This past Wednesday, international superstar Burna Boy teamed up with Spotify to debut a custom #BurnaBank — the first ATM to print bills that depict a Black cultural figure.
The ATM is located in front of Lovers Rock in Brooklyn, NY and “touches upon the distribution of wealth in Nigeria,” and symbolizes Burna Boy “creating his own wealth separate from the organizations who monopolize it.” The collectible Burna Bills were inspired by his latest album African Giant, which featured appearances by both Damian Marley and Future.
Since its release, less than a month ago, the album has received over 32 million streams on Spotify. Together, the cover art and bills were designed by NYC artist, Sajjad Mussa — each bill including a Spotify code to stream the entire album.
In a statement Spotify sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, the “global platform” stresses the importance of “celebrating diverse music, cultures and communities.” Since launching Afro Hub — “a dedicated space of discovery, featuring electrifying party anthems and compelling podcasts,” Spotify notes that “over 3 billion minutes of African music has been consumed, with the U.S. and Paris as the leading performing countries and cities respectively.”
Although the Burna Boy banknotes do not hold monetary value, they represent “the collective will to overcome oppression and build wealth.” The installment will only be available until August 18th.
For many, this is huge news, but some are still unfamiliar with the African Giant.
The Nigerian native has been releasing music since 2010, but after his hit “Ye” took off in 2018, he began being recognized as more than just a local talent. Last year, his 3rd album, Outside, debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart and he was featured on "Sunshine Riptide" — a track from Fall Out Boy's Grammy-nominated album, MANIA. This summer alone, he has been featured on Apple Music’s ‘Up Next,’ Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel — but he has been using his voice to do more than just carry a tune.
In Burna’s newest album he makes it a point to include an important message about the issue with the current wealth distribution worldwide. In another hit song “Dangote,” Burna Boy’s lyrics call out to Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa and a Nigerian mogul who has an estimated net worth of $10.6 billion. Text across the opening scene of the song’s music video reads, “The richest man in Africa still goes to work every morning. Employment and job creation should be priority for any government. The National Bureau of Statistics puts the estimated number of unemployed Nigerians at 25.1 percent.”
To go even deeper, in “Another Story” — a single also on the album, he revealed the seemingly little known fact that what is now Unilever was responsible for selling Nigeria to the British. The song starts with a monologue that concludes, “let’s establish a simple truth: The British didn’t travel halfway across the world just to spread democracy. Nigeria started as a business deal for them — between a company and a government. Incidentally, The Niger Company is still around today, only it is known by a different name... but that’s a different story.” Fans took to Twitter to express their shock.
Another Story by Burna had me researching on the history of Uniliver and boy oh oh boy 😳 Royal Niger Company sold Nigeria for 865 000 to Britain, then changed to Niger Company Ltd and then later became Unilever and guess who are the manufacturers of Lifebuoy and Lux ? pic.twitter.com/xDcsEQKJ1P— Shine Your Eye 🇿🇼🇲🇾🇨🇦 (@Kofi_SiribosBae) August 16, 2019
The Burna Bank ATM is directly related to the cause, with a manifesto above the ATM reading, “institutions and governments have historically used money and power to oppress, buy, and sell entire nations. [The ATM’s] placement right here in NYC is a representation of the strength and magnitude of the African Diaspora. Together, they will continue to embody joy and opulence — through music, truth-telling and art by any means necessary.”
Lifestyle reached out to Burna Boy for comment, but he is unavailable as he is currently on the African Giant tour which kicked off earlier this month.
Similarly to Burna, Cardi B recently made headlines by using her platform to promote social change. This seems to be a trend amongst musical artists and it certainly has the potential to propel the collective movement for equity amongst marginalized groups.
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