By: Bahi Iboaya
Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu known professionally as Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter, rapper, and dancer. With his fusion of dancehall, reggae, Afro-beat, and pop, Burna Boy emerged in the early part of the 2010s as one of Nigeria’s fastest-rising stars. The LeriQ-produced 2012 single “Like to Party” proved to be his breakout track and paved the way for his full-length debut, L.I.F.E, a year later. Over the next five years, Burna released two more albums and collaborated with a variety of artists.
Damini Ogulu, Burna Boy, was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. His father managed a welding company and his mother, Bose Ogulu, worked as a translator and later became his manager. Burna Boy grew up in southern Nigeria and began making music at just ten years old when a fellow classmate at school gave him a copy of the production software FruityLoops. He began to create his own beats on an old computer. making his own beats. He attended Corona Secondary School in Agbara, Ogun State, but later relocated to London to further continue his studies. He later went on to study Media Technology at the University of Sussex but he dropped out after two years and moved back to Nigeria. In 2010, 19-year-old Burna Boy traveled to Nigeria’s southern coast, where he first met with producer LeriQ. This marked a period when he began to connect to the music of his native country as he began to delve into the dancehall and reggae music his father listened to and explored the Afro-beat music preferred by his grandfather (who had also been Fela Kuti‘s first manager). As a result of his new discoveries, Ogulu created a confluence of genres that would become his signature sound.
Burna Boy first launched his career in 2010 when he dropped his first song “Shoebedo Freestyle” in 2011. He rose to prominence in 2012 after releasing “Like to Party”, the lead single from his debut studio album L.I.F.E (2013). The album sold about 40,000 copies on the first day of its debut due to the hit song. 2013 saw the release of his debut studio album; featuring guest slots from Wizkid, Timaya, 2face, and M.IL.I.F.E drew favorable reviews from the music press. For his sophomore effort, 2015’s On a Spaceship, Burna parted ways with both his record company and LeriQ, and delivered a record even more diverse than his first. In 2017, he teamed up with producer Juls for the single “Rock Your Body.” A host of singles followed throughout the year, including “GBA,” “Streets of Africa,” “Koni Baje,” and “Sekkle Down,” featuring J Hus. In 2017, Burna Boy signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the United States and Warner Music Group internationally. His third studio album Outside marked his major-label debut. During its release Burna Boy stated that he wanted to take his music worldwide and that his next goal is to play a stadium in China. But first, he’ll embark on a 17-date global tour of 1,000- to 3,000-capacity venues starting Aug. 9 in Toronto. “This has always been my vision,” he says. “Not like I planned it, just that I knew I should stick to doin.” After releasing the Lily Allen-aided single “Heaven’s Gate” in early January 2018, Burna delivered his third album, Outside, later that month. He returned a year later with the single “Killin Dem,” a collaboration with Zlatan. Along with additional singles like “Dangote” and “On the Low,” it was later included on his fourth album, African Giant, which saw release in July 2019. The LP was nominated in the Best World Music Album category of the 62nd Grammy Awards. In August 2020, Burna issued the full-length Twice as Tall, which included the single “Wonderful.” Featured on the album were guest appearances by Youssou N’Dour, Naughty by Nature, Coldplay‘s Chris Martin, and others. “Rotate,” a collaboration with Becky G, arrived in 2021, as did the solo single “Kilometre.”
“I’m doing. It’s almost like climbing steps — you keep going up.”
As Burna Boy has expressed his musical obsessions continuously evolves, making no surprise that his own sound is a meld of Afrobeat, dancehall, R&B, reggae, hip-hop, and more. As a result of his exposure and discoveries of such genres he created a confluence of genres that would become his signature sound “Afro-Fusion.” August Brown of the Los Angeles Times said Burna Boy’s sound is “savvy and modern but undistracted by obvious crossover moves”. Through his music and sound Burna Boy continues to promote a pro-African message that preaches against oppression, and discrimination and preaches for unity.
In 2018 Burna Boy began dating Stefflon Don..
African Giant was nominated for a Grammy for best world music album. Burna was on the Paris leg of his European tour when he received the news. “My uncle ran into my hotel room screaming that I was nominated,” he says. “We were all so happy.” [With the recognition that Burna Boy obtained from the nomination he joined a small but illustrious group of Nigerian artists who have been nominated in the category. Although Burna Boy did not end up winning, it speaks volumes that the winner, Beninese legend Angélique Kidjo, used her acceptance speech to praise him. “This is for Burna Boy,” she said he is “changing the way our continent is perceived and the way African music has been the bedrock of every [type] of music.”]
In 2019, he won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards, and was announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist. African Giant, which was released in July 2019 won Album of the Year at the 2019 All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.] He was awarded the African Artist of the year at the 2020 VGMA’s. In 2020, his album Twice as Tall was nominated for the same category at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, making him the first Nigerian with back-to-back nominations at the Grammys In 2021, he won the award for Best World Music Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.
2015- On a Spaceship
2018-On the Low
2019- African Giant
2020- Twice as Tall
2012-Like to Party
2013-Run My Race
2013- Won Da Mo
2014- Don Gorgon
2014- Check and Balance
2017- Heavens Gate
2019-Steel and Copper (EP)
2020- Monsters You Made
2020- Real Life
2020- Way Too Big
“Burna Boy Albums and Discography.” AllMusic, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/burna-boy-mn0003297650/discography.
Duerden, Nick. “How Burna Boy Became Nigeria’s Surprise Success Story.” Billboard, 22 July 2019, https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8520544/burna-boy-african-giant-interview.
Hahn, Rachel. “Nigerian Rapper Burna Boy on His Patchwork Approach to Style.” Vogue, Vogue, 27 Feb. 2018, https://www.vogue.com/article/burna-boy-global-100-style-profile-outside.
Ogunnaike, Lola, and Photography by Prince Gyasi. “Burna Boy Is Trying to Wake Up Africa.” GQ, 4 Mar. 2020, https://www.gq.com/story/burna-boy-african-king-profile.
“Who Is Burna Boy? A Look at the Biography, Age and Awards of the Star Musician.” BuzzNigeria, 16 Sept. 2021, https://buzznigeria.com/burna-boy-bio-music-career/.