INTERVIEW – MC KAH

mckah
MC KAH is an influential Kenyan rapper. You can find his music on youtube and his website McKah.com
Interview conducted by Monaja; questions by Kevlexicon.


Share some of your mistari and talk about where they came from, what they talk about, what inspired u to write them.

Lion Lioness… Mfalme malkia wa Afrika tunarudi zion bila mipaka (sung), chant: shuhudia shuhudia
Lion Lioness… Mfalme malkia wa Afrika tunarudi zion bila mipaka (sung) chant: shuhudia shuhudia
Afrika without borders!
*Shuhudia off the Subira album
Translation
Lion Lioness King and Queen of Africa we are going back to zion without borders , Chant: witness! witness…
Lion Lioness King and Queen of Africa we are going back to zion without borders
Chant: witness! Witness!
What were you thinking about this when you wrote it…
When you look at Africa and the way black people live, all around the world their self-esteem is really low (self-esteem yao iko low sana) this is because they are not informed of their real identity… wako na crisis (they have a crisis)… wengine wanataka kuwa walami wengine wanataka… yaani hawako proud of kile kitu wako
Some of them want to be whites while others… in other words they are just not proud of what they are.. So unapataga always waafrika wanainamisha kichwa hawaezi kuface yaani rial… yaani hawaeziconfront mambo directly unaskia wamenda enda hivi because hawana confidence na hawajibelieve unajua…hawaajiamini kabisa
So what you get is… always Africans walk with their heads low; they can’t face reality.. they can’t confront things directly… they end up losing their way all because they don’t believe in themselves, they don’t believe in themselves at all.
Lavosti sings: Ayeya iya iya e-o yae! *6 … Kah raps: Ayo Rafiki wa Kweli nakudhamini…. Kutoka dandora hii ni ya rafiki wa kweli ka we ni mtiaji kula kona

Lavosti sings: Rafiki wa Kweli ni wa faraja na dhiki.. tushereke pamoja raha za maisha… Rafiki wa kweli ni wa faraja na dhiki yeeeH! Tupange pamoja kazi za maisha
Mc Kah raps: Tuko pamoja tuko pamoja tuko pamoja katika hii raha katika shida ayo tuko pamoja si unajua tuko pamoja tuko pamoja yeh…. Uhuh…


What were you thinking about… what inspired you to write that

At that time… there were people who had come to my life… some were real some were fake (wengine real wengine fake) sasa kwa wale real ilikuwaga poa sana kuwarecognize na kwa wale fake kuwakumbusha importance ya friendship na at the same time ni hiyo vybe tu because ka culture husemaga it is better to have a friend than to need one. so basically ka ukona mabeshte inafaa unappreciate… so ni ka kugive thanks also…
For those who were real, it was nice to recognize the real ones and for the fake ones I was trying to remind them the importance of friendship. Culture says “ It is better to have a friend than to need one… Basically if you have a friend you should appreciate him/her; it’s like giving thanks.

Where are you from, What was it like growing up?

I grew up in dandora… there are many challenges here.. there are so many people we know who are in jail maboy wetu…wegine ni madrugaddict wengine wamemadwa na makarau na wengine na wagondi wenzao na wengine crossfire… unajua so basically tunelose watu wengi… na pia mashorty wengine wakajipata K-street unajua, watu tuligrow nao unajua… of course kuna pia wale wenye walimake it na wengine wakamake it na hawataki kuangalia back na kuna wengine walimake it na wanajaribu kugive back so basically kulikuwa na challenge mob na at the same time kulikuwa na inspiration because tulikuwa tunado what tunabelieve.. kulikuwa na energy flani, synergy flani katika wale watu tulegrow nao kwa kambi Mau Mau unajua… so kulikuwa na ile inspiration yaani… kuna vile movement ilikuwa stronger na hata ukiangalia in terms of music,ah… music ilikuwa commercial… kulikuwa na commercial music but haikuwa hii level iko saa hizi… saa iko too much… so commercial unajua..so kulikuwa na inspiration mob kutoka places tofauti… na pia ilikuwa challenge juu ulikuwa unado kitu watu hawakuwa wamefanya..sasa ilikuwa ni kama mnapioneer kitu… but I think past inakumake haikuwangi burden inakumake who you are… hufai kuwa ashamed na kule umetoka that’s why unaskianga sii huwa proud…Dandara unajua…

Some of our friends are in jail others have been killed by the police, other by policemen and others by their fellow thieves. Others too have been killed by stray bullets. We’ve lost many people. Some shorties find themselves in K-street( Nairobi’s red light district) and these are people we’ve grown up with, you know. Of course there are those who made it and didn’t want to look back while those who made it and tried to give back..There were many challenges and inspirations. Inspirations because we were doing what we believed in… there was an energy a synergy with the people who we grew up with…and those of kambi (Mau Mau). So there was that inspiration and it is like the movement was stronger and when you look as the music some of it was commercial but not like it is nowadays. Nowadays the music has become too commercial you know. There was a lot of inspiration from different places and it was a challenge because we were doing things that people had not done before. It’s like we were pioneering something. I think the past makes one… the past is not a burden it makes you who you are. You shouldn’t be ashames of where you’re from; that’s why you guys hear we are proud. DANDARA! You know…


What kind of hustles were people involved in?

Crime
Prostitution
Selling drugs
Businesses and what not


What does hip hop mean to you, What made you get involved in Hip Hop?

Hip hop kwangu ni means ya expression… It is a means of expression. Some people get teachings from it while others feel like it mirrors their way of life and question what reality is to them.. but kwangu the most important thing ni kujiexpress na bado ndio source yangu ya livelihood lakini si unajua… so but hiyo siezi kakwambia kama niko na dough ama sina juu ntaifanya… kwa sababu nitaalways ifanya whether niko na dough ama sina.. (To me the most important thing is expressing myself but hip hop is also my source of livelihood you know…) Although I can’t tell you that I’ll only do Hip Hop as long as it pays me… No… I’ll always do hip hop whether it pays me or not.

What pulled you to hip Hop?

Tuseme Kuongea kitu ile inakuhusu. Juu music watu huqoutigi mapoetry, mabooks mavitu mob kuwa wakiandika mamusic na kitu kama hiyo. Lakini ukiandika for me nikiandika lyrics za hiphop naandikanga ile kitu inanihusu ama kitu inahusu watu wenye wako close kwangu..so sijaribingi kuexaggerate reality yangu… inanipatia chance ya kuwa real na pia kumeet pia watu wako real na hiyo kitu yenye wanado na watu wenye wanabelieve kunaezakuwa na change watu wamekuwa conformed na wanafuata tu njia moja yaani. Najua kila mtu ni individual na ni poa …

I’d say it is talking about what concerns me… people quote poetry and books

What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?

“Mshamba” I think Mshamba is someone from the countryside (ushago), someone who is not an urbanite and is not informed. Mtu hajachanuka… pia mtu kimbelmbele (someone who is not “current” or also someone who is a busybody/ is overassertive)
Kazi ni all that you do to make a difference in this life…

“Vijana”… Kijana (singular).. someone who is you and is energetic, someone who is self-motivated and open minded and stuff like that.
So even an old man could be a Kijana?

Those are just words; I didn’t create Kiswahili. When someone gives me such a word (Kijana) I give him my perspective. However unaezapata age tu ni a number and those are categories that people are put in… you’re a Kijana you’re a mzee… and in the end it inakulimit by the time unafanya kitu unajiona we ni mzee sana ama we ni kijana sana instead of seeing that you’re inspired to do something … Those are just categories to guide people… it’s just language… maybe in the future “Kijana” will mean something totally different.. Ni words tu (they are just words)


What is ‘politicking’?

Inadepend na mwenye unauliza…juu mtu akiuliza me hufanya music gani anasema we ni political na me naona tu ni rial… unajua juu ukiuliza huo mtu atakuambia chochote inatry kuinfluence change kwa life za watu hiyo ni politics… Kulingana na angle ya mtu mwenye unauliza.. Juu kama me nakuja kukwambia vile umevaa ni mbaya na nini na wewe unastand yako so itakuwa hiyo conversation inaeza tu kuwa political… Juu kuna debate flani … kuna mambo flani inaendelea.

It depends on who you are asking because there some people who say I’m political because I do certain music while I see my music as reality. You see if you ask such a person he’d say anything that tries to influence change in society, in peoples’
lives is political. It depends on who you are asking. I could for instance say
“you’re dressed badly” you may have your own stand.. so that conversational could turn political because there will be a debate and there some things that would be going on.


What is ‘mental slavery’?

Ni mahali unaona hii ni kijiko na unaiita spedi ..unajua. Unakataa kuface ukweli juu utalose kitu ama ulikuwa umestand for uongo for so long so unafeel guilty na hiyo ukweli unajua… kukosa kufuata intuition yako.. hiyo ndio mental slavery yako
whereby you see this is a spoon and you call it a spade… you know. You forget to face reality because you’ll lose something or you had stood for lies for so long so you feel guilty of the little truth you know. Failing to follow your intuition that is what your “mental slavery” is…

Can you say anything about the youth drug problems in Kenya?

Of course, like watu wengi wanablamigi victims… for example wakikupata uko kwa madre na nini wanakublame wewe… lakini in the real sense ni responsibility ya huo mtu na plus society as a whole.. so basically haifai kuwa one-sided ukiangalia hiyo mambo but basically kuna watu wanabenefit kwa hizo drugs so wanazisell…kuna watu wanatafuta escapism kuna watu wako under pressure… peer pressure so kuna circumstances nyingi sana zinainfluence hii but the biggest influence inakamigi saa zile hizo vitu viko available na whoever makes them available ni somebody… akona distribution network.. mtu ako within a system unajua si ati tu ni mtu tu hivi hivi… kwa hivyo ka ingekuwa upto mtu wa kawaida drugs nyingi hazingfikia mayouth ama watu wote as a whole.. so basically na blame pia watu wenye wanazimake na watu wenye wana..

first of all hazifai kufikia watu na zikifikia watu wanafaa kuwa na mindset open kuandastand nini inawadhuru lakini zikipata watu ka wako kwa poverty ama depression… basically watazitumia… ni kama problem hucreatiwa alafu temporary solution inawekwa so watu wanaanguka tu hapo…basically ni responsibility ya individual na society na lazima society iangalie mtu yuko madre ka moja wao na pia huyo mtu ajiangalie kama mtu ajiangalie kama mtu… lazima aaccept problem… amabyo si easy once ushaingia ndani

Of course many people blame the victims for example if they find you doing drugs (madre) they blame you as an individual. In the real sense however, it is the responsibility of you as an individual plus the society as a whole. Therefore, the assessment should not be one-sided when you look at that. There are people who will benefit from those drugs so they will sell them. There are other people who get it into those drugs because of escapism while there are people under pressure who get into it because of peer pressure.. there are many circumstances that influence people to get into drugs but I think the biggest influence is the availability of the drugs.. there is clearly someone behind that. This person has a distribution network; there is a system that he operates under – he is not just your ordinary guy. So if it was upto the ordinary person, we wouldn’t have a big drug problem.

I basically blame the people who make the drugs, they shouldn’t get to the people in the first place. When they do reach the people however, people should have an open mindset to understand the drugs problem because they affect people who are poor or people in depression. Blaming the individuals it not the way to go.. that would only bring about temporary solutions and the individuals involved would relapse. It is the responsibility of the individual and society; society should look at a drug addict as one of their own and as a human being. The individual concerned should also look at himself as a human being and accept his mistakes.. it is not easy to get out of drugs once you get into them


Who/What is promoting violence, who/what has lessened violence?

Ever since the beginning of time wanasemaga kumekuwa na violence but probably tunaezaicontrol to a certain level… that’s a fact unajua… First of all watu wapewe haki yao… hiyo ni one thing second of all, watu waache kuishi society yenye kila mtu anatry kucompete na hakuna mtu anacontribute for a better world juu kila mtu anacompete… me nikianza kitu mtu mwingine badala afikirie tunaezaifanya pamoja watu wanafikiria ntakuwa mbele ama nyuma hiyo ni times hierarchy na classism hizo ndio zinapromote hiyo….na divide and rule… but as long as watu wakona basic needs which ni food shelter clothing na information ambayo information ye hulengwa hiyo ni kumaanisha kutakuwa na war… war ya kimaneno na war physical na frustration ndio zinaleta war na violence….

Na Watu wako unstable unajua… mentally unstable… unaezakuwa uko financially stable but mentally una… soul wise huko stable… so basically uko at war with yourself…so ka niko at war with myself ni rahisi sana nikutaftie makosa… rahisi sana… lakini kama niko at peace ni hard sana nianze war na wewe.. ntaona ukikam na najua vile ntadodge hiyo war na hiyo violence…

Na kina nani wanasababisha hiyo violence?…Huwezisema ni a certain group because inategemea na circumstance na time… because mtu akikuja kukuattack kuna possibility ya kuduck ama ya kufight back… ukifight back hiyo bado ni violence… na ukirun away bado hiyo ni violence juu Yule jamaa atakuwa stronger so inategemea na at that time na at akuwa stronger so inategemea na at that time na at that position… ule mtu mwenye anacause war tu ni anybody anacause war tu ni anybody anaezacause war as long as ako stable mentally na akona stake ya kudefend… unajua so anybody yuko capable kucause violence…

Ever since the beginning of time people have said there has been violence but probably it can be controlled to a certain level. That’s a fact you know… First of all give people their rights.. second of all people should stop living in a society where everyone is competing with the next man and no one is trying to contribute to a better world because of the competitiveness. When I begin something instead of another thinking how we can work together, he/she thinks that he will be left behind and I’ll be in the lead. Classizm and a hierarchical society is what promotes violence. Divide and rule also causes the same… Unless people have their basic needs met – food, clothing, shelter and information (people forget information is important) there will be war.. a verbal war, a physical war leading to frustration then violence.

People who are unstable.. you could be financially unstable but mentally unstable.. soul wise you could be unstable.. basically you could be at war with yourself.. and if I’m at war with myself it is very easy for me to look for reasons to beef with you.. very easy… but if I am at peace with myself it is very hard for me to pick a fight with you… I’ll see you come and I’ll avoid any violence…

Who causes the violence.. You can’t say it is a certain group because it depends on the circumstance and on the time.. if someone tries to attack you there is a possibility of your ducking or fighting back.. if you fight back that is still violence and even if you run away it still will be violence because the one you have run away from will become stronger.. so I guess it depends on the time and position… Anyone can cause a war as long as their mentally stable and they have a stake to defend..anyone is capable of causing violence.

How are hiphop artists making money from their music today?

Many hip hop artistes don’t depend on hip hop… wengine hawaifanyi juu ya dough… they do other jobs and then once they get money from these jobs they record…they don’t make money from Hip hop … But those who are making a little bit more money are the ones who are doing more shows.

How do politics and your own personal values impact your work?

Hip Hop is a way of life it’s not only the graffiti the breakdance and what not… it is a way of life.. one of the principles of hip hop is being real…Natraingi kuwa real kwa chochote me hudo… naavoidingi hypocrisy…I try to be real in everything I do and I avoid hypocrisy.. that is too meanyou try to keep your mind pure.. the way you’re thinking… anything you’re do..you put your whole heart into it… because hiyo ndio core ya what you are… (That the core of…)

Of course politics has impacted my music… when you do music you look within and nje (outside) pia… It’S upto you to deliver what you want to deliver once you have engaged with others plus.. your own values are also key…

Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, dancers, graffiti artists, activists, hustlas, etc. ?

The people who I have seen are really active are the poets and graffiti… Breakdancers and deeejays have increased in number … what has gone down is the “concept” part of it because right now people have forgotten to keep it real… they want fast money and they also try to define what they are doing too muchinstead of just doing it.. Hip hop itself is not a sacred concept… It’s just a package… probably the first guy who did hip hop didn’t call it hip hop maybe he called it something else
.. he was just keeping it real.. Somehow it got called hip hop sometime.. I think there are many people doing their thing these days


Name your favorite musical artists, who are you listening to sasa ?

I haven’t been listening to hip hop lately… been listening to reggae .. and soul..
I have been listening to High wayne, Tarus riley, Culture, Queen Afrique and other people who are not even known… I can’t say I have there is one artiste who is better than the rest as what one gives another can give and vice-versa… there are certain qualities… someone can just pick a nyatiti (Luo instrument- has 8 strings) or a drum and you’d like what he does when he plays it… I think it is the same system I had warned you about that puts people in unnecessary competition and makes them lose focus… juu ka sasa (now) some will think they are good because they are on radio, because they are on Tv or because many people have cheered them… The moment you believe the hype that is when you go down because everyone is good in his own right.. there is someone who can give you one line and he has never rapped in his own life and it influences you…another rapper would come with so many raps and you wouldn’t like them yet he is the so-called ‘best’


What are some obstacles you have encountered during your involvement in the hip hop scene(s)?

Space to record your music to distribute and to perform it and to practice..
A lot of people have given up on me in my life and that is negative energy… you may suck it in… as you go on you leave people behind while others are ahead of you…while others have lost direction though they are trying to get back up… but the struggle becomes more intense especially when “good music” is defined by the media… there is an influence there because people feel challenged ..from their family friends and what not… I think the real challenge is keeping to yourself and understanding where you stand in that struggle and being comfortable with yourself


Why do you think there aren’t as many femcees?

Hip Hop is not that much different from all that is in the world.. If you look at this world, it is a world that has been made by a misogynistic system… hii world ni ant-madame… so basically.. if you look to politics.. banking … men dominate… so hip hop is no different.. it is not because it is a law of Hip Hop that women shouldn’t be involved no… a lot ought to be done in this world for there to be some sort of equality.. Juu inaanzia chuo inaanzia religion.. (it begins in school, our religions). As well as other institutions… we should begin asking questions… why aren’t there many women in politics, hip hop? People will then know it is not a hip hop thing but a world thing…ya


How have women contributed to hip hop in East Africa?

I think it is a challenge for them to do hip hop that is male-dominated… I think they have dared to do something that other girls are afraid to do or have chosen not to do. I big them up all the time … because in this world we are living in for people to go against the system and dare to go against the system and try to be themselves in whatever they do, they deserve a pat on the back because it is not easy being a part of the minority…

What can you say about the Mau Mau kambi, are there any similar community hip hop projects helping young people today?

They are many… in any ghetto of the world there is a suchlike movement.. they are countless… They are everywhere…
Kalahari camp for instance
There are many individuals too and others who are there and are not know because they are not in the limelight….


What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping vijana in East Africa leo?

People who do hip hop benefit as individuals.. there is a reason.. whether socially or kidoughwise.. when you look at the contemporary music industry in Kenya hip hop formed a foundation …whether kapuka lingala or what not… the industry was basically dead before Kapuka… even Gospel… look at what Juliani has done… if you look closely you’ll see that many are involved in community work … kusaidia mtaa directly (helping the hood directly)….it has changed people’s attitudes… and they are encouraging each other.. if you have encouraged someone who was giving up you have given him hope and hope is important…I guess hip hop artistes have been giving other people hope especially for vijanaa,,,

Could you describe some positive things you have seen hip hop communities do? Whether it is artists sharing resources, a place to stay, getting linked with work
etc.

look above..


What hustles are you working on now? is there such a thing as hip hop jobs? ama only hustling? (Talk about any of your projects, musical or otherwise)

Hip hop pays my bills and I know it also pays other people’s bills. I live off it…

The projects that I have established came from the money I made….I’m confident when saying that I live off hip hop… Your expectation might be different… I mean, if I wanted a private Jet right now… I wouldn’t get it …but talking about rent, whether I can move about help other people I think Hip hop pays my bills…

What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)

Self-esteem… they have complexes (inferiority or superiority)
They are also unstable mentally irrespective of where they come from…
Generation gap/generation ‘’war’’…. The older generation does not understand us because their time is different from what we are going through
Miseducation/Misinformation
Exposure also

How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly in East Afrika?

Some of them come to the hood… some of them like my songs and hook up with me once I play them… some of them keep in touch via email.. phone… others send me beats, call me for shows… others try to get other artistes through me..


What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?

People are thinking beyond my their small territories..some of the young people look at themselves as youth and they interact and get skills regardless of where they come from… with the internet.. people have sought info and from this info they have got the energy to think outside the box… they are trying to keep up with the times. It’s hard however to talk about the goodness of this generation and the next one … every generation has its own challenges… but for me I’m inspired by the way the youth are dynamic.. and are current/they catch up with global issues they travel and what not…

How can people learn more about your work, music, performances and projects you are involved in?

Get to the site www.mckah.com

please give a brief bio of uaself.

I was born in Laari …. been living in Dandora since I was 4 years.. went dandora primary, eastleigh high school… when I was in form 4 (O levels) I began MAONO (acronym for Miradi Anzisha Onyesha Njia OKoa – projects Begin show the way and save) project.. I was in the rap group Warogi wawili with Brayo… ever since I’ve been solo but I have done songs with other artistes not only with Mau Mau but also other artistes

Asante sana,

Monaja & Kevlexicon

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