Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, popularly known as Burna Boy, has come a long way.
From the 2011 Burn Series Mixtapes, through 2013’s critically acclaimed L.I.F.E, to the slump that was 2015’s On a Spaceship, to rediscovering himself on 2016’s Redemption EP, down to 2018’s outstanding Outside, Burna Boy has had rosy days, weathered storms, and now on African Giant, his latest offering, he’s in full bloom.
African Giant, though plagued with the fillers-curse, is loaded with great songs that make his meteoric rise hard to argue with. There’s the fiery and energetic ‘Gbona’ as well as ‘Anybody’; mid-tempo jams ‘On the Low’ and ‘Secret’; instructive ‘Another Story’ and ‘Collateral Damage’; Zlatan-assisted Zanku-inspired ‘Killin Dem’; Reggaeton-peppered ‘Different’; the we-must-make-am anthem ‘Dangote’; and the smooth ride that is ‘Pull Up’.
To promote the album and his visibility as an artist in the diaspora, Burna Boy has done live performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (where he was also interviewed), Audiomack Trap Symphony (three songs: ‘Ye’, ‘On the Low’ and ‘Anybody’, Vevo Ctrl (two songs: ‘Collateral Damage’ and ‘Anybody’).
In March, he was featured on YouTube’s Artist Spotlight Story. He has been interviewed by English radio presenter of Nigerian descent Julia Adenuga as Apple Music’s Up Next artist on Beats 1; appeared on The FADER and GQ; made his American radio debut on Sway Calloway’s Sway In The Morning and subsequently put in an appearance on Ebro in the Morning on Hot 97, Power 105.1 FM’s The Breakfast Club and The Big Boy’s Neighborhood Morning Show. He even got a shout out from the legendary Elton John.
These are all major moves.
But a keen observer will notice a snag in some of these interviews: Burna Boy is withdrawn, guarded, and careful, too careful maybe—just saying enough to keep the conversation going. Most notably are the interviews with The Breakfast Club and Sway In The Morning. Burna Boy, for the most part, is constantly being prodded and when he yields to the prodding usually supplies one-word answers and inchoate ramblings.
Blame it on him not being properly media-trained.
Perhaps Burna Boy wasn’t feeling them. And that, in this writer’s opinion, sounds closest to the truth.
His interviews with fellow African brother Trevor Noah, Julia Adenuga and most recently Big Boy lend credence to the above. In these interviews, Burna Boy is the opposite of everything he was in The Breakfast Club and Sway In The Morning: animated, fun, witty and being all-round enjoyable. Most especially on The Big Boy’s Neighborhood Morning Show.
Known for his comic yet deeply personal and insightful interviews, the African American Big Boy manages to bring Burna Boy out from his shell. Their conversation ranges from the mandatory (Burna Boy’s upbringing, his influences, his artistry) to the spicy (the MIA he pulled while his mum was onstage receiving his BET Best International Act award, and his being mistaken for a member of the Migos clan by white Americans).
“Did you bring anything in for me?” Big Boy asks Burna Boy after informing him of his forthcoming birthday (Big Boy’s birthday was September 8).
Burna Boy isn’t bearing any gifts. But he promises to get something for Big Boy.
“You know…I like gifts from the heart,” Big Boy says.
Burna Boy replies that’s exactly where his gift would be coming from: his heart.
“Yeah, but I like expensive gifts from the heart,” Big Boy jokes and the room erupts in laughter.
It’s a lovely interview, and Burna Boy’s readily-offered laughter is reflective of the space where he is as an artist : a member of the crème de la crème of renowned superstars; at the mountain peak, which, hopefully, won’t be his limit.