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Burnaday: Ranking Burna Boy's Best Albums

An Overview: Ranking Burna Boy's Best Albums

If things go as planned, Burna Boy's eagerly awaited album Twice As Tall will best be released this July. It will be his fifth studio album, and coming in 2020, at a time when Damini Ogulu is arguably the hottest Nigerian music export. His last album African Giant had gotten him a Grammy nomination.

Rank Burna Boy's best albums

Today is July 2nd. Burna Boy was born on this day 29 years ago.

Closer to that golden gramophone as he'd ever been, many expect Burna Boy to deliver a spectacular project on Twice As Tall, one that'll enter his lauded discography which, among the Grammy-nominated album, includes his spectacular debut L.I.F.E (Leaving an Impact For Eternity, 2013), the starkly experimental On A Spaceship (2015), and Outside, the 2018 project which built on his favorable stand outside the country, inspired by the nature of ‘Ye’'s success.

While Burna Boy is arguably the most versatile artist of his generation, absorbing a number of genres and furthering his perspective of Afro-inspired sounds, a stream of self-consciousness runs through his entire discography, and ties, say, a ‘Like To Party’ to ‘On The Low.’ And Burna Boy does know himself. Learned in music as he is, he recognizes the relevance of a credible catalog.

When great artists are discussed, their albums are the talking points, and Burna, born on this day in 1991, has surely given us great projects to talk about. We rank his studio albums, from least favorite to most preferred.

4. ON A SPACESHIP (2015)

In 2014, Burna Boy left Aristokrat Records, the Piriye Isokari label affiliated to his name, and was home to LeriQ, who'd produced the entirety of L.I.F.E, Burna Boy's debut. Following the months after his departure and without LeriQ's direction, Burna Boy turned to boisterous pop bangers, and while he did well, there was a somewhat severed communication from the personal and cultural influences which marked his debut –not necessarily a bad thing. At the time only few understood it was growth, and that Burna had lots of that to do throughout his career.

On A Spaceship is a good album, no doubt; seldom will it be referred to as a sophomore slump. Heavy with hits like “Soke” and ‘Rizzla,’ Spaceship packed impressive features like Wande Coal, A.K.A, Wizkid, Flavour, and Phyno. “If People Must Die,” the album's closer, is a heartfelt tribute to Gambo, a friend of Burna's, and a return to the artist's knack for telling personal stories in his songs.

 

3. LEAVING AN IMPACT FOR ETERNITY (L.I.F.E.) [2013]

There's something poetically satisfying about a good first album. When the artist goes on to become great, the first work is pulled and idealized, that fixed moment in time that is theirs, when it all started.

Burna Boy's introduction to the Nigerian mainstream was afforded by the smash Summer-themed hit which was “Like To Party.” Followed by “Tonight,” a Highlife spiced record, he'd begun to show –to those who hadn't listen to his Burn Identity mixtapes– he was a special talent, and it was LIFE which solidified his first shout. Boasting evergreen songs like the two pre-album singles I've mentioned, records like “Abeg Abeg” (which got legendary stamps of approval from 2Face and Timaya) and ‘Run My Race,’ Burna Boy did leave an indelible impression with his debut.

 

2. AFRICAN GIANT (2019) 

In early 2019, Burna Boy, who'd been on the lineup for the Coachella, requested his name be made bolder. According to the 29-year-old, he was an African Giant, and wouldn't take the disrespect. He went on to perform at the event some months later, but his outburst endeared him to lots of people (ironically not so much Africans) who aligned by his pan-African consciousness. By the time we knew what was happening, Burna Boy had announced an album on the way. The title? African Giant.

African Giant, as I wrote in my review, is one of the great albums of its time. Burna Boy was on a mesmerizing run with singles like ‘On The Low,’ ‘Gbona,’ ‘Dangote,’ “Killin' Dem,” and “Anybody.” When the album was released in July 2019, international stars like M.anifest, Jorja Smith, Damian Marley joined him in his celebratory lap. He also got a coveted verse from the legendary Benenise singer Angeliqué Kidjo whose Grammy win in the World Music Category she dedicated to a fellow nominee: Burna Boy. 

 

1. OUTSIDE (2018) 

Something happened in June 2018: A number of Kanye West listeners stumbled on a Burna Boy song (“Ye”) while searching for the new album from the maverick rapper and producer. It was also titled ‘Ye,’ after the rapper, and the confusion had some ground. But rather than the 808s and cocky raps, they found something quite different from whatever heard, and they waxed poetic about a Nigerian artist who went by the name Burna Boy. Although the song was already big in Nigeria, international exposure meant more acclaim for Burna Boy, who'd released Outside in January 2018.

As Burna Boy's crossover began, more listeners were (quite logically) led by the music to check out his then-latest album, and they loved it! A classic album which has coveted its own fan base (Outsiders), its 13 songs are all fantastic records, from the autobiographical direction of “City Vibration,” Burna Boy's meticulous ode to the sprawling city of Port Harcourt or ‘Streets of Africa,’ where he raps about being ‘Fela Kuti with the hoes. On “Sekkle Down” and “Heaven's Gate” he teams up with UK artists J Hus and Lily Allen to deliver bouncy excitable records which flexed his knack for melody and lyricism.

So there you have it. Burna Boy's four albums ranked. What's your favorite project from the African Giant?

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