Songs which, in its moments of freshness and clout, captured the world of its inhabitants.
Both 2018 and 2019 has belonged to Burna Boy. The afrofusion artiste, born in July 1991, is a ferocious talent. As many have observed, his music is a child of many genres, chief among them afrobeats, reggae/dancehall, and pop. Across his discography, he has had songs which bore the flagrant exuberance of his person.
And although many Burna Boy songs are accepted across the invisible lines and borders of listenership, some have been made – consciously or otherwise – with some select–audience in mind. These, we call Anthems. The art of making an anthemic song is delicate: crafted too intently, cracks begin to appear, a shortcoming often revealed in the song’s quality, making a case for preference of marketability over anything else; too loosely, and a fine prospect falls apart, a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the soup, or whatever meal.
Listed below, in no particular order, are five of Burna Boy’s best anthems. Songs which, in its moments of freshness and clout, captured the world of its inhabitants. Even when past their prime days, these songs reveal why Burna Boy has such a cult following, a generation of listeners who, having discarded the notion of just listening to them, will pull up at any venue and sing their hearts out. And beyond just being followers of the Art, are obvious admirers of the artiste which in this case, happens to be no other than the man who has provided the world with enough good music to last many years: Burna Boy.
Burna Boy, it must be said, possesses an intense dedication to his craft. He studied the greats and now, he is a great in his own right. One of such examples is his fascination with Reggae: his 2013-released debut album, L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact For Eternity) famously features – alongside King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti – an deliberately blurry photo of Bob Marley on its cover.
Reggae, due to its wildfire-like spread in the sixties and seventies, attracted interest from many countries and its musicians. Nigeria, too, had its own stars who took the music of Jamaica and made it recognizably local. Beyond the Majek Fasheks and Ras Kimonos, down the strata, the music was further broken down and implemented with features of provincial artistry.
Ajegunle, a once ghetto in Lagos, experienced its own revolution. Acts like Danfo Drivers, African China, and Daddy Showkey (among others) led this revolution, infusing the street into Reggae. “Galala”, a subgenre, emerged. An often frenetic sound, it toes the line of social commentary and Dance, a fine hybrid, by many standards.
It is this subgenre Burna Boy returns to for “Yawa Dey”, a song which features his somewhat arrogant take on the hardship facing Nigerians. Back then, in its first wave of release, it was no surprise to hear the song being blasted off the dance halls and street parties; because its theme was relatable, it has gone on to become one of the more prominent Burna Boy songs – and perhaps, his finest anthemic jam.
RUN MY RACE
Another Street–influenced Pop song, Run My Race is Burna Boy at his brash and blunt best. Over the thumping production, he sings of his success, speaking of, in Nigerian term, “eye service agents”, who want to feast with him on the sunny days. He enjoins the people to run his race. That is, follow him and support him on the journey to stardom.
Optimism, because of its inherent place in every Nigerian, (and perhaps African) even when listeners weren’t yet ‘blown’, they believed they will in no time. And when that time comes, they didn’t want new followers, only day ones.
For them, you had to run their race to partake in the victory lap.
SMOKE SOME WEED (feat. Onos)
The second verse of this song is rendered in the soothing vocals of Onos. He swerves left however, singing of his love interest when it is clear from the title, that the song has other interests in mind.
“Change the topic, dem boy dey ah try change the topic,” Burna Boy sings when he steps back to the mic “But they can’t change the topic, nobody can stop it.”
An ode to weed, this Burna Boy song will seldom go unplayed in a gathering of stoners. Probably the only record by a mainstream Nigerian artiste dedicated to sativa, it is quite the love song.
Burna Boy’s indulgence in the leaf is well known and this adds to the reality grip of the song. Whenever “Smoke some weed” comes on, he becomes a participator in the gathering.
Although many listeners came to the song via mistake, (they actually were searching for a Kanye West album with the same title) when they did, they found out that Burna Boy represented their better interests. Of survival, the youths of today’s Nigeria cannot “come and kill (myself)”.
Delivered eloquently in Pidgin, the song samples Fela and like the great revolutionary musician, Burna Boy taps into the spirit of the age to serve up one of the most popular – and better – songs of his storied career.
LIKE TO PARTY
Before Burna Boy became the African Giant, (and all the PR and image-branding that comes with it) he was but an Afro-wearing artiste who had claimed ownership over a set of fashionable sun shades. In 2012, on his breakout single “Like to Party”, Burna Boy was The Cool, stanning an R n B vibe that reminded one of early 00s Summer-themed American songs.
“Like to Party” is a classic anthem, and understandably so. For many, it was the introduction to Burna Boy but beyond that, its music and that video which perfectly suited it, was, simply put, a vibe.
For those who still don’t know, Burna Boy released The Ultimate Summer Song of 2012.