Burna Boy, real name Damini Ogulu, hails from Mbiama in Ahoda West Local Government Area in Rivers State. When he hit the Nigerian music scene with his first two single, he captivated everyone with his unique blend of Nigerian hip hop, reggae and Highlife. Though the three genre and worlds apart, Burna is able to pull it off, and win millions of fans in the process. He is soon flushed with fame and fortune. In this chat with Senior Correspondent, Hazeez Balogun, he talks about his life and music.
You were nominated at the concluded MTV awards, that was your first international nomination, how did you feel being recognised on such level.
Funny enough I was on the toilet seat when I heard it. I was doing my thing on the toilet when I heard my name being mentioned on the television. I came as a surprise to me at the time, but I was thankful that I was nominated, even if I did not win, I was recognised and that is all that matters.
Your L.I.F.E album was the freshest music in a long while. When every artiste is singing almost the same tune, you came out with something new. Did you ever think your style will be accepted?
To be sincere, I never believed that the album would have been a big success like it is today. When I got convinced was on the first day it was released it sold 50,000 copies, and that was when I started believing in the album, and also believing that Nigerians were ready for my kind of music. Before then, I was sceptical about the whole thing.
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So what are the plans for another album?
Oh, that is what we are working on, the plans for it are huge, now that I know what my strength is and where the weakness are, it will be easier for me to give Nigerians what they expect from Burna Boy.
Still talking about your style of music, it is unique, did you plan to sing like this because it is different or that is how you have always sang?
I was influenced by my environment. I did not plan anything, that is how my environment developed me, and that is how my style was created. It is a mixture of every kind of music I have listened to since I was a kid.
Who were your influences?
Fela Kuti, number one, Sizzla Kalonji, King Sunny Ade and Bob Marley
What was the first ever song you made?
I can’t really remember because back then, I didn’t really make complete songs, I would just record verses or just spit some stuff on beats for my guys. The first song I actually recorded was called “Robbery”. It was on the beat of “Step Back” by Freeway featuring Lil’ Wayne.
Also your fashion sense is unique, that must be a conscious effort.
Yes it is. The plan from the onset is that when you see me, you say yes, that is Burna Boy. If I wear Air Jordans like every artiste out there, then there will be no distinction. So I decided to put this style out there. I don’t need to look like anyone, but if you see me and you like the way I dress, and you want to dress just like that, then go ahead.
So you see yourself as a fashionable person
I feel like I’m in my own lane in every aspect, especially fashion. For example, I wear Versace shades, now everybody wears Versace shades. You know the whole rocking of print shirts and bringing back the 90’s and now, it’s just catching on. So, may be one day I’ll change it to like futuristic wears and then, everyone will be doing it.
You hardly feature with other artiste, why is that?
I really am not a fan of featuring with other artistes, but that does not mean I won’t do it. My last song was with D’Banj, and that is the only artistes I have ever had a collaboration with. If something international comes, I would consider it, but for now, I am ok doing my solo thing.
You have a lot of tattoos and they are easily one of your identifiers. What inspired you to get your first tattoo?
It’s me, man, you get me. It’s a decision that I made.
Are there some of them that mean more to you?
Every single one of them is very significant to me because everything on my body is a story so it kind of represents who I am. That’s what tattoos are all about, really a representation of one’s self artistically. I’m a big fan of art.
Many people think you just came out from nowhere, how exactly did music start for you?
I’ve been in music pretty much all my life, you get me. It’s something I’ve always had love for. I didn’t necessarily know I was going to do it but, at a point in my life, I just knew that this was it. It was very early but obviously, distractions and stuff like that but, when you have a destiny, it always comes back to you so that’s pretty much what happened with me. I was in the UK so I just came back and here I am.
Your record label, Aristokrat Records was initially based in Port Harcourt. What inspired the move to Lagos?
I mean, it’s not something you have to be told twice. Port Harcourt and Lagos are two different worlds entertainment-wise, musically and in every form of the word, you get me. And, in the entertainment business – I mean, if I was doing oil or something, Port Harcourt would be a better bet for me but I’m doing music so Port Harcourt is not exactly the best place for that. So, we moved over to Lagos and look at me now. If I was in PH and stayed there, you probably won’t be interviewing me right now.
What was the experience like for you schooling in England?
It felt like it was forever. You know what I’m saying; imagine you’re in school forever that’s just wrong man. And then again, I just felt like that because that wasn’t in the plan for me.
Did you finish your high school in the UK?
High School? Of course I finished high school, it’s just the whole university part that took the backseat.
The first Album was L.I.F.E, will the second one be DEATH?
Ah. Funny enough, I actually thought of that. It came to my mind, but no, I can’t say for now. We’ll give the album a title when it’s fininshed.