2018 will go down as the year that three of Kenyan hip-hop’s top acts, namely King Kaka, Khaligraph and Octopizzo, all released full-length albums. Whether it is due to a growing competitiveness of the genre or just a mere coincidence, we here at Aipate still got so thrilled. This occurrence presents us with an opportunity to comparatively critique the projects. So, here we go.
Eastlando Royalty [Rating: 4/10 ]
A much more hyped release, Eastlando Royalty is, however, quite uninspired. It, in a big way, reduces King Kaka to an artist just bragging about his corporate exploits while, in the process, squandering his lyrical and storytelling ability. In an attempt to feed the rap-apathetic market, the project tries to infuse popular sounds but unfortunately ends up sounding more like a crudely done mixtape, so vision-less, chaotic even. Poor creative direction, so to speak.
Awfully contemplated, high profile collaborations like those with Talib Kweli and Romain Virgo further heighten the disaster. Eastlando Royalty has exposed the Kaka Empire honcho’s lack of keen attention towards hip hop culture. “Noma” and “Soma Lebo” are proof that trap music is not his thing while others like “Mr. Nice” and Cest La Vie” were, simply, hastily done and as such the output is weak.
“Dundaing”, “Dodoma 3”, “Sinema”, “Blessings” and “Beba Ndogo” are so likable but they, mostly, acquire their flair from the featured artists.
Eastlando Royalty gets a 4/10.
Testimony 1990 [Rating: 7/10 ]
Highly anticipated, Testimony 1990 was worth the time we spent on Khaligraph Jones’ waiting bench. As a debut studio album, and against a backdrop of a poor album culture in the 254, it’s an exceptional attempt. The production is so sharp, providing the rapper with the room to impress the listener with his immaculate flow. Further, the lyricism is very decent and the story Khaligraph tells is consistent throughout the 17-track album. Standout tracks, for me, were “Don Know” (featuring South Africa’s KO), “For Life”, “Now You Know” (featuring Rostam) and “No Change” (featuring Fena Gitu). Most of the remaining songs are equally admirable. However, one record that is a miss is “Aisee”, a collaboration with Tanzanian singer Ray C. I feel it doesn’t get the best of the two talented musicians although it somehow helped generate more buzz towards the album.
Testimony 1990 gets a 7/10.
Next Year [Rating: 6/10 ]
Octopizzo’s fourth album, Next Year is nothing close to historic. Still, the record stands out, partly due to the rapper’s solid fan-base. It is a very musical album and, of the three releases, it received the best production. Three songs are strikingly good and have since been accompanied by stunning visuals; “Noma Ni”, “Nu Africa” and “Young Puffy” are so exceptional. What’s more interesting is that they feature no other acts.
“Lets Get It” with Kay Green and “Past” with Nitasha Randhawa are two of the few features that the Kibera emcee added to the album and they are also quite great pieces. Overall, this body of work is not Octopizzo’s best yet but it showcases his smart switch to that prevailing trap hip-hop sound.
Next Year gets a 6/10.
Note that, 2018 also saw Muthoni Drummer Queen release SHE.