In fact, not even close anymore. The young singer just bagged a Recording Academy nomination for the 62nd Grammy’s, and even though the show is still upcoming, Burna Boy has already won. Maybe not the award (yet), but no doubt he’s won.
“African Giant”, the album he dropped a couple of months back, that had all the good stuff (“Dangote”, “Anybody”, “Pull Up”) and also featured top dawgs like Damian Marley, Jorja Smith, and YG. The album which is classified under “afrobeats”, “afro-pop” and “afro-fusion” is one of, if not the best project from a mainstream artist this year. And pretty soon, we might just have a Grammy to show for it.
What does this mean for industry, anyway? Burna getting nominated, prospects of winning the first Gramophone? To start with, this nomination goes a long way to tell us that afro really is the key and Nigerian artists might not even need to tune their sounds and sound ‘international’ before getting attention, overseas.
Before Burna Boy, Wizkid almost got a Grammy back in ’16, for his contribution to Drake’s biggest work to date, “Views.” But the days leading up to that, were days of Wizkid doing the groundwork, finessing his sound, evolving and possibly changing his whole creative process. The Ojuelegba boy had to be heard. Chances are, as a raw Afro-pop wunderkind, the best he would have been was Nigeria’s best.
Although story seems far-fetched, before Wizkid, D’banj has also been noted for bringing the African sound to the international front, back when he was in his peak. But really, we all know what he did, he took the African face abroad, made some money, maybe, but the sound didn’t stick.
Fast forward to a few years after and Wiz was doing things, Tiwa Savage was getting signed by Jay-Z (recently Mo’town), even alté artists like Odunsi are signing international deals. That period was when the work was being done and Nigerian music was gaining the recognition it deserved.
And though, it doesn’t seem like that, a Grammy Award is imminent. “African Giant” happened to come at the right time, when Burna was a powerhouse and he was topping the charts, effortlessly. There was no struggle between him and any other artist, in fact, he was even getting support from out there.
The album also put on some great guys who are making stuff happen abroad. YG, for example, is one of the most featured artists in 2019 (in the US, of course) and Angelique Kidjo is a Grammy favorite. Damian is the son of late Reggae Legend, Bob Marley and also a star himself while M.anifest is one of the hottest on the Ghanaian rap scene. Zlatan Ibile was also hot on the streets.
All that put together, and we have a Grammy nomination in front of us and it’s not just for Burna’s contribution to someone else’s work, it’s for his own project, our project! In the long run, what this means to the industry is that the labor of our heroes past (from Fela to KSA, to 2baba to D’banj to Wizkid) finally isn’t in vain. This is just the beginning!