Kenyan Hip Hop has come a long way. British Council did its share by ensuring the culture was alive through WAPI events, introducing us to some present day heavy hitters. When that stopped, Hip Hop fans were left with nowhere else to turn to for such great vibes which led to the beginning of a few ‘smaller’ events by individuals to provide a “platform” where artists and fans could meet. Hip Hop/RnB was declared the biggest genre in the world in 2017 so with the growing popularity of Hip Hop music and culture, Kenyan event organizers have found an option to explore.
There used to be only one major Hip Hop concert: Jameson Live/ Jameson Connects Kenya. However in 2018, things have taken a turn for the better as far as gigs are concerned. We’re only on the fifth month of the year and we’ve already had Kwesta and Rick Ross perform. Cassper Nyovest is set to headline a concert at the end of the month and rumour has it that J. Cole will also be in the country later in the year. While this news is obviously very thrilling, I think we’re getting the short end of the stick.
I’ll tell you why.
First things first, I’m tired of seeing the same names on every poster. Gigs have been structured in a way that we have the same people performing the same way over and over again at different events. For a while, Kenyan Hip Hop has only been able to accommodate a few names at the top while cutting the rest of the artists on the come up off. Tell me which other top tier Kenyan Hip Hop artists you know besides Khaligraph, Octopizzo and King Kaka. I’ll wait… They’re the chosen ones of Kenyan Hip Hop therefore, brand endorsements, airplay and pretty much everything else Hip Hop related circulates amongst the three while the truth is, there are more than enough Hip Hop artists who’d also do a great job representing for the culture. Since 2016, new school KE Hip Hop has been on a roll. Video and production quality has greatly improved and groups such as ADF have pushed themselves further by hosting a campus tour and building an audience through their event, Shrap Nite.
How else are the artists coming up supposed to join the top 3 if they’re not allowed in? Where are they looking for opening acts? What criterion is used to select artists? It’s upsetting that an artist like MDQ dropped a fire ass album yet I’m yet to see her name on any of these gigs’ posters. This repetition of names is where we go wrong. When you think about South African Hip Hop, you could name up to ten Hip Hop artists who, from way over here, all seem to be doing good. If it’s a Hip Hop gig, the artists are also Hip Hop. Sure we need to up our game and one of the best ways is to put these young cats to the challenge. You can’t knock what you haven’t tried.
Secondly, why do these events even exist if their primary focus isn’t Hip Hop? So you sell it to us as a Hip Hop gig but while there there’s a full set of Bongo music. Why? If the answer is to cater for the different groups of people you need to gerrarahia. Hip Hop in Kenya is very niche so if you market an event as Hip Hop, the experience should be Hip Hop. How else are we to grow the culture if the people with the big bucks keep misrepresenting it? If they have no info on what is happening, they can contract experts who’ll research and come up with a solid line up. One of the biggest ways to break records and artists is introducing them and/or their music to a receptive crowd. The DJs need to update their KE Hip Hop playlists as well. Sad that Drake’s God’s Plan will be countered by an E- Sir song while HotBox Music has plenty new videos out. Kenyan Hip Hop is barely shown any love at these events. Where else is this music going to play? We all know Hip Hop gets 2 minutes in the DJ set on a regular club night. How is music by TnT going to be as popular as Migos or Lil Pump if they don’t get as heavy rotation and support?
My feelings are, if there’s an event headlined by a Hip Hop artist, let it be a Hip Hop experience. We already know that we’re there for some Hip Hop shit so let that happen. From the line up aaaaalll the way to the music played throughout the show.