Back in the early ’00s, MTV Base had school kids rushing home to witness Black music’s new televised revolution. In awe, we watched a platinum-haired Sisqo backwards slow-mo somersault into a human pyramid on a beach, Missy Elliott spit in a dancer’s mouth and Toni Braxton’s revengeful melodrama unfold at a nightclub bathed in deep purples and indigo-blues. The choreography of the era was iconic, too. Indeed, the incredible scenes of Destiny’s Child’s Jumpin, Jumpin’ and Aaliyah’s More Than A Woman had to run so Cassie’s Long Way 2 Go and Normani’s Wild Side could soar.
In March, it was announced that MTV Base would stop airing by the end of the month. Although the channel’s golden age was a distant memory, I still felt a pang of sadness about the abrupt end of a once-elite Black music platform.
Then, just over a month later, during a daily doom-scroll, I landed on Burna Boy’s Instagram teaser for his new single, Last Last, sampling the unmistakable acoustic guitar riff of Toni Braxton’s MTV Base-era classic He Wasn’t Man Enough. Instantly, I was in my cousin’s living room again, watching Braxton sway in her sheer silver flapper dress, crooning: “Don’t you know I dumped your husband, girlfriend? I’m not thinking ’bout him” in her deep and dulcet tones (a proverb I simultaneously lived, breathed and had no business singing aged seven). Now here was Burna Boy bringing the song back from relative dormancy after 22 years.
Braxton allegedly received 60% of the royalties from Last Last according to Burna Boy. He later confessed he’d made more money from it than any of his other songs to date. The sample is prominent, but far from lazy. Instead, Burna flips it into his own deeply personal anthem – one that struck a major chord in the summer of 2022.
Life’s a bitch, and Last Last is a poignant but ultimately triumphant ode to that fact. In the song, Burna Boy flits from English to Yoruba, from pain and regret, to heartbreak, ill-fated love and even near-death experiences. Verse by verse, Burna Boy loses personal heroes, a potential soulmate (rumoured to be his ex, Stefflon Don) and – very nearly – his life. It’s enough to make you want to numb it all with some good old igbo and shayo.
The song’s bittersweet refrain – “E don cast, last last, na everybody go chop breakfast” – roughly translates from Nigerian Pidgin as: “The worst has happened. At the end of the day, at some point in time, everybody will get their hearts broken.” (“Breakfast is slang for breakups,” I’m told by my Nigerian polyglot friend. “So you’re either serving someone breakfast or receiving it – you’re either the heartbreaker or the victim.”)
Screamed from the top of lungs at wedding receptions and baby showers, Last Last also spread like wildfire through clubs, viral TikTok “Studio Challenges” and inspired a wave of dancehall remixes. Last Last was even dragged unceremoniously into the fray of intense social media discourse around the potential dominance of afropop over Caribbean music at Notting Hill Carnival. But on the ground, there was nothing but euphoria as Last Last blasted from Carnival’s massive sound systems.