Damini Ebunolowa Ogulu, better known by his stage name Burna Boy has taken the music industry by storm, and his album ‘Twice As Tall’ shows he has no intention of slowing down. The African Giant describes his music as Afro-fusion, a genre that combines dancehall riddims, with reggae and American rap. August Brown of The Los Angeles Times explains Burna Boy’s sound as: “savvy, modern, but undistracted by obvious crossover moves.” Ogulu is unafraid to explore these depths, unconcerned by critics’ opinions, and often this is when an artist produces their best work. In this instance, it has undeniably worked.
The 29-year-old Nigerian is reaching new heights with ‘Twice As Tall’. The introduction to the album is a short film titled ‘Secret Flame’, displaying how Ogulu is breaking new boundaries. Like many, as a child, Ogulu was fascinated by superheroes hence the name Burna Boy. The short film ‘Secret Flame’ depicts Burna Boy as a modern-day superhero, it is a story of origin, one that details his rise to fame having just released hit single ‘Ye’, in 2018. Following this, during the animation of Burna Boy’s set at the o2, he is called upon by the Yoruba Deity, Orunmila. He is approached by Eleri Ipin, the God who watches over the fates of men, who explains that Ogulu has been called in at a time of crisis. Burna Boy then embarks on a journey of realisation, concluding: ‘The pain of dying to self is nothing compared to the freedom of true sight.” Upon the release of the album ‘Twice As Tall’ Burna Boy is once more summoned, the Gods explain to him: “You make music passionately, like you are waging a war” He later returns to his set at the o2 Arena, performing with the knowledge that he is now serving a higher purpose.
The realisation of the higher purpose Ogulu now serves sets the tone for the album. The album is a combination of dancehall classics in tracks like ‘Wonderful’, and ‘Bank On It’, combined with politically fused songs such as ‘Monsters You Made’ in which Burna rages about structural violence and the ways it breeds interpersonal harm, as well as ‘Time Flies’ in which Ogulu sings: “From the Niger Delta, to all the corners of Africa, America and the world. Black people are turning the tables, taking back our place. We will be heard because we matter.” Fela Kuti, Burna Boy’s main inspiration previously said: “As far as Africa is concerned, music cannot be for enjoyment, music has to be for a revolution.” Burna certainly took this message on board, despite the album being a cause of serious enjoyment, it also produces thought-provoking music that challenges the societal norm, all whilst paying homage to his home nation.
Through dismissing the temptation of following the classic mainstream route that follows celebrity status, and continuing to pay homage to his heritage, Burna Boy now finds himself as a role model for many and has fully embraced the role. At the end of ‘Secret Flame’ Burna Boy explains the reasoning for this: “My people say it is in looking back at the journey’s end that the path becomes clear. Every man will fail, but not all fail forward. Everyone can dream of greatness, but very few truly hold on to it. Hold on to your heritage and never be ashamed.”
‘Twice As Tall’ was nominated for the Best Global Music Album and subsequently won the award, only further establishing himself as an African pioneer and a role model for many. Burna Boy’s acceptance speech was hugely inspiring, and you completely get the sense that his music career is no longer driven financially, but purely to cement his legacy as a trailblazer. He stated: “Africa is in the house, Africa is in the house, you get me. This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world, and 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. No matter where you are from because you are a king. Look at me now, Grammy Award-winning, Burna Boy.”
Burna Boy has firmly shown he is bigger than music, but in the least egocentric way possible. He has noticed his music can be used as a vehicle for positive change and is running with it. Burna Boy is now a key figurehead in the burning need for equality around the world, and in doing so has produced an album that will live long in history.