One day I wrote about Kenyan Hip Hop

[I was once Oyunga Pala‘s intern…Yes…Kenya’s number one ‘tell it like it is’ social commentary writer. Too bad it didn’t last long though!I wrote this during my short stint…]

Hip Hop Halisi

Hip hop is as dynamic as the sub-genres and fusions that it has embodied and yet still as consistent as its original roots in the underground artist’s tale of struggle and strife. Hip hop is a movement, a culture, a religion by whose code its adherents live by. It thrives, adapts and goes strong based on the strength of the will of those who embrace it.

It was started back in the 70’s in the Bronx, New York City by African Americans and bears some Latin American flavor. It was the voice of the rebel-the CNN of the ghetto. It quietly slipped into Kenya at a time when Benga was all the rage. Society was swaying hips and stamping feet to the infectious guitar licks and drum beats of Fadhili Williams, Daudi Kabaka, Franco & TPOK Jazz and all the Benga Greats.

But then very swiftly the revolutionary sounds of Grand Master Flash, Run DMC, African Bambata, LL Cool J, Nas, Snoop, Tupac and Biggie became the sound that thumped through our AM frequencies, LPs and eventually cassette tapes. With the explosion of MTV onto the ‘Greatwall’ tv screens across the nation, the genre was brought further to the fore.

In the 90s Florida 2000(F2) club became the cradle of Kenyan Hip Hop pioneers. It gave them what they craved most; a DJ spinning, scratching that Hip Hop beat and better still an audience to lay their ‘lyrical thesis’ to. The time had come to break the barrier and question perceptions by rapping the Kenyan experience in English, Swahili, Sheng and various local dialects. Soon it gained impetus and the video for’ Tafsiri Hii’ was playing on Jam-a-Delic and Mizizi right after ‘Gangster’s Paradise.’ Record labels began churning out albums as promoters scrambled to book hip hop acts at Carnivore.

The golden era of Kenyan Hip Hop had begun on a glorious high, with passion and realness trumping commercial interests. Now, Kenyan hip hop has lost its luster, choked under the weight of bling bling and lost in a sea of fusion and hella confusion. But I give it up to the Kenyan MC, the one who didn’t just recite lines that rhymed at the break beat but had true lyrical content, from way back then to now.

© wanjeri gakuru

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