Beyoncé-endorsed Burna Boy makes Afrobeat go international As you can imagine, the Nigerian artist felt like worldwide royalty when he was approached by the Queen B — um, yes, Beyoncé — to work with her on last year’s “The Lion King: The Gift” album.
Now, as people all over the planet are still streaming Bey’s “Black Is King” on repeat — and hearing Burna Boy’s smooth but funky jam “Ja Ara E” — the international sensation, born Damini Ogulu, is embracing his own ascending stardom with his new album, “Twice as Tall,” out Friday.
“It’s a time when everybody has to be the best version of themselves and the strongest version of themselves,” Burna, 29, tells The Post on the phone from London, where he has made his first trip from his Lagos, Nigeria, home base since the pandemic to launch his album.
The Grammy-nominated singer — and two-time winner of the BET Award for Best International Act — made his new LP during lockdown. His joyous single “Wonderful” is exactly what the world needs to uplift beat-down spirits right now. “But that wasn’t really the inspiration behind the song,” he said. “I’d been on tour for the past three years nonstop, so this pandemic was like a blessing and a curse, ’cause I got to spend more time with my family and myself than I have in years. So that’s where ‘Wonderful’ comes from. I recorded it in the beginning of the pandemic, when I first got home … not really knowing the full extent of how long [it would be].”
The way he’s been bringing the heat, Burna Boy is sure living up to the moniker he got from his late friend Gambo in 2010. “I’ve lived up to the name since before you knew the name,” he says with a laugh. “It’s nothing new for me.”
Growing up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria — with a dad who managed a welding company and a mom who was a translator — Burna Boy was groomed for his own kind of greatness. And clearly music was in his blood: His younger sister, Nissi, is also a singer, and his grandfather, music journalist Benson Idonije, once managed Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. “[Music] is something that’s generational,” he says of his family legacy. “It’s very special to me and my family.”
As a kid, Burna was schooled on American hip-hop artists such as Naughty by Nature and DMX. And after moving to London to further his studies, he embraced dancehall, grime and other musical genres.
That led Burna to create what he describes as “Afro-fusion” music. “It has Afrobeat as the base, the foundation,” he said. “And then you have a bunch of other genres sprinkled on top, just depending on the mood — hip-hop, R&B, reggae, dancehall, whatever.”
Burna brings his Afro-fusion flavor to a new collaboration with Sam Smith on the single “My Oasis.” So how exactly did this unlikely pairing come about? “I’ve always been a big fan of Sam Smith,” he said. “He hit me up to do the song, and I said yes. It was a no-brainer.”
And with his mom Bose Ogulu — also known as Mama Burns — as his manager, Burna Boy will no doubt be making more big moves. “She makes sure my business is right,” he said, adding with a laugh: “She makes sure I make money.”