Burna Boy took the stage at Billboard’s MusicCon event on Friday (May 13) for a wide-ranging conversation that saw him expand on a host of topics, from his landmark shows headlining the Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden, creating his Afro-Fusion’s own genre and the success of his two most recent albums, the groundbreaking African Giant and the Grammy-winning Twice As Tall.
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The Nigerian artist, who is on the cover of the latest issue of Billboard magazine and headlined Friday’s “Afro Fusion Explosion” panel, is also gearing up for his next album, Love Damini, due out in June, with a new single. It came out called “Last Last,” which samples Toni Braxton’s “He Wasn’t Man Enough.”
“That song is a big part of my childhood and my future,” he told Billboard writer Heran Mamo, who interviewed Burna onstage and in London for the cover story. “So he adjusted to the situation and it was just perfect.”
Here are five takeaways from her onstage interview, including her dream venue, one that would certainly make a splash if it ever happened.
On the creation of Afro-Fusion
“I just mixed a bunch of different sounds and different genres and different cultures and turned it into a genre called Afro-Fusion,” Burna said of his music, using Afrobeat as the basis of the music. “You have to be very versatile.”
Burna says he grew up listening to American rappers like DMX and Eminem and Nigerian artists like D’Banj and 2face, now known as 2Baba, as well as Nigerian icon Fela Kuti; Burna’s grandfather served as Fela’s manager for a period. “My grandfather is a very simple guy, he never beats around the bush,” Burna said. “The best advice he gave me was two words: F—everyone.”
On falling in love with acting
When Burna sold out MSG in April, he became the first Nigerian artist to headline, let alone sell out, the world’s most famous stadium. (Her favorite part of him? The bras thrown onstage.) He told a story of when he was very young and would sing Naughty By Nature at tables, embarrassing his mother (and current manager), but said he fell in love with the idea of acting when he saw the Grammys when he was young, with *NSYNC performing with Nelly followed by Luciano Pavarotti.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Yes, it’s me,'” he said. “I saw that and I knew it was going to be my life.”
As music and artists from Africa have gained popularity in the United States in recent years, he has seen his audience change as well. “It’s a lot of diversity, it’s like seeing the whole world under one roof,” she said. “One of my greatest blessings is that I get to experience so many different cultures and people…from the stage. I can learn a lot.”
On the creation of his African giant album
Before launching African Giant in 2019, Burna was scheduled to perform at Coachella, but couldn’t find his name on the flyer due to his fine print. (“I had a problem with that,” he said.) At the time, he said, he had another full album ready to go, but scrapped it to focus on the African Giant idea in response to the slight perception.
He also releases his music in Africa on his Spaceship Connection label and through Atlantic in other territories. “I’ve always been in love with spaceships and aliens,” she said of his label name. “I’ve always had questions and I was always asking m… I felt so ahead of my time. That’s how it came about.”
On being twice as tall
Burna won the Grammy for best world music album for her 2020 release Twice as Tall: “It means I’m cool,” she said of the honor, an album that was produced by Diddy, who she said she connected with “on Zoom.” . It really wasn’t what you’re thinking it was. It was an experience and the connection was made. More important than anything, a friendship was established. That is the best part of the experience.”
That album also included the cut “Naughty by Nature,” which featured the classic hip-hop group he loved as a kid. “That’s the point of why I wanted them on the song. It just had to be done,” he said. “I got their verses on my birthday, and it came with a video of them saying happy birthday and showing love.”
in the place of your dreams
In her Billboard cover story, Burna talked about wanting to perform in non-traditional spaces, like a train station. But onstage she talked about the lofty place of his dreams: “The White House,” she said. “Not like a presidential banquet, a Burna Boy show. Everything is open, everyone is everywhere.”
Of course, that would seem like an exaggeration. But of course, Burna Boy is not an artist who has seen an obstacle as unattainable. And he echoed that in his last words on the panel. “My legacy will be BB and AB,” he said, referencing what he told Mamo in the cover story. “’Before Burna’ and ‘After Burna’”.