Does The Language An Artist Uses Really Matter?

Last Saturday I had Kaa La Moto, a Kenyan rapper based in the coastal region on Hip Hop Culture (airs Saturdays 7-9 p.m. on Homeboyz Radio with DJ Finalkut and myself BTW). Kaa La Moto mainly uses Swahili in his raps though he says that he could easily rap in English he just chooses not to. So I asked him if he thinks “English rappers” box themselves. His answer was yes because as an artist, you’re trying to use the language that will reach as many people as you possibly can. I agree with that, to some point.

First things first, I need to say that I understand your “regular guy next door” wants to feel like they relate to what you’re talking about as an artist and it’s like you’re telling their story. That I fully get but I got a couple points I need to raise.

We’re sometimes so quick to call rappers that use English “fake” and “copy cats” and for what? Do we even try to understand why they do this? Could be a case of upbringing. We do have some Kenyan families where kids can’t really speak proper Swahili because that’s not the first language they were taught, am I right? Then there are people who have grown up in different parts of the world so we can’t really blame them for not being able to speak Swahili. Even then, why is it a big deal? Isn’t English one of our official Kenyan languages as well? Why is it that because a rapper is spitting in Kikuyu or Dholuo or Kisii we are so quick to accept them even if we don’t necessarily understand what they’re saying? If it’s about relating to what they’re saying, let’s not use the language as a factor please. Even Sarkodie, Olamide, Phyno, Ice Prince and Cassper Nyovest  to a certain extent rap in languages we don’t necessarily understand but we applaud them nonetheless.

What about target audience? Someone may be trying to reach these “uptown kids” and show them that there’s more to KE Hip Hop than just “I come from the ghetto and my English isn’t that good”… Hard to believe but believe it or not everyone faces a struggle of some sort. I know people who have so much money but they’re still battling depression and addiction. Who is going to tell their story?

Khaligraph got (and still does) so much hate for being a rapper from the hood with an “accent”. He’s comfortable with the ridicule but why are we saying that it’s okay for a rapper from Kilimani or wherever to have an “accent” even  if they haven’t been to the States or wherever? Better yet, fans of African Hip Hop… Nasty C doesn’t sound remotely S0uth African but if you have listened to his music I’m pretty sure you have been blown away by his diction and delivery and let me break it to ya, Nasty C has never grown up out of South Africa. A case of double standards? Hmmmm….

I have absolutely no problem with the language an artist uses as long as they’re comfortable with it. As a listener of the show (HHC) said, “People should use whatever language they feel comfortable with because they will never lack a fan base that relates to that.”

I agree. Let the artist present the art to us and be comfortable with expressing themselves the best way they know how as long as it’s up to par but that’s just me.

What do you think? Is the language an artist uses really that important? Drop me a comment below.

Lover of Hip Hop, content creator and presenter at Homeboyz Radio, blogger, host of Industry Nite red carpet interviews, podcaster (RK Podcast with Kevin Grands) freelance writer for KenyanVibe.