burna boy talks us through his j hus-featuring mixtape, track-by-track
He made it on Pete Townshend’s boat and it’s brilliant.
Making waves since 2012’s Like to Party, Burna Boy, alongside Davido and Wizkid, completes a triumvirate of terrific Nigerians taking the sounds of Lagos worldwide. A quick glance at the charts these days and you’ll find an Afrobeat inflected track somewhere in the top 10 (Ramz, Ed Sheeran, Drake etc.) while a plethora of British artists, from J Hus to Lotto Boyzz have been heavily influenced by the idea of Afrobeat/wave/fusion/wotdoucallit.
Burna’s music is a similarly mellifluous affair, in turns contemplative and upbeat but always brilliant. His new mixtape, Outside is an outrageously outstanding offering moving from traditional African instrumentation to African pop and (his preferred term) Afrofusion, rhyming in Yoruba and English and featuring production from fellow Nigerians such as Leriq as well as British beat-makers including Jae5 and Steel Banglez. “Music is like a universal language understood by everyone,” he told Beats 1’s Julie Adenuga back in 2016. “But what makes it understood is the soul. The music has to be relatable. That’s what Afrofusion is.”
Burna has oh-so-much soul, and nowhere is that found more than on Outside, a rambunctious 13-track mixtape made on a boat and featuring J Hus, Lily Allen and Mabel. Launching the mixtape in London at the Curtain earlier this week in front of Wizkid, Mr Eazi and Tiwa Savage, we popped by to meet the 26-year-old grandson of Fela Kuti’s first manager, to see what Outside is about, track by glorious track.
More Life "This is produced by Baba Stiltz and it’s actually a tune I recorded for the More Life Drake album. It ended up being an Outro type thing to a song. I ended up making the whole song mine, and made it the first track on my album.”
PH City Vibration “I come from a place called PH City; that’s Port Harcourt city In Nigeria, the southside of Nigeria. I was just basically showing you the vibes, the south side vibes innit. I Am Beats produced the tune.”
Koni Baje “This one was made by P2J. Koni Baje means you cannot spoil it, like, it can’t go wrong. It’s just, like, the spirits. I’m saying, when the lights come on, you can’t go wrong!”
Sekkle Down “This one is produced by Jae5 and it features J Hus, my dawg. I don’t even need to explain that one there.”
Heaven’s Gate “This features Lily Allen and was produced by Fred Gibson. Mad! I mean obviously Lily Allen is… well, I love Lily, you get me. It was amazing working with Lily and Heaven’s Gate is not actually the first song that we’ve done together. We’ve worked together a bit so you know [that] it’s love.”
Ye “Ye is produced by Phantom. Ye is basically the Diddy and Ma$e type vibe. That’s what I was trying to go for. But in an African-type way.”
Giddem “This is one of my favourites on the mixtape cause the girls love it! When I was recording this song, there was a bunch of girls in the studio and yeah, they all got down to it. So shout out to the girls! It’s produced by Chopsticks, one of my ace producers there.”
Streets of Africa “This is another one of my favourites. I’m from the streets of Africa, you know, and how can I not be happy all day? It’s basically me appreciating the streets of Africa, you get me. It’s produced by Leriq, my first producer ever. We go way back.”
Rock Your Body “This was the first that came out. Rock Your Body was released early, early last year. It’s just wave’s man! It picked up and became the sex anthem. Yeah man, I love it. That’s basically what started the whole campaign. That was one produced by Juls.”
Devil in California “ Devil in California is about LA, but I hadn’t even been there before making this tune. I got there and this whole song made sense to me, cause it was exactly that… that’s the divine part of the song. It’s produced by P2J as well. Big up P2J.”
Calm Down “This is another one produced by Jae5. That’s one of them wavy tunes where I was basically experimenting. It ended up turning out to be some mad creation. The second half of the song, I don’t know how to explain it bro, it’s just mad wavy, it’s like three songs in one. There’s a lot of modulation.”
Where I’m From “That’s basically about where I’m from and how it is. On PH Vibration it’s about the good side, Where I’m From is basically the bad side of where I’m from: PH City. Steel Banglez and Sevak made that one. The video was wicked to film, we had a great time. It’s the longest video I’ve ever shot: four full 24-hour days. It was amazing though. Lily came through, everyone came through really, yeah it was lovely.”
Outside “This is the final track of the album and the name of the album. It features Mabel and it’s produced by FTSE. I did a remix with Mabel for Finders Keepers and I thought she’d be perfect for Outside. Mathew, my manager, hit her up and she ended up on the boat -- the studio is on a boat. It’s owned by Peter Townshend from The Who. On the boat, it’s wavy. I’m really happy with the way that song turned out and it closes the mixtape perfectly.”