Mr. Lenny’s voice was everywhere! Remember when T-Pain featured on every hook? That was Mr. Lenny for ya. He sang about every possible love situation you could think of. From singing about how crazy he was about a woman so it was possible she had given him “Juju” to being disappointed that he couldn’t seem to please her in “Kwani Ni Nini?” Then he begged her not to leave in “Baby Don’t Go”. Not convinced yet? He later told us that her name was “Helena” and we realized that indeed she had left him anyway because he kept asking, “Uko wapi supuu wangu?” (Where are you my love?) Helena didn’t get the message (or she didn’t care anymore) and Lenny couldn’t take the pain any longer so he teamed up with his homies Vinnie and Buju Banton and they left their hometown Githurai!
Lenson Njuki’s big break came with the release of “Cash Money”. Everyone could relate. Your mom would sing it in the house then you’d sing it at school with your friends at school (when pocket money ran out) but you dad would probably only sing it on the hush hush because no man is broke, right? We had a lot of Mr. Lenny and we loved it but then one day, he just disappeared and all we were left with were these throwback tunes. He tried to make his return into the game under Grandpa, releasing “Randa” featuring Visita. For a song that was released in 2014, Mr. Lenny sounded exactly as he did when we first heard him, probably the reason his comeback wasn’t successful; Kenyan music has evolved a lot since the 90s.
Another great male vocalist was Didge. He drove girls crazy because he looked like a bad boy but sang like a good one. The fact that he dressed the part with his gangsta and gentleman style only made the whole package even better because his style of music was also so different. When he released Kitangoma in 2003 after he was done with high school, it was settled; the young RnB/soul artist’s star was only beginning to shine. His style was so new in East Africa that he was signed by one of the biggest lebel then; Blue Zebra Studios run by Ted Josiah. In 2004 he released “Tingisha” followed by his debut album, Vintage Swahili which featured the massively popular “Saa Zingine” as the lead single.
“Kipusa” and “Long Distancing” were also smashing hits but he went under and we didn’t hear from Didge (Max Nyatome) for a bit. He resurfaced as a feature on some 125 songs such as “Can’t Take It”, Those Kinda Lips and Vicheche. He also featured on Khaligraph and Kristoff’s You Got Me Sexy. Didge aka D.I is now on Homeboyz Radio 103.5 every Monday through Wednesday from 10 pm on “Mitaani”.
In 1995, Abbas and Bamboo teamed up to form K South, the group we now credit amongst the pioneers of Hip Hop in Kenya. Together, they rapped about the struggles in their hood, Kariobangi South and the shenanigans in Nairoberry. Their influence in the Kenyan Hip Hop scene is undeniable to date. We heard “Tabia Mbaya”, “The Rhythm” and “Kapuka This” from K South and bet you sang “Tunapenda Zote” word for word even if you weren’t really sure if they were talking about food or something else. I wasn’t. Lol! Individually, they also released songs that became hits. Bamboo gave us Compe and Kabinti.
Abbas had the streets hot with “Mo Faya”, had you flossing about the money you didn’t have in Chapaa and one of the earliest all star remixes as well. He gave us a banger when he teamed up with Chiwawa on “2050” and a verse we could easily rap along to word for word on “Tatizo”. He stayed relevant in the scene, always making up for his absence with a killer feature on a song. Present day, Bamboo has been in and out of the news for making some pretty “wild” religious allegations and Abbas seems to have established a music career abroad.
Chris Kantai AKA “Chris to the Kanta-dda!” or simply just Kantai if you likewas yet another Hip Hop artist who had a great run on the airwaves. If he wasn’t being melancholic on “Issues”, he was being aggressive in “Huu Ni Nani” and whether he was being “Happy” with STL or not, we loved all the different personas Kantai embodied. Just when we thought we couldn’t get enough of Kantai, he suddenly stopped releasing music because of his alleged drinking problem. When Khaligraph featured him on Ting Badi Malo last year we thought he was finally getting back to the music and had cleaned up his act which sadly wasn’t true.