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  • Writer's pictureDennis Howard

Unveiling Hypocrisy: The Sampling Saga Surrounding Burna Boy




A trail of controversies and debates can frequently follow an artist's rise to fame in the constantly changing music industry. Burna Boy, the internationally acclaimed Nigerian music sensation, has recently found himself entangled in a spirited discussion surrounding the practice of sampling.

As some voices in America point fingers at him for leveraging their music without due credit, it's essential to scrutinise the accusations while acknowledging the undeniable hypocrisy that taints the narrative.


Sampling: The Heartbeat of Music Evolution

Sampling, the art of borrowing snippets of existing music to create something fresh, is a cornerstone of modern music production. From hip-hop's inception to the fusion of electronic beats and melodies, artists have been weaving the fabric of their creativity using bits and pieces of pre-existing tracks.

Burna Boy celebrated for his unique fusion of Afrobeats and global sounds, has masterfully utilised this technique to create chart-topping hits that resonate with fans worldwide.


The Accusations Against Burna Boy: A Closer Look

In recent times, Burna Boy has faced allegations from a section of American music enthusiasts, accusing him of appropriating their works for his own gain.

He recently scored two big hits on the Billboard charts with two songs, "Last Last", which sampled Toni Braxton's "He Wasn't Man Enough For Me", the second hit was "Sittin on Top of the World", which sampled Brandy's " Top of the World".




However, it is essential to peel back the layers of these accusations and consider the larger picture. Burna Boy, hailing from Nigeria, a country rich in musical traditions and diversity, has promoted cultural exchange through his music.

His use of influences from various cultures, including reggae, dancehall, highlife, and Jùjú, underscores the essence of artistic evolution and cross-cultural collaboration.

A Mirror Reflecting Hypocrisy

Amidst the uproar against Burna Boy, a striking double standard emerges. Many American hip-hop and pop producers, including icons like Kanye West and Timbaland, have heavily sampled music from diverse sources, ranging from reggae, dancehall, Bhangra, jazz, r&b, samba, makossa and highlife, without raising similar concerns.





These same critics who are quick to chastise Burna Boy for his sampling practices overlook the instances where their musical heroes have engaged in similar acts. Worse, many have been accused of cultural appropriation, infringement and dishonesty, and theft, which has been successfully prosecuted.


It is also important to highlight that Burna Boy was an international star long before entering the United States. Using his unique blend of Afrofusion, he managed to build a global following which has only expanded with his entry into the North American market.


Honouring Artistic Integrity and Cultural Exchange

The controversy surrounding Burna Boy provides an opportunity to dissect the nuances of artistic integrity, cultural exchange, and acknowledgement of originators.

The ugly American stereotype is evident in the stance of a few Americans who accuse the artist of opportunism. While artists must give credit where it's due and respect the work of others, it is equally important to recognise that music is a tapestry woven from myriad influences.


Burna Boy is not the only African artist who has used American black music samples. A viral sample among Afrobeat is the r&b hit "Dilemma" by Nelly and Kelly Rowland, who samples Patti Labelle's "Love Need and Want You"

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The globalised nature of music today demands a more inclusive and open approach to creativity, allowing artists to draw inspiration from various corners of the world without fear of reproach, especially when the music in question has a common lineage.


Navigating the Melody of Global Music

As the debate about Burna Boy's sample practises continues, we must approach the subject objectively. This is a chance to celebrate the interconnectedness of the global music scene, where artists like Burna Boy can blend cultural elements harmoniously, crafting songs that transcend borders and resonate universally—a phenomenon I describe as the creative echo chamber in my academic work.

Let us remember that artistic growth thrives when we embrace diversity, acknowledge the inspiration, and foster collaboration without succumbing to hypocrisy and cultural arrogance.

It can be argued successfully that the origin of all black music in the world may be traced back to West Africa, which, to my mind, renders the controversies surrounding sampling or the birth of styles redundant.

In a world where music knows no boundaries, let's continue to create, innovate, and dance to the rhythm of unity while respecting the roots that have paved the way for our collective musical journey.

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