Burna Boy remembers the first time his music got major attention outside of his home country. It was several years ago, and the Nigerian artist—born Damini Ogulu—was invited to play a show at a club in Cyprus. Despite being previously unfamilar with the Mediterranean island, the singer showed up to the venue, only to be completely taken aback by the crowd’s enthusiastic response.
“I was surprised the crowd was singing my songs—it was beautiful,” he tells Playboy. “Here’s me, just starting this music thing in Africa, and I never thought anybody paid attention to Africa in any way, shape or form like that.“
While this statement might have been true in his early days, he’s since become known internationally for his self-coined “Afro-fusion” music, which blends together genres including hip-hop, dancehall, reggae and Afrobeat (his grandfather was legendary musician Fela Kuti’s first manager). A string of mixtapes and records established him as a versatile artist capable of multiple flows, and he also formed his own label, Starship Entertainment.
Following collaborations with the likes of Fall Out Boy, Vybz Kartel and fellow countrymen Davido and WizKid, his upcoming mixtape Outside marks the next stage of the singer’s continuing evolution, taking listeners on a round-trip voyage with stops in California, London and, of course, his home city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Today, the artist released his video for the spirited party-starter "Heaven’s Gate,” featuring British pop star Lily Allen, who cooly complements the singer’s limber, rapid-fire verses. The clip was filmed in London neighborhood Clapton Pond, and sees the stylishly dressed pair (check out that silver puffer jacket at the 1:18 mark!) preening and strutting around several locations, including a barbershop, kitchen and a family’s living room.
“When I’m in the studio, I like to go about a song like I’m telling a story. I was trying to evoke a sense of energy, excitement and rebellion,” Burna Boy explains. “Just picture a mosh pit at a crazy show, where everyone is mad hype, and there’s raw vibes all around.” As for his experience working with Allen, he says, "It was just an organic time. She brings her own flavor to the track.”
Watch the “Heaven’s Gate” video below. Outside comes out Jan. 26 on Bad Habit.