In the mid-2010s, AKA and Burna Boy collaborated on era-defining hits that benefited both artists. Here’s a brief history of their friendship and hit list.
Last week, Burna Boy touched down for a show in Zimbabwe. But The African Giant found himself on the top of South Africa’s Twitter trends. South Africans felt the need to make it known that Burna Boy’s popularity in South Africa in the mid-2010s was thanks to AKA.
The two musicians, whose bromance in that era was a beautiful sight to behold and the provenance of multiple SA-Naija collaborations, fizzled out towards the end of the decade.
After speculation from fans of the two stars’ beef, Burna Boy made it clear in 2019 that he didn’t fux with Supa Mega anymore. “… it’s f**k @akaworldwide from now on,” he said in a tweet in September of 2019. This was after The African Giant had, after seeing fake viral videos on Twitter of South Africans harassing Nigerian citizens, made it clear he wouldn’t set foot in Africa ever. It must be noted that deadly xenophobic attacks had occurred in South Africa prior, but Burna Boy’s fury on that particular day was ignited by videos that weren’t taken in South Africa.
“I have not set foot in SA since 2017,” he said in one of his many tweets sent out around the same time. “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 hasn’t set foot in SA since then.
Where it started: All Eyes on Me
After the release of his album debut album L.I.F.E in 2013, Burna Boy became certified in Nigeria, and the brightness of his star reached SA. And, in true Naija hustler fashion, Burna made sure to show face in the country where he was gaining popularity to shake some hands and ensure he capitalised on his popularity.
SA became Burna’s second home; he filmed the music video for his single ‘Don Gorgon’ in Cape Town and eventually struck a bromance with Supa Mega. They collaborated on the continental smash hit ‘All Eyes On Me’ which also featured Da L.E.S and JR. Produced by Tweezy, ‘All Eyes on Me’ sampled Brenda Fassie’s explosive ‘Ngiyakusaba’.
More collaborations followed: the pair appeared on Sarkodie’s ‘Special Someone, Da L.E.S’ ‘P.A.I.D’ and connected again on another AKA smash ‘The Baddest’, which also featured Khuli Chana and Yanga Chief. In December 2015, Burna Boy dropped the song ‘Birthday’ which featured Supa Mega, Kid X and Da L.E.S. We didn’t know then, but the song marked the end of an era as it would be the last time we would ever hear Burna and AKA in one song.
It’s not farfetched to say AKA and Burna’s collaboration led to a wave of monumental SA-Naija collaborations; AKA obliterated Ice Prince’s ’N-Word Remix’, while Emmy Gee’s AB Crazy and DJ Dimplez-assisted ‘Rands and Nairas’ and its remix, with appearances from Ice Prince, Cassper Nyovest, Phyno and ANATII, became the unofficial mantra for these collaborations. Look, you just had to be there.
Burna Boy told the UK music show Factory 78 how he and AKA got to connect in a 2016 interview.
“I didn’t even know AKA personally at the time (of ‘All Eyes on Me’), but we knew of each other and we liked each other’s music but we had never really met. He called my manager and sent me a beat for his album and a couple of hours later I sent it back. That was it‚ and we just became brothers‚” Burna Boy said. “South Africa is a place where they’ve been through a lot so their souls are very deep. So, me coming from Nigeria and them identifying that soul in the music made them hang on tight.”
But, towards the end of the decade, the SA-Naija collaborations had stopped. And fans were suspecting a hostile spirit between Burna Boy and AKA, who were at the forefront of the connection between the two countries.
So, did AKA introduce South Africans to Burna as some South African claimed on Twitter? For the most part, yes. But, AKA, who was already poppin in Naija since the days of ‘Victory Lap’, also benefited from his string of collaborations with Burna Boy and a slew of other artists from the continent, ranging from Patoran King to Mozambique’s LayLizzy.
The truth is Burna Boy would eventually have become The African Giant without AKA, but as history stands, his introduction to the greater SA music industry was largely due to his collaborations with AKA. ‘All Eyes on Me’ is a noteworthy moment in their careers and both Nigeria and South Africa’s songbooks.
In 2020, Burna Boy appeared on Kabza De Small’s ‘Sponono’ which also featured Madumane, Wizkid and Cassper Nyovest. The single was a lukewarm hit for a song by some of the biggest African music stars (the animated music video is only on its way to 700k views more than a year since its release).
Burna’s appearance on the remix of Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode’s global hit ‘Jerusalema’ in 2020 was more impactful. Unlike with ‘Sponono Sam’, Burna appeared on the music video and even sang the song’s Zulu hook. Burna performed the ‘Jerusalema’ in his solo Madison Square Gardens show in April, a subtle gesture to South Africa by The African Giant.