Yasiin Bey in Nairobi: The Artist is Present

Sarah WaiswaYB

It was close to midnight when burly bodyguards finally led a TMT-capped figure to the club’s backstage area. He was a sort of tall fellow whose long-sleeved shirt hung off his wiry frame. Bodies hungrily pressed forward, necks craned, drinks were held aloft as a chant sprung from the people’s lips: “Ya-siin Bey! Ya-siin Bey! Ya-siin Bey!”

In the weeks leading up to this special edition of monthly Hip Hop event, Nairobi Rapsody, Kenya’s social media was awash with fan excitement and apprehension. Black Dante in Nairobi? No way. Sure, event organizer Buddha Blaze had successfully brought fellow Blackstar member Talib Kweli before but mention of a missed flight at a press conference held a day before the gig had caused a lot of hand wringing. Buddha Blaze had to post a picture of Yasiin with a Maasai shuka draped across his shoulders hours to the show to still the chatter.

Several local hip hop artists had been selected to curtain raise the event. First act, femcee Wangechi made way for rapper, Xtatic who tagged in Bamboo then Rabbit. They each had 15-minute sets. By 1am, the crowd had gotten pumped up, nodding and singing along to their familiar jams. Those on the front row had been tracking Yasiin’s movements through a glass window into the backstage. Cheers rose to ear-splitting roars when he finally leapt on stage with Ruby, his trusty red vintage carbon microphone. With younger brother and tour DJ Abdul on the decks, he began…to dance. This wasn’t the jig before the jam. He wasn’t even grooving to tracks from his vast catalogue. It was the beginning of the Yasiin Bey experience.

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