2017 has been an interesting year for KE Hip Hop and the world over, I’d say. This is the year mumble rap and trap music became an even bigger sensation; wit Future and Cassper Nyovest headlining a show in Tanzania, the Migos’ shows in Nigeria and South Africa and Ty Dolla $ign at the sold out Jameson Connects Kenya concert. In 2017, we saw a humble boy from Mafikeng (Maftown), Cassper Nyovest, fill up a stadium with 68,000 fans outselling even the likes of Justin Bieber, which made history and has changed the face of African Hip Hop! The same year that Khaligraph Jones made history by becoming the first Kenyan artist to be nominated at the South Africa Hip Hop Awards (SAHHAS) and just to show that ‘mazishi ni ile ile’, he hopped out of a coffin during his performance at the Jameson concert. 2017 is the year that has also seen 2 of South Africa’s hottest artists, AKA and Nasty C, perform in Nairobi.
There’s no denying that 2017 has been a good year for Hip Hop and the upcoming Kenyan Hip Hop stars are not being left behind. Here are the top 10 new school Hip Hop artists of 2017.
- Barak Jacuzzi
There’s no denying that 2017 has been a very good year for Barak Jacuzzi. A radio and TV presenter on What’s Good Networks and event host, Barak Jacuzzi is not new to fame or popularity. He contested in the Nokia Don’t Break the Beat rap battles and has been working closely with Octopizzo, even appearing in Ivo Ivo Ivo and Swag videos. This year Barak Jacuzzi has released two mixtapes; The Juice bar and Coco Season, which have collectively gained over 50,000 streams on his SoundCloud account. He has also hosted a bunch of Hip Hop themed parties, The Juice Bar Mixtape Launch, Barak Jacuzzi and Friends (which had the 90s dresscode) and last Sunday held ‘Mo Life’, where he screened his documentary and had a pre-release of The Juice Bar 2 mixtape. Barak has also been on stage at some of the hottest events of 2017; Afropop Fest headlined by Omarion, Jameson Connects Kenya where he performed Tergat Gang with Octopizzo and acted as his hype man and Blankets and Wine. He has also hosted Bar 4 Bar, a rap battle that happens in collaboration with Any Given Thursday and Mix Master Lenny, for seven rounds. Barak Jacuzzi was one of the JumpOff Freshmen this year and we hope to see more from him in 2018.
- AD Family
AD Family is a Nairobi based movement of creatives that not only includes artists; Boutross, Dope-I-Mean and K Green, it also includes a team of DJs such as Mawinch. The group is popular for spearheading the Shrap movement, a fusion of sheng, trap and pop. They are also responsible for Shrap Nite, an event where Kenyan Hip Hop lovers gather for amazing performances by some of the freshest artists coming out of Nairobi/Kenya. Dec 16th 2017 marked a year since the beginning of Shrap Nite. This year, Dope-I-Mean released a solo mixtape, “Mean.Time” and as a collective, they released “ShrapLife EP”. Boutross also featured on one of the biggest songs of 2017, Tergat Gang, alongside Barak Jacuzzi and Octopizzo. They have also released three videos this year; Kweli, Hold Up Gang and FUTN (F*** Up The Night) featuring Asum Garvey.
- Steph Kapela
Steph Kapela dedicated himself to writing such a fire verse for the very first UnKut the Cypher in December of last year, that everything else after that was an uphill climb. He won the hearts of many women with his great vocals and still managed to relate to the fellas every time he dropped bars. Whoever was skeptical about Steph Kapela’s rapping skills was quickly hushed when Kenyan Message Remix dropped and Steph opened the track up with some fire bars. He has since been recognized by some of the top musicians in Kenya including Sauti Sol and Nyashinski. After a brief stint working under Atwal Music, they parted ways earlier this year. Management issues couldn’t dull Steph’s shine though, as he has continued to perform in major events such as Industry Nite’s Major League and Access Granted, UnKut Live and Shrap Nite. Kapela is one of the JumpOff Freshmen this year as well. He is expected to close out the year with a performance at Diani Beach Festival.
It seems as if Tunji became an overnight success. The anthem he created ‘Mat Za Ronga’ became such a wave that it no longer mattered where you hailed from. Whenever the song came on you had to get in your element and yell, as loudly as you could, the name of your town. Let’s admit, Rongai nganyas have been a site and experience. Having a catchy tune only increased the popularity of the matatus and the town. So he drops a banger, releases the video and the streets go crazy! He’s getting booked for shows left, right and center and journalists couldn’t wait to get their hands on Tunji. Celebrities like Bien (who was a Rongaian) shared a video dancing and singing along to Mat Za Ronga, which added even more hype to an already popular song. When Khaligraph announced that he was going to be on the remix, the internet went into frenzy. The song was so big that Tunji got a nomination at the 2017 PMVAs under ‘Best New Act’! Both Mat Za Ronga and the Remix videos have garnered close to 350K views in less than 6 months and from the sound of his next single Dash (played at the end of Mat Za Ronga Rmx), Tunji has got another banger waiting.
- TNT (Timmy x Twenny)
Here’s 2017’s most hardworking duo, Timmy Blanco and Twenny Eights. When they released their mixtape Two Birds One Phone last year, TnT gained a lot of love for their music. Under Vice Life Entertainment, the duo has released Damu, a solo effort by Twenny Eights to pay homage to their fallen solder, Damu. They also released the music videos for Water, Bandz and Christopher Wallace. All these videos are directed by Really Rasta, who has been able to showcase his creativity in the final product.
The duo is heavily influenced by the lifestyle around trap music and Timmy Blanco is supposedly the only feature on Khaligraph’s album.
- Odinareh Bingwa
South C’s finest AKA Odinareh Bingwa as he’s popularly known is a Kenyan rap artiste from Diani. He fuses the traditional zilizopendwa sound with modern day rap/Hip Hop which seems to be working beautifully as seen on his two latest tracks Kama Zamani and Good Life. Odinareh’s claim to fame is ‘Pressure’ a Motiff produced trap record. He is influenced by Cassper Nyovest, E-Sir ‘for the way he put Swahili rap on the map’ and Johnny Vigetti. He goes by the moniker ‘Papa la Kusini’, (Shark of the Coast), an analogy of who he is and where he comes from. Odinareh is quickly becoming a household name amongst new school Kenyan Hip Hop fans and it’s only a matter of time before his star shines bright.
Born Sarah Kiatine, the soft spoken Monski is definitely a force to reckon with as far as 2017 is concerned. She started off her year on a high note with the release of the “I’m Heavy” video and she has been getting media and fan love since then. Her most memorable shows this year are the Bus Stop Sessions by Turning Tables in the CBD because people stopping to listen was ‘super epic’, at Industry Nite where despite being a ‘rookie’ and her music wasn’t that familiar with the crowd she loved that people jammed to it and her performance at the UnKut at 1 celebrations at Bonds Gardens. 2017 has been a good year for Monski and we can only hope thatshe keeps up the good work in 2018.
- Asum Garvey (HotBox Music)
In a previous interview I asked Asum Garvey why he had been laying low. He explained that he wanted to shoot a bunch of videos, with his team, before he could heavily market his music. Honor his promise he did because Hot Box Music has been on a roll lately, releasing one music video after another. They have released No Drama, Dando and With You which have all garnered them fans in the internet space. Whenever there’s a performance and HotBox is on the line up you’re sure for a treat. Here’s hoping they don’t let us down in 2018.
- Jovie Jovv
The Shrap originator is a close affiliate to AD Family and they’ve created a growing community around Shrap. 2017 has seen Jovie release two mixtapes; Growth and Jugging Nairobi in collaboration with Tokyo Sauce. This year the 23-year old rapper has also released his 2 biggest songs, Kiasi and God Speed featuring Tokyo Sauce and Richie Rizz. Jovv has got a lot of potential.
- Kevin Grands
A producer, mix engineer and rap artist, Kevin Grands closes out the 2017 list of top 10 acts. He released his mixtape Balance earlier this year. The three track self produced project was meant to be free but fans loved it so much they offered to pay for it. That’s how Kevin Grands’ year began. He has performed at several Nu Nairobi shows such as The Wrap Out, Last Day Out and UnKut Live and recently released “Free Lunch”, a trap record where he advises against expecting freebies from him.