When do we stop describing an artist as "emerging"? When he or she releases a well-received debut album, perhaps, but I think we also use the tag to hedge our bets, just in case the artist ends up disappointing everyone.
21-year-old Nigerian artist Burna Boy is often described as emerging, but it was obvious from his first mixtape Burn Notice (April 2011) that no bets needed hedging with this guy. It wasn't so much that he was fully formed, but rather that he already sounded so comfortable on the mic, and his dancehall-style delivery so natural. The same applied to the next mixtape, Burn Identity, released a few months later. Dancehall, Afrobeat, R 'n' B, Hip hop, he rolls it all together and it comes out sounding like he's had years of preparation.
The playtime-is-over singles Abeg Abeg Abeg and last year's Like to Party were steps up from the material on his mixtapes (not huge steps - I don't wanna overstate the case - but that's more a reflection of the quality of some of the tracks on his mixtapes than a comment on either of the two singles), but his most recent single, Tonight, represents a leap of a different order. He's never sounded so comfortable as he does on this single, as he casually blends lyrics in English, pidgin English, Yoruba and Igbo over a smooth house influenced beat by producer LeriQ, as though signalling that it's safe to drop the "emerging" tag. Incidentally, see if you recognise some of the Nigerian artists who make cameo appearances in the video (check this article's tags for the answers).
Download "Tonight" for free from Soundcloud, from Burna Boy's Reverbnation page, or from his Band profile page on Facebook (where you'll find his other singles).
Abeg Abeg Abeg, Like to Party and Tonight will feature on Burna Boy's debut album, L.I.F.E. (Leaving an Impact for Eternity), which was expected in the last quarter of 2012, but we don't mind waiting a little longer if he's got a few more as good as Tonight in the bag.