Kenyan hip hop
|Kenyan hip hop|
|Stylistic origins||Hip hop - ragga - contemporary R&B - dance-pop|
|Typical instruments||Drum machine - keyboards - rapping - vocals - sampler - synthesizer|
|Derivative forms||Southern hip hop - West Coast hip hop - East Coast hip hop|
|Genge - Kapuka rap|
Kenyan hip hop is a genre of music, and a culture that covers various forms and sub genres of hip-hop and rap originating from Kenya. It is commonly a combination of Swahili and English (Kenya's official languages) as well as Sheng and a variety of tribal languages.
Development of the style
Western culture has always played a big influence on Kenyan urban culture and music ,Just Like Soukous and lingala music that borrowed from sounds from the Caribbean, early Kenyan hip-hop was influenced by the styles of world famous African American rappers , This stemmed from over Consumption of western music,films and television programs broadcast by majority of the Kenyan media stations with over 70 percent of content broadcast being foreign. In the late 80s and Early 90s ,as Hip Hop was getting recognition in the global music scene , it gained a lot of airplay on Kenyan media and on seeing that majority of the rappers had features of African Origin, Kenyan youths were intrigued , they felt represented and felt the need to represent too, starting to dress and act like these rappers on television ,wearing African American urban fashion, exchanging albums, mix tapes, hip hop magazines like word up and the source, reciting song lyrics and rapping in English, ,spreading more when Matatus painted in graffiti started playing rap music and some Kenyan artists started releasing rap influenced songs.
According to the documentary “Hip-Hop Colony,” the beginnings of Kenyan hip-hop was like a “new breed of colonialism,” transplanting the original styles from the Westernized world to Africa. However, Kenya has not only embraced but appropriated the genre, creating its own distinct version. Since its explosion in the mid-1990s, Kenyan hip-hop is now generally written and performed not only in English but also in Swahili and in Sheng, a slang combination of the two.
In 1990, michael gathima then a teenage singer/producer made the initial impact on the Kenyan music scene with the Hip-Hop /R&B single “Renaissance” that would literally create a renaissance on the then ailing Kenyan music industry. The song received massive airplay on Radio and the then popular “Music Time” on Kenyan Television. Jimmy Gathu one of the earliest known rappers on the Kenyan scene, would soon follow with his hit song "Look, Think, Stay Alive" released in 1991, a song dealing with road safety. soon after there were more and more Kenyan youths on tv rapping , a show called mizizi that aired on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation gave them a platform to express themselves in this new art form and Kenyan Hip-hop was born, However, the first major commercial hip hop hit came in 1996 with Uhiki by Hardstone (Harrison Ngunjiri) which sampled a Kikuyu folk song and Marvin Gaye's sexual Healing, produced by Tedd Josiah of the then Audio Vault Studios (now, Blue Zebra). Other popular pioneering acts were Kalamashaka with their national hit "Tafsiri Hii", K-South with "Nyabaga Kodo Gakwa," (which was also sampled from a Kikuyu folk song like Uhiki by Hardstone) and also the late Poxi Presha with his break out hit "Dhako Kelo".
Gidi Gidi Maji Maji emerged in 1999 with their hit "Ting Badi Malo" and released the debut album, "Ismarwa" the following year. They went on to released their popular and politically charged hit Unbwogable in 2002. The word took on the meaning of unshakable, unstoppable, or unbeatable and was subsequently used by major politicians and in 2008 in reference to then-candidate Barack Obama.
Coinage gives the music a localized identity which adds a little spice to the genre, Ogopa Deejays term their style of music as "boomba" or "Kapuka" while Calif Records initiated a new style known as Genge. Because most of these subgenres differ very slightly sonically, Influx Swagga, one of the earliest Genge artistes, proposed a need to merge all these subgenres in Kenya into one brand, Unganika Music, meaning united, just like Bongo Flava in Tanzania, but the idea failed to kick off when Genge and boomba stakeholders failed to agree. Genge, which roughly translates to "large crowd of people", reinforces a foundational ethos of hip hop as a music for and by the people. In 2014 AD Family crafted the name SHRAP for their genre of rap music , the name is a merge of Sheng and rap.
A lot more Kenyan Mcees have stepped up and held the torch for future generations, keeping the kenyan hip-hop culture alive and preserving the stories of the countries urban youth population.
Most artists affiliate themselves with a production house, label or record studio , more have cropped up all over Kenya as the market grows and the demand for more relatable hip-hop is constantly met , The kenyan sound evolves everyday just as much as it also keeps up with worldwide trends,with instrumentals borrowing from local and international sounds, maintaining hip-hop productions core tradition of sampling from all genres of music.
Most of the radio stations play more foreign hip hop than local , except on specific times and on shows like Hip-Hop Culture hosted by Ruby on Homeboyz Radio that strictly plays Kenyan hip-hop . The first ever hip hop radio show was Wakilisha show hosted by Kalamashaka and DJ Mosse the Darkchild . The Wakilisha Show was aired every Friday on Nation FM. "The Joint" hosted by a rapper by the name of "mwafrika" on the station, Y fm, now Hot96. His show garnered a huge following in a few months but it was taken off air but he is still viewed as a huge icon/crucial ingredient to history of Kenyan Hip hop, , The radio played an important role in promoting Mwafrika’s mission as it still does with other rappers in today’s Kenya. According to Rebensdorf Alicia, in her article under the section pertaining to Hip hop, the internet and the capital Nairobi she justifies the view that the radio has and still is a huge catalyst to the growth of Hip hop in Kenya today.
Many artists are well known in Kenya for their style and methods of rapping ,from its start and into the new millennium, many new groups and solo artists have emerged and the scene musically diversified. Among the most famous artists are Kalamashaka , Ukoo Flani , Mau Mau , K-South Flava , Necessary Noize,Hardstone ,Gidi Gidi Maji Maji , Wenyeji ,Cubanotics , Juliani, Nashinski, Bamboo, Nameless,Jua Kali, Nonini, G.rongi, King Kaka ,Bobby Mapesa,Prezzo , Labalaa, Calvo Mistari , Wawesh, the late E-Sir, Camp Mulla who were nominated for Best International Act (Africa) at the 2012 BET Awards, Abbas Kubaff,Wakadinali , Kayvo Kforce, Octopizzo ,Jovie Jov ,Kaa la Moto, Khaligraph jones, STL ,Steph Kapella, Shukid, Tunji , Shappaman, Monski , Timmy Blanco, AD Family , Asum Garvey, Thayu Mwas, Nafsi huru , Influx Swagga,Wangechi , Skeme Music , Breeder LW, DIZZ!E BC, Trabolee , Big Pin, Smallz Lethal , Djungle, sto efab, Roppizzle, Maandy , Coolie Cope, Oksyde, Tonny Syumah ,Femi One, Project shairi,(Dou who released one of the few double albums in Kenya titled Stanza Ya Kwanza(2013).
Achievement and contribution to hip hop in Kenya has been recognized through the Kisima Music Awards, Groove Awards(Gospel music),Chaguo La Teeniez Awards (CHAT Awards), Mdundo Awards and the Online based Unkut hip-hop awards.
Marketing and piracy
Due to high rates of piracy in Kenya, poor music distribution mechanism, ineffective music copyright policies and poor marketing,early hip hop artists had trouble making a living from their music. Now through the internet there has been significant growth in the industry with local rappers getting more streams , a significant increase in concerts and even endorsements from cooperate organisations,
Jeff Chang, in an essay about global hip-hop for Foreign Policy magazine, discusses the conflict between marketing of local artists and global (mainly American) ones. Local, socially conscious music is supported by communities themselves, by organizations such as Words and Pictures,Unkut Africa, Hip-Hop and the Hood, which attempt to build connections between hip-hop artists and the general public, also by media such as MTV Base Africa, which endeavor to have half of its programming be African. On the other hand, local and foreign-owned radio stations tend to play and market American rap, like 50 Cent, a fact that many Kenyans resent. One such station, Capital FM, features Kenyan media on its site, but lists many American artists, such as Lil Wayne, on its top ten list. There is improvement though; new online magazine Aipate, for example, has been keeping an annual top 10 list since 2015, with Khaligraph Jones topping the blog's 2018 list.
Hipksu Music, a form of Hip Hip folk
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