Sajjad's artwork for "Pull Up" from Burna Boy's African Giant. Courtesy of the artist.

Meet Sajjad, the Artist Behind Burna Boy's 'African Giant' Album Art

We sit down with the artist to talk about the art behind African Giant and his use of currency to creates collages that tell ambitious stories.

"Currency is something that for the most part doesn't exist," Sajjad tells me over a crackling phone line. It would have been hard to hear him if he didn't speak firmly. "It's all about trust. We trust that a bill is worth a certain value. That's what makes it real. It's an interesting duality play on something that's real but at the same time isn't."

This philosophy is what informs Sajjad's art. Using currency, the artist creates collages that tell ambitious stories about unifying countries. In 2019, he created the artwork for one of the best and most important albums to come out of the modern Nigerian—and African—music scene, Burna Boy's Grammy-nominated African Giant.

Sajjad got the idea to start using currency as an artistic medium in 2016, when stopping at a New York City bodega—"these little convenience stores on every corner that sell everything!"—where he saw that they had put up dollar bills on the wall from the first few people who had bought things there. It was at that moment something in him clicked and he realized how many powerful stories physical bills could tell and represent. Inspired by this, Sajjad began a journey of using currency and other mundane everyday objects to create art that tells a bigger story.

We sat down with the artist to talk about designing the album art of Burna Boy's African Giant, the power of currency and what the future holds for him.

Sajjad. Photo: Dan Solomito

Tell us about your journey from making currency art to making the album art for African Giant.

I had been working with currency as a medium for art about three years prior to African Giant. I was making collages out of vintage African-American magazines and I started to use currency as a medium when making them. I independently funded a show called Break Bread—slang which basically means you have an exchange, it means to share assets. I used that as a metaphor and would invite other artists into the show. A patron that came by purchased one of the pieces and the director of marketing at Atlantic Records saw it. She asked who did that and then we connected. I said if he's going to call himself the African Giant, there's no better way than to have his own currency.

African Giant is such a significant body of work and has so many vibrant songs. Did you run into any challenges trying to interpret and bring them to life through art?

There's always going to be challenges and there were certain issues around but Burna Boy and myself speak a similar language on issues going on in the continent. A lot of issues in the African continent and in the African-American community have similar parallels. I was raised in a pan-African environment so I was able to tap into that when translating the songs into the art.

Sajjad's artwork for "African Giant." Courtesy of the artist.

What's your creative process like?

My creative process usually starts off with inspiration, whether it's from a conversation, debate or something I see on the street or the internet. I try to ask myself, how can I take this particular item or theme and add a twist to tell a particular story or viewpoint I want to get the appreciator to contemplate. I'm a multidisciplinary artist so I'm not into the idea of limiting myself to any one particular medium. I just utilize whatever resources I can to get the idea out of my head into real life.

Do you ever get approached by Burna Boy's fans about doing custom work?

A few people on social media ask but currency is only one aesthetic and medium. I'm not interested in doing another currency cover art for another. I'm not a one-trick pony and while I'm still interested in working with currency, I am not doing the exact same thing for other artists.

Photo: Dan Solomito

What's next for you as an artist? What do you have planned for 2020?

The next thing I'm working on is the fine art route. My own agenda is to use everyday objects to document our culture in the hood—which I think is so beautiful—and I want to put it in a gallery space. I've built up a cache of art throughout the years so my next move is to release some prints of my Distorted Americana collage series.

As far as 2020 I'm working on something with the UNDP, 1xRun and also planning a gallery exhibition around the Burna currency artwork. I'm also one half of an art duo called STOP1. We create fine art out of everyday objects you find typically in the street and refashion them into new items, sculptures, and experiences.

Follow Sajjad on Instagram and visit his website for more.

Photo: Dan Solomito

Still from YouTube.

Watch the Hazy Music Video for Burna Boy's 'Secret' Featuring Jeremih and Serani

Burna Boy drops a new music video for a fan favorite from his Grammy-nominated album 'African Giant.'

Grammy-nominated Burna Boy shares the music for the latest single "Secret," a fan favorite from his seminal album African Giant.

The track, which features American singer Jeremih and Jamaican dancehall artist Serani, is arguably one of the album's most fun and memorable tracks. The song gets a hazy music video starring the three artists in various dimly-lit, monochromatic settings. The video was directed by David Camarena.

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Kel-P. Image courtesy of the artist.

Interview: Producer Kel-P On His Rise, Making 'African Giant' & More

We speak with the buzzing Nigerian producer about his influences, his extensive work with Burna Boy on African Giant, Wizkid, upcoming project with Future, and more.

For beatmaker Kel-P, the road to royalty seems inevitable. In just three years, the producer has managed to work with both Wizkid and Burna Boy, the latter of whom he helped in crafting his recently Grammy-nominated album African Giant.

Shortly following his work with Burna, Kel-P went on to collaborate with Wizkid on both "Ease Your Mind" and "Mine" from the recent SoundMan Vol. 1 EP, for which he seamlessly tapped into wider pallets such as jazz and reggae.

Now, Kel-P is searching further afield. With a constantly evolving sonic-offering and several collaborations with US artists on the way, the beatmaker has his eye firmly on foreign markets. We caught up with him to discuss his rise to afrobeats prominence, working on African Giant and SoundMan Vol. 1, Grammy nods and the recent interest in African genres beyond the continent.

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"Zion 9, 2018" (inkjet on Hahnemuhle photo rag)" by Mohau Modisakeng. Photo courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery.

South African Artist Mohau Modisakeng Makes Solo NYC Debut With 'A Promised Land'

The artist will present the video installation 'ZION' and other works centering on the "global history of displacement of Black communities" at the Jenkins Johnson Gallery in Brooklyn.

Renowned South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng presents A Promised Land, his latest solo exhibition, opening at Brooklyn's Jenkins Johnson Gallery this month. This marks the New York debut of Modisakeng's ZION video installation, based on the artists's 2017 performance art series by the same name. It originally debuted at the Performa Biennial.

"In ZION the artist deals with the relationship between body, place and the global history of displacement of Black communities," reads a press release. "There is an idea that all people are meant to belong somewhere, yet in reality there are millions of people who are unsettled, in search of refuge, migrating across borders and landscapes for various reasons."

In addition to the video, the show also features seven large-scale photographs that communicate themes of Black displacement. From 19th century Black settlements in New York City, which as the press release notes, were eradicated to clear space for the development of Central Park, to the scores of Africans who have faced conflict that has led them to life as refugees in foreign lands.

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Rema in "Beamer (Bad Boys)" (Youtube)

The 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Tony Allen x Hugh Masekela, Sarkodie, Rema, Costa Titch x Riky Rick x AKA and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our best music of the week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

Check out all of OkayAfrica's playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

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