Burna Boy Winning A Grammy Award Will Be Disruptive…
I was far away on a media tour in the ancient of Benin City when the news of Burna Boy being nominated for 2020 Grammy Awards in the Best World Music Album category broke. The media frenzy that followed the announcement was frenetic – several media outlets ran editorials mentioning all the Nigerians once nominated for the Grammys with links to artists resident in the country and those based abroad with Nigeria descent. But hardly did any of those stories expatiated on the symbolic significance of the nomination. From this Afro-pop music generation that started from the mid-90s to date, Burna Boy is the first artist in this era to single-handedly get a Grammy nod for his solo works. The thought of Burna Boy winning a Grammy award will be disruptively groundbreaking and will create a road map for other artists that intend to follow in stride.
Words by Sesan Adeniji
Outside the artiste King Sunny Ade‘s Grammy Nomination in 1984 and 1999, someone might raise the question of “what about Seun Kuti that got nominated for the same award in 2018″? Seun is an Afrobeat artiste. But Burna Boy is the first from the new breed of Afro-pop / Afrobeats musicians to receive a Grammy award nomination – the first artist to do so, that is not a member of the Fela Kuti dynasty involving Femi and Seun Kuti, both of whom have previously received Grammy nominations. For several years now, a lot of young hip-hop and pop artistes like Skales and 9ice have sung about their quest to be listed for the Grammys without the slightest idea of how that will come to fruition and how this holy-grail will be achieved. But with Burna Boy’s breakthrough, dreams will soon turn reality. With all the hypothesis of Burna Boy winning running through my mind, one of the burning questions is “what did Burna Boy do right to be on the verge of becoming the first homegrown Nigerian artiste that may win a Grammy Award?
Create a blend of African sound and sign an international record deal.
They are two significant great attributes synonymous with the three resident Nigerian homegrown artistes ever nominated for the Grammys. The first is their blend of original Nigerian African musical sound they individually created. From King Sunny Ade’s evergreen Juju music laced with exceptional guitar solos to Femi and Seun Kuti’s Afrobeat vibe rooted in blazing trumpet horns never before heard to now Burna Boy’s lyrical juxtaposition that provides sound reminiscent of reggae, pop and Afrobeat tune mashed up together in faultless precision. In regards to inventing tuneful sound, these musicians are head and shoulders above their contemporaries. The second attribute that connects them is the fact that they all signed an international recording contract for all the works that got them a Grammy nomination. KSA album “Syncro System” nominated for the Grammy in 1984 was the second album he released while signed to Island Records. With his signature on the books of Mesa / Atlantic Records, his album “Odu” got a Grammy award nod in 1999.
Femi Kuti, from 2003 to 2013/2014 when he got his four Grammy awards nominations for the album “Fight To Win”, “Day By Day”, “No Place For My Dream” and “Africa For Africa“, within those periods, he had a recording deal with Wrasse Records and Knitting Factory Records. Seun Kuti also released his 2018 Grammy awards-nominated album “Black Times” while signed to Strut Records. Also, Burna Boy‘s international recognition began to surge from the moment he signed a recording contract with Bad Habit / Atlantic Records / Warner Music Group in 2017. His last two acclaimed albums “Outside“(2018) and the recent Grammy Nominated “African Giant“(2019) were both released under those contracts. So, it’s paramount for any other artiste that looked forward to attaining the most coveted Grammy nomination to understand the fact that they must produce music that portrays the uniqueness of African sound and as well, they must be signed to an international recording contract.
In my closing analysis on the epic nature of Burna Boy’s Grammy awards nomination, I will like to debunk some of the stories that have been flying around in some social media outlets; none of the artistes, music producers or songwriters from Nigeria that worked with Beyonce on her Lion King: The Truth album, received a Grammy award nomination because that body of work was not nominated for “Record Of The Year (Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s)). ” or “Album of the Year( Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s),Songwriter(s) or new materials, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% playing time to the album)” which could have provided them an opportunity to win alongside her. Burna Boy is the only Nigerian artiste nominated this year. He’s the first from the era of Afro-pop generation. Like breaking a never before seen technology into the market, the idea of Burna Boy winning a Grammy award will be disruptively groundbreaking and it will create a road map for every other artist that looked forward to attaining such a dream.