2019 was a huge year for Nigerian Afrobeats artist Burna Boy, who became a crossover hit with the release of his album African Giant and became a beacon for artists from the continent with his Grammy nomination for World Music. However, while he describes himself as a Pan-Africanist, he stirred controversy last year when he tweeted that he would “NOT EVER go to South Africa again for any reason” in the wake of xenophobic attacks against Nigerian nationals living in the country.
In a new profile in GQ, the 28-year-old musician provided some context for his comments, as well as a vision for the future that included more unity for the continent overall — a philosophy he espouses in his music still. “It’s all just very f*cked-up and twisted, and I wish to God that it wasn’t so, but it is, and all I can do is try and do my part to change it, no matter how small that part is,” he says in response to the ongoing xenophobia and growing tension between Nigerian nationals and native South Africans.
“It’s almost as if the oppressors have won when the oppressed start acting like this. Do you understand? My family is Africa, which is why you will hear me speaking on the South Africa issue, which is why it strikes a nerve. It’s almost like having your whole body, and your hand is not working. That’s what it feels like… Everybody should wake the f*ck up. South Africa and the whole of Africa needs to wake the f*ck up.”
He elaborated on his vision of a unified Africa in which “we’ll have one passport, one African currency, one Africa.” He says “only then will my mission be complete.” Burna recently shared plans to spread that message on his upcoming Twice As Tall tour despite pulling out of a several shows in South Africa amid threats of violence.
Read the full Burna Boy interview GQ here.
African Giant is out now on Atlantic Records. Get it here.
Burna Boy is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.