Burna Boy wins the BET Award


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Recently, Burna Boy went on a Twitter tirade that encompassed more than a few of his sore points: his rise to the top completely unaided by anyone inside or outside of the industry, his insistence that he is the best in the business outside of Fela, and his scathing scorn for anyone who disagrees with his position – both on the Nigerian music industry and his spot on the totem pole.

Phew. It’s a wonder the African Giant does not get a nosebleed from such dizzying heights. There is no doubt that the man is talented. His gbedu dey enter bodi, e dey burst brain true-true and his gift for a well-turned tune, emotive lyrics, and energetic performances all blended to earn him that Grammy nomination – and quite rightly too.

I doubted his ability to walk away with the award when I saw that Angelique Kidjo was also a nominee, but I hoped hard for him, nonetheless. He is on a winning streak and a Grammy would have just been a glorious cherry atop this decadent cake that we had all feasted on for the last two years. Angelique Kidjo won, but I was still elated for him – a Grammy nomination is nothing to sneeze at.

And I’m willing to buy his truth that he had no help while trying to break into and dominate the music industry. I don’t think he was talking about the Industry at large and I feel it is wilfully misleading to suggest that he is disrespecting his entire craft and the great musicians who have come before him.

I am certain Burna Boy is aware that he is standing tall on the shoulders of giants, but is referring to his belief that people did not go out of their way to support his journey, play his music or provide advice or encouragement on his journey up the ladder.

To his credit, no one has emerged with receipts detailing how they helped or supported him as he tried to rise. Or perhaps they are simply not the kind of people who make noise. We will never know.

He may have come to the limelight two to three years ago, but many of his UK fans knew of and jammed to Burna here while he was still here trying to navigate the choppy waters of youth, his subsequent move to Nigeria, and his dabbling into various genres until he settled with Afrobeat as one might a well-worn pair of slippers.

But the sun is never as far as we might think. And when people soar high on new-found wings, revelling in the wonder of flight and looking down on mere mortals as they trudge the earth, they must not forget – as Icarus did – that the sun scorches and brings down to earth with the same speed with which they rose.

Humility is not necessarily hypocrisy. Acknowledging others who paved the way for his light to shine will in no way diminish Burna’s current brightness. Being gracious opens the door for collaboration and exchange in creativity and inspiration.

Professionalism, understanding that the music business is hard (and no one should know this more than Oluwaburna and his decade-long climb), and recognising that there is room for all our brightly-plumed birds to fly, will take any artiste further in the music business than raw talent ever will.

Will this media outburst, this flurry of tweets and deletes hurt him or affect his fan base? DJ Abass, an industry juggernaut and mainstay who has seen the rise and ebb of many of Nigeria’s bests says time will tell. The veteran DJ believes this outpouring may be a fallout of the Grammy loss as he comes to terms with the defeat.

“It most certainly will not hurt his media presence; from time to time, the Industry needs something to set it agog,” Abass said.

“Many media personnel who have seen outbursts such as these might even term it a publicity stunt. Either way, they’re happy.

“It’s a good story and good stories mean great column inches and more advertising.”

Burna Boy might indeed be the best since Fela. I have no metrics to measure such excellence. But the stage of every talent show is littered with undiscovered greatness and the Earth keeps turning. I echo DJ Abass’ patient outlook on this.

For now, I will celebrate Fela, King Sunny Ade, Olamide, the late, great Dr. Victor Olaiya, D’Banj (I heard Oliver Twist on an episode of Eastenders and I KNEW we had arrived), P Square and Oliver De Coque, to name but a few.

And I will remember to wear some shades as I guard against the burning, large sun in the sky.

Lastly, stay up to date with all you need to know about African music at SOA, right here.



Rachel Rachel Onamusi is the founder of VN Sync, a full-service digital agency with expertise in all aspects of digital media, with special focus on strategy development, implementation and facilitation. Her projects have ranged from marketing consulting, market research, corporate & personal brand management, product & campaign launch, media & publicity strategy development and management, to technology training and certification platforms’ management. An accomplished digital media strategist and growth facilitator for major corporate global brands, Ms. Onamusi’s extensive experience spans three continents and covers both private and public sector.