This is the Life (translation)
Translation provided by Smallz
also, check out the Skobo Fugee Collection, for more of Skobo’s music.
Vas 1, Smallz Mshamba Mwenza:
Me hukuona natoka Soo ndio mwaa nikukiss baby/pia nataka kukuona daily, iko on air kile umeseti / sikuskizi kama uko shady
Nikistand out weh umeketi / nikiblak out weh ni mlevi, ju unaown 16bars ..wanahop kukill verse instead ya kukip it live kwa chapter, na ukihook food 4 thought hii jeshi inaimanga vifaster
Always nikinyesha weh unameza hii flow, me ni smallz weh ndio HIPHOP, unafaa makofi ya Kilo, juu nimeshiba weh ndio mwiko sa nameditate thru hii product ya kiko..
Vile weh ni m’fat Jo na techniques za Puerto Rico, umefanyianga the people, wengine off stereo, hawa majaba chai, wanasmile na mimi ju imewadia ile time, switnes in its prime, addicted ka ghetto crime..
Umenifunza kutema maswala, kujiexpress vile mawaza, kubaki REAL kwa LEAGUE, Kikazi kutenga mafala
Pia nastick hapa nitek teachngs ka Lession, wameinsist kuwaplease kutek teachings kwa Lesso, hawakugusi leo ju unasound mKesho, the Future,the promises, the proccess of being, MUSIC itself. kama ni Hiphop niko safe, hizi zingine siskizi, speakers gon dizzy..the more unaget closer hapa the more naget feelings..
-[in refferance to HIPHOP,] evrytime i hear a hiphop sound, its time to rush n embrace it,.whatever it has to offer is on air, i aint gon listen if it’s shady,
– sum artists just want to ‘kill’ it in a verse instead of teaching, entertain..keep it live in that chapter..n also Hiphop is never lame,it got ’16 bars’evrytime even when am high..
HIPHOP does evrythng, i only meditate on what it brings onto the table..n i meditate on this product of the pipe..when i spit, Hiphop swallows my words thru the instrumental.
HIPHOP gives a FAT beat, comparing it to Fat Joe of Latino bakground.. Other artists go off it at times tho..the beat kills the artists’ works if they dont DELIVER.. Its now my time, switnes in its prime.. Hiphop got me addicted lyk GHETTO CRIME.
It gave me a perfect way of how to express my thoughts n feelings.. Now am able to remain, stay top and REAL,just like Real Madrid on their League ..and with my works, not to work with fools.
I promise to stick to Hiphop 4ever.. to take teachngs like in a class lession..other artists choose to take teachings from a ‘leso’, [swahili word for the clothng women wear with teachngs written at the bottom of it.]. So if its HIPHOP Then am safe, aint gving it up 4 other genres ..stickn to it’s promises for the future..
Translation provided by Judge BlackDuo and Lness
vas 2 – Flamez Mshamba Mwenza –
…..what i feel i will write wether is wrong or wright though not a sent i will cast the first rym on the mic. First flow no track cash flow no works less more chase more i acknowledge its a fact. I am giving you knowledge in dozes u can call me a doctor. I AM FEEDING MASSES with vases u can call me a padry. If there is a bad situation to be broke is a sin without a job its very dangerous. hastling is not fare. Stil camping with the boyz like the brazilian coach and this mascles are ready to full fil my jorney. my talent is a free gift thats why i dont pay douwary ..If its earning u are giving then you are dresing and feeding nations. I am not doing music coz of fame its the love in every instru ..after math is a birth worht words coz this vas has mo teaching than you can find in school MWEMBEEMBE sound like empty debez so lets make noise as we bowll is the focus
…the wispers of wind this are the voices in my mind guardian angle is with me i mean selasi nasi. it Genessis book of the bible and kuran words still runing teach one bless one is to earn..in the hood is acardemy where we learn. how to go through love is a must like a fog[blunt]. I am day dreaming at night sleep walking listen i street talk the word. Remember the streets is where sir Jah lives early bird on the sun remember God when thingz are sah and it will be ok. This is the extra muzikah focus in Afrikah. Pleasure dont mix with biz bro u cant manage to fix this is the son of man on the crussifix THUNDER all over suden there was dark SCOBO FACE NEVER FADEZ U KNOW
Translation provided by Mohjay:
Kile nafeel na write, whether ni wrong or write, though not a saint, I’ll curse [cast?] the first rhymes kwa m.i.c., fast slow, no track, cash flow, no works, works, less more, chase more, naku-acknowledge in fact, nawapa knowledge in doses, unaeza niita dokte, nalisha mases verses uneza thani ni padri, ka kuna hali ya hatari kukosa mali ni dhambi, kukosa kazi ni hatari juu hustle si halali, nimedunga kambi na wachezaji ka ule coach wa brazil, na hizi muscles huwa tayari, tena ready ku-influence safari, kipaji ni free tayari na hatufiki bei ya mahari, ka ni riziki unanipa unanilisha unanivisha, sifanyi mziki juu ya sifa uwa ni mapenzi kwa kila instru, aftermath uwanga birth otherwise juu verse, imehold more teaching uwezi pata shuleni, mbwembe mbwembe empty debe, uwa ni kelele kwa wingi vigelegele, sherehe ndio twa focus aiisee
What I feel I write, whether it’s wrong or right, though not a saint, I’ll curse [cast?] the first rhymes on the mic, fast slow, no track, cash flow, no works, less more, chase more, I acknowledge in fact, I give knowledge in doses, you can call me a doctor, I feed the masses verses you might think it’s a priest, if there is a dangerous situation then if I don’t have wealth it’s a sin, lacking a job is dangerous because hustling is illegal, I’m in the camp with the players like the coach of Brazil, and this muscles are always ready, and they are ready to influence the journey, talent is free and I can’t even pay the dowry, if it’s my right then remember you are not the one who gives me my earning and you don’t feed me nor clothe me, am not doing music because of fame, it’s always love in every instrument, aftermath it’s always birth otherwise because the verse, has held more teachings you can’t find in school, talking, talking empty shit, is always a lot of noise like applause, celebrating is what we focus, I say
Mawhispers za wind, hizi ndio voices kwa mind, Guardian angel yuko name, I mean, sela Selassie ni Genesis, somo la Bible na Quran word, kwa mouth inazidi run, teach one, bless one, ndio earn, mtaani academy, tunazidi learn, jinsi ya kuishi, upendo lazima ka moshi, na-daydream, usiku na-sleepwalk, listen niki-street talk neno, kumbuka, izi mitaa ndio sir Jah ukaa, early bird kwa saa ndio sasa, kumbuka, Rabuka, kukipambazuka, mambo itakua mzuka, hii ni extra musika, makinika kiafrica, pleasure usimix na biz bro, huwes mek kunifix mwana adam kwa crucifix, blunder, thunder, mara giza jinx, skobo paints, never failes [fades?] you know,
Whispers of the wind, those are the voices of the mind, the guardian angel is with me, I mean, sela Selassie is the Genesis, reading of the Bible and the Quran word, in my mouth it continues to run, teach one, bless one, then earn, the streets academy, we continue to learn, in ways we live, love is a must like the smoke, I day dream, tonight, I sleepwalk, I listen as I street talk the word, remember this streets is where sir Jah lives, the time of the early bird is now, remember God when the sun rises, African pleasure, don’t mix with business, bro, you can’t make it to fix me, the son of Adam, to crucify, blunder, thunder, or even darkness, skobo paints, never fails [fades?], you know
Smokillah is a graffiti artist based in Nairobi. He is a member of the group of graffiti artists knowna s Spray Uzi. Check out his video interview at Spray for Change.
You can read more about graffiti in Kenya at Kibera Walls for Peace and Kibera Hamlets. Here’s an article on Kenya’s graffiti train and a video (about the use of graffiti to comment on the 2013 election process).
1. Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
2. What kind of hustles were people involved in?
3. How did you start doing graffiti? How did you learn to do graffiti? What does graffiti mean to you? How do you see it fitting in with hip hop?
I started doing graffitism on (PSV Matatu) after high school, Graffity just came to me and started practising alot with the spray can. Graffiti is spiritual Art. It always fits because the artforms go together. Rappers have been doing graffity backgrounds since the 80’s
4. What is ‘politicking’?
Most probably talking about stuff that builds you as a person
5. What is ‘mental slavery’?
Being entrapped by your thoughts that misguide you
6. Do you have a philosophy of education?
You can learn everything so its up to you if you want to or not
7. You mention in your Spray for Change interview that you “do things that other people are scared of doing or are not interested in.” What sources do you draw inspiration from? Are there any sources that you think would surprise people?
My inspiration comes from my surrounding am a product of my environment ‘’african Nostalgia’’
8. Where do you see people having “space to express themselves”? Are there any organizations/communities that you see building these kinds of spaces?
There’s lots of space especially in the city centre these buildings have space but the Nairobi Council has put up billboards for profit. It sad don’t you think?
9. How do you feel graffiti art is different from other forms of visual art?
Style! In a major way, grafitti has class other forms of visual art are just that visual art
10. How do you think the placement of graffiti in public spaces, rather than in galleries or wherever, changes the nature and politics of graffiti?
Banksy said ‘’if you do graffiti indoors that’s interior design’’ so graffity is for walls
11. Graffiti, by nature, being in public spaces, how does you, as an artist, feel about the art being out there for the public to see, welcome or unwelcome? What makes you decide to put graffiti where you do?
I feel good about because we do the artform not just for us as writers but for the public also meaning they don’t have to go to galleries to see art. We bring the art work to them
12. Also understanding many times graffiti is also welcomed by people, please talk about what kind of agreements you have with people who willingly allow you to do graffiti where they live/work, etc.
Who supports the work you are doing?
We often agree on excecution, meaning the job has to come out well and how long the job eill and will finish within the period of time we agreed upon
Different people suprisingly cooperate.
13. Do you find yourself a target of police harassment? What would you say to people who see graffiti as “visual terrorism”?
Definitely. I even think I’m being followed around but am not sure. Its just phobia for the artform. Graffiti strikes minds and thoughts provoke
14. How do politics and your own personal values impact your work?
Politics is just a dirty game and so my work keeps values in every vice that surrounds me.
15. What is “tagging”? How is it different from graffiti art or murals?
Is part of the art form. When a writter passes an open area he’ll definitely want to leave a mark and that is his/her graffity name tagging is done quick, rural pieces may take days or weeks
The biggest role is improvement
17. Do you see graffiti art as a possible way to re-vitalize, beautify, and/or support local communities?
Definately, Grafiiti has a strong essence and where we do it we definately touch souls. Its just a way of letting communities know we can do better
18. What’s a place you would love to work on but haven’t had an opportunity to yet? (Is there any public space you would love to create graffiti for if you had the chance?)
Any or one of the billboards on the city centre
19. Could you talk about the “Unga Revolution”?
It is basically about food scarcity, and food is expensive in supermarkets so its pressing the government to regulate prices.
20. Is there a language, or languages, associated with graffiti art? Or could you talk about different styles and approaches to graffiti art you have seen?
The language used is style. I think even writer has a style to be able to communicate to fellow writers where he is at and his craft
21. Could you talk about different historical figures you see being repeated in Graffiti art, and talk a little about their significance?
Mahatma ghandi, Haille selasie they were figures who inspire free spirits and as a writer I should be free to express myself at any given time.
22a. How do you see graffiti art in dialogue with public spaces? Do you see graffiti art re-imagining public spaces, or otherwise creatively engaging with them?
Definitely, as I said graffity strikes minds so where else than public places to strike public minds
22b. Is graffiti only for urban spaces? Where are some unusual places you have encountered graffiti?
Mostly because graffity is street art and upcountry folks have no idea what paint can do. Most only in nairobi streets
23. Are you part of any graffiti organizations?
Only spray uzi, I think we are legends period. We try to give graffiti a good name but we still kick street places and tags now Cooperate organizations are interested in us because of our principals and all.
24. How are graffiti artists making money from their work today?
Contract jobs, Mostly commisioned jobs from difffernt institutions cooperate companies known restaurants, churches and graffiti enthuasusts
25. Who else do you see ‘doing’ hip hop, other artists, deejays, dancers, activists, hustlas, etc.? How are you coming together with these different varieties of hip hop’s people?
Mostly we get together at hip hop gigs in and around the city where hip hop is more vibrant and where it is vital
26. What are some obstacles you have encountered during your involvement in the arts/activist scene(s)?
None, its been smooth because we are protected.
27. How have women contributed to graffiti art in East Africa? (name, if you know of any artists or supporters of graffiti, etc.)
Not so much, there are a few but I mostly they get on but fall of quick
28. Could you describe some positive things you have seen hip hop communities doing? Whether it is artists sharing resources, a place to stay, getting linked with work
Mostly links like judge hooked us up and am a graffity writer he’s a rapper. So yeah and resources too. We work together as a company
29. 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, visual arts-based or otherwise) What sort of opportunities has the graffiti world provided you with?
I don’t hustle no more, Spray uzi alredy established , we got people for that, what are hip hop jobs getting that cooperate money for sure.
30. What are some of the obstacles/problems facing young people in Kenya today (zote, Lodwar to Dando to Westi?)
Unemployement, platforms to discover their inner abilities i.e resource centres
31. How are you interacting with artists across the globe and also particularly in East Afrika?
Social media is a big contributor e.g Facebook
32. What sort of positive things do you see happening with young people in Kenya?
Creativity is the most powerful weapon youths have right now.
33. How can people learn more about your work and other projects you are involved in?
am a pro graffiti artist have been in the art for about ten years noe, My crew is spray uzi, One of the most Prolific crews in Nairobi
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.
Gas Fyatu is a writer, entrepreneur and emcee from Nairobi. He is a member of the rap groups Ukoo Flani Mau Mau and Moshikali. You can find his music on reverbnation, youtube and soundcloud. His writing can be found in Kwani? published by Kwani Trust. Peep his poems. He is also on twitter.
[Kevlexicon made typographical edits]
Where are you from, What was it like growing up?
Dandora I grew up in Nairobi eastland inner city dandora, growing was
normal life for ghetto childrens with parents working in industrial
What kind of hustles were people involved in?
In dandora there were all sort of small business, small kiosks, selling
scrap metals, matatu touts, vegetable vendors, mandazi and chapatti or
roadside. basically hawkers everywhere
What was the Mau Mau camp like? (Is it still in operation?)
Mau mau camp was born on the alleys of dandora by youth with a love
for hip hop music and yearning for a change. There was so much police
harassment and unemployment rate was very high. We found solace in
music and formed a street family, unlike the freedom fighters with guns
and spears, we decided to use microphones and pencils as missiles to
fight for change and to decolonize minds. Mau mau became a hub for
art, football acrobatics and rehabilitation, and it spread all over.
Maumau still exist as know east African movement called
ukooflanimaumau with members all over east Africa cities and towns.
What does hip hop mean to you, What motivated you to become involved
in Hip Hop?
I loved music and drama from a tender age. In high
school, I was composing poems in Swahili and competed up to the
national levels. Meanwhile, while I was still in school, kalamashaka
were taking Kenya with their single “tafsiri hii” so when I cleared high
school I joined mau mau camp which was a street hang out for people
with a love for conscious music. Edutainment- precisely. So to me hip
hop is a way of life, a positive way of life; preaching peace, love, and
I use the hip hop platform to pass positive messages to the community
and spread love and preach peace. Through hip hop, I got independence
to highlight [the] social, political and economic environment in my hood and
country. Hip hop is the voice of the African youth, it is the ray of
light for an Africa youth facing struggle out of poverty and freedom.
Hip-Hop’s impact origins date back as far as late 80’s, the fire was
burning in Tanzania. Groups like Kwanza Unit, Hard Blasters, The
Diplomatz, Mr 2. In the 90’s Kenya rap scene flourished. Pioneering
groups like Kalamashaka, K-South, Fundi Frank and Cash D set the scene
using their vernacular language to win the hearts of many. Similar
growth was happening in Kampala, with groups like, Kado based in
Sweden and Klear kut. DJ’s took their stand like Dj Pinye, Dj Adrian,
Skratchaholics, the homeboyz, setting their wheels of steel blazing
with creativity. B-boys grabbed the stage too. Kenyans took graffiti
to another level by using public service vehicles as their canvas, known as the
matatu culture. [Note: Matatu’s are the cheapest form of public transportation. Matatus are minibuses that are often colorfully decorated with the likenesses of hip hop artists and celebrities. Inside, you can hear the video mixtapes put together by college students.]
Hip hop made such a proud stand that the political scene used the music to prosper the presidential campaign. African youth can, in one voice (through hip hop), air [the] social, political climate in their societies. Hip hop is culture, a way of life and is represented by: [rap] Emceeing, Dj-ing, graffiti arts, Break dance and street
entrepreneurship. The above elements have effectively taken shape in
Kenya, the underground art has no space in the mainstream media; when
many youth are busy involving themselves crime and the drugs, we have
these creative artists who spend days, months and even years either
painting, designing, composing, and putting their creativity at work
and when they are done, they hit the street hawking their art and most
of the time they fall in the hands of people who do not appreciate
art and are just interested in the monetary gains.
Hip-hop, I feel is being marketed by multi-nationals to work to the
benefit of their pockets. Although they have financial advantage over
us, we on the other hand have people power globally and with
networking ability to change the power of the status quo
hip-hop is a culture and way of life!
When you live hip-hop, you become hip-hop. Below we display 5 main
elements of Hip-hop:
This is awareness of self, about who you are, being independent
minded, individualism, acceptance of self. Being ‘real’ and ‘true’ to
This was a street level form of communication (although recently it
has now become a major [form]) of relaying a message with clever use of
flowing words, poetry and rhyming.
An innovative form of creating music from sampling and cutting and
scratching records to form a style of music initially unique only to
4. Break dancing
This is an art of dancing composed of movements, which makes the dancer
look like he is literally breaking. It comprises of many
[movements] such as bopping, waves, body spins and is also incorporated with
Capoeira another form of dance expression who’s origins came from
slaves who spent their time with their hand and feet chained and used
it as a way to exercise/dance/fight (while chained) without being
discovered; for neither of the above were allowed and a death penalty
would follow if one was discovered practicing any of them.
5. Graffiti art
This was the underground visual way of relaying messages by spraypainting public spaces, like street walls, in a colorful artistic form and style with illustrations and special scriptures that [were] only understood by hip hop’s people.
What type of community organizations, informal or formal are helping
vijana in Nairobi leo?
Young people have formed groups and are taking loans from banks to do
small business as for community organisations. i know mathare
youthsports association and ukooflanimaumau.
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,