Its almost a year since I published 2015’s ultimate Kenyan Hip Hop acts. Though widely read, a number had issues with my compilation or my method of arriving at it, which is fair, I mean, that is indicative of a fact: most rappers have hardcore fans. I am aware that as a “biggest fan” of a musician, you will believe, rightfully or otherwise, that your favorite act is the best and sometimes emotions gets high. However, as I release my 2016 ranking, I will not defend my previous list but I will overly stress on the factors I use when arriving at my list:
- Does one have a “more than decent” lyrical skill-set , reinforced by determination and strong work ethics? Do you know your strengths and working on weaknesses?
- Has one released and properly distributed projects, be it albums, EPs or mix-tapes? We know Immortal Technique is one of the biggest underground artists but he wont be known as such, were he to be only sharing his ‘gems’ with with his crew in their hood.
- Does he/she create content that many can relate to? Its not just about flow, its more about those lines that we will remember and be inspired of in more than 20 years. Can you create or promote a positive culture? Is the artist also articulate in talking about current issues that affect the to-be fans?
- Does the artist command some Street Cred? Does he/she represent a group of people, those who will feel like you value them?
- Does one brand himself/herself well as you increase public awareness of their music? Maybe there’s nothing like a commercial artist, just those who know that they are branded walking billboards
We need to build a good industry and so we must set the bar high. Remember, Usain Bolt may not be the fastest runner but he is the fastest of those who are ambitious enough to venture out.
Also we have artists must to be mentioned. Though they didn’t make the cut, they are surely somewhere close. They include but aren’t limited to: Kayvo Kforce, Xtatic, Cosmic Homies, Susumila, Moroko Kalahari, Bernady, Smallz Lethal, Johnny Vigeti, HustlaJay Mau Mau and the sensational Vicmas Luodollar.
So here’s the 2016 ultimate list of top Hip Hop artists, ranked in descending order:
10. Femi One
She is only the third of the 3 female Hip Hop artists in this year’s list. Her latest offering, Usiku Mchana, featuring Xtatic-who, by the way veered off the list-brought out the best in her. Still, she has benefited from many cosigns, being that she is signed to Kaka Empire. She has much potential and has proved to be a learner and is now easily articulate as opposed to just rhyming alliterations.
Hit after hit, that’s the phenomenon Rajville has become. Better still, is the production quality of his works: awesome beats and good mixing/mastering! This may be mostly attributed to the fact that he’s doing it in-house, via his label Music Bank. Also, he represent his dialect properly with his ability to mix a little Kisii flow in his songs. That has given him a fan-base boost, since a community somewhere feels represented in “Nairobi”.
Though she gets much props, she is equally talented. Emerging from King Kaka’s Ligii Soo remix, she’s since then been on a roller-coaster ride-at least musically, considering she was involved in a serious accident that slowed her rise. He self-titled “Wangechi” album was good and she did okay in those Wangechi Sessions episodes.
OK, he is that guy who has been around for some time now, and refuses to become irrelevant. He has albums that has earned him endorsements. Though he music has that humanitarian and/or Gospel feel, it was interesting to see him last year, dive into the question of who the Kenyan King is and consequently getting involved in some short lived beefs. Still, he is one of the most energetic performers in Kenya and gives fans a great experience.
6. Stella “STL” Mwangi
Well, STL is that femcee who’s crossed boundaries, both in space and time. With hit after another, now in Norway and next in Kenya, she also represents both the old and new schools since her influence still remains strong. She too embraces her beautifully Kikuyu heritage and that’s why her collaboration on remix to Raj’s Obe Baba was that good.
5. Kaa La Moto
Kaa La Moto (Kiumbe) has an unparalleled lyrical ability and passes as one of the best “freestyle-rs” in the current Hip Hop scene. But that’s not all, his insistence on Hip Hop being a culture plus, him fully representing it, is one thing that should be inspirational to the new crop of artists who think that it’s all about a catchy hook and flashy videos. He is that one musician that your dad would urge you to hang around, kind of. Jokes aside, he easily picks the baton from Uko Flani.
Well, it would be improper to call him the Kenyan Hov, but in a way, the respect that comes with a mention of that name is immense. Rappers like Khaligraph have, in the past, benefited handsomely from that golden chance, associating with the Kubaff brand. He has not been giving out much content lately, but his collaboration with Victoria Kimani, who’s continental now, reinforces his position.
3. King Kaka
Mhh, King Kaka a.k.a Rabbit Kaka Sungura has done a good job building his Kaka empire brand and that has given him the much needed credibility- and even eneough justification to make a claim to the throne. His has albums that have been received well and recently released a new mix-tape. Him being adept in poetry goes without saying. He can go hard hard too, as in, in a diss. His corporate outlook is enviable and has been able to skillfully cross into other “local pop” genres.
2. Khaligraph Jones
Papa Jones is that guy you don’t mess with, lyrically. Its like he’s always ready for someone to challenge him and all he needs is a mic and “itakuwa ni Mazishi”. He promised an EP which is due mid 2016 and we are waiting to see, how much he can put that lyrical ferocity into a real project that can sell well. He has done international collabos with Skales and Cynthia Morgan.
Octopizzo is witty and has been able to master everything from controversy, PR stunts and social motivational content and blended it well with his emcee good skills and work commitment, in the process, building a big, countrywide audience that loves everything Octopizzo. His is a case of one who knows his strengths and cleverly finds himself dominating conversations-something so necessary is showbiz. And Octopizzo gets the concept of branding so well that he is quite unique, from dressing to well choreographed performances. He seems not in a rush to produce many songs and but rather works on promoting what he has released. Just before I published this, he released “Butere” video a song that illustrates my point on the Kibera-born kid who, before that, thanks to his associations with humanitarian projects, did another collaborative “Sema” with Maro, BobiWine and others. His albums did well, including the recent LDPC album and Chocolate City debut involving Germany-based OUT HERE Records
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