Sniper SP is a producer at G’Ganji Records in Rongai. He is one of the most hardworking and prolific hip hop producers in Kenya. You can find his work on reverbnation and youtube. You can follow him on twitter and check out his facebook group.
Shupav – Judge & Washamba Wenza (prod. by Sniper SP)
Share some of your mistari and talk about where they came from, what they talk about, what inspired u to write them.
Ni nazidi kupanda ladder/
Hakuna kulala ni bidii nasaka mkwanja na/
Veins ndio mimi nitakaza/
Mpaka siku ntakufa mi ntazidi ku fight harder/
They are from a song I wrote like a year ago talking about how I will keep on struggling and never will I give up until I achieve my dreams. Hoping anyone listen to it will it gather the same faith and therefore making it an inspirational song.
Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
I was brought up in Eastliegh but I have spent most of my music works in O’Rongai. I spent my tender age in the ghetto, struggling to survive because I didn’t grow up in a rich family. I remember being sent away from school many times because of lack of school fees. I even remember living in a church when I was 9 years. And at most times I have survived with one meal I day. I had to work as a computer tutor to buy a computer with this specs; p3 processor 400mhz harddisk 10gb ram 128mb – to start this studio I have [G Ganji Records] you can tell i went through by just looking into my eyes.
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
Like at a time I was selling calling cards for ‘Orange Network’ in the streets and getting 10 shillings after selling 10 cards. People sell secondhand-secondhand clothes in the streets. We used to collect used plastics and metal and sell.
What does hip hop mean to you, What made you get involved in Hip Hop?
Hiphop is creative art. It is the platform where artists express their creative minds. Like for instance graffiti, djying, breakdancing or rap. The life I was raised made me stand up and use my talents in all means to fight for change and I already feel that’s part of Hiphop. Why should I join rnb or dancehall and brother is crying in Hiphop.
What do the words ‘kazi’, ‘vijana’ and ‘mshamba’ mean to you?
Vijana are the youths of mature age capable of being employed. Kazi is struggle the vijana put to generate income. It may be generated in different ways with the different capacity and ability. Mashamba on the other hand is what people call those who have grown in the rural regions and have embraced the rural way of life as compared to the urban one.
What is ‘politicking’?
This is involving work with the impunity politics brings it. It can also mean the way people analyze the game politicians play in the media of governance.
What is ‘mental slavery’?
It’s whereby you are not free.
I think this means being unreasonably rigid with some facts in the mind. It is fixing the mind to a given fact and the inability to alter that fact on different grounds
Can you say anything about the youth drug problems in Kenya?
Drug abuse among the youth is not only a predicament in Kenya but also all over the world. They usually introduce themselves. They reduce their life span, exposing themselves to potential risks that may even [cost] them their lives. If only these youths could find a way they can participate in community development, such abuses could not be heard as [vigorously] as it is being heard these days.
Who/What is promoting violence, who/what has lessened violence?
Incitement and tribalism is what I truly believe are the main causes of violence in Kenya. It is a pity to hear a friend you have grown with for a long time, involve himself with such an act. Politics is what I fear brings about the incitement and tribalism. You will find a group of two, three or more gathered together criticizing the Kenyan politics instead of [thinking] about the opportunities they have in investments. The youths have gathered together to counter the misery. Events  being the instrument, they have been campaigning for peace around the country, preaching to the others, mostly their fellow youth to maintain peace and become conscious of the choices they make.
How are hiphop artists making money from their music today?
Hip hop artists in Kenya dedicate themselves in producing their music and I find it true that they put the same in their hustle. Intellectual property has protected they creative skills and it is from there that they sell their creativity. This is just but one way; they (artists) may be called to perform or manage events or advertisement in the corporate world.
How do politics and your own personal values impact your work?
Politics involves the government and the government as the legislators, protects the copyright. I still don’t feel satisfaction on how our leaders protect and enforce the copyright. Corruption is mainly the cause of the prejudice, and it will be difficult for our music industry to develop with such practice still in force.
I always work with my instincts. The best always comes from heart and I believe appreciation will lead as consequence. Doubting yourself is the [worst] thing that can happen to you. People should know you as you are and that is from where success begins.
Besides rappers, who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, dancers, graffiti artists, activists, hustlas, etc. ?
Hip hop is bigger than what most people see it to be. Beadwork [Shambalas] is another way of promoting hip hop through the diverse artistic work. We also see painters, poets and even initiatives contributing a lot to Hiphop.
Name your favorite musical artists, who are you listening to sasa?
Charon Don, The Late Guru, Immortal Technique, Tech N9ne, Khaligraph, Ace tha Don, Washamba Wenza, Nas, 2pac…
What are some obstacles you have encountered during your involvement in the hip hop scene(s)?
People don’t just raise steeply at a go. You will have to start with believing yourself but on the way, from what I have experienced, you will encounter enmity as one of the obstacles caused from today’s competitive market. Most artists are from slums and ghettos making them poor of which paying studio times becomes impossible at times. And even the price rates of recording/ studio times becomes too low to suite most artistes.
Why do you think there aren’t as many femcees?
To success, people have to struggle and most of the femcees consider it difficult in promoting their music, thereby losing their interest in music. There is also the mentality that men always dominate in the industry. I believe that women are as capable as men and therefore can produce good music.
[Check out Shikow na Samantha’s “Good Times” music video, produced by Sniper SP]
How have women contributed to hip hop in East Africa?
The number of female artists in East Africa is few as compared to men, and having women in the industry encourages others to involve themselves. You find that women need to express themselves too so when they are given a change, Hiphop becomes stronger.
What can you say about the Mau Mau kambi, are there any similar community hip hop projects helping young people today?
Yeah like St. Mikes, Kalahari Jeshi, YGB and am even started mine called ‘Kambi Kuu’ whereby artists come together and share ideas and socialize.
What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping vijana in East Africa leo?
Most of the organizations are campaigning for peace as they involve them in community activities. I appreciate the effort they put in educating the youths on the developing world and promoting their talents like in sports. These organizations also have supported and sponsored local events that have invited artists to perform and demonstrate their skills.
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.
there are many artists I know that play and manage football teams that interact with teams from other regions. Not only will you hear peace as the theme from their friendly meeting, but also from other events where they are called to perform. I have witnessed hip hop artists involving themselves in charity work, cleaning garbage in slums, feeding the less privilege and also leading in blood donation.
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)
I organized a couple of events in clubs and halls here in Nairobi, and planning more, it’s just at times it’s hard to raise the money, and again it’s hard to get sponsors with the name HIPHOP. I cant say there aren’t jobs in hiphop, because of course we see people selling street wear clothlines, shambalas, mixtapes and albums, but its not that easy. Its still hustling because you find that you are selling to a brother who is also from the same background/ poor.
What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)
Unemployment is what I consider the main obstacle in Kenya. Most of the youths [have] potential but have no channel to express their skills. Mismanagement in many instances has caused loss of jobs and opportunities in many institutions and organizations involving the young people. Committing themselves in crime is the worst activity as heavy criminal penal penalty or also costing them lives, lead as consequence.
How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly in East Afrika?
Technology and the social world are growing and reaching the very local sectors. These have been the main channels for connection and interactions apart from posting songs and profiles in the internet. Events have also led artists to meet and interact, having a chance to exchange ideas and associate in constructing an ideal collaboration/invention.
What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
Struggle that bears success is the greatest thing that can happen to anyone. Involvement in peace campaigns and nurturing the young talents has upheld the intelligence and capability of the young people in Kenya.
How can people learn more about your work, music, performances and projects you are involved in?
I have a link in most of the social media, i.e. facebook & twitter, from where I post my activities and works I have both completed and are about to be released. i rarely miss hip hop events happening around the region where I meet greater and potential artists.
UPDATE: 29 August, 2013: New Video from BlackGzas, “Hata Kama” ft. Dr Jahson & King Dito
UPDATE: 31 March, 2013: Check out some of the community work Black Gzas and Warriors From the East are doing in Tanzania at Warriors One Love Community Centre.
[Kevlexicon made typographical edits]
• Kevin Teryek Kusini
i would like to send u some interview questions if thats cool,
give people a sense of what life and hiphop is like in kenya
dadi is my nick name which symbolises the street code name of dandora
in short we call it di n blackgzas is a reflection of the savior of
the world.. Though now i relate it to hip hop n the society where i came
from or every ghetto..
o The place i come is called a ghetto aka dandora… Filled with
drugs, prostitution.. Crime, robberies, murders.. But most of things
happen for a reason. 1 is lack of proper livin condition..
2 is a place also known as the Hiphop city… It’s the place which
pioneered the music industry in kenya.. •
Kevin Teryek Kusini
o yeh man, asante for takin the time. If I could suggest, tafadhali,
give some details…maybe try to paint images of people and
life in the mind’s eye, like when you rap. sawaz, bro, good stuff,
tho, thank you.
o Okay let me try.. Though im gud at narratin n not with writtin…
Life Mine Is a very long story but I’ll try to b very brief, was born in
a hospital knwn as pumwani maternity n luckily cos this is one of the
best government hospital n its not 4 he rich but 4 the middle class you
know what i mean but whereby the society i come from majority could not
even afford it at that tym. N it’s in the midle of different estate or
ghettos around nairobi @eastleigh, pumwani also knwn as majengo, california,
biafra n ziwani sorounding the hospital. Located near the city.
N at that tym my parents were both stayin in dandora the hip hop
city.. N my father was raised mostly in the city the place called
ziwani thats where their father was coz he has 2 sis n 2 bros. N my mother
im not sure about her but i know her mother was livin n the majengo area
n i forgot starehe but also is the constituency which carries all the
mentioned ghettos surroundin pumwani maternity..
N growin up at about
5yrs my parents broke up reason thought of religion. my dad family
christian n my mum muslim n from there a new journey began.. My dad
didn’t hav money or a good job he got employed at the kenya cooperative
creameries k..c.c bcos of his talent in football so that he could play
4 the company’s football team…
Kevin Teryek Kusini
o sawa bro, thanks. Yeh mon, this is good..
o One day it was night n I was in taon n it was a day that richie spice
had come to nairobi for a concert n dude as you knpw the reggae vibe in
kenya n it was around 10pm n there i was waitin for matatu to go home
since I wasnt goin to concert n there came these guys wantin to rob from
me n you knw what they told me that I’m lucky since they reached near me
n saw that i had rasta they told me that they’re hustlin n they didn’t
hav money to go for the concert so they want to rob n i gave them
inspiration tho i dont know if they went ahead to do what they think is
But thats 1 way that music has changed my life n changed others
who listen to our music ukooflani maumau.. Most youths are caught up
in the struggle an end up doin those kind of tingz.
Kevin Teryek Kusini
o sawa bro
17 hours ago
o Life as an artist is hard you know, its a struggle cos there are many
obstacles n i guess its not just music but iv learned everythin in life
although we all dont go thru the same path.. Sam get it soft sam get it
ruff.. But to my side God is great i haven’t really reached that place
but am strivin on, movin on, i dont knw how long but am playin my
part.. Right now am with the warriors in Tanzania n we r launchin a
joint project we hav done together fusion of hip hop reggae n dance
hall.. Album called voice of the ghetto yu can check it on the
http://www.eastafricantunes.com n we launchin it this fri 12th then hopefully
God willin, in the end month we should b in Ethiopia we hav been invited
by the crown prince himself grandson to his majesty
9 hours ago
o Ukoofani maumau has really been my n many’s mentor up to now I’ve
learned a lot in the music industry n life it self n am still learnin.
But there are still obstacles at the moment we need at least 2 or 3
videos to promote the album.. N you know the price of video shootin here
Kevin Teryek Kusini
if you wanna talk about your experience, what you know
about how the youths are living so that they have to do that and what
rastafaris have done to build positive relationship with youths. That
could really turn into something if you say more.
2 hours ago
Yeah… so wen we started we formed a group calld Moshikali n
it consisted of me Gas n Zakah now in Wenyeji n the name came from the
biggest dump site in Africa, based in dandora, n everyday you would wake
in the mornin and it was filled with this big cloud of smoke from the
burnin of garbage n we were also advocatin for this bcos it was a
health hazard to the locals n the surroundin ghettos..we did our 1st
single called “ushapotea” meanin “ur lost” n it received good airplay from
the local stations that was back in 2000 n there were only 2 fm
stations in kenya.
about an hour ago
o N it managed to get us small gigs n at that time rasta had a negative
image bcos reggae in kenya that time was a violent music people was not
listenin to the mess n so when put dread locks as the ukoofalni maumau
which was mostly inspired by the freedom fighters we [brought] another
picture n bcos we were doin positive mess in our music n the youths
started relatin with the vybe n so we changed the youths by showing
them who rasta is really. like is about consciousness n it took a while b4
people understood us. N so later on everybody in the group Moshikali
went solo after doin some different tracks together. N here we are
still the struggle continues.
Now everybody listens to reggae even in the uptown society which was not in some few years back.. N most of the youths hav changed especially from the ghettos by knowin that you can do what is best with ur talent… And from there music scene in kenya has become big in different categories but it all started from hip hop..
about an hour ago
o So personally i decided that i want to do live music with a band n
thats y am here in tanzania bcos in nairobi you knw live music is not
much heard especially with hiphop. with the wariors now we want to do an
east african tour but still we r trying to look for sponsors, then also
we can start lookin for festivals abroad maybe from next year.
a few seconds ago
Kevin Teryek Kusini
o great man, that bit about the origins of ‘moshikali’, the group w u
zaka and gas, and it was named after the burning garbage in mtaani,
really poetic and political stuff man, i love it. The part about the
misunderstood rastas is great too man, yeh, now we are on to something. Asante sana bro
9 hours ago
o Yeah how r you kev? Hope ur doin well.. Then personally it being a
long road when we as maumau did the album called “kilio cha haki” meanin
“a cry 4 justice” which was a project supported by the dutch people n it
feutured rha godess frm NYC, USA. it was a big breakthru n it also
featured other artist from eastlands. N was also initiated by yike
youth initiative kenya an n.g.o
the name ukooflani mau mau became big.. N from that project we got a computer and a good microphone 4 recordin n the supported by kwani we managed to set up our own studio, Andaki records which chizen brain was the producer n from that we did the “Dandora burning” album, but things dint go well bcos of poor managent n
from that tym it was a big lesson to me that as an artist bein in
a group can really samtym cost you if ur not careful
…n by this i mean that i personally was waitin for my
tym to come cos at that tym i was a solo artist but dint hav a clear
vision as a solo artist.. So i wasted or i did not see the
opportunities around me n men the name at that tym was a passport to
anywhere.. You know.
But i was just also in a difficult situation i didn’t hav a place to stay so sometyms i used to sleep at the studio with chizen brain n johhny of kalamashaka. we were all homeless me, my aunt who i was livin with had kicked me out of the house dint hav no job so even gettin food was a big problem.. N luckily or i dont know what to
call it, but i call it a blessin my girlfriend got pregnant n she didn’t
hav work she was livin with her friend so i was playin daddy’s role
with no home had try to provide for them until my son was born, still in
in the same situation.. So i was confused deeply lost my focus…. Men
i stop there cos we r rehearsing right now I think they r all waitin for
me … Badae i continue pamoja
2 seconds ago
Kevin Teryek Kusini
o wow, man. that’s intense. what did you find uaself doing day-to-day?
this is gud stuff, man. thank you… I
remember u said you used to do construction and work only to get
enough money to eat to keep you strong enough to keep working. Tell us
about that manzee, wowowow!
• Blackgzas Dadi
• Yeah i thought that music isnt payin n i was about to give up in search a way that i first go make some money then i do music. But it wasnt easy cos the construction work doesn’t pay i found out that i would do that for life cos it was like hand to mouth you get the pay today n spend the money the same day for food n could barely save then i thought of how hard we worked the whole day in the sun sometimes carryin sand to the fifth floor of a buildin in a sack on the shoulder n men when yu reach home yur tired n just sleep..
• I worked for lyk 6 months n didn’t hav any extra money besides payin the rent n meals. i almost at that tym got crazy n i asked my self did God create me to do this with my life n im not sayin that it’s bad to work as a construction worker but myself i thought of it as colonization, cos we worked buildin after that the beneficiary is the owner of the house in case you get sick or injured in the place of work nobody cares, no insurance cos its a day job n it’s not guaranteed that tomorrow you will get to work again they decide to stop, you cant do anythin… And that nothin was promised
• Blackgzas Dadi
• So i decided to stop. [I’d] rather struggle with makin my dream come true which up to now im on my way.. N i moved from kitengela n went to live in Kayole coz Kitengela is far from town Nairobi n the transport was very expensive n as you know, the music industry the studios are all in nairobi or a little far from the city n after that, that’s when we linked with Gas [Fyatu] to open the distribution shop Sauti Sahara [Voice of the Sahara]… I cant tell how we managed to pay the shop it was a mystery n hustle too but from being paid from the construction work 250 KSH we raised 80000ksh just for startin the shop. it was hope for many artists n was a big challenge. imagine how long i would hav worked at the construction to get that amount of money.. Miracles do really happen yeah… Unity is strength cos it was a light though it got harder that after, almost a year payin the rent of 15000ksh every month …
• in january i shuld b startin a new chapter.. N i came to Arusha cos i always wanted to play with a band n do live music… I had worked wth the warrior durin my last vists in tz n now we launched the voices of the ghetto album on fri in arusha it was a gud launch n this fri we will b in moshi.. N the strugge continue we aim tourin east africa first coz on the 2nd november we r invited in Ethiopia for the shammaball, thats the day when king Sellasie was crowned so the crown prince of ethiopie invited us you can listen to the Voices of the ghetto album on http://www.eastafricantunes.com n tell me what yu think.. We av fused hip hop n dance hall n reggae.. Incase yu need mo info let me knw… Tuko pa1 ukooflani maumau still strong being represented now all over the world you know Kama is in the states Roba of wenyeji is in france..etc so its a blessin. Peace
Kevin Teryek Kusini
• bless, bro. indeed, now you’re telling me good stuff for the youth to know, I feel. yeh man,