On March 27, 2020, Grammy nominated Nigerian superstar, Burna Boy took to his Twitter to voice his frustration at being stuck in Nigeria, losing money and being bored from coronavirus-initiated self-isolation. Four days later on March 31, 2020, he took to his Twitter page and engaged a questions and answers session with fans on the social media platform.
Meanwhile, hours earlier, Twitter account, @antigravitylite took to her page and posted a conversation Aristokrat Records act, Ceeza Milli had at City FM. During the conversation, Ceeza Milli claimed he wrote 2018 smash hit, 'On The Low' for Burna Boy. After being asked if he had written for Burna Boy, he replied by singing the hook to 'On The Low.'
When the host then probed further, he nodded in the affirmative and said he wrote, "Most of it (the song)." When @antigravitylite posted the story, she wrote, "Wow just knowing Ceeza Milli wrote on the low for our African giant burna boy. Dude is good. I pray his music blows too."
Burna Boy then went to seek the story out and wrote in a since deleted tweet that, "I asked this spineless liar if he ever said this and he said, "No, I never said that." @ceezamilli, just pray corona virus catches you before I do cuz when you know what it is when I catch you."
After the tweet was deleted, Burna Boy tweeted and apologized for its tone. He wrote, "Your right bro. I overreacted there. But he definitely deserves a few Slaps for that tho, Regardless, my apologies to everyone for overreacting it wasn’t called for.'
This was after a Twitter user, @Oshoma quoted a screenshot of Burna Boy's threat to Ceeza Milli with, "God forbid anything happens to that boy. See verified evidence. How do you, in all ur wisdom and grandeur, issue a threat as this in broad day twitter? Common maan @burnaboy, u bigger than all of this. Really !"
In a series of messages, Ceeza Milli took to his Instagram stories and wrote the following about how he basically wrote the intro to the song during a writing camp.
After that, Piriye Isokrari, the CEO of Aristokrat Records to which Ceeza Milli is signed took to his Twitter page @peedipiccasso and wrote that, "To set the record straight @ar_records did not have any label execs present at the session that “On The Low” was written or recorded. While a gifted songwriter @ceezamilli was not engaged to write nor did he write “On The Low”.
Ceeza Milli and Burna Boy ties
Ceeza Milli and Burna Boy are bound by their ties to Aristokrat Records. Grammy nominated Burna Boy got his break after being signed to Aristokrat Records under which he released his first two albums before leaving to found his own label, Spaceship. Just yesterday, he still hailed Piriye Isokrari on Twitter.
He wrote, "If it wasn’t for @PeediPicasso (Aristokrat records) there would be no BURNA BOY. That sh*t is for life that’s why I got the Aristokrat records tattoo on my Left arm."
Heartbroken Burna Boy leaves Twitter
Burna Boy has since taken to his Twitter page to express his pain at how Nigerians never judge him fairly. In three tweets, Burna Boy wrote that, "If what Nigerian twitter said about me had any effect on me then I would be dead by now. There’s even a Yoruba saying that translates, “He who says the truth won’t even find a mat to sleep on”. Well I've proved that to be WRONG. You can’t take nothing from me.
"This is my last personal tweet ever. Imma just leave this app cuz apparently I’m too real for it. Everyone please use this COV-19 times to really find out what your true purpose in this world is, train your mind and body to the fullest, get closer to the most high n ur family.
"Find out who is truly for you and who is really your enemy. Let conscience and confidence lead you all as it has lead me all my Life. Peace and Love."
What does it all mean?
It's a complicated issue with a few moving parts; the first is how Burna Boy had a right to rant at Ceeza Milli and the second is how we need to stop shaming superstars for using songwriters to avoid bigger issues of underdevelopment of our industry and more situations like this one.
Burna Boy had a right to be angry and even livid
Burna Boy had a right to rant at Ceeza Milli, but threatening Ceeza Milli was excessive. Burna Boy needs too learn to control his emotions. He's a superstar now with a global brand. He can simply not allow these moments of madness to ruin his chances of being a better person and getting the bag.
However, with Piriye Isokrari now confirming that Ceeza Milli was lying, then Ceeza Milli deserves to be criticized for lying with his eyes open.
We need to remove the stigma from the use of songwriters by superstars
Burna Boy also got excessively angry because of the excessive stigma attached to the use of songwriters by superstars in this country. We need to stop it. Due to the systemic issues that make artists feel less for using songwriters, Burna Boy, who is naturally egocentric about his talent probably felt the need to protect his talent and not get touted as a fraud.
Thus, he had to act. While Burna Boy has an ego, that's not the issue here. The issue is what made Burna Boy so angry that someone lied about writing a hit song for him - possibly as a ghostwriter because Ceeza Milli never got credit for 'On The Low.' The issue is how Twitter NG would have dragged Burna Boy yesterday if it had turned out that Ceeza Milli actually wrote the song.
If Nigeria accepted the culture of third-party songwriting as commonplace, Burna Boy might not have been that angry that someone lied about writing a song for him.
The worst part is that Nigerians on social media would not have dragged Burna Boy for not giving Ceeza Milli credit, they would have dragged Burna Boy for using a songwriter. They would have called him names like 'fraud' for using a songwriter.
When news broke that Runtown wrote 'Aiye' for Davido, Twitter NG bandied up to vilify Davido for days. Some people still do it by claiming he has career because of Peruzzi. These issues have to stop. As a people, we need to take a step back and know what's important and what is not.
What is important?
The use of third-party songwriters who have no relation to the song is as pertinent to music as anything else. All the greats in music have used songwriters - except you're The Beatles that had John Lennon and Paul McCartney who are two of the greatest songwriters in history.
While speaking with Harrysong on this issue in February 2020, he criticized people who mock artists for using songwriters, "They need to upgrade their senses and realize that many were called, but few were chosen - you can't have all. I can sing, write, play instrument and perform, but it's a privilege that doesn't mean I'm way higher than the next person.
"When I started in church, I had music directors who could only write music, but can't perform it - yet, they were excellent at that writing. It doesn't mean they are incompetent or incomplete. He nor mean say dem be February.
"If someone writes a song for you, it means singing is your office and songwriting is that other person's office. That is why publishing deals are broken down - division of labour is necessary. If it's about ability, I should be Michael Jackson and R.Kelly should be bigger than Michael Jackson. It's by grace."
Speaking on the effects of this stupid vilification, he said, "It's not really holding Nigerian music back, it's just holding us back as a force to push together. I know a lot of young amazing writers who only need a platform. Sometimes, when they get a platform to write for others, they are sworn to secrecy. Sometimes, when we sign artists, we need to get them writers."
A Nigerian artist should be able to use songwriters and be able to admit that he used songwriters. Dr. Dre and Kanye West are two of the greatest acts ever, but they always used songwriters. 'Still Dre' was written by Jay Z and 'Jesus Walks' was written by Rhymefest. Rihanna's hits are written by Stargate, Ne-Yo, The Dream, Ester Dean, Sia, Calvin Harris, PartyNextDoor or whoever else.
There's a thing as using songwriters because it gets to a point where artists need help. As brilliant as Beyonce is, she uses songwriters. This stigma also holds Nigerian music back - a lot of Nigerian artists are dying a slow death in their careers because they don't want to feel lesser than they are for using songwriters. It's ingrained in their subconscious that only lesser acts use songwriters.
On the other hand, it shortens opportunities for good songwriters. People like The Dream, PartyNextDoor, Sia, Tove Lo, Lorde, Jessie J, Stargate, Rico Love, Ester Dean and so forth don't ever have to release music in their lives because they are getting paid millions from being songwriters.
Former Bad Boy act and savant rapper, King LOS has stopped releasing music because he now makes a living off writing songs for TV shows.
We need to stop and rethink our mentality as a people. It's time.