200 most influential musicians of the past 25 years
As a child, Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu was fascinated by superhero comics. He wanted to be his own superhero, so he named himself Burna Boy, a nickname that followed him in a career as one of the defining musical acts of today’s African Diaspora. After his fourth studio album, African Giant, permeated the summer from Abuja to Brooklyn, and he sold London’s Wembley Arena, Burna returns with Twice as big, a more resonant origin story that explains his rise. In an animated comic, the Yoruba deity Orunmila chooses Burna to embody his “secret flame”. Along with him, Burna is challenged to restore the gods’ faith in humanity. He meets these dark gods again, in 2020, his mission completed thanks to his resounding success. “You make music with passion, as if you were fighting a war,” one of them proudly told him.
Twice as big is Burna’s battle cry. Compared to some of his previous work, it may seem heavy under the weight of Burna’s personal reflection and his Pan-African Crusade. Her newly moody afro-fusion amplifies her passion. Twice as big could have aimed to crystallize Burna’s position as the world star of Afropop with easier and heartwarming hits. Instead, he turns brutally inward, assuring himself of his power, and outward, reminding the world of his failures and potential. It is a load worth carrying.
During the commercial rap wave of the late ’90s, Cam’ron became Harlem’s de facto rap ambassador, bringing as much pomp to his rhymes as he did to technical skills. Leader Dipset’s unique jerky flow is easily mocking and yet flawless. As Tom Breihan broke it down in 2005:
His bored, arrogant voice rolls syllables until he hits just about every possible permutation, turning hard consonants into thrown stones and lazily playing with drug metaphors as if they were Rubik’s. Cubes. In Cam’s world, he’s the King of Harlem, shifting pounds, dispatching enemies, and throwing money away with a Machiavellian cool. Cam has the distorted eloquence of an MF DOOM even when bragging about violence (“Watch, rooster and spray / We hit you from a block / Drinking saki on a Suzuk / Us on the bay Osaka ”) or conspicuous consumption (“ So I parked in the tow zone, chrome / I don’t care; this car is a throwaway, houses ”).
Since bursting onto the scene with “Bodak Yellow” in 2017, Cardi B has been unstoppable. Regardless of the platform – social media, television, or pop music – the Bronx star has dominated cultural conversation with her distinctive voice, wit, and unfiltered frankness. As Sheldon Pearce wrote about Cardi’s debut album Breach of privacy in 2018:
Cardi is a great talker, but her voice itself is her own instrument. It wraps around every word; its accent and inflections forge each syllable in the blink of an eye, making each utterance new. She wields her voice like a weapon, and she can make even the mundane glamorous with particularly chosen phrasing. This specific economy of language is at the heart of its appeal, and each line is imbued with its impact. Some punchlines are very funny, others are extremely clever. Some are both.
At the turn of the 21st century, Ontario native Dan Snaith released a pair of intricate IDM albums under the Manitoba name before adopting the Caribou name and flooding his music with psychedelic textures and bright vocal melodies. . Since then, he has flirted with more stripped-down styles of dance music (notably under his alias Daphni) and explores both maximalism and minimalism, without ever straying too far from his pop instincts that guide him. Jamieson Cox wrote about his 2014 album Our love: