This blog post is in response to Billy Casso who posted this tweet:
Quote with an African rapper better than Khaligraph Jones.
— King Casso (@BillyCasso) May 6, 2017
I’m guessing you are a fan of Khaligraph Jones because the way this tweet is set up, errr, it seems to carry with it a very heavy rhetorical undertone. Doesn’t seem like you were really looking for an answer, rather you were seeking confirmation of your notion. I could be wrong, as I often am but anyway let’s go on. As one of your followers I must say I appreciate your social media presence because it is people like you who get discussions going, these discussions provoke your followers to share ideas and opinions that would normally be kept under wraps or just mentioned in passing during alcohol and ganja infused arguments at our respective chill spots.
Before I get to the crux of this blog, I think it would be important to give a little info about myself so that this post can be taken just as an observation and not as something set in stone. My name is John Mirii Ngugi, @KingNgugi on Twitter and IG, not that I’m looking for followers but you are welcome to direct the curious ones my way to get familiar if you like. I was born and raised around the arts and still am involved in them to this day albeit currently looking for the next artistic challenge. I am a staunch fan of all African music; in fact in 2013 I made a conscious decision to listen to African music only. That has been one of the best decisions I have ever made because since then I have learnt how to listen to various languages and styles of music purely by feel, meaning I don’t have to understand what an artist is saying to understand the energy they are transmitting through their music. I have developed the ability to dissect songs beyond lyrical content and can safely say I know what makes African hits (we can discuss this some other time). It is a truly beautiful thing having a 100% African playlist; I encourage you to try it. And no, its not all Afro-beats, there are so many amazing African genres! Anyway, the rest about me and what I know or think I know, you can find out as time moves on.
I need to make a few disclaimers before continuing to reply Billy Casso. Let it be clear that I am APPRECIATING Khaligraph Jones with this post. It is not my intention to hate or underrate him neither is this a dis to him. I respect his grind very much and I think he is currently one of Kenya’s flag bearers with regard to hip hop. I have followed his progress for a few years now and at this point I would like to congratulate him on the opening of his Blu Ink Corp Recording Studio. I am eagerly waiting to hear the full projects that will be coming out of that studio. I myself have owned a Recording Studio along with my close friend Tatenda “Take Fizzo” Jenami in Zimbabwe since the early 2000’s so I am well versed with the artistic freedom that comes with having your own studio. Closely related to how I found out about Blu Ink Corp, I must give a massive shout out to Anyikoprwho made it possible for me to get a sneak peek into the studio via Instagram, follow them here. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I listen to only and all African musicians that I can access. In fact, I am proudly particularly racist in this regard. I do not pay much attention to artists that aren’t of African decent. Now, in response to Billy Casso’s tweet, I said there is a long list of African rappers better than Papa Jones. Better than in this context is a bitter witticism and I must say Billy Casso set his followers up by crafting his tweet the way he did. To be honest I do not think anyone is better than the other however some people progress with more tact and finesse than others and that is what then makes fans and critics use terms like “better than”. In addition to that, in my response, I said that Papa Jones is decent to mild. This is the most personal part of my response to King Casso’s tweet because this is purely about my own current view of his whole offering and not an attack on him as an individual. That said, this response is also intended to be some unsolicited constructive criticism and polite suggestions for Papa Jones and I hope he takes it as such. I will ask Papa Jones to excuse the way I replied to Billy Casso, that was banter and I realize how I may have sounded haterish…Twitter makes us speak from that vibrant asshole in each and every one of us. We all have one. No harm intended.
This list is by country. I did this solely for the purpose of easy digestion by the reader(s). To be very honest, I do not see why Africans even keep these damn country names and borders, especially the boarders, they were mapped out by a group of old-white-selfish-dead-men, why do they remain? Anyway, the rappers from these countries are the most progressive, visible, and successful at the moment. I say at the moment because things change rapidly in music and I hope that Khaligraph Jones will join this list and shake it up sooner rather than later. This list is not in any particular order. Below the short info I share about my personal picks, I also have special mentions from each country. I rate these special mentions in the same respect as the rapper talk about from each country.
- Ivory Coast — DIDI B from KIFF NO BEAT
First on the list is Didi B, one of the members of the 5 member super-group from the home of Didier Drogba and the Toure bros, Ivory Coast. The group is called KIFF NO BEAT. Please, please do not get me wrong, this whole group is fire, every single one of these dudes is a bonafide master of their craft. I have only picked out DiDi B for the purposes of pitting Khaligraph one-on-one with the rappers on my list. I could have picked Elow’n, Joochar, Black K or Eljay. Their appeal across the French Speaking nations of the world is growing rapidly and I have no doubt that they will be churning out hits for a long time to come. Their current hit is Pourquoi tu dab. They recently got a publishing deal with Universal Music Group after a run of about 6 years of banger after banger. Cassper Nyovest even took their Shado Chris produced instrumental for their banger Tu Es Dans Pain and made Turn Up Gang. The thing that really impresses me about these guys is their respect for, and ability to infuse the traditional music from their country with Trap and other styles of hip hop. The have collaborated with DJ Ararfat, All Black, Burna Boy, Cassper Nyovest, and many other Ivorian artists. These guys are on a serious trajectory to international status. My favorites by KNB: Tu Es Dans Pain , Ils Ont Dit ,Ça gate coeur , Ma Cote d’Ivoire , Approchez Regardez , ALADJI , Gor La Montagne , BEBE , Anita , Samusement
Special Mention: Shado Chris
2. Cameroon — JOVI
Representing Cameroon is JOVI LE MONSTRE of New Bell Music. This guy is exactly as his name says, a monster, a beast. This genius produces, writes and records his own music. I first got to know of his music when he dropped a masterpiece album called H.I.V. (Humanity is Vanishing). Jovi has gone on to produce a couple of other albums (Mboko God & 16 Wives) and EPs (Kankwe Vol 1, Kankwe Vol 2, Raps 2 Riches, Pute Madre and Bad Music). A fearless character, Jovi runs and leads his New Bell Music record label with his business partner Rachel Burks. Their artists include the Award winning Reniss, Lor, DJ Mathematic, RCHL and Tata. Jovi has publicly challenged other African rappers and producers on social media to up their game as he feels he has just only started to slew the game. My favorites by Jovi: Bush Faller , Pitie , Et P8 Koi , Ca$h , Zele , Mongshung , Ou Meme , Pantana
Special Mention: Stanley Enow
3. Ghana — Sarkodie
No actual introduction is required here. I think the whole of Africa and I’m guessing a large part of hip hop fans worldwide know this man. Sarkodie has been relentless with his output. He has treated his career with a high level of professionalism. He was one of the first, if not the first, true African from Africa to be part of a BET Cypher which he totally massacred. That was in 20 freakin 12 !! Sarkodie has shown consistency and continues to prove that he is an international brand by design. My favorites by Sarkodie: Adonai , Illuminati , New Guy , No Kissing Baby w/Patoranking, M3gye Wo Girl , Down on One Knee , Pon di ting , Gboza
4. South Africa — Cassper Nyovest
Cassper Nyovest just like Sarkodie needs no introduction. He took Africa by storm with Doc Shebeleza which was played virtually everywhere and has never looked back ever since. Under the mentor-ship of the legendary Tumiduring his early days, it seems Cassper turned out to be the student who out masters his master. Nyovest has done all the things a layman would associate with a rapper (except for selling drugs to make it…but thats neither here nor there, I really wouldn’t know, I can only hope lol). He has won dropped countless bangers, won numerous awards, dated some of the sexiest women in S.A.(Boity pls.), had a rivalry with another King of SA music, AKA. Cassper is currently enjoying the take up of his latest offering Thuto which is already threatening to outdo all his previous work. My favorites by Cassper Nyovest : Doc Shebeleza , Phumakim , Gusheshe , Tsibip, I Hope You Bought It , Tito Mboweni , Cassper on Sway in the Morning
5. Tanzania — Darassa
This guy here stepped into 2017 with an agenda and so far so good. Darassa is mushing up the game! I have only done brief research on this dude but I can tell you for a fact he has a deep understanding of what is required of him to make a lasting name for himself. I will admit, to date I have only properly listened to two of his songs, namely the international hit Muziki with Ben Pol and Harasa Roho which he dropped a week or so ago. However, like I mentioned earlier, my ear is tweaked to know African music mavericks. I strongly believe Darassa is going to make the world look towards Tanzania in the same way Diamond Platnumz has done if not to a greater extent. My Favourite by Darassa: Muziki, Hasara Roho
6. Nigeria — Falz
This bad guy had me glued to youtube laughing my ass off! He delivers a refreshing comic theme in all his music. Whenever you are feeling down, I urge you to go on youtube and be entertained by Falz. His rise in the past few years has been swift and this can only be attributed to smart strategic career moves. Falz has a couple of awards and a catalogue of timeless tunes which can easily be played alongside long time hit makers such as Phyno, Olamide and Ice Prince. My favorites by Falz: Soft Work , Bad Gang , Soldier, Bahd Baddo Baddest , Marry Me
7. Zimbabwe — Tehn Diamond
Tehn Diamond is Zimbabwe’s hardest working rapper/singer/songwriter. Just a month ago he completed the first ever HipHop tour in Zimbabwe alongside the three other multi-talented rapper/singer/songwriter and producer dudes, Simba Tagz, Thaiwanda Thai and Take Fizzo; also on the tour was KORA nominated songstress Ammara Brown. Midway through the tour he left Zimbabwe to SA to shot two videos for his latest offering which is also his debut album entitled A Few Good Poems. Tehn Diamond is in fact a close friend of mine and if there is anything I know for a fact about my boy is that nothing stops him. He is one artist Africa is going to enjoy listening to and watching perform. My favourites by Tehn Diamond include:No Stress , Give Thanks , Bho Tsano , Be Amazing , Make Me Proud , The Sweet Life , Boyz Dzangu
I could go on listing other rappers from our lovely continent who I feel are putting in and releasing amazing work but I’d like to get some feedback first. I will at some point write book about all the amazing African artistes of my lifetime because if anything I most definitely respect all of them. Not just rappers but singers, chanters, dancers, poets, writers..everyone. I am a sucker for African tings..
My message to Khaligraph Jones
Bottom line my King, you are a dope artist, very dope for that matter, however, there are just a few things I feel you may be overlooking as you share your work with the world which are things I think all the above mentioned rappers are doing. These things are some of the things I have found to be the keys to catching African ears, making them pay attention and keeping them engaged. As always you can take what I am suggesting or you can ignore it totally because well, Henry Ford said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” All this is just my opinion so again, I may be wrong, as I often am, but here are some of the key things:
- Ethnic Sounds, Voices and Tones — Never forget what our generation of Africans grew up listening to when we weren’t trying to listen to The Fugees, B.I.G, Tupac and Lost Boyz. We were forced to listen to local hits of the time. We were lowkey brainwashed or programmed to have a high affinity for African grooves and there is no amount of any other genre that can reverse that programming. Infuse those vibes, sample those sounds, interpret those messages. Afrobeats is extremely huge because it borrows from the legends the previous generations listened to, i.e. Fela Kuti, Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, Daudi Kabaka, Hugh Masekela, Les Wanyika etc. This is the exact same thing all the top hip hop acts in the States did to get where they are and they continue to do. “We take hits from the eighties nywe nywe nywe..” that was P. Diddy at some point right? Even Kungfu Kenny and Drizzy sample big time, but they mainly sample from their American golden oldies, do the same with our African golden oldies and you will see. To appeal internationally you need to sell your roots and not just by dropping some Swahili here and there in your bars.
- Regional Collaborations — I think when it comes to collaborations, go for both feature and production collaborations. Do not restrict yourself. Even just a cameo on a video (like how that sexy beast of a woman, Victoria Kimani did on her video for show). If you do not want to do the norm which is going to Nigerian producers, look to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Cameroon, CIV and Ghana. I’m not sure if you know this but Zimbabwean producers are killing the game right now on an international level. Case in point Brian Soko who won a Grammy in 2015 for the production of Beyonce’s Drunk in Love. He has also done work for Rich Gang, Wiz Khalifa, Teyana Taylor and Tinashe. There is also T-Collarwho is working with Chris Brown and Rita Ora and others Americans (like I said, not interested in Trumps people musically). Those two may be out of reach but there’s also Take Fizzo, Simba Tagz, Thaiwanda Thai, Yagi, Young Nash, Majestik, Trayn Dillinger, Mixmasters, and many more, and trust me (or not) all these dudes bring heat! In fact they are all over SA hit songs as well as mixing and mastering for Nigerians. I’m sure you know that most of the top artists regionally (save for a few) do not charge established artists (like yourself) for features or productions, work is purely collaborative on the condition that there is an agreement on song ownership and promotion i.e. solid video plan, social media push, marketing and etc. They do this because it is worth more to gain a new fan base than to charge a few dollars to make a song.
- Message — I do not have a problem with any of the songs you have released thus far however I feel (and you can definitely say fuck my feelings) that, in order to really break through and acquire a wider fan base, the themes and messages in your music should really be in touch with both past and present African trends. Remember we, Africans, are the leaders of new school music trends, whatever we find cool right now is what is cool worldwide. Africa is the Wave. Thw Sauce comes from Africa. We are writing all the Lit-richa.
- Interact more — This is self explanatory. Engage as much as possible. Building a community of fans is simply about replying comments, tweets, RTing, liking IG posts, Going live on on these platforms. The thing is everyone has a smartphone now, they will see you if they want to see you, why not beat them to it and be always interacting with them. Never forget you are a vessel. Your fans want you to entertain them but they also want you to share their stories.
In conclusion, I’d just like to shout out Khaligraph Jones and all Kenyan musicians working hard. I see you all and I APPRECIATE the joy you bring into my life and the lives of people all over the country and continent with all that dope music! Billy Casso, keep tweeting!
*originally posted on Medium