nigeria the entertainment capital of the world. But anyway it goes, the voices of progressive youths will be positively amplified as opposed to being projected as Lazy Nigerian youths. When questioned about any political aspirations by Time Magazine, he replies “I’m just here to sing according to what my eyes have seen and what my spirit is telling me,” he says. “But if the Most High decides that I must [lead], then so be it.”
Culled from Time “How Burna Boy Is Using His Voice to Share a New Vision for His Homeland” by Andrew R. Chow & Twice as Tall by NME.