A few months before the series of infamous incidents that led to a police investigation and court case, I had a radio interview with Burna Boy. It was a radio interview that saw him coming full circle, as he used to be my co-host on that show.
For many months he worked as an intern with me on the Afternoon Drive. This was way before “Like to Party” introduced him properly to the world. He had just started to put out his first set of songs, generating a buzz as that ‘UK Boy’ that seemed to have a lot of talent. And he would soon have his first show, with me supporting him as his DJ. Incidentally, something unfortunate happened during that performance.
Ebitan: I could call this ‘full circle’ because you used to be a part of the Afternoon Drive. What year was it [that you were an intern, co-presenting with me on the Afternoon Drive]? It’s been an amazing journey.
Burna Boy: 2010. I wouldn’t say it’s been amazing. It’s been a worthy journey.
I don’t even like social media.
What would you say to people who would want to replicate your success, was it hard work or luck?
Sweat and tears.
We’ve been seeing you on social media. There have been some controversial moments.
I don’t even like social media. I am actually going to get off social media platforms in the very near future because I feel like social media is ruining everything. The same way it’s making everything better, it’s also ruining everything. And I found out we’re all being watched. But I don’t want to get into that right now.
Aren’t you worried that that would affect the promotion of your brand?
I’m not, because me not being on social media doesn’t mean that my presence wouldn’t be on social media. I’ll just turn my page into a fan page.
I was just saying to Elloy (my co-presenter) the other day, that you are at a phase in your career where you don’t have to make music to please people anymore. You’re in your ‘Prince phase’.
Exactly. Pleasing people is just long, man. When you please yourself you please everyone. When you are pleased, you have the power to please everyone.
There’s no acting, there’s no packaging. This is really who I am…
What’s the formula? Talent plus what?
It’s talent plus hard work and grinding. Cos at the end of the day if you have all the hard work, you can only go so far and then your talent had to represent.
I’ve noticed that you don’t really do crews or too much famzing with other people. You almost seem to have your own corner.
What’s your principle with regards to that?
I just feel that if I am myself and I stay that way, then the world knows who I am from me, and they have no choice but to accept that. For example, I am the only one that came out doing exactly what I do indoors. Real talk, the same thing you see me do indoors is the exact same thing you see me do outside. There’s no acting, there’s no packaging. This is really who I am, this is really how I live every day.
[I ask him if that outlook came from his Dancehall foundation and immersion in the ‘rudeboy’ culture and the attitude of Dancehall artists and he says it’s most likely. In spite of those Dancehall roots, Burna Boy actually started out as a hard core rapper].
I feel like every artist started from rapping. I believe that’s the reason why the way the music sounds the way it does today.”
Have you been awed by any bit of recognition you’ve gotten?
I can’t explain how many artists whom I used to look up to have called my phone… telling me they need me to fly to the studio. The craziest one was; I’m doing my tour in London and Drake is also doing his show [ in London]. So I get the call and I go there and he’s telling me how much of a fan he is and how my songs take him through his tours. And I ended up being on his album, More Life. I’m only on like 30 seconds of the album, and I’m still getting paid.
[He adds that he could have done it for free. In addition to transiting from a fan to a buddy of Drake’s, Burna Boy has also got to kick it with some of the artists he grew up listening to such as DMX whom he met in Swizz Beatz studio. Burna Boy says he has already recorded twelve songs with Swizz Beatz].
And I ended up being on his [Drake’s] album, More Life.
[We reminisce on his first show, where I served as his DJ. He reminds me that it was 2010 at the Calabar Carnival – his first show ever. Incidentally, something unfortunate happened while he was on stage].
Just as you were starting to warm up the audience, the MC comes to cut the performance, saying that the Governor’s wife or somebody had arrived. They wanted to change the protocol. You were upset, while I was confused. I came back stage like, ‘what happened’. But that would not happen today. Does it feel like it has happened too fast?
I feel that everything that happens in life happens the way it is supposed to happen. I don’t feel like there’s any planning that could have gone into it. That’s just the way it was supposed to happen. And God in heaven knows that if I can’t do anything in life, I am a musician. You can only do your best and leave the rest.