Burna Boy’s seventh album, I Told Them…, recently topped the UK charts. It feels symbolic, with the Nigerian-born artist the first African to top the UK charts. It’s the culmination of a decade of hard work, where he’s released seven albums.
Burna Boy dislikes the label, but his music is categorised as Afrobeats, a blend of modern Western pop with more traditional African sounds. Burna Boy was born into Nigerian music royalty – his grandfather once managed the legendary Fela Kuti.
Burna Boy’s discography can be frustrating – he’s prolific and he sometimes would benefit from an editor. But he’s charismatic and talented – his voice is smooth and resonant, and he’s a capable singer and rapper. He’s clearly thin-skinned, with album titles like African Giant and I Told Them… [I Was a Genius]. But perhaps it’s justified, coming from a continent that’s brimming from musicality, but that’s often ignored by the music press.
Burna Boy Albums Ranked
#7 On A Spaceship
On a Spaceship was Burna Boy’s first album for his label, Spaceship. It brings out his worse tendencies – a bloated record with less personality than usual. It drags for 70 minutes, with generic tracks like ‘Gone’ and ‘Birthday’. It’s most interesting when he utilises his beautiful voice and his African heritage, like on ‘The Realest’.
Burna Boy was already a star in Nigeria when he released his debut album, building his profile with a pair of mixtapes. It sold 40,000 copies on the day of release. L.I.F.E. stands for Leaving an Impact For Eternity – Burna Boy’s never been afraid of publicising himself in his album titles. Fellow rising Nigerian star Wizkid guests on ‘Jahs Love is True’.
#5 Love, Damini
The first half of Love, Damini feels like a legitimate contender for Burna Boy’s best record, with great tracks like ‘Whiskey’, ‘Kilometre’, and ‘Last Last’. J Hus guests on the impressive ‘Cloak & Dagger’ and Ladysmith Black Mambazo add flavour to ‘Glory’. But it drags for over an hour, and the star power of guests like Kehlani and Ed Sheeran doesn’t help to lift a mundane second half.
#4 Twice as Tall
Twice as Tall feels like a superstar record. There aren’t more guest stars than usual, but they’re more high profile and eclectic, including Senegalese legend Youssou N’Dour, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, and 1990s hip-hop trio Naughty by Nature. It feels unfocused, but there are brilliant moments. ‘Wonderful’ is gorgeous, while ‘Monsters We Made’ is a welcome return to the political commentary of African Giant.
Outside helped to launch Burna Boy to stardom – the single ‘Ye’ coincided with the release of Kanye West’s album of the same name, causing listeners to accidentally check out Burna Boy. Those who paid attention were rewarded with one of his strongest albums. ‘Ye’ is built around a Fela Kuti sample, while Neneh Cherry’s daughter Mabel provides one of the best hooks in Burna Boy’s catalogue on the title track.
#2 I Told Them…
Burna Boy’s seventh album I Told Them… topped the UK charts, cementing him as a superstar. It’s unusually focused for a Burna Boy album – a tight, forty-minute record. It spawned hits like the breezy ‘Sittin’ on Top of the World’ and ‘City Boys’. But there are worthy deep cuts too – more stripped-down tracks like ‘If I’m Lying’ also work well.
#1 African Giant
Burna Boy’s fourth album stands as his strongest effort to date. He’s more blatantly political than usual – ‘Dangote’ is named for Nigeria’s richest man, while Burna Boy portrays himself as a fighter against oppression. But the message never overshadows the music – it’s vibrant and full of ideas. ‘Anybody’, built around a sample from Angelique Kidjo’s ‘We We’ is a clear highlight, but it’s full of great songs like ‘On The Low’ and ‘Killing Dem’.
What’s your favourite Burna Boy album?