Pretext: The The 63rd annual Grammy awards ceremony was originally slated to hold January 31st, but has since been rescheduled for March due to the Pandemic. Nigerian afrobeat artist is nominated in the “Best World Album” category.
If you are familiar with the Nigerian music scene, you must have witnessed the never ending debate on social media of who the greatest of all time (GOAT) is between Burna Boy, Davido, and Wizkid.
These three have been able to amass a huge foreign fan base with a lot of international collaborations and awards to go alongside their endorsement deals, helping them achieve unmatched fame and wealth.
All three have individually achieved everything their counterparts have,in varying degrees. But the Grammys, which is the most respected, most recognizable and coveted musical award has been elusive to Nigerian afrobeats artists.
Several Nigerian artists have been nominated for the Grammys at some point in their career, including King Sunny Ade, Seun Kuti, Femi Kuti and Babatunde Olatunji. Femi Kuti has been nominated four times in the same category but has never been able to capture the award. In 2019, Burna Boy’s “African Giant” album was nominated for the Best World Album category, the same category where Femi Kuti had lost four times, and his case wasn’t different, as the African Giant fell to Angelique Kidjo, who, ironically, he featured on the album. On accepting the award, she dedicated it to Burna Boy and other young African artists. A year later in 2020, the African Giant was back and this time, “Twice As Tall”, as the new album’s title purposed to indicate. He admitted his disappointment in his loss, but remained unfazed and even more focused and determined than ever before, stating in an interview that he will keep releasing an album every year until he gets his Grammy.
What will this award mean for Burna Boy?
Since the beginning of his musical career, he has always had the dream of winning the Holy Grail Grammy, which he stated in his 2013 song “Yawa Dey” . If Burna Boy comes home with that Grammy in his hands it would be the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. It would be a moment of validation, euphoria and a stronger foundation on which his statue will be built in gold.
What will the award mean for this peers?
Burna Boy, Davido and Wizkid are undoubtedly pioneers in advancing African music into the international mainstream. They’ve all been on international tours, performed with world renowned artists, and had very successful endorsement deals. Their accolades are comparable.
If Burna Boy can win this award it would differentiate him from his peers. Giving him an extra badge of respect and accomplishment. The GOAT debate might even be resolved!
What will the award mean for the Nigerian/African music industry?
Burna Boy will become a mentor and role model to a lot of young African artists hoping to “level up” on their game and cash in on the world’s new found love for African music and artistry in general. He will become a case study for effective branding and opportunistic marketing.
People like to exclude Burna Boy from the “greatest” argument, with the excuse that he became internationally famous by luck. They say he just happened to have a track on his “Outside” album (2018) that was had the same title as Kanye West’s upcoming album “Ye” of that same year. Although Kanye’s album was delayed indefinitely, the track on Burna’s album captivated the world at large.
People would argue that he has only been famous for 3 years while his counterparts have been famous for much longer. Regardless of your perspective, you have to respect his ability to capture and maintain people’s attention with quality music, releasing two critically acclaimed albums since then and networking with playmakers like Diddy amongst others while still maintaining the pure African-ness in his act and lyrics, infusing Pidgin English, Yoruba and Igbo in his lyrics. Burna Boy has been quoted saying he doesn’t want to go to America, he wants Americans to follow him to Africa.
“Burna Boy is among those young artists that come from Africa that is changing the way our continent is perceived.”Angelique Kidjo, in her 2019 Grammy acceptance speech
Whether Burna Boy wins this Grammy or not, he has successful paved the way for Afrobeats, afropop and afro hiphop artists to find international recognition while placing a positive spotlight on Africa as a continent of excellence, not just wars, starving children and injustice. And if he wins it, he will not only be the road but also the destination, doing what nobody was ever been able to do.
This award would not just be a win for Burna Boy, his family, his team and his fans. It would be a win for every African creative. He would be the shining light at the end of the tunnel for creative in all industries hoping for glory beyond these shores.
Burna Boy articulated the life of an African creative excellently in his song “Where I’m From”
“From a place where nobody believed in us
So we believed in ourselves
Where nobody believed in us
So we believed in ourselves
Jah jah help only those who help themselves
In this cold world
Opportunity is a very scarce commodity.”
Perhaps his belief in himself has brought him to the absolute pinnacle of his career. Winning the Grammy would confirm that.