Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu Rex (born 2 July 1991), known professionally as Burna Boy, is a Nigerian singer and songwriter. He rose to prominence in 2012 after releasing “Like to Party”, the lead single from his debut studio album L.I.F.E (2013). In 2017, Burna Boy signed with Bad Habit/Atlantic Records in the United States and Warner Music Group internationally. His third studio album Outside marked his major-label debut. In 2019, he won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards, and was announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist. His fourth studio album African Giant was released in July 2019; it won Album of the Year at the 2019 All Africa Music Awards and was nominated for Best World Music Album at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.

Early life

Damini Ogulu was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. His father managed a welding company and his mother worked as a translator. His grandfather Benson Idonije once managed Fela Kuti. His mother Bose Ogulu would later become his manager. Ogulu grew up in southern Nigeria and began making his own beats using FruityLoops. He attended Corona Secondary School in Agbara and relocated to London to further his studies.

Career

2012–2015: L.I.F.E and On a Spaceship

Burna Boy’s debut studio album L.I.F.E was released on 12 August 2013, serving as the follow-up to his second mixtape Burn Identity (2011). The album sold 40,000 copies on the first day of its release. Aristokrat Records later sold its marketing rights to Uba Pacific for ₦10 million. The album’s release was preceded by five singles: “Like to Party”, “Tonight”, “Always Love You”, “Run My Race” and “Yawa Dey”.

L.I.F.E was produced entirely by Leriq and features guest artists such as 2face Idibia, M.I, Timaya, Olamide, Reminisce and Wizkid. Nigeria Entertainment Today ranked the album 10th on its list of the 12th Best Albums of 2013. The album’s music draws heavily from the music of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, who applauded its production. It was nominated for Best Album of the Year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. In August 2013, L.I.F.E peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.

In 2014, Burna Boy split from Aristokrat records. In February 2015, he founded the record label Spaceship Entertainment eight months after parting ways with Aristocrat Records.  Burna Boy released his second album On a Spaceship on 25 November 2015. His 7-track debut EP Redemption was released in September 2016; its lead single “Pree Me” debuted on Noisey.

2018: Outside and O2 Academy Brixton performance

In January 2018, Burna Boy was featured on “Sunshine Riptide”, a track from Fall Out Boy’s seventh studio album MANIA (2018). He released his third studio album Outside on 26 January 2018. Described as a mixtape, Outside consists mostly of Afrobeats, dancehall, reggae and road rap. It features guest vocals from English musicians J Hus, Lily Allen and Mabel. Outside was supported by six singles: “Rock Your Body”, “Streets of Africa”, “Koni Baje”, “Sekkle Down”, “Heaven’s Gate” and “Ye”. Its production was handled by Leriq, Baba Stiltz, Jae 5, Juls, Chopstix, Steel Banglez, Fred Gibson, Phantom and FTSE. The album received positive critical acclaim and was ranked by Pulse Nigeria and Nigerian Entertainment Today as the best Nigerian album of 2018. It won Album of the Year at the 2018 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. In February 2018, Outside debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart. The album’s biggest single “Ye” ended up atop most Nigerian publications year-end list as the biggest song of 2018.

On 7 October 2018, Burna Boy performed before a sold-out crowd at London’s O2 Academy Brixton. A day prior to the show, he held a pop-up event at Red by Little Farm and sold limited boxes of his Space Puffs cereal, as well as custom notepads, lighters and graphic tee-shirts. On 9 October 2018, Burna Boy was announced as one of Spotify’s New Afro Hub Takeover Artist. The announcement coincided with him being named YouTube’s Artist on the Rise for 3 months.

2019–present: Steel & Copper and African Giant

On 3 January 2019, he was announced alongside Mr Eazi as one of the artists performing at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. He won four awards at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival, including African Artiste of the Year, Listener’s Choice and Best Male MVP.

On 21 March 2019, Burna Boy released a 4-track collaborative EP with Los Angeles-based electronic duo DJDS, titled Steel & Copper. It blends Burna Boy’s upbeat melodies with DJDS’ slinky trap beats. Steel & Copper combines elements of dancehall and reggae music with Afropop and trap.

On 24 June 2019, Burna Boy won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards. In July 2019, Burna Boy was announced as an Apple Music Up Next artist. His inclusion into the program was accompanied by a Beats 1 interview with Julie Adenuga and a short documentary. He recorded “Ja Ara E” (Yoruba: “wise up” or “use your head”) for Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift and was the only guest artist with their own track on the soundtrack album.

Burna Boy’s fourth studio album African Giant was released on 26 July 2019. It has been supported by six singles: “Gbona”, “On the Low”, Killin Dem”, “Dangote”, “Anybody” and “Pull Up”. He began recording the album in 2018. He told Billboard magazine the album is his most personal yet. He first revealed plans to release the album in April 2019, and held a private listening session in Los Angeles. Photos and videos from the listening session were shared on social media. African Giant was initially announced as a 16-track album. In order to promote the album, Burna Boy headlined the African Giant Returns tour, the second leg of his African Giant tour. Burna Boy recorded “My Money, My Baby”, a track that appeared on Queen & Slim’s soundtrack album. Described as an “Afrobeat-tinged track”, “My Money, My Baby” contains a sample of Fela Kuti’s 1972 song “Shakara”.

In April 2020, Burna Boy performed in the One World: Together at Home special.

Artistry

Burna Boy describes his music as Afro-fusion, a genre that blends Afrobeat, dancehall riddims, reggae, American rap and R&B. August Brown of The Los Angeles Times said Burna Boy’s sound is “savvy and modern but undistracted by obvious crossover moves”.

Discography

Studio albums

  • L.I.F.E (2013)
  • On a Spaceship (2015)
  • Outside (2018)
  • African Giant (2019)

Mixtapes

  • Burn Notice (2011)
  • Burn Identity (2011)

EPs

  • Redemption (2016)
  • Steel & Copper (with DJDS) (2019)

Singles (partial)

YearTitleAlbumProducer
2011“Shobeedo” (Freestyle)Non-album single
2012“Like to Party”L.I.F.ELeriq
“Tonight”
2013“Run My Race”
“Yawa Dey”
“Celebrate”Non-album singleGospelOnDeBeatz
“Won Da Mo” (featuring D’banj)DeeVee
2014“Rockstar”Leriq
“Don Gorgon”Spellz
“Check and Balance”
2015“Soke”On a SpaceshipOrbeat
“The Realest”Simba Tagz
“Rizzla”J Fem
2016“Pree Me”[47]RedemptionLeriq
“Mandem Anthem”Non-album singleFresh
2017“Hallelujah”Killbeatz
“Rock Your Body”OutsideJuls
“Streets of Africa”Leriq
“Koni Baje”P2J
“Sekkle Down”Jae5
2018“Heaven’s Gate” (featuring Lily Allen)[48]Fred Gibson
“Ye”Phantom
“On the Low”African GiantKel P
“Gbona”
“Killin Dem” (featuring Zlatan)
2019“Dangote”
“Anybody”P2J
“Pull Up”Kel P
“Money Play”Non-album singleMr. Kleb
2020“Odogwu”Kel P
“Wonderful”Twice As TallTelz

Guest appearances

YearArtistTitleAlbum
2013Wande Coal“Amorawa”Non-album single
Ice Prince“Gimme Dat” (also featuring Yung L and Olamide)Fire of Zamani
2014DJ Spinall“Gba Gbe E”Non-album single
AKA“All Eyes On Me” (also featuring Da L.E.S and JR)Levels
Sarkodie“Special Someone” (also featuring AKA)Sarkology
2016Skales“Temper” (Remix)Non-album singles
2017Airboy“Ayepo” (Remix)
Skales“Gbefun One Time”The Never Say Never Guy
Jesse Jagz“Violation”Odysseus
2018Four of Diamonds“Name On It”TBA
Fall Out Boy”Sunshine Riptide”Mania
Lily Allen“Your Choice”No Shame
DJ Spinall“Serious”Iyanu
Larry Gaaga“Baba Nla” (also featuring 2Baba and D’banj)Non-album single
Major Lazer“All My Life”Africa Is the Future
Show Dem Camp“Legend”Palm Wine Music 2
Peruzzi“Champion Lover”Heartwork
2019Sauti Sol“Afrikan Star”Afrikan Sauce
Dave“Location”Psychodrama
Mahalia Burkmar“Simmer”Love & Compromise
Beyoncé“Ja Ara E”The Lion King: The Gift
DJ Snake“No Option”Carte Blanche
Jorja Smith“Be Honest”TBA
IDK“December”Is He Real
Wretch 32“All In”Upon Reflection
Stormzy, Ed Sheeran“Own It”Heavy Is the Head
2020J Hus“Play Play”Big Conspiracy
2Baba“We Must Groove”Warriors
Pop Smoke“Enjoy Yourself” (Remix)Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (Deluxe)
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Selected videography

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

YearTitleDirector
2015“P.A.I.D”Sesan
2016“Pree Me”Meji Alabi
2017“Deja Vu”Clarence Peters
“Hallelujah”Mat Max
2018“Heaven’s Gate”/”Sekkle Down”
“Ye”Clarence Peters
“Gbona”
“On the Low”Meji Alabi
2019“Killin Dem”Prodigeezy
“Dangote”Clarence Peters
“Anybody”
“Pull Up”Meji Alabi
“Gum Body”
“Own It” (with Stormzy & Ed Sheeran)

Awards and nominations

This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

YearEventPrizeRecipientResult
2013South South Music AwardsBest Pop“Like to Party”Won
Nigeria Entertainment AwardsBest New Act of the YearHimselfWon
The HeadiesNext RatedNominated
Best R&B Single“Like to Party”Nominated
2014MTV Africa Music AwardsBest New ActHimselfNominated
The HeadiesBest R&B Single“Don Gorgon”Nominated
Best R&B/Pop AlbumL.I.F.ENominated
Hip Hop World Revelation of the YearNominated
Album of the YearNominated
Nigeria Entertainment AwardsBest Album of the YearWon
2015Best Pop Artist of the YearHimselfNominated
2019Soundcity MVP Awards FestivalListener’s Choice“Ye”Won
Song of the YearWon
Best Male MVPHimselfWon
African Artiste of the YearWon
BET AwardsBest International ActWon
The HeadiesViewer’s ChoiceNominated
Artiste of the YearWon
Best Recording of the Year“Ye”Nominated
Best Pop SingleNominated
Song of the YearWon
Best R&B/Pop AlbumOutsideNominated
Album of the YearNominated
Best Collaboration“Killin’ Dem”
(featuring Zlatan)
Won
MTV Europe Music AwardsBest African ActHimselfWon
African Muzik Magazine AwardsBest Collaboration“Killin’ Dem”
(featuring Zlatan)
Nominated
Song of the YearWon
Video of the YearNominated
Best Live ActHimselfNominated
Artist of the YearWon
Best Male West AfricaNominated
Crossing Boundaries with MusicNominated
All Africa Music AwardsWest African Male Artiste of the YearWon
Album of the YearAfrican GiantWon
2020Soundcity MVP Awards FestivalSong of the Year“Killin’ Dem”
(featuring Zlatan)
Won
Best CollaborationNominated
African Artiste of The YearHimselfWon
Best Male MVPWon
Listeners’ ChoiceBurna Boy for “Killin’ Dem”Nominated
Viewers’ ChoiceBurna Boy for “On the Low”Nominated
Grammy AwardsBest World Music AlbumAfrican GiantNominated
Brit AwardsInternational Male Solo ArtistHimselfNominated
Song of the Year“Location”
(Dave featuring Burna Boy)
Nominated
BET AwardsBest International ActHimselfWon

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