Burna Boy is as close to reaching the highest highs that a Nigerian musician has ever gone as he is to spearheading an online circle diatribe and banging “someone in the face on sight.”
With all his eminence and unquestionable talent, Burna is a controversial figure, and he has not shied away from showing it time and time again.
Celebrities like Kanye West and Chris Brown – among others, have always found themselves in the middle of storms. Could controversy be an inevitable result of the fame and frenzy? Or could Burna’s be an innate personality or subconscious behaviour that he is unable to keep in check? Do fans approve of his edgy personality while being aware that he could make the next worst violent decision in a blink? Would his thankless lunges and lifestyle impact his career?
These are some of the many questions that Burna’s controversial figure evokes in the minds of critics and careful observers who read the patterns of the life lived by those who matter to the creative space and are thought to be role models and trailblazers. Controversy is said to be one of the emblems that music stars don. And Nigeria’s Grammy award-winning songster wears his like a badge.
In a thread of tweets that have now been deleted, Burna, on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, was involved in a war of words with a fan on Twitter, and the spat defused into unnecessary name-calling and bragging that dragged the names of fellow stars Wizkid and Davido through dirty snides. A fan claimed that Sikiru Adepoju, a percussionist and recording artist from Nigeria, was the first Nigerian to receive a Grammy award; however, ‘Don Gorgon’ didn’t have any of it. He sort to set the record straight about his untouchable feat.
“Idgaf I’m not Wizkid. Lol.” Read one of the tweets.
“If he (Wizkid) wasn’t my guy then I would definitely have banged him in the face on sight just so his Twitter jokers realise I’m not Davido.”
This is not all that surprising. It is only Burna’s most recent tirade in a string of many. On Tuesday, September 23, 2022, Burna had a run-in with Wizkid’s fandom, FC, accusing Starboy’s fans of being delusional.
“…I said this same thing a while ago but Wizkid Delusional Twitter FC said I was lying. Maybe if your true history was taught in your schools Wizkid would have a smarter Twitter FC instead of idiots like this.” Burna had said in a tweet that has been deleted.
In 2013, a Netng exclusive unpacked a period of Burna’s life that he’d rather have kept secret – criminal records and gang violence. According to the exposé, it was revealed that in the UK, back in 2010, Burna Boy was arrested by London Police for allegedly being part of a gang that stabbed someone to death. He was tried as a minor and sent to jail. After 11 months of doing time, he was released on the grounds of being of ‘good behaviour’. However, he was still to serve two months of parole and community service; yet, he travelled to Nigeria.
“On his return to Nigeria, he signed his deal with Aristokrat. He later travelled back to the UK but was arrested at the airport and deported back to Nigeria. He is currently barred from the UK for the next 15 years.” The Netng exclusive read.
In 2016, 5 years into his 15-year ban, Burna announced his reentry into the UK, sending social media into a frenzy.
“Everyone in London that’s fucked with Burna boy through the years, pull up @ Heathrow airport a 6:00 pm Today. finally REACHING!”. Tweeted Burna.
Every one in London that's fucked with Burna boy through the years, pull up @ Heathrow airport a 6:00pm Today. finally REACHING!
— Burna Boy (@burnaboy) June 28, 2016
Many appeared to care less about why he was banned from the UK in the first place; call it a rockstar’s charm. They were rather happy to make molehills out of the mountains of his contentious past and see him thrive on a foreign platform.
But that didn’t help matters: the rod was spared, and the child was spoilt. Burna Boy remained Burna Boy. His confrontational reputation preceded him through the years, and it tethered to his personality like a leech on its prey. His alleged shooting incident on June 21, 2022, lends credence to that claim.
A clubgoer, Briella Neme, accused Burna’s crew of opening fire at her husband and his friends at Cubana Club, Lagos on June 21, 2022.
“My partner and his friend were shot, with both needing urgent medical care. A bullet grazed my partner’s head and our friend was shot in the thigh, leaving him hospitalised and needing emergency surgery in Nigeria.” Briella Neme revealed.
“At this point, I couldn’t find my partner or my best friend. I was screaming for help after being lifted and thrown so hard on the floor by one of Burna Boy’s friends and I hurt my left shoulder.”
“One of our friends @theflowolf was trying to get Burna Boy to calm the situation but he only laughed at him and proceeded to get in his car whilst being protected by his security.”
Recall that in 2021, Burna had a four-day feud with Ghanaian musician, Shatta Wale. The latter had taken a swipe at his Nigerian counterparts after he sold out the Accra stadium in Ghana. In his retort, Burna challenged the Ghanian rapper to a one-on-one duel.
“if Shatta or anyone has a personal problem with me, I’m still open to fighting one on one and squashing it after.” Burna said.
In November 2017, Burna had been accused by the police of masterminding the attack and robbery of Mr. 2kay at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island. The matter died after Burna resurfaced after two weeks, turning himself in to the police and arraigned in court on a two-count charge.
For someone who, in 2015, had threatened to physically harm bloggers whom he claimed were spreading false reports about him, it is not surprising – or it rather is – that more of the same contentious, bizarre and borderline attitude is being exhibited by the Afro-fusion artiste six years on.
“These bloggers are writing shit thinking it’s a game until I see yall face to face one-day and hospitalise or murk you. We gon meet 1day #onsight,” he had tweeted in 2015.
Six years later, similar harangues are repeated as Burna boasted about his tainted past and prison time on Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
“I came into the Music industry straight from CHELMSFORD HMP. I had no idea I would even live this long…”
“…Nigeria real doesnt’ know me…if you knew just Half the shit i used to do for money risking my freedom Daily you would be Way Happier for me.” He said in a now-deleted tweet.
HM Prison Chelmsford is a Category B men’s prison and Young Offenders Institution, located in Chelmsford, Essex, England. The prison is run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service (HMPS), a part of Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (formerly the National Offender Management Service).
Burna’s braggadocio and intransigence are scary. It reminds us that controversy is a stock in the music trade, but it goes beyond that. It is an unnecessary attention call to a forgettable past and an untold future. Controversy might be a means to trend in the music scene, but Burna’s isn’t a facade. It is an impulse, a part of his person, a double-edged sword that stokes the fire behind his feisty launch into success. But when there is fire, there is going to be a flame. And the flames are abounding, forming layers of soot at the very crevices of the man’s character, darkening it.
Burna Boy grips heart and soul with his music, but he might need a grip on himself soon, less his scandals mar a glittering career. After all, on eagle’s wings, immortal scandals fly, while virtuous actions are born and die.