Take me black to the future because Burna Boy is already there. At his historic Madison Square Garden concert as promised, he released his seventh album on his birthday July 7, 2022, titled Love, Damini (Atlantic). Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu, better known as Burna Boy, delivered an album chock full of unforgettable tunes, and has emerged with an unexpected lyricism of a man more comfortable in his own skin and willing to use his music to work out his emotional baggage for our greater good. There is no doubt that this particular album will dominate contemporary popular music and shift the global cultural landscape of our times.
Burna Boy has a gift of collaboration which makes this 19-track album full of innovation and experimentation with other global artists beginning with the spiritual personal anthem, "Glory." In the style of a traditional Zulu prayer, Burna brings the legendary South African gospel institution Ladysmith Black Mambazo, to open and close the album with its own key change, lifting Burna out of the Afrobeats to another realm. He follows this personal anthem with a reminder of his signature band combo of guitar, drum rhythms, and a stealth horn section ending with his transposing an ambulance sample into a vocal. Who actually does that in music?
Damini busted out two hit singles even before the album release, "Kilometre," whose Afrobeats and video were directed and shot by legendary Clarence Abiodun Peters; and "Last Last," produced by Chopstix, features a sample of Toni Braxton’s 2000 r&b hit, "He Wasn’t Man Enough." The hook and chorus were originally written by Harvey Jay Mason, Rodney Jerkins and Fred Jerkins III as well as Lashawn Ameen Daniels. Burna incorporates Toni’s beat and vocal riff and somehow maintains the integrity of her original songwriters sharing 60 percent of the proceeds but creating an original of his own with no comparison. Hybrid if there ever was, layering beats taken from South African King Vinci of his Squid game remix with an amapiano flava is a game changer on "Different Size" with Victony. Burna’s version of Afrofusion continues with deep storytelling and "Whiskey," where he channels the consequences of oil extraction, co-written by Gaetan Judd, Marco Bernardis, Richard Isongor, and delivers a soundscape that takes you straight to the Niger Delta.
Love, Damini already has over one billion streams to date and the second single on the album, “Last Last,” has already garnered his first number one on the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Charts, moving the song from number three to lead the July 16 list. It is a fact Burna Boy is smashing every statistic that once saw Afrobeats as the second cousin to r&b and U.S. hip-hop and will dominate for a while. "Toni Ann Singh" with Popcaan, appears on the 11th track, "Solid" with Blxst and Kehlani who are featured on track 12, and the pop music duet with of Ed Sheeran on, "For My Hand." J. Balvin rocks it out on "Rollercoaster." The list goes on and it’s all collaboration and innovation in and around Black popular genres. Personal favorites on the album: "It’s Plenty," "Different Size" with Victony, "Dirty Secrets," "Wild Dreams" featuring Khalid, "Common Person," "Vanilla," "Solid" and "How Bad Can It Be."
Now that Burna Boy, Damini, can show off his legit superstar status, by attracting millions of fans on a global tour, promoting this album taking him from Harare to Lisbon and around the globe and back, we are grateful for the mainstreaming of African contemporary music, which is what Burna represents. What is the future for Burna Boy after his epic road trip? Hopefully to chill and to pick up where Fela left off: 30-minute songs.
From all of us at Afropop, Happy Birthday Damini.