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Boutross Mwebia Munene is a rapper,producer and singer who resides in Nairobi, Kenya. Referring to his genre as ‘Shrap’ which stands for ‘Sheng’ a language mostly used by the urban youth, the artist hones an appealing presentation with a smooth flow of rhythm and lyricism. His solo project ‘Wrong’ is making waves in the Kenyan hip hop scene after making it to Mr. Eazi EmPawa Africa’s List.
Vallerie Muthoni raps with the conviction of legends like Foxy Brown and “Left Eye” Lisa Lopes. Delivering subversive content and controversial quips with a smile, laughs and cracks jokes in a collection of dialects, setting up stories in English before the punchlines come in Swahili, drawing listeners into her youthful world and then hitting them with a wisdom that belies her years. Collaborating on the playful energetic, track “Brown Suga”, producer Kahealbeats brings out the best in Muthoni, demonstrating his ability to enhance and evolve his artists’ vocal delivery as Muthoni finds melodic pockets in his hard-hitting beat. “Brown Suga” is the first release off of Muthoni’s upcoming EP “the Wavey Soul.”
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21-year-old Egyptian artist Pharaohgamo creates music with a maturity that even veteran artists struggle to achieve. On his debut mixtape Survivor Series, released in December 2017, the Virginia-based wordsmith pens lyrics with an engaging balance of intellectual social commentary alongside clever punch lines and humour. With imposing, gravelly vocals that have iconic potential, Pharaohgamo’s dark tone and contemporary twists on old-school flows is symbolic of the struggle of artists who must rebel against the restrictions of their culture in order to push the envelope for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
While Baraka’s energy on stage is wildly contagious, his vocal control on record is skillfully composed. He sails across heavyweight beats with a light tongue, perpetually crafting a free-flowing stream of consciousness. Touching every consonant with clear articulation in an effortless delivery akin to unique wordsmiths like Smino, Baraka carves the wave of his signature “future bounce” beats produced mostly by Bahati Bookings – a collective he founded with fellow Nairobi artists Ekumbo & Stephane. Gathering a fast-growing following with their consistently evolving content online and passionate live performances, Baraka and Bahati Bookings are being paid close attention by established acts in the Kenyan alternative scene, excitedly supporting their unstoppable rise.
Pounding palms against African drums while simultaneously performing live beatbox patterns with seasoned vocal versatility, poet & hip-hop artist Checkmate Mido splits his verses between slang Swahili-English and an intricately crafted, multi-cultural rap language all of his own. Channeling a fearless MC’s cadence akin to the legends of the London underground, Mido is a Kenyan artist who, whilst known in the old school hip-hop circles of Nairobi, has made a conscious effort to collaborate with the city’s nu wave of artists and producers such as Ukweli and Nu Fvnk of EA Wave, who worked with Mido to create the haunting blend of electronic and organic sounds and styles featured in “Maria Salaam.” Renowned for his intensely energetic shows, he released a studio EP “Box Of Beats” in 2016 that expressed the artistry beyond his stirring live performances.
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Mvroe and Joseph Kiwango are two artists whose continual musical collaborations have bred a unique fusion of trap and R&B within Nairobi’s diverse sonic culture. On ‘Love’, Kenyan Mvroe and Tanzania-born Kiwango offer a bitter-sweet blend of lyrics that combine sensual imagery with poetic romanticism over a brooding, ethereal instrumental landscape, featuring arrangements of both auto-tuned and raw vocals. The single is lifted from their forthcoming collaboration album “Let Her Come Over”, a project which is the product of a broad range of influences, reaching across English and Swahili, live and electronic instruments, African rhythms and psychedelic textures. Produced by elite Kenyan producer collective EA Wave, the track has become a late night anthem in the underground Nairobi club scene.
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Karun is a musical chameleon within contemporary African culture, bridging the alternative Kenyan scene with an approachability appreciated by her increasingly global audience. First finding fame in her teenage years, as a member of Nairobi hip-hop group Camp Mulla, after the group parted ways in 2013 she embraced her capability to write songs, play instruments and produce, and enrolled in Berklee College of Music in the US as an electronic music major. She collaborated with Kenyan producer collective EA Wave on the ‘Indigo’ EP in 2016, and on returning home she co-founded the collective Cosmic Homies, becoming a key player in the burgeoning ‘Nu-Nairobi’ scene. Occasionally using the alternative moniker ‘Runka’ (created by scrambling the letters of her birth name), she self-produces a large part of her own work but often collaborates with other innovative artists, as heard here in this track ‘Under’ with Mr.Lu.
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rkls – pronounced ‘reckless’ – is the brainchild of producer duo Kid Fonque and D-Malice, uniting their different cultural backgrounds (South Africa and the UK respectively) under a common love of rich neo-soul and hip-hop. Their debut album ‘Self Titled’ is a transcendent fusion of styles, effortlessly moving from classic soulful ballads to uptempo dancefloor-ready beats, and features a diverse variety of guest appearances such as LA’s broken beat visionary Marc De Clive-Lowe and hip-hop legends John Robinson and Kev Brown, as well as a host of dazzling new vocal and production talent from South Africa – Sio, Melo B Jones, Daev Martian and White Nite to name but a few.
Jason Kalinga’s music is a unique combination of spirituality, wisdom, and street-level realism. Though he remains on the fringes of the burgeoning Nairobi scene, his intricate lyricism makes him one of the most exciting talents in contemporary Kenyan music; his songs speak on youth, love, success and struggle in an honest, emotionally articulate style, with influences from the classic hip-hop era and contemporary RnB melodies. ‘Ego is the Enemy’ features compatriot Kahvinya, who lends her powerful vocals to the track’s outro.
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Sudanese artist AKA Keyz comes roaring into the game with his debut project, ‘The Seed’. At just 21 years old, the eight songs demonstrate a level of skilled lyricism that belies his youth, touching on a range of mature subject matter from mental health and introspection to childhood reminiscence. Lead single ‘No Options Left’ is a track that carefully balances a smooth, timeless hip-hop groove with serious comment on the socio-economic and political state of his country, all tied together around an infectious hook.
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The burgeoning Sudanese hip-hop scene is producing some of the most exciting talent right now: rappers like TooDope and MaMan’s ability to merge the influences of Western hip-hop with local cultural references is demonstrated on ‘Alright’, as Omar Majid’s bouncing production is blessed with an infectious hook and humorous lyricism.