Burna Boy, the 30-year-old African superstar, Damini Ogulu spoke with Rolling Stone UK’s Adewojumi Aderemi. This is his first interview after a brief, self-imposed break and with new music on the horizon, Burna Boy reintroduces himself as the complex character he has always been.
The interview Chronicles the superstar’s life through his album titles and its significance. We break down key parts of the article using his album title as a marker.
- L.I.F.E (2013)
Burna Boy projected his legacy before he had even begun. According to the writer Adewojumi,
Each album has served a different purpose for Burna Boy. On his 2013 debut, L.I.F.E, it’s in the title. Leaving an Impact For Eternity was a projection of his legacy before he had even begun. The opening track of the record introduced us to the emerging artist through the now-infamous melody “They call me, they call me, they call me Burna Boy,” as a female voice states the purpose of the whole tape, singing: “it’s my life, my life”.
- On a Spaceship (2015)
L.I.F.E’s 2015 successor, On a Spaceship, is markedly more chaotic, says Adewojumi.
We learned of the nascent artist’s bad-boy reputation. “You can’t have all that and have a peaceful career,” Osagz, the controversial Nigerian media executive, proclaims on ‘Intro’. More recently, Burna Boy’s tirades — such as the immortalised ‘African Giant’ rant in retaliation to his small font billing on the 2019 Coachella lineup; his relentless repetition of his dubitable grass-to-grace story; and his political virtue-signalling through claiming to be the best thing since Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, arguably Nigeria’s most politically conscious musician — are interpreted with some level of virtue, their largely Afrocentric messaging earning interest from progressive media including Apple Music’s The Ebro Show, NME, The Fader and the Evening Standard.
- Outside (2018)
The writer Adewojumi tagged this third studio album as the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Burna Boy image after being almost boastful of his bad-boy status in On a Spaceship, he sought redemption, she writes.
It’s full of personal revelations. The bouncy memoir, ‘Ph City Vibration’, details the life and times of the “Port Harcourt original”, referencing his Nigerian home city, while on the electronic album closer, ‘Outside’ featuring Mabel, he expresses his feelings of isolation. Rejecting his reputation as Nigeria’s most talented troublemaker, this was his most successful attempt at speaking exclusively through the music, a practice that has served him well in the years since.
On Outside, Burna Boy showed that he had grown into a significantly more measured and mature artist, possibly thanks to his mother, Bose Ogulu, formally assuming the role of his manager the year before. Family members are crucial cogs in the Burna Boy machine. With his sister, Ronami, as creative director, and his other sibling, Nissi, enjoying her brother’s spoils, which he often uses to promote her music, art and other creative endeavours, Burna Boy easily meets the traditional Nigerian expectation for the eldest son to provide for his family.
Since the third album Outside (2018), Burna Boy has released two other albums namely, African Giant (2019) and Twice as Tall (2020).
Read the full Rolling Stone UK interview HERE.