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Photo by A Kid Named Trav.

Burna Boy Won 2018

In 2018, Burna Boy was Nigerian music's most undeniable force. But is he the king of Naija music?

The first time I saw Burna Boy's "Like to Party" video I was shook. The artist looks knowingly at the screen as he sings the words "you see my dark shades on like I can't see you, but you no say me fancy you" with a flirtatious smirk on his face. Needless to say—I was into it. The rockstar bravado, the flashy style, the sweet-sounding party anthem—all of it. That was 2012.

By the time he dropped "Soke," in 2015, I was convinced he was "the one." Sure, I'd heard afrobeats songs I liked before then, but none had truly grabbed me like that song, or the man behind it. It was how I thought contemporary Nigerian music ought to sound; inspired by the past but not derivative, and not simply tailor-made for the club either. Burna's unique appeal felt obvious to me then, but in 2018 it became undeniable.

The self-proclaimed afrofusion artist has been the pride of the "in the know" afrobeats crowd for some time—a stunning talent that sometimes went overlooked while the masses argued over who between Davido and Wizkid was king of the Naija pop throne. His sheer talent was acknowledged, but still it seemed his name wasn't brought up enough in conversations about the genre's greatest stars.


Burnaboy - Soke [Official Video] www.youtube.com

But something changed in 2018: Burna proved himself to be the most prolific Nigerian artist on the scene, outperforming most of the genre's "bigger" names with an overflow of quality tunes. It didn't feel as though Burna was trying hard either, instead he appeared comfortably in his element. He simply carried on doing his thing: producing one-of-a-kind, mellifluous bangers with strong replay value. For me, every new release brought about a renewed excitement, another jam with the potential to bringing the artist closer to full afropop stardom.

It began at the top of the year with the release of Outside—a sonic showcase of Burna's musical versatility. On the same album, he delivered his signature dancehall-leaning fusion with tracks like "Rock Your Body" and "Sekkle Down" featuring Gambian-British rapper J Hus, alongside songs like "Koni Baje," a juju-inspired throwback sung in Yoruba. He served textured R&B production on "Giddem" and "Devil in California," collaborated with Lilly Allen on the lyric-heavy "Heaven's Gate," and even shared the Little Yachty-esque schoolhouse trap single "Streets of Africa." Though it was immediately met with rave reviews from fans and connoisseurs, the album took its time to truly set in, gaining more and more hype over time as new listeners discovered its wonder. The album's widespread listenability further established Burna as one of the Nigerian artists most equipped for much-coveted crossover success, proving he could appeal to several palates without compromising the essence of his musical identity.

Of Outside's many gems, the jewel in its crown was the track "Ye." After hearing it for the first time, I hit the replay button immediately. There was simply nothing to dislike about the raw and expressive mid-album cut. The track took on a life of its own, growing into a full blown anthem—the Nigerian National Anthem to be exact.

"Ye" was always a hit, but it received an unexpected boost this summer, when listeners searching for Kanye West's album by the same name accidentally stumbled upon it, reportedly leading to a 200 percent spike in streaming numbers. Those searching for Kanye discovered a new talent—quite frankly more worthy of their time than 2018-era Kanye West—and the rest of us got to relish the rightful exposure of a song that we knew deserved it in the first place. According to testimonials shared on social media, this helped earn the artist a new batch of global fans.

While many of us were still savoring Outside, the artist gave us even more to devour, delivering the smoldering "Gbona" in September, complete with a music video that showcased his fresh fashion sense and unique visual approach. After that, he slowed things down for the love song "On the Low." He was even featured on the sleeper collaboration "Baba Nla" with two of afrobeats founding fathers, D'Banj and 2Baba and managed to be the clear standout on that too.

Perhaps the climax of his eventful year were a series of performances in London during his Outside tour—most notably a packed, headlining show at London's O2 Arena. I watched via livestream as Burna Boy mania ensued. The energy in the venue palpable even through a 13 inch laptop screen. The artist himself appearing wowed as the audience shouted the lyrics he was supposed to be performing back his way. Oluwaburna had announced himself and I felt like an adoring Nigerian aunty watching it all happen. Folks were finally seeing the vision.

Something clicked for Afropop fans in 2018. Burna's increased recognition wasn't mere happenstance, of course. Like any other artist of his caliber, he has a hardworking team behind him, strategically helping elevate his career with every collaboration, appearance and profile in Vogue magazine. But that's not all that was responsible for his stellar year. In 2018 the artist's star qualities: his singular musical skill, undeniable edge, and formidable style shone too brightly to go unnoticed.

Burna enjoyed a standout year by nearly any measure and a better one than most of his counterparts. This year Burna took full command of his space in the growing Nigerian music scene, remaining an uncontested "fave" by simply remaining a more visible version of himself and gaining new fans along the way. While the industry's other frontrunners may have been vying for royal titles, Burna emerged the people's champion—the true contender.

In 2018, it was clear that as Nigerian music continues its journey across the globe, Oluwaburna will remain "the one."

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Illustration by Simone Martin-Newberry

A 15-Year-Old Nigerian Student Lends Her Voice to the Fight Against Boko Haram With Graphic Novel

Aisha Mustapha's graphic novel about her experiences under Boko Haram was published today for International Day of the Girl.

Aisha Mustapha, is a 15-year-old student from Nigeria, using her voice to tell her own story. The young writer recently penned a graphic novel about her experience fleeing Boko Haram, locating her family and trying to further her education. It's a heavy subject, obviously, but with her graphic novel, she offers a voice for young people directly affected by the crisis in Northern Nigeria.

The book was published today to mark the International Day of the Girl, a day established by the United Nations in 2011 to "highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights."

Aisha's talent for storytelling has previously been highlighted in Assembly, a by-girls-for-girls publication by the Malala Fund that brought Aisha's graphic novel to life, premiering it today in conjunction with International Day of the GIrl. Tess Thomas, Assembly's editor, elaborated on the purpose of the publication saying, "We believe in the power of girls' voices to generate change. Our publication provides girls with a platform so their opinions and experiences can inform decisions about their futures."

Aisha's words were illustrated by artist Simone Martin-Newberry, who had this to say about the process of creating the visuals for the graphic novel: "I was very moved by Aisha's story, and really wanted to treat it sensitively and do it justice with my illustrations. My aim was to capture the real emotions and actions of the story, but also keep my artwork bright and colorful and full of pattern, to help reflect Aisha's amazing youthful spirit."

Check out some excerpts from the piece below and head here to read it in full.
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(Photo Courtesy of BBC Africa Eye)

An Interview With Kiki Mordi, the Nigerian Journalist Behind the BBC’s #SexForGrades Documentary

Meet the reporter whose undercover reporting exposed rampant sexual harassment in West African universities.

Nigeria and Ghana have been reeling ever since the release of the Sex for Grades film from BBC Africa Eye earlier this week. It was an undercover expose of the sexual harassment and extortion female students face in two of prestigious universities. Since the release of the year-long investigation, #SexForGrades has been trending, and many more women have come forward with their own experiences. Four of the professors implicated in the footage have been suspended from their positions and the Nigerian Senate has decided to reintroduce a sexual harassment bill. Suffice it to say, the film has caused a stir.

The woman behind the film is Kiki Mordi, a 28-year-old Nigerian journalist who had experienced sexual harassment herself in her university years. We spoke with her in an exclusive and enlightening interview about her reaction to the waves she's causing, what it is like to relive and report on traumatic situations and the depth of harassment culture. She also gives a direct answer to one of the implicated professor's statements that she was enacting a form of neocolonialism.

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Keith Roper/Flickr Creative Commons

Kais Saied is Set to Become Tunisia's Next President

While official results have not been published, the retired academic reportedly secured 76 percent of the votes according to the exit polls.

Last week, Tunisia held its legislative elections, according to reports by Aljazeera. The Ennahda Movement obtained 52 seats in the 217-member parliament while the Karoui's Heart of Tunisia party came second, with 38 seats. While the presidential elections were only scheduled to take place in November, they were pushed forward after the country's first democratically-elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, passed away in July. Two independent candidates, media mogul Nabil Karoui and retired law professor Kais Saied, have been facing off in the presidential runoff. However, recent exit polls suggest that Saied secured between 72 and 77 percent of the vote.

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 10: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally at the Target Center on October 10, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images).

Trump Attacks Ilhan Omar & Minnesota's Somali Community In Disparaging Anti-Immigrant Campaign Speech

Trump stepped up his demonization of Minnesota's Somali community in front of a braying crowd of MAGA-hat wearing supporters.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota and—in typical white-nationalist fashion—used a significant portion of his speech to disparage the local Somali community, and once again take shots at the state's Somali-born Representative Ilhan Omar.

"As you know for many years leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers," said Trump, echoing the countless anti-immigrant statements he's made in the past. "You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods and that's what you have the right to do right now, and believe me, no other president would be doing that," he added as his supporters cheered him on.

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