Burna Boy was not a well-behaved student. Back then – before the Brit and Grammy nominations, the sold-out arena shows all around the world and the 600million streams of his irresistible music – he was Damini Ogulu, a recalcitrant schoolboy in southern Nigeria, skipping classes and getting into trouble. Looking back now, sat by the pool outside his luxurious home in Lagos, it’s clear to the 29-year-old where the roots of his childhood frustration lay.
“The schools in Nigeria would rather teach you another man’s history than your own,” he says. “We were angry, and that was the foundation for our rebellion. Our subconscious, our inner man, was telling us: ‘Bro, you’re being brainwashed’.”
He grows animated as he explains their curriculum was still littered with absurdities left over from the days of the British Empire. Take for example the 18th-century Scottish explorer Mungo Park, who Burna was told in school “discovered the river Niger”.
“That’s one of the fucking scams we’re taught!” he splutters. “This is a river that has been drank from and bathed in, and children have been given birth to in, for thousands and thousands of years. Now suddenly a man called Mungo Park comes from fucking England or some shit and ‘discovers’ the Niger? How do you discover something that people have their history in? Then you go and teach these people’s children that in schools! That’s something to fight against. That’s something that needs to be fucking blown up into fucking space.”