2018 was quite an impressive year in music that saw established artists continue to leave their footprint in the music industry. In the case of the country’s two biggest artists- Davido and Wizkid they opted to flood the market with singles after a more focused and controlled 2017. It also witnessed the arrival of new gen artists of which the likes of Odunsi, Teni and Boj fall under who sought to carve out a space for themselves while reaching new audiences and trying to usher listeners into a new era of music in Nigeria. But in a constellation of stars, one star always has to be the Sirius and shine the brightest. Therefore, it is without a doubt that the year belonged to one artist in particular and that artist is no other than Damini Ogulu, better known as Burna Boy or if you may, the Sirius of the Nigerian music industry 2018.
At the beginning of his mainstream career, his undeniable talent gave him a nudge into the Nigerian music scene with hit songs like, Tonight and Like to Party. He warmed his way into the hearts of many with his definitive sound (which a number of people have likened to that of the late Fela Kuti, the legendary Afro Beat creator, whom his grand father used to manage), coupled with his calm and subtle inflections which created a lane only he could tread.
The journey for him from where he began to this point was anything but fruity and filled with smooth sailings as along the way, he has been faced with quite a number of hellish, mostly self-inflicted lows. Between reports of his involvement in gang-related stabbings from his past surfacing, his hassle and death threats towards the Nigerian press, to him being a key suspect in the Mr. 2kay robbery case early on in the year, the singer’s career seemed to be going on a never ending rocky rollercoaster ride. His highs were sky high and his lows were pretty low. When it felt like he was was about to give the winning play, a new setback was unleashed on him. Displaying an almost ethereal resilience and talent, he has come back better and even more triumphant. 2018 was definitely the year he finally got his checkmate moment which further solidified his place in the music industry as a force to be reckoned with. Quite honestly, it’s been long overdue.
Back in 2017, he eased us into what was to come in 2018 with the release of Rock Your Body as the year was about closing. In January of 2018 he begun the year on a high following the final release of his anticipated 13 track project Outside under Atlantic Records. The widely received project showed Burna Boy taking on a new found depth with his lyrics as well as letting us a bit further into his life. Though the artist had never been one to shy away from using the music reflect reality, the closing seconds of the project offered a window of vulnerability. He spoke of changing and making his life better with the lines “So before me mother cry and her eyes start swell / Cos her son end up like Vybz Kartel.” For those unfamiliar with Vybz Kartel, he is a Jamaican reggae, dancehall and reggae fusion artist who is currently doing time for the murder of one his associates. The artist previously faced charges including illegal possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana, and conspiracy.
Outside went on to record a number of successes which included landing a number 3 spot on the Billboard Reggae Album Chart. The project also housed Ye the song Nigerians have decided to adopt as a second national anthem. With lines like “I no wan die/ I no wan suffer/ I wan enjoy” essentially functioning as a treatise on the present day Nigerian experience, the song has effectively become the strongest musical representation of the Buhari times. Proving that its success was essentially destined, certain intangibles worked in its favor. Kanye West’s Ye unwittingly bolstered Burna Boy’s streams. In 2018 Burna Boy also got to sprinkle a bit of his magic on a couple of international features. He made an appearance as the only artist featured on the album of American rock band Fall Out Boy, Mania. He also teamed up with Major Lazer on the smash hit All My Life off the music trio’s Afrobeats Mix (DJ Mix) and Kenyan Afro-pop band, Sauti Sol on their single, Afrikan Star.
There’s a lot to be said about the impact of recency effect in our perception of music. Outside coming in the first quarter of the year could have undermined the perception of Burna’s music in the closing months of the year due to the glut of music we’ve seen in the last quarter. Hence, Gbona and On the Low accompanied by a video. On the low is laced with subtle inflections and cadences similar to Ler Gaou, the hit song of Ivorian music group, Magic System. The song produced by Selebobo is a sultry mid tempo love song which sees Burna Boy professing his admiration for his interest, Angelina while taking listeners on a nostalgic trip.
Any analysis of Burna Boy will not be accurate without reflecting the fact that his talent is something that is essentially unquestionable. The doubts stemmed from what has come across at times as an almost self destructive vein. In 2018, he overcame this and let his talent do its job unhindered. For that and his ascension from a solid Top 10 act to the highest table, he is our Man of the Year.