By Buddha Blaze
As the year 2014 gets underway music fans in Kenya are sitting on the edge wondering which artist will be the next big thing. The Camp Mulla split in 2013 left a huge gap in the industry but that didn’t mean that artists didn’t keep making great music, there’s hope. As older artists take a back seat to strategize their future in an ever changing music industry climate, younger artists are not taking any chances and it is pretty obvious that by the end of the year it will be them holding the mantle for Kenya music. There’s plenty of fresh new talent that’s hungry and coming up with exciting music every month. In no particular order whatsoever, here are ten new Kenyan artists to look out for in Kenya in 2014.
1 – Rabbit the King: Better known as Kaka Sungura; this is a very gifted Kenyan hip hop lyricist. He is not new to stardom; he hails from Kaloleni ‘Ololo’ in Eastlands Nairobi, so his vibe is very street and his lyrics resonate with the regular mwananchi. He is into story telling. He is the one who coined the phrase ‘Niko Kwa Jam Nakam’. His videos are massive online and he has been able to make rhyming in sheng’ cool again due to his laid back story telling demeanor. His hit ‘Swahili Shakespeare’ is critically acclaimed. The reason why 2014 might just be his year is because he had a great end of 2013 when he released ‘Ligi Soo’, it stayed on the Kenyan music charts for several months. It also introduced onto the Kenyan music scene a female rapper called Wangechi. Rabbit has just released a new album that features many artists including South Africa’s HHP see the video here: http://bit.ly/1edDk2
2 – Fena: Probably one of the coolest your artists on the Kenyan scene right now, she is a neo soul singer with a great vision. Kenya first heard of her started on the single ‘Fenamenal Woman’: http://bit.ly/1kgxseD. Even as a young artist Fena is a disciplined woman with lost going for her. She has recently teamed up with Electrique DJs to release ‘Brikicho’ a refreshingly playful track that takes it back to the playground days. We can’t wait to hear what she unleashes in 2014.
3 – Elani: These are apprentices of Sauti Sol. Young, focused musicians, former USIU students and middle class residents of Buru Buru they bring to the scene a fresh feeling that bands can be so cool. They have a great middle class and college following and if they nurture their talents well they will be going far this year. They released their first album end of 2013 and have a hit song called ‘Jana Usiku’ a party jam that has caught the attention of many Kenyan music lovers. Here’s Jana Usiku: http://bit.ly/1gGpv0E
4 – Sarabi: This is an eight member – all boy band from Mathare, Eastlands Nairobi, that’s taking Kenya by storm.They have powerful captivating voices and their songwriting skills have earned them fans from all musical quarters. They are known for amazing stage shows and are being touted as a band that will cultivate a long career in the Kenyan music industry. Their music speaks volumes, they sing a lot about social and community issues that every Kenyan can relate to they are definitely just beginning to put their ignitions on. Sarabi members can each play a variety of musical instruments well including the base guitar, drums, electric guitar, they can sing in different Kenyan languages; Luo, Kiswahili, kikuyu and more. Inspired by books, life and other musicians, they have been touted the next big force in Kenyan music and their mission is to spread Kenyan culture. Here’s Sarabi with ‘Sheria’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QGx_6lMjGI
5 – Xtatic: This that shy girl that may just take Kenyan hip hop international. A few years ago she would be seen doing WAPI cyphers with other male rappers and was being nurtured into the industry. She was later released a track called ‘The Prep’ http://bit.ly/1fGITf0. This track caught the eye of SONY Records executives and she got signed to their African outfit Rock4000 in South Africa. She has been busy recording with top African acts such as AKA, Priddy Ugly and a few others. Kenya is waiting to hear how the album sounds like and what it shall give. Big things are in store for her, this may just be here year to stardom.
6 – Victoria Kimani: This is one Kenyan artist that is bound to do great things globally. It may seem like she is simmering under in Kenya but continentally she is earning major respect for her ability to make music that transcends borders. Her 2013 hit ‘Mtoto’ hit the airwaves across Africa earning her great respect and everyone has been waiting for any material that she releases. A former back-up singer for Mercy Myra, Victoria Kimani has a bigger than life persona even now that she is signed to one of Africa’s biggest record label – Chocolate City in Nigeria, sharing labels with the likes of BET Award class of artists such as Ice Prince and MI. Here’s ‘Mtoto’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVkP8lG-4dI
7- Khaligraph: This is Kenya’s monster MC who can pretty much eat up any opponent in sight. He is a battle MC started taking MCs down since the days of WAPI at British Council. He won the Kenyan leg of Emcee Africa; a regional rap battle but he was still in high school then so he could go to the finals in South Africa. He went back to school, graduated and is now back on the streets causing all types of havoc. He’s a mean MC, who’s known for ruffling feathers across the hip hop scene. He recently released a song that was meant to take a jab at the flamboyant self-made Kibera rapper Octopizzo here: http://bit.ly/1llqTum. Battle MCs have never been known to be good song makers but Kenya is waiting to hear what Khali has up his sleeves. Last year he released ‘Shiro’ http://bit.ly/1c7ToJe receiving some airplay. What will it be?
8- Yvonne DarcQ: This half French, half Sudanese, Kenyan born songstress is heavily bubbling under, waiting to catch her breath in the industry. She is classy, tall and very determined to take the industry over by storm with her sultry voice and song subject. She has recorded with HeadBangers Crew of hip hop acts including Kimya, Ritchie Rich and Ukoo Flani but has always remained in the background without the much needed attention. She is now embarking on new material, here’s her latest pop single ‘Cheki Yule Dame’ http://bit.ly/1mB8EPS
9- Kagwe Mungai: Although still very fresh to the industry, Kagwe returned from the UK a few years ago and is still trying to learn his way around the music industry. A year ago he did the cover of Ice Prince’s ‘Oleku’ even impressing the originator himself. Kagwe is a witty, intelligent and charismatic artist who may just impress the Kenyan industry in 2014. He recently released ‘Bad Girls’ to launch his career in Kenya: http://bit.ly/1jA6S07 he is definitely getting there but Kenyans are waiting for what he has in stock this year. It looks promising.
10 – Crew Teflon: Straight from the green urban neighborhood of Kilimani, is a group of very talented rappers who exhibit every inch of success. In Kenya, middle class rap groups always face opposition because people think they may not be tough enough but Camp Mulla opened that gap so maybe now it’s take it or go home time. Kenya first heard of Crew Teflon when they dropped ‘Kilimani Barz’ in 2012 here: http://bit.ly/MtGWqN. They have a musical direction, a unique name, great flows similar to many groups internationally they are tasked with having to direct their message to the masses in Kenya. If not go for the international market, but will they get accepted there? With a few releases here and there last year, the industry can do with some more releases in 2014.
Buddha Blaze is a Hip-Hop and entertainment journalist, cultural historian, event organizer and entertainment stakeholder in Africa. He was the editor of East Africa’s first entertainment magazine, PHAT! Magazine which was instrumental in spearheading a cultural revolution in Kenya and the greater African region. His work as an event organizer reads from being involved in the pan-African Hip hop movement called WAPI, to the poetry movement Slam Africa. He also serves as a consultant for entertainment companies that target Africa and its diaspora. Most of his work can be seen on his blog BUDDHA BLAZE’S WORLD