In the past two years, Burna Boy has put out enough music in albums and singles, that his new fans have sufficient music to lose themselves in. For an artist in his seventh year, Burna has even more music than you know. You may only have noticed after he began dropping singles every three months from mid-2017, but the Port Harcourt-born singer is arguably Nigeria’s most prolific A-lister not named Olamide. As of the time of writing this, he’s dropped two mixtapes, three albums and a collaboration project.
Burna Boy’s fourth studio album is set for release on August 26, 2019. In the 18 months since 2016’s “Outside“, Burna’s stock has risen – as seen in the past one week with his spot on Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” and his appearance on American talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel’s show. “African Giant” has been described as a late-night take on afro-fusion, the genre Burna has worn like a tattoo since his first days. Perhaps more importantly, it is supposed to be his most personal album yet, a tag I used to describe “Outside” as well.
For first time entrants into Burna Boy’s hazy, energetic kingdom, as well as the fans and fanatics he calls “Outsiders”, we made a list of Burna’s lesser-known gems – songs you’ve likely never heard on the radio and only true fans will know. In no order, these are Burna Boy’s 10 best deep cuts to help you get ready for the album.
- Burna Boy – “Agbada”
Some would say Burna is at his best when he gets personal. I wouldn’t disagree. The afro-fusion artist has a chequered past. When he gets into the gritty details or references his street cred as he does in “Agbada”, it makes for a great listen. The beat might remind you of OJB’s early reggae-influenced production. What steals the show, however, is Burna’s incredibly-vivid boasts and gang-speak that makes this feel like a call to war.
- Leriq – “Cotton Candy” feat. Burna Boy
If you listen closely to his more sensual tracks like Gwarn or Rock Your Body, you’ll hear it loud and clear. Burna Boy believes he’s a catch. When you’re a 28-year old with a messiah complex and boundless talent, it’s bound to be the case. On a beat by Leriq, who’s thought by many to be his most ideal collaborator, Burna explains why he’s as desirable as cotton candy. Pride has never sounded so good.
BurnaBoy – “Chillin Chillin” feat A.I.
In 2017, Ghanaian artistes, DJ Vision and A.I. released “Grind“, a gritty tale of sacrifice and survival. Burna Boy heard a song that was right down his alley and in weeks, released an updated version titled “Chillin Chillin”. Despite the controversy that followed its release, Burna’s version is so different that it’s a whole new song in its own right.
- Burna Boy – “Celebrate”
Shortly after “Like To Party” and “L.I.F.E” introduced his new sound, everyone wanted a taste of Burna Boy. Abuja-based producer, GospelBeatz was one of the producers he would strike a solid relationship with. Released in 2013, “Celebrate” was their first of few collaborations. The beat is fast-paced and filled with heavy drums, just as Burna likes it. Burna sings with the enthusiasm you’d associate with a freestyle, but whether it’s written or not, “Celebrate” is still a solid listen today in 2019.
- Burna Boy – “Smoke” (feat. Onos)
At a point in the early 2010s, more people knew this song than Burna Boy. Burna’s rare blatant approval of marijuana made sure it would become a cult classic, but the best part is arguably how Burna manages to sound like he’s singing to a loyal wife. The emotion is so strong that when fellow PH singer, Onos decides to sing about love, Burna cuts him off by saying “some man dem try
- Burna Boy – “Freedom”
“Freedom” is seen by many as the song that broke Burna out in his home town in Port Harcourt. It is one of the singles off his “Burn Identity” mixtape and arguably his most personal song ever. From the very first word, Burna sings with
- Burna Boy – “Touch Your Toes”
Of the songs on this list, this is the only one that made it to radio. New to the Lagos pop market, Burna was on the hunt for a sound that sat somewhere between his afro-fusion tastes and the popular fast-paced dance music of the moment. “Touch Your Toes” was one of many such attempts. Burna kicks off the song in the most stereotypical way possible. What’s best about this song is the conversational tone and rapid delivery that would come to define Burna Boy’s music in the years after.
- Burna Boy – “Smooth Sailing”
The question of whether Burna Boy’s debut album, L.I.F.E is a classic is still up in the air. One song that most Outsiders seem to agree on, however, is “Smooth Sailing”, a cut from the album. On an album filled with quick dance tracks, the track is more mid-tempo and misty. Though he may not be known as a songbird, Burna’s raspy voice is entrancing when he gets in his bag as he does on this song. Although it starts off with thumping drums, Smooth Sailing gives you the same feeling as the title suggests; sipping ‘Guinness’ and a ‘spliff’ and living life to the fullest.
- Chip – “Reaching” (feat. Burna Boy)
In 2016, UK rapper Chipmunk had grown tired of trying unsuccessfully to break into the US market. As he made his return home, Chipmunk tapped Burna Boy for “Reaching”, a song that sought to reference Chip’s popularity in the motherland. The real star of the song though is Burna. Seen by most as being stuck in limbo at the time, Burna used the song to hint at the elements that would propel his global campaign. The hook is as Afropop as they come, with lyrics sung in Yoruba about haters and competitors. But Burna pulls it off well on a UK rap joint because as we’ve come to realise, he’s the best mix of both worlds.
- Burna Boy – “Where I’m From”
My favourite Burna Boy deep cut comes from his most recent album, “Outside”. Burna has been described as many things through the years – ‘self-indulgent’, ‘problematic’, ‘arrogant’. But very few have afforded him the courtesy of a fair reasoning or used the term, ‘misunderstood’. On this cut, Burna basically describes how the places he’s lived in (or where he’s from) have shaped the man he’s known as. The song is a vivid description of Port Harcourt’s street culture that gives you a peek into Burna’s mind. 10/10. Absolutely recommend.
Did you enjoy this? You should sign up for our weekly pop culture newsletter, Poppin’. You’ll get to know what we’re up to before anyone else + insider gist, reviews, freebies and more. If it sounds like your deal, sign up here.