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Born Damini Ogulu in Nigeria’s Port Harcourt, an oil-rich region, Burna Boy completed his primary and secondary education in Nigeria before moving to the UK for university.
Two years after he left, the ambitious singer dropped out and returned to Nigeria and in 2013, he released his first studio album, LIFE — an acronym for “Leaving an Impact For Eternity.”
“Unlike a lot of other people, I’ve had to go through never-ending steps to get here, whereas other people have taken the elevator up,” he told GQ in an interview published in March 2020.
“I’ve always been too heavy for that kind of elevator, so I had to take the stairs. Now I know every floor and everything on every floor.”Burna Boy followed the release of LIFE with two albums; Redemption in 2015 and Outside in 2018 that included Kanye West endorsed song, ‘Ye‘.
In the video, which has over 129 million views on YouTube, the marijuana-toking Burna Boy puffs smoke into the camera while whipping his dreadlocked hair back and forth.
“Dada cover my face,” is a memorable line from the song. He is singing about himself and his locs (Dada is a local term for dreadlocks), bolstering the feel of a tune that is about owning oneself and shunning criticism.
“He seems to have solidified his style,” Ajayi says about the singer’s evolution. “It is so unique, so cutting, and so irresistible. You can say it is the finest fusion of contemporary African music we have at the moment.”
If songs like Ye opened international doors for Burna Boy, it was his 2019 African Giant album that proved he had arrived.
It got him his first Grammy Nomination, an MTV EMA, and an honourable mention from former US president Barack Obama as one of his favourite songs in 2019.