Rapper, singer, songwriter, collaborator, Grammy winner: in 2021, the Burna Boy has taken ‘Afrofusion’, a sound uniquely his own, all the way to the top.
Speaking here at home in Port Harcourt, he explains his music is the start and solidarity is the end, sharing a strident vision of a continent united – with itself, its diasporas and the world.
When he was young, Burna Boy would sit, watch the Grammy Awards and dream. He still carries fleeting memories of iconic past performances.
He remembers being at home and staring into his box television screen and seeing famed artists of an era gone, crooning velvet vocals to crowded auditoriums, inspiration stirring.
For as long as he can remember, for as long as he has released songs, the Grammys have floated somewhere in his periphery, a milestone he was sure he would one day reach.
That day finally arrived in March this year at the 63rd iteration of the awards show.
The world watched as he won Best Global Music Album. It being a year unlike any other, the awards were accepted over video link.
Off camera, the shrieks of his elated family drowned the room, waves of screams and cries carrying over the speakers. It was a spirited rejoicing, a childhood dream crystallising into reality.
Burna gathered himself among the pandemonium and finally settled to accept his prize.
“This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world,” he continued. “This should be a lesson to every African out there: no matter where you are, no matter what you plan to do, you can achieve it, because you are a king.”
His triumph will likely outlive him. His emergence onto the world stage in recent years has been representative of a wider shift, a symbol for how sounds and cultures rumbling from Africa, and its diaspora scattered through Western countries and continents, have crossed into the heartlands of global pop culture.
In the soul of his albums, Life, On A Spaceship, Outside, African Giant and Twice As Tall, the latter three released in a concurrent stretch between 2018 and 2020, is a mood of pan-Africanism and continental unity that has defined the time period for his generation of musicians emerging from the continent.