When Burna Boy stood amid a sea of excited fans singing along to his hits at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Friday, it was one of the proudest moments for not just Afrobeats but every genre of Nigerian music. As the 30-year-old artiste hopped and skipped about the length of the elongated stage with half-a-dozen brassieres — tokens of love from crazed fans — dangling from his waist, he unlocked another milestone as the first Nigerian singer to headline a concert at the 20,000-capacity venue. A new illustrious feather added to the Grammy award winner’s already puffy cap of accomplishments. A ballistic hurricane rippling through doors hitherto closed to Nigerian artistes.

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The MSG achievement, naturally, earned Burna Boy effusive praise from Nigerians on social media, with many reaffirming his claims of being the best musician out of Nigeria. Burna’s smooth, spine-tinglingly transitions and telepathic chemistry with The Outsiders — his band — took over Twitter and dominated the trend table. “African Giant”, as he proudly dubbed himself,  was propped up with love and respect.

The development is the latest chapter in the love-hate relationship that characterises the affair between Nigerians and the Port Harcourt-born star. In a culture obsessed with humility and self-effacement, Burna Boy’s cocky, unapologetic personality is an affront to many. Most Nigerians believe in the supremacy of Burna’s musical ingenuity over his peers, but they’ll rather he doesn’t brag about it. His call for political consciousness is welcome, but he dare not chide youth over their inertia to effect change in the country. He’s loved for being “real” and also hated for espousing the straightforwardness and bluntness that comes with realness.

Below is a chronicle of the love-hate relationship between Nigerians and Burna Boy:

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Burna Boy drops hint of new album -- then deletes tweet

COACHELLA AND AFRICAN GIANT

After an incredible 2018 with the global success of the ‘Outside’ album, which catapulted him from a musical talent with a loyal niche audience to the mainstream, Burna Boy was tapped by Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival, alongside Mr Eazi, to perform at its 2019 edition.

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The singer, rather than accept the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with glee, criticised the organisers of the show for printing his name in small font on the flier, describing himself as an “African giant”.

Social media furore followed Burna’s declaration as many users labelled him “entitled” and “proud”, with others arguing he’s never earned the status of a giant on the continent.

Reacting to the anger that his statement caused, Burna proceeded to berate Nigerians as not mentally advanced enough to fight for themselves.

“I represent a whole generation of solid African creatives going global. Not the soft, low self-esteem Africans with the slave mentality,” he said.

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While promising to grant an interview to make himself understood on the issue, the singer added: “Nothing I say comes from any place of pride or any sense of entitlement.

“It comes from my vision of the future of Africa, not just African music.

“Don’t worry. I know it is a fact that my own country Nigeria is home to the largest number of backward unprogressive f**ls.

“I will still fight for them because they are not mentally advanced enough to fight for themselves. They will forever have my genuine love.”

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He and Mr Eazi would go on to perform at the event, becoming the first Nigerian acts to do so.

Burna Boy

SLAMMED FOR DISMISSING OTHER ARTISTES’ STREAMING NUMBERS

In May 2019, Burna Boy became the subject of social media uproar after claiming that musicians who have tremendous views on the streaming platform are not necessarily talented.

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In the controversial Instagram story, Burna wrote: “This streaming … be making people feel like they are actually talented. If joke things like “Baby Shark” and “Gangnam Style” can do more numbers than everyone, don’t think you are talented or respected because of your streaming numbers. Everyone, with real working brains knows what a joke is and what is real. Anyway, plenty talk no dey full basket. Let time reveal all.”

Many social media users believed he was taking a dig at other big stars like Davido and Wizkid and pelted him with insults. He was labelled a “hypocrite and insecure fraud”.

His old post wherein he celebrated ‘Gbona’ hitting over 7.5m YouTube views months prior was dug out, and he was barraged with negative comments.

REFUNDING ‘BORING’ FAN

Five months later, Burna was back in the eye of the ire once again. During a show in Atlanta, the singer called out a fan for not ‘encouraging’ him during his performance and refunded his money.

In the then viral video, the singer was seen taking some money out of his pocket and giving it to a fan, and after that, asking the fan to “go home”.

“Oga go home, go home. Escort this guy out of this place, please, this guy is annoying me,” he said.

Expectedly, the incident caused a stir on social media, with Burna Boy getting a lot of flak.

Burna Boy at Flytime

FIRST GRAMMY NOMINATION 

In November 2019, Burna Boy’s critically acclaimed album title “African Giant” was nominated in the Best World Album category.

With the nomination, Burna joined the likes of King Sunny Ade, Seun Kuti and Femi Kuti on the short but illustrious list of Nigerians who had been selected for that category at the Grammy Awards.

The achievement brought the singer into the goodwill of Nigerians, who trooped to social media to congratulate him and hail his undeniable talent.

ROW WITH AKA AND SOUTH AFRICANS

It all began with a screenshot shared by rapper YCEE, showing AKA, a South African rapper, describing how much he hated losing to Nigeria. The comments were widely perceived to be xenophobic. The rehash of the old tweets fell into a period of heightened tension between the two countries over repeated attacks and killings of Nigerians living in South Africa.

Amid the backlash that AKA was getting from Nigerian celebrities over his comments, Burna Boy warned the South African rapper to have ensure he has security protection when next they meet.

In a flurry of tweets, he also vowed to never visit South Africa until the authorities ended the xenophobic attacks.

“I have not set foot in SA since 2017. And I will not ever go to South Africa again for any reason until the South African government wakes the fuck up and really performs A miracle because I don’t know how they can even possibly fix this,” Burna Boy wrote.

“This goes against everything I stand for. But at what point do we take action? I understand that years of oppression have confused South Africans to the point where they see the people who came to their defence during their oppression as their enemies and then worshiped their oppressors.”

Burna Boy’s response spurred excitement amongst Nigerians on social media who praised him for being a fierce defender of his country of birth.

Burna Boy

‘NOBODY PAVED WAY FOR ME’

In February 2020, Burna returned to the villain side after he claimed to have brought the Afrobeat genre to the mainstream, where it is currently enjoying global recognition.

He added that he is the best in the country’s music industry since the era of Fela Kuti, the Afrobeat legend.

Having just lost the 2020 Grammy Award for the ‘Best World Music Album’ to Angelique Kidjo, a Beninese singer-songwriter, Burna Boy also called out his colleagues for being “pretentious”.

“The same people that wish you the best to your face are the same people that hope and pray you Fail so that they can feel better about themselves. That’s just Life. That’s why compliments mean nothing to me cuz hate, Jealousy and “it should have been me” are sugar-coated by them,” he wrote.

“FACT! I always knew I was and I am THE BEST. Everyone you think is the best KNOWS I’m BEST since Fela Kuti. But @timayatimaya told me something a long time ago that made me not care about being the best. “The World can do without the Best” the world will still spin regardless.”

His tweets did not go down well with some fans and followers of opposition singers who tackled ‘the African Giant’ crooner for being “arrogant”.

“Where were you since 2010-2018? The best paved the way for you. You came in when the table has already been set, and here you’re claiming the best since Fela,” one of the fans wrote.

The outburst stirred so much controversy and drew the ire of fellow celebrities who cautioned the singer.

Burna Boy

‘TWICE AS TALL’ GRAMMY NOMINATION AND WIN

At the virtual ceremony of the 2021 Grammy award, Burna Boy’s ‘Twice As Tall’ was announced the winner of the Best Global Music Album.

He became the first Nigerian to win the gong for an independent body of work — a feat that made him the nation’s darling once again, with his critics forgiving his past utterances.

WIKE’S HOMECOMING AND N10M CASH GIFT

A few days later, Burna was back in the crosshair of Nigerians once again. This time for attending a homecoming shindig hosted by Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, in celebration of his Grammy win.

The governor was alleged to have given artistes present at the event, including Burna Boy, N10 million each.

The development, which came at a time when teachers in the state were protesting unpaid salaries, sparked outrage on social media.

Many users criticised Burna Boy for being a “hypocrite” who flayed politicians in his music but saddled up to them in real life.

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

Following the historic performance at the MSG on Friday, Nigerians have been hailing the brilliance of Burna Boy yet again.

All his flaws are, momentarily, overlooked as many declared him incomparable the Nigerian music scene.

Many fans say they now understand why the singer gets angry when compared with his peers.

At the moment, Nigerians are loving Burna Boy — until the tide turns again.



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