Does The Language An Artist Uses Really Matter?

Last Saturday I had Kaa La Moto, a Kenyan rapper based in the coastal region on Hip Hop Culture (airs Saturdays 7-9 p.m. on Homeboyz Radio with DJ Finalkut and myself BTW). Kaa La Moto mainly uses Swahili in his raps though he says that he could easily rap in English he just chooses not to. So I asked him if he thinks “English rappers” box themselves. His answer was yes because as an artist, you’re trying to use the language that will reach as many people as you possibly can. I agree with that, to some point.

First things first, I need to say that I understand your “regular guy next door” wants to feel like they relate to what you’re talking about as an artist and it’s like you’re telling their story. That I fully get but I got a couple points I need to raise.

We’re sometimes so quick to call rappers that use English “fake” and “copy cats” and for what? Do we even try to understand why they do this? Could be a case of upbringing. We do have some Kenyan families where kids can’t really speak proper Swahili because that’s not the first language they were taught, am I right? Then there are people who have grown up in different parts of the world so we can’t really blame them for not being able to speak Swahili. Even then, why is it a big deal? Isn’t English one of our official Kenyan languages as well? Why is it that because a rapper is spitting in Kikuyu or Dholuo or Kisii we are so quick to accept them even if we don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying? If it’s about relating to what they’re saying, let’s not use the language as a factor please. Even Sarkodie, Olamide, Phyno, Ice Prince and Cassper Nyovest  to a certain extent rap in languages we don’t necessarily understand but we applaud them nonetheless.

What about target audience? Someone may be trying to reach these “uptown kids” and show them that there’s more to KE Hip Hop than just “I come from the ghetto and my English isn’t that good”… Hard to believe but believe it or not everyone faces a struggle of some sort. I know people who have so much money but they’re still battling depression and addiction. Who is going to tell their story?

Khaligraph got (and still does) so much hate for being a rapper from the hood with an “accent”. He’s comfortable with the ridicule but why are we saying that it’s okay for a rapper from Kilimani or wherever to have an “accent” even  if they haven’t been to the States or wherever? Better yet, fans of African Hip Hop… Nasty C doesn’t sound remotely S0uth African but if you have listened to his music I’m pretty sure you have been blown away by his diction and delivery and let me break it to ya, Nasty C has never grown up out of South Africa. A case of double standards? Hmmmm….

I have absolutely no problem with the language an artist uses as long as they’re comfortable with it. As a listener of the show (HHC) said, “People should use whatever language they feel comfortable with because they will never lack a fan base that relates to that.”

I agree. Let the artist present the art to us and be comfortable with expressing themselves the best way they know how as long as it’s up to par but that’s just me.

What do you think? Is the language an artist uses really that important? Drop me a comment below.





17 Comments Add yours

  1. Kidwilly says:

    Word! Couldn’t agree more

  2. Language really matters less. Take an example VicMass Luodollar who just made a name with Luo rap that not most of us relate to. What matters is the passion and precision in delivering the message in the song!


    1. thispreciseruby says:

      A little louder please! But why don’t many of these “fans” want to understand that?

  3. Slim B says:

    Language doesn’t matter, like you said what about kids who have been raised in the burbs.. Swahili is hard to communicate with, this whole bullshit of if you rap in English you are a fake rapper should just stop and people should accept Kenyan artist for what they got..

  4. To each his own. Coming up, guys who rapped in Swahili won the fan faster than the English rapper. Namoma, K south and kantai made us feel we belonged. Since then, Khaligraph, camp mulls kept it pushing. Bottom line, every artists should find their own core fans.

  5. Seth Sketcher says:

    Language don’t matter. Am not so much into Sheng but when it comes to rap songs in English…i easily relate and understand more better.

  6. Young Wayne says:

    Most people listen to music which they vibe to if the music is good they will consume whether it’s in English or Swahili so language doesn’t really matter

  7. Young Wayne says:

    If the music is good whether in English or Swahili people will cosume it language doesn’t matter

  8. I doesn’t really matter what language an artist uses. As long as it sounds good it’s all good. The same was discussed at the Ongea Summit early this year and we had a debate on it with various international music proffesionals stating that it doesn’t really matter. So many artists in Kenya are struggling with this and they need to understand that as long as the music feels right to deliver the way they deliver then by all means they should do so.

  9. ThatGuyChaxy says:

    Language is never a factor. Although sometimes it is a barrier

  10. Louie says:

    Good music is good music, regardless of what language an artist uses. English or swahili or be it their indeginous language, there is always someone ready to listen to that..

  11. Stin says:

    Dope I liked it

  12. almostpopularent says:

    Words and language convey emotion. censorship takes away access to certain emotions

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