Updated: Apr 6
The Nigerian iconic musical force Burna Boy takes home Best Global Music Album at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. In a video an exhilarated Burna Boy, speaking in English and Yoruba, said to viewers, you can make it anywhere (paraphrased).
In 2012 I was in London when we were introduced to the artist commonly known as Burna Boy, he entered the music scene with his smash single Like to Party. The single made a great debut but he was understandably in the category of the "new boys" – probably not regarded as anything more than a promising newcomer.
One thing was very apparent from the start: the rapper had a noteworthy talent and a reasonable amount of skill. In the early days, within many circles, he was compared to the great American R&B & Hip Hop multi-award-winning crooner Nate Dogg. Burna Boy could have easily followed the shadow copycat trend and made a reasonably successful career.
His ability to melodiously belt out hooks whilst doing a variety of styles within verses was a sure competitive edge that would bring in the bag later on in his career.
Fast forward to 2018 I was in Freetown Sierra Leone when the name Burna Boy started trending quite organically. The internet tech age propelled his products both audio and video to the furthermost corners of the globe. From Brixton to Jo'burg to Lagos and down to Freetown and beyond, everyone was plugged into his brand.
The most exciting and striking part of Burna Boy's narrative is the fact that he relocated back to Africa and produced some of the most globally iconic materials from the continent.
If you can make it anywhere, you can make it here in Africa
In an age where the global growth and economic trajectory is pointing towards the motherland of Africa, there is an old erroneous mindset that is forcing many young bright, talented, and gifted Africans to flee the continent legally and quite often illegally at the peril of their lives. Most scarper off in search of greener pastures without realizing that the pastures on the continent are much greener and just need intentional watering.
Putting poetic licenses aside, all growth indices show that Africa is the breadbasket of the world in terms of all resources required for the western world to maintain its quality of life and luxuries, with this in mind it becomes glaringly apparent that the best place to be is in Africa.
Although many things are not in their optimal form, there is a consistency in growth and the daily expansion of possibilities on the continent. This makes for exciting times for creatives and pioneers on the continent, I would submit that it is in the overcoming of the challenges that create the biggest springboard or catalyst for achieving global milestones.
During the #endsars protests in Nigeria, Burna Boy was very vocal in speaking out against police brutality and state corruption. Whilst COVID-19 brought the whole world to a standstill, Burna kept cooking, creating and birthed the Twice as Tall album to much acclaim. The Burna Boy Grammy nomination was hardly a surprise for an artist who had been consistent in growth and creating a valuable brand. With collaborations from global megastars like Diddy, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Youssou N'Dour, and others Burna Boy's body of work was credible with the streets and the charts.
Almost full circle in March 2021 Burna Boy was awarded one of the highest musical accolades any artiste could get – the Grammy Award. The LP was awarded Best Global Music Album on a night when African creativity was spotlighted, this irregular African kid represented the continent well and raised the flag well.
In his post-award interview with the BBC, he made a few comments which are critical for all Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. It is this interview that sparked the inspiration for this article.
In one of Jay-Z'sclassic anthems New York State of Mind, the billionaire rapper confidently asserted "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere" whilst speaking about New York. With the accomplishments of this African giant, Burna Boy has inspired the next generation of young creatives and pioneers to believe that If you can make it anywhere, you can make it here in Africa.
He was very candid about his frustrations and shared openly that they had to overcome many challenges living and working from Africa. Without going into much detail on the specifics of the challenges, he then added that if only there was a strategic version or support for the young people he could have easily won the Grammy in 2012 or 2013 – notwithstanding the challenges he overcame to irrefutably prove that it can be done from Africa.
In his latest music video for the song 23, where he paid homage to strong women in honor of Women's Month clocked a whopping 1 million views on its first day of release. With almost 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube alone, this African giant is standing "Twice as Tall" and has certainly leveled up.