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Burna Boy : From “the low” to the Dizzy Heights of Fame

By: Stanley Nwachukwu


New music sensation, Burna Boy was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria on 2 July 1991 to Bosede and Samuel Ogulu. He began music when he was just ten years old, the only son and the eldest of three children. Coming from a family who appreciated music but prioritized education, Young Damini attended Montessori International primary school in Port Harcourt from 1993 – 2002 and Corona Secondary School, Lagos 2002-2008. While at Corona, Burna Boy founded and led a school band “Def Code” and headlined a performance at the national stadium as one of the highlights of the 50th anniversary of Corona schools. While at school, a fellow classmate gave him a copy of the production software FruityLoops. Armed with these, he began to create his own beats on an old computer.

Tiwa Savage & Burna Boy in a friendly
embrace after a successful show in Lagos

After he graduated from school, he moved to London to study Media Technology at the University of Sussex from 2008 – 2009. From 2009 – 2010, he studied Media Communications and Culture at Oxford Brooke’s University .He returned to Nigeria In 2010, Subsequently, he did a one-year internship with Rhythm 93.7 FM Port Harcourt before signing with Aristocrat records and officially launching his professional music career. 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, having spent most of his youth immersed in American acts like DMX.

Burna Boy and his family members at an album launch

He delved into the dancehall and reggae music his father listened to. As a result of his new discoveries, Ogulu created a confluence of genres that would become his signature sound. Alongside LeriQ, they produced “Like to Party,” which marked his rise to prominence, and created a local buzz along the way. 2013 saw the release of his debut studio album, L.I.F.E., which featured guest slots from Wizkid, Timaya, 2face, and M.I., and drew favourable reviews from the music critic. For his sophomore effort, 2015’s On a Spaceship, he parted ways with both his record company and LeriQ and released an album 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. Dropping the Lily Allen-aided single, “Heaven’s Gate,” in early January 2018, Ogulu delivered his third album, “Outside”laterthat month.

Musical Career

Burna Boy thrilling fans in Nairobi, Kenya

Burna Boy has worked with several A- list Nigerian and International artists such as 2face Idibia, Sarkodie, Phyno, Flavor, Dbanj, and Wizkid to mention a few. “Burna Boy is a student of the world, consuming his influences and spitting them out in all directions. Talent has led to collaborations with artists like Lily Allen and even Fall Out Boy, who tapped him for a feature In their recent song “Sunshine Riptide.”” – Will Schube Interview Magazine In 2018. Upon its release in January, Burna Boy’s album ‘Outside’ made its way to several global music charts, and peaked again when his song ‘Ye’ coincided with the title of Kanye West’s eponymous eight album ‘Ye’ (released June 2018). In May 2012, Burna Boy released a single titled “Like To Party” which rose him to prominence. In September 2012, the video “Like to Party” was released. The music video, which was shot by Squareball Media services, ran for4 minutes and 9 seconds.

In September 2012, Burna Boy released a single titled “Tonight”. In December 2012, he released the video for the song. In his videos, Burna Boy expresses his innate feelings. His debut album, L.I.F.E- Leaving an Impact for Eternity on August 12, 2013. In 2014, Burna Boy split from Aristokrat records. In 2015, Burna Boy created his own record label called “Spaceship Ent.” He released his second album, “On a Spaceship” on 25 November 2015. In September 2016, he released a 7- TrackE.P. titled Redemption with the lead single, Pree Me debuting on Noisey. In January 2018, Burna Boy was featured on the track, “Sunshine Riptide” on Fall Out Boy’s Grammy- nominated seventh studio album, “MANIA”. He released his third studio album, Outside, in 2018 to critical acclaim and it debuted at number three on Billboard’s Reggae Albums Chart. The album’s biggest single, “Ye”, ended up on the top of most end-of-year lists as Nigeria’s biggest song of 2018. Burna himself ended the year as Nigeria’s biggest artist of 2018. In October 2018, Burna Boy was featured as Youtube’s Artist on The Rise. In January, 2019, he was announced alongside Mr Eazi, to be one of the artists performing on Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He won four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards  Festival, including “African Artist of the Year” and “Song”.

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