Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu (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 (2018) marked his major-label debut. In 2019, he won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards. He was also announced as Apple Music’s Up Next artist. His fourth studio album African Giant was released in July 2019.
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. Ogulu grew up in southern Nigeria and began making his own beats using FruityLoops. He completed high school near Lagos and relocated to London to further his studies.
2012–2015: L.I.F.E and On a Spaceship
Aristokrat Records released Burna Boy’s debut studio album L.I.F.E on August 12, 2013. It serves as the follow-up to his second mixtape, Burn Identity (2011). L.I.F.E sold 40,000 copies on the first day of its release. Aristokrat Records later sold the album’s 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”.
Produced entirely by Leriq, L.I.F.E features guest appearances from 2face Idibia, M.I, Timaya, Olamide, Reminisce, and Wizkid. Nigeria Entertainment Today ranked the album 10th on their list of the 12th best albums of 2013. The music of L.I.F.E draws heavily from the music of Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Bob Marley. The album 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 2015, he created his own record label called Spaceship Entertainment.
He released his second album On a Spaceship on 25 November 2015. In September 2016, he released the 7-track EP Redemption. Its lead single “Pree Me” debuted on Noisey.
2018–present: Outside and African Giant
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 January 26, 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 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.
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.
On June 24, 2019, Burna Boy won Best International Act at the 2019 BET Awards. In July 2019, Burna Boy was announced as Apple Music’s 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 July 26, 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 that 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”.
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”.
On a Spaceship (2015)
African Giant (2019)
Burn Notice (2011)
Burn Identity (2011)
Steel & Copper (with DJDS) (2019)