The 30 Best Burna Boy Songs
We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 30 essential songs from the "African Giant."
Burna Boy always has something to say, whether you like it or not. One of afrobeats most divisive figures, he has successfully turned controversies, losses and near-death experiences into poignant, incendiary, celebratory, and, most importantly, honest music.
Burna Boy, born Damini Ogulu, first assembled a massive following after the release of his 2013 debut album, Leaving an Impact for Eternity (L.I.F.E). Since then, the singer has gone on to curate a career complete with a Grammy award, a potpourri of hits that have seen him seamlessly glide through multiple genres, ground-breaking sold-out shows and albums that sought to dispel doubts along his way to becoming an afro fusion innovator and global pop star — 2018's Outside proved he deserved to be a part of the conversation, 2019's African Giant was an obvious response to his infamous Coachella incident, and 2020's Twice as Tall was a boisterous comeback from a surprising Grammy loss earlier that year.
Over a decade into his career, Burna Boy continues to move the culture forward one hit at a time while maintaining the ethos of his unique sound that propelled him onto the same stage as some of the most influential performers of the moment. Whether drowning in melancholy, offering up history lessons, making a rousing call to action or choosing escapist debauchery, his signature baritone will always swing between invincibility and vulnerability, carrying any song to the finish line of success.
We've delved into Burna Boy’s impressive discography for 30 signature songs, ranging from popular hits to cult classics, presently in rough chronological order.
Like to Party
Burna Boy's “Like to Party” could go down in history as one of the biggest summer anthems to come out of Nigeria. Released when production-heavy club songs were the norm, the Leriq-produced track was a laid-back earworm that moved Burna Boy from a Port Harcourt champion to a national superstar. Combining the vibrant feeling of a pool party with lyrics about a tumultuous relationship, Burna Boy masterfully inserted emotions into what should've been mindless feel-good music. On “Like to Party”, Burna Boy reminds listeners of the importance of having a good time, even in the face of a crumbling relationship.
Run My Race
Burna Boy was on a mission in 2013 when he put out “Run My Race” after back-to-back successes with “Like to Party” and “Tonight.” The dancehall-heavy track was reminiscent of songs from Burna Boy's 2011 mixtape, “Burn Notice”, while laying the foundation for future tracks like “Wetin Dey Sup,” “Anybody,” and “Kilometre.” This song was our first glimpse of the future African Giant, with Burna Boy bragging about his winning streak at the time and expressing confidence in his future. On "Run My Race", the singer gladly invites his fans, friends and haters for a ride on what he envisioned would be a rollercoaster career
“Soke” was a significant turning point for Burna Boy when it dropped in 2015. By ingeniously blending social commentary into a track that exudes a celebratory vibe, Burna Boy created an artistic juxtaposition that reinforced the notion of Nigerians as resilient people known for "suffering and smiling." “Soke” gave us our first taste of Burna Boy, the Fela disciple, inspiring future anthems like “Ye,” “Dangote,” and “Anybody.”
It would be remiss to talk about Burna Boy's dizzying discography without giving credit to Nigerian producer, Leriq, who helped the star craft the sound that eventually made him a household name. On "Tonight," the second single off L.I.F.E, we find Leriq and Burna Boy exploring a unique sound using house music synths with a deep bass kick to create the perfect pre-game anthem. "Tonight" might not have reached the commercial success of "Like to Party," but it was experimental and fresh enough to get audiences invested in the Leriq and Burna Boy musical bromance.
It's almost impossible to listen to Burna Boy's music and not immediately notice traces of the reggae music that has inspired both his sound and delivery. While Burna Boy has collaborated with Caribbean exports like Damian Marley Jr. and Serani over time, no song captures the singer's connection to dancehall like “#YawaDey” off his debut album, L.I.F.E. The high-octane track taps into Burna's foreign influences, but most of all, it serves as an homage to Daddy Showkey and Baba Fryo, artists who were purveyors of dancehall music in Nigeria in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Leriq-powered piano chords serve as the sonic bedrock of “Pree Me,” Burna Boy's pensive slow-burner about disloyal friends and dealing with adversity. The lead single off his 2016 Redemption EP, "Pree Me" reunited the artist and his L.I.F.E producer again, creating a safe space for Burna to embark on some much-needed soul-searching. Choosing to go even lower than his haters, Burna Boy is vindictive, giving his listeners front seats to a story of jealousy and betrayal.
Between releasing his sophomore album, On a Spaceship, in 2015 and his third album, Outside, in 2018, Burna Boy fought to remain a permanent fixture on the Nigerian music scene with a handful of singles and an EP that unfortunately didn't stick the landing. Amid all the hits and misses was “Deja Vu,” a Chopstix-produced love song that has, over time, morphed into a Burna Boy cult classic. Relying on Spanish-inspired guitar licks and catchy background chants, Burna Boy professes his love, but not without some "nuggets of wisdom" with the lyrics: "Na man wey dey reason dey scratch bear-bear".
Burna Boy's musical career can be divided into two distinct parts: life before "Ye" and life after "Ye" became Nigeria's unofficial national anthem and a global hit of massive proportions. Taking inspiration from Fela's "Sorrow Tears and Blood," Burna Boy offers a jaded spiritual commentary on the state of Nigeria, where everyone is aware of the problem but either too scared or intimidated to speak up. Acknowledging these issues doesn't mean Burna Boy is here to take on the savior mantle as he reminds his listeners of his dilemma of choosing between a "G-wagon or the Bentley." Fela-reincarnation or not, "Ye" was the instant classic that finally introduced the world to Port Harcourt's very own Damini Ogulu.
Killin Dem with Zlatan
Responsible for cementing Burna Boy's crossover from underrated outsider to Afrobeats icon, “Killin Dem” is a Kel P-produced earworm that finds Burna flexing his mastery of street pop alongside one of its most popular avatars, Zlatan. This dynamic collaboration from 2018 has become a signature song on Burna's discography and a major highlight at all his live shows. Infectious, vibrant and rooted in braggadocio, “Killin Dem” finds Burna in top form delivering his now iconic "gbese" adlib on a fun track that celebrates his indomitable assent to the top.
Before the global summer anthem that was Last Last, Burna Boy and producer Chopstix interpolated Tamia's "So Into You" to create Giddem, an absolute gem off his 2018 album, Outside. Wedged between his breakout hit "Ye" and the patriotic "Streets of Africa", "Giddem" is a groovy track that namedrops Jidenna and reminds us of the effortlessly seductive Burna Boy we were introduced to on songs like "Like to Party" and "Tonight.".
Ja Ara E
Beyoncé's role in the crossover of Afrobeats remains debatable almost four years after the release of The Gift, her self-curated soundtrack for Disney's live-action remake of the beloved classic, The Lion King. Burna Boy's contribution to the album "Ja Ara E," which means "Enlighten Yourself," is a standout track that fosters diasporic connections through storytelling. Burna Boy channels Fela in an attempt to radicalize Simba, the film's protagonist, warning him to be wary of the outside world and trust his instincts. While the song holds facile ties to the film's plot, it also serves as a metaphor for people of color navigating foreign and sometimes unwelcoming spaces.
On the Low
Burna Boy and producer, Kel-P create an anthem for men who love Angelina and Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
The constant rat race for wealth and influence takes precedence in Burna Boy's 2019 single, “Dangote.” Using the wealthiest person in Africa as his example, Burna Boy, with wordplay from Fela's “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” explains a relatable concept of hustle culture fueled by the insatiable need for more money. From the singer's perspective, financial contentment is unachievable, especially when the upper class remain dogged in their desire for more money.
With “Anybody”, a song that opens with the defiant, "I don charge my energy, I no get time for no enemy," Burna Boy deliberately chooses to have a good time no matter what. He encourages everyone else to follow suit and take down anyone who stands in the way of their groove — a metaphor for fighting back. Making an aggressive, roaring statement over Rexxie's mix of horn samples and traditional drums, Burna Boy once again takes activism to the dance floor in a way only the African Giant is capable of.
Another Story feat. M.anifest
A self-confessed votary of the late Fela Kuti, Burna Boy has never shied away from addressing issues plaguing the average Nigerian in his music. While audiences must accept that the singer's civil activist tag begins and ends with his music, “Another Story” is a perfect example of Burna's ability to tell the Nigerian story by juxtaposing events of the past against the current realities of his countrymen. The song is incendiary and trenchant, giving listeners a brief history lesson about Nigeria while Burna Boy speaks truth to power.
Heaven's Gate feat. Lily Allen
If Outside, the 2020 album that invoked a Burna Boy renaissance, is a masterclass from an artist who's mastered the art of meshing a plethora of genres without losing his original sound, then "Heaven's Gate" is the star lesson we should all take note of. Finding an unlikely collaborator in Lily Allen, Burna Boy ups the ante with an unrelenting dancehall record featuring elements of 90s hip hop, highlife guitars and road rap. A song and collaboration that could've easily sounded out of place is a gritty and vibrant entry into the singer's wide-reaching discography.
Level Up feat. Youssou N'Dour
A lot had happened in Burna Boy's life when he dropped his fifth studio album, Twice as Tall, in the summer of 2020. The singer, alongside Davido and Wizkid, had formed what fans have come to know as "The Big Three of Afrobeats," he'd finally crossed over to the US with his African Giant album and lost a Grammy to the iconic Angelique Kidjo. Opening with a sample of 1950s hitmaker Pat Boone singing a song from the 1959 film Journey to the Center of the Earth, “Level Up” allows Burna Boy to share his anxieties before turning into a rousing victory lap for the singer, thanks to Senegalese legend Youssou D'Dour, whose scene-stealing chorus in Wolof and English help push the track across the finish line.
Yaba Buluku with DJ Tarico
After proving his ability to enliven Amapiano tracks with unforgettable vocal performances on the remix of Master KG's viral “Jerusalema” and Kabza Da Small's “Sponono” alongside Wizkid, Burna Boy fully morphed into an Amapiano kingmaker with the 2021 remix of DJ Tarico's “Yaba Buluku.” The song's opening adlib, "Odogwu you bad/ E fi le fun Burna," simultaneously announces Burna's presence, giving him full ownership of the song. The singer successfully maintains the palpable energy of the first song while creating a new one that sounds fresh and exciting sitting among his catalog of hits.
Bank On It
Self-doubt might've inspired Burna Boy to level up at the start of, Twice as Tall, but by the time the 2020 album comes to a close, the singer is more than willing to bank on his talent. Together with UK producer JAE5, Burna Boy takes his audience to church, auditing his progress as a singer and human while acknowledging the enormous responsibility that comes with being a modern-day global superstar. It's easy to picture thousands in a stadium crowd singing along to "Bank on It" because this outro is more than a song; it's an experience all on its own.
It's not every day Burna Boy compares himself to anyone else, so when he opens "23" with the line, "Music make me feel I be Jordan," you have no choice but to pause and listen. By far one of the best songs off 2020's Twice as Tall, "23" is an ode to the iconic basketball star and a reflective song about hypocrites, grinding and wanting to win. Coming off a loss of what seemed like an assured Grammy win in 2019, "23" bites into the self-aggrandizing title of the album that houses it while providing a poignant and stripped-back examination of the artist behind it — no matter how tall the African giant gets, he's still human in the end.
Time Flies feat. Sauti Sol
On “Time Flies,” Sauti Sol returns the favor after Burna Boy's appearance on their 2018 album, Afrikan Sauce. Burna Boy and his Kenyan counterparts float seamlessly on a beat that samples Sade's “Sweetest Taboo” while trying to convince their audience to give love a chance before it's too late.
Following the loss of its lead actor Chadwick Boseman, Marvel's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was forced to navigate grief on and offscreen while providing an entertaining sequel that matched the franchise's celestial status. Tasked with translating this grief into music, Burna Boy, alongside producer P.Priime, crafted “Alone,” a narrative-driven dedication to loss that also shows up during a poignant scene in the film. Buoyed by heart-wrenching lyrics about finding the strength to move on, Burna's connection to the film's inconceivable loss is palpable as he solemnly begs not to be left to deal with his grief alone.
Released after his 2021 Grammy win for Best Global Music Album for Twice As Tall, “Kilometre” served as Burna Boy's victory lap anthem and the lead single for 2022's Love, Damini. Calling up Chopstix for assistance, Burna basks in his achievements and gives credit to those that came before him. However, he is quick to remind his audience that his journey has been more of a marathon than a sprint.
Coming off a glass-shattering show at Madison Square Garden, Burna Boy released "Last Last, "the second single off his Love, Damini album, and arguably one of the biggest songs of 2022. Peeling back several layers of his larger-than-life persona, the Chopstix-produced record, which relies heavily on a sample of Toni Braxtons' 2000 hit “He Wasn't Man Enough,” finds Burna in an interestingly vulnerable state. The singer is sincere, relating his pain as he grapples with the reality of a failed relationship and residual trauma from his infamous Ferrari crash of the same year. Tapping into Y2K nostalgia and a relatable theme, Burna reminds us of his fallibility while delivering a memorable heartbreak anthem.
Burna Boy is quickly establishing himself as the poster boy for masking his fears, pain and insecurity behind viral anthemic hits. A musical doodle of an artist struggling with his polarizing public perception, Burna wonders if he'll ever be enough, as one mistake tends to mess up all the previous goodwill he's gained. Not one to ruminate on these existential thoughts for long, Burna Boy takes the blue pill of escapism with parties and liquor as he decides to spend his days enjoying each moment.
How Bad Could It Be
Burna Boy's velvety baritone has become synonymous with hard-hitting self-assured hits about being the best or fighting the power. But on "How Bad Could it Be?" the singer's voice comes in as a warm hug on a gloomy day as he pushes past his reticence to touch on depression, alienation and anxiety with a level of honesty that is soul-baring and inspirational. While the song's opening quotes from his celebrity friends feel reminiscent of the infamous Imagine video from 2020, it does very little to dilute its warm message.
Cloak & Dagger feat. J Hus
Everyone says third time's a charm, but with the potent mix of Burna Boy's afro-fusion and J Hus' afrosiwng, every time's a charm if we're keeping it one hundred. Teaming up for the fourth time after “Good Time,” “Sekkle Down” and “Play Play,” the two artists reconnect for “Cloak and Dagger” off Burna Boy's Love, Damini, extending their rapport over a militant beat produced by Telz. In a rare move, Burna Boy clears the path for J Hus' clever rhymes to shine, taking on chorus duty as they boast about evading their nameless enemies and not compromising their core identities for success.
For My Hand feat. Ed Sheeran
Reuniting for the first time since they both appeared on "Own It" off Stormzy's acclaimed Heavy is the Head, Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran are down bad on "For My Hand," a floaty and mellow track that allows each artist flex their romantic muscles for the world to see. The brilliant synergy between Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran carries what could've easily been a corny afropop crossover filled with textbook lyrics about love.
Temper Remix with Skales
Lending his vocals and distinct energy to the remix of Skales' “Temper”, Burna By once again samples lyrics from Fela's renowned 1977 “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” album for a catchy hook advising everyone to take life easy.
From Your Site Articles
- Here Are All the Samples In Burna Boy's 'African Giant' - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Says Drake Didn't Credit Him On 'More Life' - OkayAfrica ›
- Watch Burna Boy Perform 'Ye' at Coachella - OkayAfrica ›
- Dangote Isn't Nigeria's Hero, But Don't Ask Burna Boy - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Announces 'Twice As Tall' World Tour Dates - OkayAfrica ›
- Grammy to Burna Boy ›
- Burna Boy, Angelique Kidjo, Trevor Noah Nominated for 2020 ... ›
- Watch the Hazy Music Video for Burna Boy's 'Secret' Featuring ... ›
- Meet Sajjad, the Artist Behind Burna Boy's 'African Giant' Album Art ... ›
- Burna Boy ›
- Burna Boy Goes Platinum In France With 'Be Honest' - OkayAfrica ›
- Listen to Burna Boy On Sam Smith’s New Single 'My Oasis' - OkayAfrica ›
- Here Are All the Samples In Burna Boy's 'Twice As Tall' - OkayAfrica ›
- Here Are All the Samples In Burna Boy's 'Twice As Tall' - OkayAfrica ›
- Watch Burna Boy & Chris Martin's Electric Performance at the BET Hip Hop Awards 2020 - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Vocalizes Nigeria’s Grief In New Track '20:10:20' - OkayAfrica ›
- Watch Burna Boy Perform 'Way Too Big' On Seth Meyers - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Features On Sia's New 'Hey Boy' Remix - OkayAfrica ›
- Nigeria Confers Burna Boy With 'Distinguished Service Star' Award After Historic Grammy Win - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Talks African Unity, Fela Comparisons, South Africa Comments & More In New GQ Profile - OkayAfrica ›
- The 15 Songs You Need to Hear This Week - Okayplayer ›
- Watch 2Baba and Burna Boy's New Music Video for 'We Must Groove' - OkayAfrica ›
- Burna Boy Will No Longer Perform at the Jo'burg Edition of This Year's Afropunk - Okayplayer ›
- Burna Boy Returned a Fan His Ticket Money Because He Wasn't Live Enough - OkayAfrica ›
- Watch Mayorkun's New Music Video for 'Geng' - Okayplayer ›