Burna Boy Biography: Early life, relationship with Fela, music, successes, challenges and more

Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu is a Nigerian musician who is popularly known by his stage name, Burna Boy.

He attained great heights in 2019 with his widely acclaimed fourth studio album, African Giant, which became the most streamed African album of 2019 as well as winning a host of awards this year such as the Artist of the Year in the recently held All Africa Music Awards  (Afrima 2019).

Burna Boy’ album, African Giant, was also nominated for a 2020 Grammy Award under the World Music category alongside the likes of Celia (Angelique Kidjo), Gece (Altin Gün) What Heat (Bokanté & Metropole Orkest Conducted By Jules Buckley) and Fanm D’Ayiti (Nathalie Joachim With Spektral Quartet).

Angelique Kidjo won the award but that in no way diminished Burna Boy’s achievement. So, no doubt, the artist has rightly earned the right to be compared among the finest musicians of this era such as fellow Nigerian and African artists, Davido, Diamond Platnumz, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, amongst others.

Burna’s 2019 African Giant album was also nominated by Edison Award for Best World Album in the Netherlands.

Burna Boy’s most recent work, Twice as Tall, a 15-track album, released on Friday 14 August appears on course to be his most successful body of work yet.

Burna Boy whose real name is Damini Ogulu during a live performance

In presenting Burna Boy biography, it would be shown that the artist’s rise to stardom has not really been meteoric as some might assume, Burna Boy has been around for a while, although his popularity has kind of grown exponentially in recent times. We will majorly discuss this in his music career section, but for now, let us get some background facts about him.

10 quick and interesting facts about Burna Boy

1. Burna Boy is just 28 years old despite how much older he looks.
2. He sings a special genre called Afro-fusion that combines Afro beats, reggae, dancehall and hip hop.
3. Burna’s real name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu.
4. He was born in Port Harcourt but grew up mostly in Lagos.
5. Burna Boy studied in London before dropping out to pursue a career in music.
6. From a young age, he had been making his own beats using FruityLoops.
7. He made two less-known mixtapes back in 2011.
8. After leaving Aristokrat Records, he created his own record label, Spaceship Entertainment in 2015.
9. Burna Boy’s hit track Ye was recorded in 10 minutes in Shina Peller’s Quilox studio.
10. He currently has two contractual obligations with two international record labels: Atlantic and Warner Music.

Burna Boy Biography: Early Life

Damini Ogulu, best known by his stage name Burna Boy, was born on 2nd July 1991 to Nigerian parents, Samuel Ogulu and Bose Ogulu, in Port Harcourt. His father managed a welding company while his mother was a language translator. The artist has a Yoruba middle name, Ebunoluwa, which is likely courtesy of his mother, who also has a Yoruba first name. Mrs Bose Ogulu reportedly speaks at least three foreign languages including French, Italian and German.

Given that Burna Boy’s middle name is in Yoruba, there are speculations from some quarters that the singer is of Yoruba ethnic group.

But, is Burna Boy Yoruba?

Well, if you count one’s ethnicity as patriarchal bestowed as we are wont to do in Nigeria, then, strictly speaking, Burna Boy is not Yoruba. He might have some Yoruba blood in his veins but we are not certain on that score.

Burna Boy’s patriarchal lineage seems rooted in the South-South – Rivers State. However, his lineage from his maternal side may include some Yoruba blood. We know that his maternal grandfather, the renowned music critic Benson Idonije, is from Edo State but we don’t know who his maternal grandmother is/was. She may/might have been Yoruba as it’s customary in Nigeria to give ethnic names to one’s children. Bose is a Yoruba name, and it’s conceivable that her mother is/was Yoruba. So, to that extent, Burna Boy has some claims to Yoruba ethnicity.

It should be noted that this is only an educated opinion and not strictly fact. We don’t know for certain as neither Burna Boy nor any of his family members had thought it necessary to clear the speculations, perhaps in keeping with Burna Boy’s vision of uniting Africans.

However, Burna Boy early years were spent in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. However, when it was time to go to secondary school he was moved to near Lagos. During this time, he frequently spent a lot of time with his grandfather, Benson Idonije, and it is reported that it was from this period that he developed a love for music. Burna Boy would later leave Lagos for his higher education in London, UK.

You may also like: Davido’s biography: music, relationships, global recognition, 30BG, controversies

Burna Boy Biography: Burna Boy’s sister, Nissi Ogulu

Burna Boy has a younger sister named Nissi Ogulu who is his only sibling. Despite spending most of her time outside Nigeria, the music industry heard about her when she released a track in 2016 titled: Pay Attention. Not much else is publicly known about her except that she is also interested in painting as well.

Is Fela Kuti Burna Boy’s Father?

Some have speculated that Burna Boy is actually Fela Kuti’s son. This speculation is borne of the fact that the legend of Fela extended beyond music and activism. Nigeria’s Afrobeat pioneer was popular for his escapades with many women, and he had 27 wives and an unknown number of concubines as well.

Also, this idea was further given traction because Burna Boy’s mother, Bose Ogulu aka Mama Burna, was rumoured to be a former dancer in Fela’s band. However, her father Benson Idonije rubbished the rumours, calling it a “wicked lie.” Speaking with Punch, Idonije says:

Burna’s Boy mother was not one of Fela’s dancers. It’s a wicked lie. The guys saying that are just being wicked and malicious. Burna’s mum never went to the shrine. They are just concocting stories.”

The musician was also well known to have relationships with some of the women dancing in his troupe. There is a viral photo on Nairaland that shows Fela lying on one of his dancers who many say is Bose Ogulu.

However, some people are speculating that Burna Boy lifestyle replicates that of Fela in many aspects. He smokes just as heavily and samples many of the late singer’s songs. Even his performances are styled to look like Fela’s in many ways. The rumour that Burna Boy might have been fathered by Fela is also given impetus by his age. He was six when Fela died, which some people seem to interpret as fitting the narrative that Fela may have fathered Burna Boy.

However, whatever the stories are, the official detail is that Samuel Ogulu is the father of Burna Boy. And unless the people involved come to say otherwise, saying that Fela was the father of Burna Boy is just rumours that have no basis, more so as the very basis of the rumour, namely that Bose Ogulu was a dancer for Fela’s band, has been dismissed as false by the one person – Benson Idonije- who would know.

Burna Boy Biography: Music career

Many trace Burna Boy’s love for music to his maternal grandfather, Benson Idonjie. Benson, who is now 83 years, is one of the most revered music icons alive in Nigeria. He had worked as a broadcaster and music critic but known famously as the first band manager of the Afrobeat legend and pioneer, Fela Kuti.

When one sees the impact that Fela’s music has had on Burna’s style, the earlier mentioned origin of his love for music does not seem far-fetched, yet Burna Boy was too young to have directly been influenced by Fela, who passed away in 1997.  So, it’s likely that his love of music must have been piqued by some other factor. Whatever that factor happens to be, saw Damini Ogulu start experimenting with music using the FruityLoops app.

Eventually, Burna Boy graduated from experimenting with music to actually making music after he was signed to the record label Aristokrat Records. Albeit not being well known, in 2011, he released two mixtapes titled Burn Identity and Burn Notice, likely inspired by the Hollywood movie series, Bourne Trilogy, which was popular back then.

Burna Boy mixtape tracklist cover
Cover art for Burna and tracklist for Boy Born Notice mixtape released in å2011ac

Burna Boy Biography: Burna Boy’s music style

It is easy to see Fela’s influence in Burna Boy’s works, yet Burna Boy was too young at the time of Fela’s death to have visited the Shrine (where Fela used to perform) in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. Moreover, Burna Boy’s early years were spent in Port Harcourt and not in Lagos, so he had even less chance to have encountered the late Afrobeat icon.

According to Benson Idonije, Burna Boy was exposed to Fela’s music while he was in secondary school. In an interview with Punch, the Octogenarian explained that during that time, Burna was exposed to Fela music when he visited him (his grandfather). In addition, a young Burna Boy also “listened to jazz, Miles Davies, Manu Dibango, Jimmy Hendrix and so on.” The influence of these iconic singers can be seen in Burna Boy’s music style, described by his grandfather and music critic as “eclectic“. it is to see why because as Idonije explains:

Burna’s music has elements of every music category. You find jazz, rock, country, reggae, and everything (in it). This is what Fela did not do; he just infused his jazz with African music. Burna Boy’s music is spreading to more countries and people. That’s the advantage he has; his music is eclectic.”

In nutshell, Burna Boy’s music style or genre can be described as an infusion of Afrobeat (originally developed by Fela) with other music genres.

Burna Boy describes it as Afro-fusion, a marriage of Afrobeat, dancehall riddims, reggae, American rap and R&B. This hybrid of music is what Ebunoluwa Ogulu has used to thrill the world, cutting beyond borders normally separating genres. It is a sound that is easy to the ear and appealing to a wide range of people transcending geography, language, assumed musical tastes and race. The genre has also allowed Burna Boy to sample sounds from other singers indiscriminately, in a manner of speaking.

Burna’s first album: L.I.F.E

Not one to be discouraged, on the back of the relatively unsuccessful release, Burna Boy dropped a single titled Like to Party. The song was an immediate hit and was included in his debut album, L.I.F.E, which was released on the 12th of August 2013.

L.I.F.E, an acronym for Leaving an Impact for Eternity, was Burna Boy’s first widely acclaimed project. It featured popular singles like Like to Party, Tonight, Always Love You, Run My Race and Yawa Dey. On the first day of its release, the album sold 40,000 copies.

Art cover for Burna Boy's L.I.F.E album in 2013. L.i.f.e was Burna Boy's first studio album
Art cover for Burna Boy’s L.I.F.E album, released in 2013.

Each of the above-mentioned tracks was dropped as singles and they had massive airplay giving the artist his first major following. Artists like 2Baba (then known as 2face Idibia), M.I., Timaya, Olamide, Reminisce and Wizkid featured in the project.

The album was selected among the Best Album of the Year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and also ranked 7th on the Billboard Reggae Albums charts. Also, because it was different from what was common in the Nigeria music scheme, and brought some form of Nostalgia, it sounded a lot like African music from greats like Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley.

So massive was the success of the album entirely produced by Leriq, that Uba Pacific paid N10 million to Aristokrat Records for the marketing rights of the album.

However, the relationship between Burna Boy and his record label thereafter went downhill and in 2014, the parties parted ways. Damini Ogulu would go on to establish his own record label, which he named Spaceship Entertainment.

Burna Boy’s second album, On A Spaceship, fumbled

Under his new record label, Burna Boy, on 25th November 2015, released his second album titled On a Spaceship. The album contained 20 tracks (with one of them being an intro). It featured other artists like Nyanda on Mine Tonight, Wizkid on Single, Phyno on Duro Ni Be and Flavour on Before. Wande Coal, AKA, Da Les and Kid X also appeared on the album.

Artwork for Burna Boy's On A Spaceship album.

However, the album was not well received. Many online websites seem to prefer pretending it existed only in name. On Amazon, it has a 1-star rating to show how low it fell. There was no definite figure of how many copies the album sold but the absence of the information indicates that it must have been very poor.

Burna Boy’s fans also showed their disappointment, and many feared they might have hoped for too much after the success of the previous project.

However, the failure of the album to gain acceptance was just a blip in the Burna Boy’s career as he was far from done, and his next pieces of work showed that.

Burna Boy signed by new labels in 2017

Before climbing back on the pedestal he had been placed on, in 2017, Damini Ogulu, aka Burna Boy, signed a deal with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the United States. He also got signed internationally to Warner Music Group.

Currently, Burna Boy belongs to the following record labels: Spaceship, Bad Habit, Atlantic and Warner Music.

Atlantic Records is popular for hosting the likes of Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. Not to take anything away from the artist’s talent, but it seems under the tutelage of the recording company, Burna was able to take back the Nigerian music scene by storm.

He released Rock Your Body in 2017 and the song’s catchy bridge became a nationwide party anthem almost immediately. But that was just the beginning. His impressive performance on the remix of Skale’s Temper was also a much talked about feat so much so that many wondered who originally owned the song. Another single that made Burna much talked about in that same year was Unruly, was highly received by music lovers.

His singles in 2017, made the 2018 album a success. Let us delve into this in the next part.

Also read: Davido’s biography: music, relationships, global recognition, 30BG, controversies

2018 and international recognition

When news broke in January 2018 that Burna Boy had been featured on the track Sunshine Riptide by the American rock band, Fall Out Boy, it did not mean much but a flimsy international feature. But on the 26th of the same month, the singer released his third album titled, Outside.

Burna Boy biography: Cover art for his third album, Outsid
Cover art for Burna Boy’s third studio album titled Outside

Burna Boy’s album Outside is considered a masterpiece because it also brought out his songwriting skills. Further, it features masterfully engineered genres from Afrobeats to dancehall, and also touched reggae and road rap. The fusion of these genres seems to have been his major strength and he likely knows this.

The album had many contributors that include English musicians J Hus, Lily Allen and Mabel as guest vocalists. This time around Leriq had to work with other producers to make the project a major success. Baba Stiltz, Jae 5, Julks, Chopstix, Steel Banglez and Phantom are also among the credited producers who worked on the project.

Outside contained major hit songs like the aforementioned Rock Your Body, Streets of Africa, Heaven’s Gate, and Ye, which is arguably the biggest track. So strong was the influence of the work’s output that major Nigerian entertainment outlets were naming it the best album of 2018.

At the 2018 Nigeria Entertainment Awards, the album won the Album of the Year award. In the international space, Outside peaked at 3rd spot on Billboard Reggae Albums. The single, Ye, was chosen by radio stations, TV, and online publications as 2018’s biggest song.

On the strength of these impressive displays, Burna Boy’s concert at the popular London’s O2 Academy Brixton filled to capacity. Tickets were sold out at the 7th October 2018 concert. Burna Boy also sold out all boxes of his limited edition Space Puffs cereal as well custom made notepads, lighters and tee shirts.

Burna Boy Biography: Burna performing at the O2 Academy in London.
Burna performing at the O2 Academy in London.

Spotify also included the musician among the New Afro Hub Takeover Artist and YouTube named him Artist on the Rise for about three months.

In 2019 Burna Boy became an African Giant

From the beginning of 2019, Burna Boy never looked back. He kept rising to the summit with his steady grinding. As early as January, he was announced (along with Mr Eazi) as the Afrobeat musician(s) to perform at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. This was a big deal because American trending singers like Ariana Grande, Lizzo, Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West and Donald Glover were also going to perform at the festival.

Read also: Burna Boy explains Coachella meltdown during an appearance at Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show

Nigerian and African award community also started to recognise and reward Burna Boy’s work. At the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival, he claimed four major awards including African Artist of the Year and Best Male MVP. It also proved to be a busy year for the singer as he had many projects released in the short space and he also managed to squeeze in performances.

Burna Boy showcases his award plaque
Burna Boy showcases the plaque after winning Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards

At the 2019 BET Awards, Burna Boy won the International Act award and the next month in July, Apple Music pronounced him their Up Next Artist.

In the same month of July, Burna Boy recorded the track Ja Ara E for Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift album. He is also the only artist besides Beyoncé, on the album, who had his track without featuring any other artist.

However, in the midst of all these impressive deliveries, it seems a huge ask to expect Burna Boy to put together a good body of work.

But that was exactly what Burna Boy did. He released the album: African Giant and cemented his place at the top. Since the album’s release, his name features in all top African music listings. African Giant’s popularity was pushed by six singles spanning from September 2018 to July 2019.

African Giant's cover art inspired by the Nigerian 100 Naira bill.
African Giant’s cover art inspired by the Nigerian 100 Naira bill.

Gbona, On the Low, Killin Dem, Dangote, Anybody and Pull Up were lead singles for the album. They paved the way for its impressive rise by preparing the minds of music lovers.

Speaking about the album, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (popularly called Burna Boy) told Billboard magazine that the album was his most “personal” project yet. He also stated that it touched on topics like the Nigerian political climate and violence as well.

The album was engineered in Los Angeles and London by Jesse Ray Ernster. The name, African Giant, was coined after Burna Boy’s calling out of the organisers of the 2019 Coachella Festival after they had printed his name in small font on the festival’s poster.

The features on the album were also magnificent. Zlatan was on Killin Dem and Jorja Smith appeared on Gum Body. Future, Damian Marley and Angelique Kidjo also featured on different tracks.

Burna Boy Biography: 2020 Grammy win

The 62nd edition of the Grammy announced that Burna Boy’s African Giant was nominated in the Best World Music Album category. He contested with four other artists for the prize in 2020 and many tout him for the win. Although he was not the first Nigerian singer to be nominated for the prestigious music award nor the only one in 2020, it was still a major feat.

Burna Boy was beaten by Beninese Angélique Kidjo at the 62nd edition of the event. Angelique Kidjo is a 59-year-old singer, songwriter, actress, and activist who is noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos.

She is a Grammy veteran and her 2020 win marks her fourth win in the World Music Album Award category. The loss had enraged many fans of Burna Boy but it was difficult to argue about the fairness of Kidjo’s win given the quality of her Celia album that won the award.

Twice as Tall (2020) and more honours

On 14th August 2020, Burna Boy released Twice as Tall, the follow-up album of his record-setting African Giant project. Twice as Tall was released under Spaceship Entertainment, Atlantic Records and Warner Music record labels.

Burna Boy, Diddy and Bose Ogulu (Mama Burna) were the album’s executive producers. It contains a mixture of Afrobeats, Afrobeat, dancehall, pop and hip hop. Timbaland, Matt Testa, DJDS, Matthew Baus, P2J, Mike Dean, LeriQ, Rexxie, Telz, Mario Winans, Skread, Sauti Sol, Andre Harris, and JAE5 got production credits for the project.

Twice as Tall features guest appearances from Youssou N’Dour, Naughty by Nature, Sauti Sol, Chris Martin and Stormzy. A comic book titled “The Secret Flame” came with the album’s release. “Wonderful” was the album’s lead single and it was released in June 2020.

The overwhelming response to Burna Boy’s Twice as Tall album was positive and the 15-track project reached heights that Afrobeats had not attained until then. For example, it peaked at number 54 on the Billboard 200 chart, the highest for any Afrobeats album.

Additionally, it reached number 11 on UK’s Albums Chart and made several album charts in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, France, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland.

On 24th November 2020, Burna Boy got a second consecutive Global Album category nod at the 2021 Grammy Awards, this time for the massive 2020 Twice as Tall project. It vied for the crown with four other projects, namely: Fu Chronicles by American band Antibalas; Agora by Brazilian-American singer Bebel Gilberto; Love Letters by British-Indian composer Anoushka Shankar; and Amadjar by Mali-based group Tinariwen.

he went on to clinch the prize on 31 January 2021, becoming the first Nigerian to win it for his/her own work. No Nigerian has ever won the Grammy award for their individual work. Only Sikiru Adepoju, a Nigerian percussionist, had previously won it for his contribution to the Global Drum Project in 2009.

Burna Boy was also nominated in the 2020 MOBO Awards Best International Act category alongside Rema, Drake, Megan Thee Stallion, the late Pop Smoke, Lil Baby and others. Also, in the same award event, Burna Boy was nominated alongside Rema, Wizkid, Davido, Fireboy, Adekunle Gold, Tiwa Savage, Master KG, Shatta Wale, and others in the Best African Act category.

Burna Boy Biography: What is the meaning of Burna Boy?

Although the musician himself has not explained, it is likely he coined the moniker from his middle name, Ebunoluwa. Whatever the name means, it is catchy and sticks. In recent years, he is called Oluwa Burna, a reference to one of his tracks in 2015.

Burna Boy Biography: Burna Boy tattoos?

In an August interview with GQ, Burna Boy explained the meanings and inspiration behind the numerous tattoos on his body.

The first one was a song from the Bible,” says Burna Boy as he traces the tattoo on his left hand. “I was just in a dark place and this was a song that kind of felt like I wrote it at the time.”

He also has one that says “God’s love” and this one he explains is like a fuel for him. There is also one that looks like a brick wall and has the name of some of his family members on it.

The Nigerian coat of arms is also tattooed to his body as well as a bleeding heart. He has a Fela Kuti tattoo as well, who he mentioned was his hero and the best musician that ever lived.

Some of the tattoos also have deeper meanings, which are not immediately obvious.

A partially clad Burna Boy thrilling the crowd.

For those considering getting a tattoo or two, Burna Boy cautions to get only tattoos that have meanings to them because, at the end of the day, one is stuck with them for life.

His words: “Don’t just jump into it (getting a tattoo). Just make sure you’ll never regret. Make sure it’s something that you want to stay with you.

Burna Boy Biography: Relationship status

During the beginning of his career, Burna Boy was linked to some unnamed ladies. However, in 2019, both he and UK musician, Stephanie Victoria Allen who goes by the stage name, Stefflon Don confirmed that they are in a relationship. The London rapper had said that she had met Damini Ogulu in Ghana.

She said Burna Boy had told her from the beginning that she was going to be his wife and that they would soon make things permanent. But things have not been all smooth with their relationship. As is the case with high profile couples, Stephanie and Damini had also faced scandals.

Burna Boy and girlfriend, Stefflon Don
Burna Boy and girlfriend, Stefflon Don

There were rumours of them splitting up in August 2019 due to infidelity on the part of Burna Boy with his ex-girlfriend. Stefflon was quick to quash the rumours before it gained more ground than it had already gained. The 27-year-old singer stated that the videos making rounds were old ones and to further shut critics up, she shared a screenshot of a FaceTime she had with Burna Boy where both appeared cool.

In December 2020, a 23-year-old lady named Jo Pearl revealed that Burna Boy had been dating her before he met Stefflon Don and continued their relationship while he was with the British rapper.

In videos she shared on Instagram, Pearl started by saying: “Two years is such a long time for a person to be hidden. It has affected me in so many ways, and I can’t hold it any more to protect people that wouldn’t protect me.”

You can watch the full video here. While the revelation led to a big scandal on social media, Burna Boy and Stefflon Don did not publicly react to the claims as of December 2020.

Burna Boy Biography: Net worth and endorsement deals

With the growth of Burna Boy’s music career, it is expected that his net worth would grow as well. Prior to 2018, events could get Burna Boy to perform for as low as N2 million. Back then, he had endorsement deals from Martell Conga and Globacom. These deals likely worth millions of naira but no definite figures were publicly announced as is usual.

In 2017, the Nigerian telecommunications giant dropped him citing “bad public conduct.” His astronomical rise, however, gave him more prestige. Universal Music Publishing Group, Pepsi and Star Lager Beer joined the suite of brands sponsoring the artist. Each of these deals is no doubt a big-money deal considering the reputation of the brands.

Burna appearing on Pepsi ad as an ambassador
Burna appearing on Pepsi ad as an ambassador

Now, Burna Boy is reportedly worth between $5 – 10 million. According to some reports, his management team requires no less than N5 million upwards to get him to appear on stage. In 2019, pictures of his alleged fleet of cars surfaced online and among them are the following cars: Mercedes Benz, Range Rover Sports, G-Wagon and a 2016 Lexus Saloon.

The Nigerian born singer also has a house in Lekki that is allegedly worth about N150 million including properties in Ajah, a high profile part of Lagos.

Burna Boy Biography: Xenophobia controversy

In August 2019, disturbing stories about xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa were making the news rounds. Burna Boy was one of the first few Nigerian artists to come out and clearly pick a side on the issue. He did not try to sugarcoat his tweets or sound diplomatic. At the time, the Gbona singer said he would never set foot on South Africa as the attack “goes against everything I stand for.

His frankness expectedly did not go down well with everyone, among them South African’s big music star AKA. Both did not hold back and flung insults at each other on Twitter. Damini also went after M.I. whom he felt exhibited a lukewarm reaction to the issue. Burna Boy would later soften his stand as expressed in subsequent tweets by calling for a united Africa but not before the artist has created some enemies among some South Africans concert-goers.

Then in November 2019, Burna Boy was announced as the headliner for Africa Unite, an anti-xenophobia themed concert which would be held in South Africa, but many South Africans were unhappy about the decision and threatened violence.

AKA demanded an apology from Burna Boy, which Burna Boy waved off, telling AKA to demand an apology from his enemies.

In his words: “Saying I mislead people? And I made up the Xenophobic attacks and I should apologise. Really? Lol. In 2015 Even I was a victim of the misguided hate so I know. Go and demand apologies from your REAL Enemies. I am not your Enemy. I will not be called ‘foreigner’ I am AFRICAN.

There should never be a South Africa vs Nigeria war or any African country vs African country war ever. We must unite by any means for the future of our children and their children”.

The controversy led to the cancellation of Burna’s Africans Unite’ concert in South Africa. The organisers reported that they had to cancel because of threats and complaints received concerning the artist headlining the show on their home soil after he disrespected them.

Burna Boy Nigerian youths video

In April 2020, Burna Boy had come under fire for a video he posted on Instagram and Twitter where he appeared to be mocking Nigerian youths. His video had come at a sensitive time when people were complaining about situations in the country. According to Premium Times, the singer had said in Nigerian Pidgin;

“Naija I hail o, you see this one Accountant General Office don catch fire o. You see am dem don disburse funds now fire don catch office

“Everything wey dey happen for Naija, Nigerians deserve am. Because if to say we the youth fit use that same energy we dey use to call NCDC make dem go arrest Funke Akindele use attack politicians, e for better.

“Person wey dey work hard for her money, Iya Ibeji na him we dey call for the innocent woman arrest, use that same energy to tackle politicians, if not una go suffer. [Sic]”

During EndSARS protest

Months after Burna Boy’s controversial video mocking Nigerian youths, he was again called out for his seeming silence on the EndSARS protest. This came after many Nigerian singers and celebrities such as Wizkid, Davido, Falz, Runtown, Phyno, Flavour and so on had lent their voice to the struggle by tweeting about it and being physically present at protests.

It got so intense that videos began surfacing of protesters reacting angrily when Burna’s songs were played at protests.

However, the “Ye” singer explained that his absence during the protest had been due to “personal family issue.” He revealed that his mother had a serious surgery at the height of the protest and he was focused on her getting better.

He also adds in a tweet: “Play whatever song you like at these Protests but Let’s just keep fighting Together. Follow @protectng2020 we are here to help #sarsmustend #EndPoliceBrutalityinNigeria.”

Additionally, he paid for #EndSARS billboards that were mounted across Nigeria as a way to show support for the protesters just before he came forward to explain his absence.

Burna Boy Biography: Collaboration with other Nigerian and International artists

The fame of Burna Boy is not restricted to his own creations alone. He has appeared on some notable tracks such as:

  • Own It (with Stormzy, Ed Sheeran)
  • Be Honest (with Jorja Smith)
  • Ja Ara E (with Beyonce)
  • Ayepo Remix (with Airboy)
  • Temper Remix (with Skales)
  • All Eyes On Me (with AKA, Da L.E.S and JR)
  • Gimme Dat (with Ice Prince, Yung L and Olamide)
  • And any more

List of artists Burna Boy has collaborated with

  1. Wande Coal
  2. Ice Prince
  3. Yung L
  4. Olamide
  5. DJ Spinall
  6. AKA
  7. Da L.E.S
  8. JR
  9. Sarkodie
  10. Skales
  11. Airboy
  12. Jesse Jagz
  13. Four of Diamonds
  14. Fall Out Boy
  15. Lily Allen
  16. Larry Gaaga
  17. 2Baba
  18. D’banj
  19. Major Lazer
  20. Show Dem Camp
  21. Peruzzi
  22. Sauti Sol
  23. Dave
  24. Mahalia Burkmar
  25. Beyoncé
  26. DJ Snake
  27. Jorja Smith
  28. IDK
  29. Wretch 32
  30. Stormzy
  31. Ed Sheeran

Burna Boy Biography: Awards and Recognitions

Burna Boy has won several awards both nationally and internationally. The awards won by Burna Boy include:

  1. (2013) South South Music Awards for Best Pop (Like to Party)
  2. (2013) Nigeria Entertainment Awards for Best New Act of the Year
  3. (2015) Nigeria Entertainment Awards for Best Album of the Year (L.I.F.E)
  4. (2019) Soundcity MVP Awards Festival for Listener’s Choice (Ye)
  5. (2019) Soundcity MVP Awards Festival for Song of the Year (Ye)
  6. (2019) Soundcity MVP Awards Festival for Best Male MVP
  7. (2019) Soundcity MVP Awards Festival for African Artiste of the Year
  8. (2019) BET Awards for Best International Act
  9. (2019) The Headies for Artiste of the Year
  10. (2019) The Headies for Song of the Year (Ye)
  11. (2019) The Headies for Best Collabo (with Zlatan, Killin’ Dem)
  12. (2019) MTV Europe Music Awards for Best African Act
  13. (2019) African Muzik Magazine Awards for Song of the Year (with Zlatan, Killin’ Dem)
  14. (2019) African Muzik Magazine Awards for Artist of the Year
  15. (2019) All Africa Music Awards for West African Male Artiste of the Year
  16. (2019) All Africa Music Awards for Album of the Year (African Giant)
  17. (2021) Grammy Award for Best Global Album

See also: Celebrity beef erupts between Yomi Black and Toke Makinwa| Here’s how it happened

Final words…

From our account of Burna Boy Biography, we can see that success did not come overnight for Burna Boy. It was gradual but it hit quite like a storm. 2019, especially, has been a good year for him with several achievements that cemented his place as one of the best musicians of this era. With his output and hard work, it is a well-deserved year for the musician and whether he deserves his self-proclaimed title of African Giant is one up for debate. There is definitely some merit in the argument. However, whether he can keep up with the momentum, no one knows. Only the future can reveal such things. For now, we shall continue to enjoy his sounds that are now becoming masterpieces. And we wish him the best in both his illustrious career and in his personal endeavours.

Are you a fan of Burna Boy? Is there other information about him that you think we missed out in our account of Burna Boy biography? Share your observations or questions with us in the comment section. Meanwhile, subscribe to our newsletter for more interesting articles like this one. Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends and others in your network.

Burna Boy Biography: Bonus Information

1. List of Burna Boy’s Singles

Burna Boy’s single 2011

  1. Shobeedo (Freestyle)

Burna Boy’s singles 2012

  1. Like to Party
  2. Tonight

Burna Boy’s singles 2013

  1. Run My Race
  2. Yawa Dey
  3. Celebrate
  4. Won Da Mo (featuring D’banj)

Burna Boy’s singles 2014

  1. Rockstar
  2. Don Gorgon
  3. Check and Balance

Burna Boy’s singles 2015

  1. Soke
  2. The Realest
  3. Rizzla

Burna Boy’s singles 2016

  1. Pree Me
  2. Mandem Anthem

Burna Boy’s singles 2017

  1. Hallelujah
  2. Rock Your Body
  3. Streets of Africa
  4. Koni Baje
  5. Sekkle Down

Burna Boy’s singles 2018

  1. Heaven’s Gate (featuring Lily Allen)
  2. Ye
  3. On the Low
  4. Gbona
  5. Killin Dem (featuring Zlatan)

Burna Boy’s Singles 2019

  1. Dangote
  2. Anybody
  3. Pull Up

2. List of Burna Boy’s Mixtapes

Burn Notice (2011) – Aristokrat Records.

  1. Don’t Cross that Line
  2. Red Bandanna
  3. Indian Thing
  4. Wombolombo Something
  5. Remember The Titans
  6. I Don’t Care
  7. Freedom Freestyle
  8. Afro Beat Freestyle
  9. Kung Fu Loving
  10. Smoke Some Weed
  11. Shut Down

Burn Identity (2011) – Aristokrat Records.

  1. My Journey (Novacan Freestyle)
  2. Every Gyal
  3. Firewood (2011)
  4. Icecream Man
  5. Trumpet (featuring Davido)
  6. Ph-Lagos-London Paris (featuring Pre)
  7. Summertime
  8. Friend Like Me (featuring Shank)
  9. You Madt (freestyle)
  10. Starboy
  11. Bad Boy (featuring Korkormikor)
  12. Shobedo (One on freestyle)
  13. Wickedest Love (featuring LOS)
  14. Fulfiling All Righteousness (featuring Sauce Kid)
  15. Cowboy Music

List of Burna Boy’s albums

1. L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact for Eternity) –  2013

L.I.F.E was Burna Boy’s debut album released under Aristokrat Records but the rights were sold to Uba Pacific later.

Burna Boy’s L.I.F.E tracklists

  1. Intro: My Life
  2. No No No
  3. Say So
  4. Abeg Abeg (Remix) (featuring 2face Idibia and Timaya)
  5. Na so E Suppose Be
  6. Run My Race
  7. Boom Boom Boom
  8. Yawa Dey
  9. Ma Loda Ma Motto
  10. Tonight
  11. Like to Party
  12. Smooth Sailing
  13. Don’t Run (featuring Reminisce and Olamide)
  14. Jahs Love Is True (featuring Wizkid)
  15. Outro: Remember Me

2. On A Spaceship – 2015

On A Spaceship was Burna Boy’s second album released under his personal record label, Spaceship Entertainment.

Burna Boy’s On a Spaceship tracklists

  1. Intro
  2. Oluwa Burna
  3. The Realest
  4. Mine Tonight (featuring Nyanda)
  5. Ring Ring
  6. Single (featuring Wizkid)
  7. Sampudi
  8. As E Be (Skit)
  9. Rizzla
  10. Jealousy
  11. Duro Ni Be(featuring Phyno)
  12. Another One
  13. Before ft. Flavour
  14. Trance
  15. On A Very Good Day (featuring Wande Coal)
  16. Birthday (featuring AKA, Kid X, And Da L.E.S)
  17. Gone
  18. Mi O Ni Gba
  19. If People Must Die (Dedicated To Gabriel “Gambo” Serunkuma)

3. Outside – 2018

Outside was Burna Boy’s third album released under Spaceship Entertainment, Bad Habit and Atlantic Records.

Burna Boy’s Outside tracklists

  1. More Life
  2. Ph City Vibration
  3. Koni Baje
  4. Sekkle Down (featuring J Hus)
  5. Where I’m From
  6. Heaven’s Gate (featuring Lily Allen)
  7. Ye
  8. Giddem
  9. Streets of Africa
  10. Rock Your Body
  11. Devil in California
  12. Calm Down
  13. Outside (featuring Mabel)

4. African Giant – 2019

African Giant was Burna Boy’s fourth studio album released under Spaceship Entertainment, Bad Habit, Atlantic Records and Warner Music.

Burna Boy’s African Giant (2019) tracklists

  1. African Giant
  2. Anybody
  3. Wetin Man Go Do
  4. Dangote
  5. Gum Body (featuring Jorja Smith)
  6. Killin Dem (featuring Zlatan)
  7. Omo
  8. Secret (featuring Jeremih and Serani)
  9. Collateral Damage
  10. Another Story (featuring M.anifest)
  11. Pull Up
  12. Blak Ryno (Skit)
  13. Destiny
  14. Different (featuring Damian Marley and Angélique Kidjo)
  15. Gbona
  16. On the Low
  17. Show & Tell (featuring Future)
  18. This Side (featuring YG)
  19. Spiritual

5. Twice as Tall (2020)

  1. Level Up (ft. Youssou N’Dour)
  2. Alarm Clock
  3. Way Too Big
  4. Bebo
  5. Wonderful
  6. Onyeka
  7. Naughty by Nature (ft. Naughty by Nature)
  8. Comma
  9. No Fit Vex
  10. 23
  11. Time Flies (ft. Sauti Sol)
  12. Monsters You Made (ft. Chris Martin)
  13. Wetin Dey Sup
  14. Real Life (ft. Stormzy)
  15. Bank On It

List of Burna Boy’s EPs

Redemption (2016)

  1. Pree Me
  2. Fa So La Ti Do
  3. Boshe Nlo
  4. Mary Jane
  5. Body To Body #Yad
  6. Plenty Song
  7. We On

Steel & Copper (with DJDS) (2019)

  1. 34
  2. Innocent Man
  3. Darko
  4. Thuggin
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About The Author


Obinna is a fiction writer from Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up loving comic book characters and superheroes. He watches lots of action films and writes entertainment and technology articles. He is also interested in science and how things work.

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