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Kenyan hip hop[1] is a genre of music and a culture that covers various forms and subgenres 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.

Early years

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 also appropriated the genre, creating its own distinct version. Since its explosion in the mid-1990s, Kenyan hip-hop is now generally written and performed in English, Swahili, and Sheng, a slang combination of the two.

In 1990, Ricky Oyaro, then a teenage singer and producer, made the initial impact on the Kenyan music scene with the Hip-Hop/R&B single "Renaissance" that would create a renaissance on the then ailing Kenyan music industry. The song received massive airplay on radio and "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 rapping on TV, and a show called Mizizi that aired on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation gave them a platform to express themselves through this new art form, giving rise to Kenyan Hip-hop.

However, the first major commercial hip-hop hit emerged 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 the late Poxi Presha with his break out hit "Dhako Kelo".

Gidi Gidi Maji Maji became well-known in 1999 for their song "Ting Badi Malo", releasing the debut album Ismarwa the following year. They went on to release 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 US presidential 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.

In 2006, Influx Swagga rebranded to Swagga, one of the earliest Genge artists, and proposed that all these Kenyan Music subgenres need to be merged into one brand and call it Sheng Music, which would make it easily identifiable in the international market, just like Bongo Flava in Tanzania.

However, the idea failed to kick off when Genge, Kapuka, and Boomba stakeholders disagreed with the proposal. Ukoo Flani Mau Mau was awarded the 2006 Kisima Awards best Hip Hop song category for their hit song "Punchlines Kibao" featuring Vigeti (Kalamashaka, Kimya and Ibra da Hustla (Nako 2 Nako) produced by Musyoka and recorded at the infamous Andaki Studios deep in the heart of Dandora, Kenya's home of hip Hop; 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 merger 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.

Development of the style

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 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 such as Word Up and The Source, reciting song lyrics and rapping in English,[2] 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,[3] the beginnings of Kenyan hip-hop was like a "new breed of colonialism," transplanting the original styles from the Westernized world to Africa.[4]

Jimmy Gathu one of the earliest known rappers on the Kenyan scene, would soon follow with his hit song "Look, Think, Stay Alive"[5] released in 1991, a song dealing with road safety. soon after there were more and more Kenyan youths on television 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",[6] 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",[6] 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".[6]

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.[7][8]

Radio

According to Rebensdorf Alicia, in her article[9] under the section pertaining to hip hop, the internet and the capital Nairobi,[2] she justifies the view that the radio has, and still is, a huge catalyst to the growth of hip hop in Kenya today.

Notable artists

Many artists are well known in Kenya for their style and methods of rapping,[10] 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, Necessary Noize, Monski, Hardstone, Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, Bamboo, Nameless, Jua Cali, King Kaka, Octopizzo, Wawesh, the late E-Sir, Khaligraph Jones, Stella Mwangi, Ab Naz, Camp Mulla who were nominated for Best International Act (Africa) at the 2012 BET Awards,[11] Abbas Kubaff, STL, Nafsi huru, and Wangechi.[12]

Later in the late 2017 towards mid 2018,an offshoot of Kenyan hiphop,Gengetone,with its pioneers including Ethic Entertainment,Boondocks Gang,The Kansoul,Rico Gang,Ochungulo Family and many others.The genre was then at a steady rise,having a major outreach among Kenyan teenagers and young adults.The subgenre however also received negative remarks from both people and the music production board in the country,resulting to its gradual downfall.Though it is considered dead,a few records are released every now and then.

A new genre is taking Kenyan mainstream by storm,Kenyan Drill,which is a fusion of UK drill with English,Kiswahili and Sheng.This subgenre seems to have a very positive reception due to its very banging beats,kicks and hihats.Notable pioneers include Wakadinali and Buruklyn Boyz who have really pushed the subgenre to receive a place in the Kenyan music industry.Other artists currently hot in the drill scene are Big Yasa,Geri Soweto,Davaji,Natty and many others

Hip Hop Award

The first-ever all Kenyan Hip-Hop Awards ceremony, dubbed UnKut Hip Hop Awards, was held in 2018 virtually, and officially held in December 2019 with over 10,000 votes cast. The event was hosted by UnKut Africa an entertainment organization founded by Ruby V.[13]

References

  1. ^ Nyanga, Caroline. "Revealed: The real origin of Kenyan hip hop". Standardmedia.co.ke. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b [1] Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "HIP HOP COLONY". Retrieved 26 December 2021 – via YouTube.
  4. ^ "Emerge Media Films presents HIP-HOP COLONY: The African Hip-hop Explosion - A film by Michael Wanguhu". Hiphopcolony.com. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  5. ^ "Matatu Safety Pop Video". 2007-11-18. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2014-02-25 – via YouTube.
  6. ^ a b c [2][dead link]
  7. ^ "Unbwogable". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  8. ^ "unbwogable". Waywordradio.org. 2005-02-04. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  9. ^ Representing the Real’: Exploring Appropriations of Hip-hop Culture in the Internet and Nairobi
  10. ^ [3][dead link]
  11. ^ "Camp Mulla Nominated for BET Awards". Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ "Biographies - Juliani's Biography". Ghafla.co.ke. 2009-11-02. Archived from the original on 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-02-25.
  13. ^ "Unkut Hip Hop Award winners celebrated". The-star.co.ke. Retrieved 26 December 2021.