Nigerian artist Burna Boy is Africa's biggest superstar. His breakout album African Giant garnered the 28-year-old a global fandom that includes Barack Obama and we're not surprised. The fusion artist's ubiquitous style of Afrobeat which is flagrantly fun, fresh, and a kaleidoscope of melodies has continued to mesmerise music fans, begging the question: what's his secret?
The singer consistently manages to seamlessly blend his political and personal views into a melting pot of African textures that is fantastically unique. And a lot of this is owed to his unique choice of samples. Burna Boy's production style spans a fascinating spread of everything from R&B hits to celebrated African songs by Beninese-legend, Angélique Kidjo.
To celebrate his joyful new song today, Kilometre, here are 10 songs that have inspired and flavoured the irreverent sound of Burna Boy, from The Jackson 5 to Bell Biv DeVoe.
Ye is the sleeper hit that started it all. Best described as a simmering and rhythmic slice of what the singer is all about, it has now accumulated millions of streams and over 90 million views on YouTube. If you wondered where that mellifluous melody comes from, look no further than the saxophone-heavy Sorrow Tears and Blood by Fela Kuti and The Afrika 70.
The mellow strum of the opening guitars on Giddem is probably instantly recognisable to 2000s R&B fans. Burna Boy embellishes the familiar beat - a sample of Fabolous and Tamia's iconic 2003 hit, Into You - with the soft jangle of bells and drums, creating a rich and rounded summery trip.
Wombolomo generously samples Angélique Kidjo's Wombo Lombo. The two songs showcase two of Africa's most celebrated musicians. Eight years after its release, Burna Boy and Kidjo joined forces along with Damian Marley on Different, a celebration of African music.
Ph City Vibration
Ph City Vibration is the high energy dance track underscored by a sample of the slow and sultry Spanish Town Rockin' by Chronixx. The sample is virtually unrecognisable - but isn't that what sampling is all about?
Misted with a salty sea breeze, Anybody is the sunshine-filled, steel drum-heavy Afrobeat hit that vibrates on a another level. The song samples the gritty Little Money by fellow Nigerian artist, 9ice.
Burna Boy toys with Afro-pop, reposeful basslines, and brightly colored melodies on Pull Up. The video emulates this with bright vintage aesthetics, beautiful streetwear, melanin and candid moments. Though, the cherry on top is the sample of Roland Corporation's 169 Aaaah!, a layered vocal loop that is best known from Nelly and Kelly's Dilemma.
Boom Boom Boom
If you haven't delved into Burna Boy's discography, Boom Boom Boom is a great example of why you should. Released in 2013, the song is an effervescent party track that samples Lady by Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti.
Plenty Song is a modern Afrobeat reimagination of Michael Jackson's Human Nature, which it generously samples. Though Burna Boy's take is smooth, silky, and an exercise in restraint from the otherwise energetic and joyous artist.
Fa So LaTi Do
The crisp and powdery thump of Fa So LaTi Do feels like another triumphant Afrobeat song from Burna Boy until you hear the gentle jingle reminiscent of a mammoth '90s hit. Finding out that Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe is sampled here is surprising yet perfect. The genius production never ceases to amaze.
Ice Cream Man
This 2011 deep cut by the Nigerian singer is a saccharine yet earnest take on The Jackson 5's I Want You Back. The heavy synths and shimmering effects feel at odds with the Burna Boy we know today, but we love a sugary trip down memory lane.