Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu known professionally as Burna Boy became the first Nigerian to clinch the prestigious Grammy Awards. His win on Sunday, March 14, 2021, was expected as he was highly tipped to clinch the award last year with his album, African Giant.
The accolade, however, was given to another deserved winner, veteran Beninese singer, Angelique Kidjo who before 2020 had won the award on several occasions – 3 wins and 9 nominations. In support of Burna Boy’s effort in 2019/2020, she dedicated the award to Burna Boy. During her acceptance speech, she regarded him as one of “those young artists that come from Africa that is changing the way our continent is perceived and the way that African music is the bedrock of all music.”
That hunger pushed Burna Boy to work harder. Despite the pandemic and Nigeria’s none existing music structure, his collaboration with international producers, especially with Diddy, one of the industry’s best rappers and producers on his “Twice as Tall”, broke the camels back.
The album was a fusion of other music elements including jazz, reggae, rock, and country music. It was an Afro pizza like he rightly said in a 2019 interview with American-based South African comedian, Trevor Noah.
Burma Boy’s victory on the Grammy night showed three traits about Nigerian music and the industry.
First, it showed Nigerians have successfully exported Afrobeats to the world. Secondly, it showed how big the music industry has grown over the past years. Lastly, the extent to which a Nigerian musician can go irrespective of the limitations placed on them by the country’s broken system.
Before now, the hierarchical arrangement of Nigeria’s biggest music export was Davido and Wizkid before Burna Boy and the others. With this win, it’s either Burna Boy has slightly outpaced his closest rivals, Davido or Wizkid or they now rest on the same level. After the announcement of the Burna Boys’ victory, social media went into overdrive. Congratulatory messages flooded social media, his name peaked number one on the trends in Nigeria, Ghana, and some other African countries. Most definitely, his value has risen. Any collaboration with Burna Boy henceforth will cost extremely higher than it used to.
It was a big night. Burna Boys victory was immediately followed by a win for Wizkid for his role in Beyonce – Black Skin Girl. Nigerians were ecstatic.
Like every other music fanbase across the globe, the comparison between who the better artist is between Burna Boy and Davido gradually resurfaced. It’s not news that both acts are at loggerheads.
We should remind ourselves that before a social media post by Davido stating that he and Wizkid were “the greatest of all time”, all three artists shared a respectful relationship.
Before his Grammy win, fans of Davido have enjoyed a slight advantage over Burnas’ in the industry. In their opinion, Davido was key to the success of Afrobeats on the international stage. No doubt, Davido had been consistent in the industry, releasing back-to-back hits, touring Europe, selling out historic concert venues, and picking up several local/international awards. While he was at it, Burna Boy was also working hard behind the scenes. Burna Boy didn’t rest like Mr. Eazi, Olamide, Phyno, Tiwa Savage, and other “third forces” who came close to usurping Wizkid and Davido at the apex of Nigerian music.
After his 2013 album, L.I.F.E, Burna Boy became a real threat to the two. His star began to shine brighter. Several tours took him to Europe to carry on the legacy of his music idol, Fela. He bagged several international awards including the BET Awards, MTV Europe Music Awards, All Africa Music Awards, MOBO Awards, and many others. He has also performed on international stages like Davido.
Arguably, both artists are equals in the game with regard to awards and recognition. But for his recent Grammy win, neutrals could tip the scale towards Burna Boy as Nigeria’s shining light.