As we anticipate the 2024 Grammy Awards, it's time to delve into the songs nominated for Best African Music Performance. In this installment, we explore Burna Boy's electrifying track, "City Boys."
Burna Boy's influence and impact on the global growth of Afrobeats are undeniable. Over the past six years, he has consistently proven himself to be one of Nigeria's most prolific and important pop superstars. With five albums released during this timeframe—a remarkable feat considering his demanding touring schedule and numerous other commitments—each one contributes significantly to Damini Ogulu's ongoing legacy.
His summer 2023 project, I Told Them..., serves as a testament to Burna Boy's greatness—an exuberant victory lap that showcases his unrivaled artistry. Although momentarily veering into megalomania, it is an album that allows him to revel in his success while slyly dismissing any doubters who never expected him to reach such heights. This sentiment is palpable throughout the project but is most evident in the Grammy-nominated standout track, "City Boys."
Burna Boy excels at creating self-assured tracks filled with playful bravado—an attribute exemplified in songs like "Don Gorgon," "Odogwu," and "Way Too Big." It is no different with "City Boys," where he combines his libidinous desires and extravagant impulses to present a larger-than-life portrayal of a rockstar in his element. The song begins with a sampled ad-lib from British-Gambian rap artist J Hus—a nod to Burna's desirability across borders—which seamlessly transitions into a first verse brimming with raw energy and authenticity.
The hook of "City Boys" truly embodies Burna Boy's self-reverence as he proudly declares his preferred weed strain: “BRKFST mo n fa o.” In late 2022, Burna launched BRKFST, his own cannabis brand—a shrewd move capitalizing on the viral line from "Last Last" that references both his product and one of his biggest songs yet. The post-heartbreak sensuality intertwined within “City Boys” effortlessly connects with this overarching narrative.
I Told Them... stands out for its heavy hip-hop influences—more so than its predecessor Twice As Tall released in 2020. Besides collaborations with Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and GZA, the album boasts speaker-bursting bass kicks that add intensity to each track. Paired with plinking glockenspiel riffs and glimmering piano chords, the drums on "City Boys" hit hard enough to resonate deep within listeners' chests—a sonic experience that feels tailor-made for TikTok trends amplifying its impact.
Few artists have embraced the sonic fluidity of Afrobeats—or Afro-fusion as Burna prefers—with such mastery as Burna Boy himself. The versatility of his malleable baritone voice is revered worldwide for good reason—he effortlessly transitions between styles or focuses on singular inspirations resulting in uniquely captivating tracks like “City Boys.” In a Grammy category filled with equally exceptional songs, it serves not only as a testament to Burna Boy’s greatness—which has become almost customary—but also as a reminder that thereare no limits in the current landscape of Nigerian and African popular music. Burna Boy's "City Boys" solidifies his position as the ultimate Afrobeats rockstar of our time.