Top 10 Hip Hop Artists in Kenya Based on 2016 Alone.

  1. Back when Hip Hop was a concept many didn’t understand, we had the likes of Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, Kalamashaka, K South and more express themselves through Hip Hop in the language they were most comfortable with, Sheng. They were the pioneers of Hip Hop, over time being an inspiration to the young artists on the come up. Many people who haven’t crossed over to the new generation of Hip Hop artists still insist that that was the “realest” form of Kenyan Hip Hop ever.

Years later, many artists have come up from all walks of life, with different stories and influences, their main agenda being to tell their stories through Hip Hop. Some of the new school artists use English in their language or it’s a blend between English, Swahili and sometimes the mother tongue is kicked in there, just in case you don’t think it’s African…or Kenyan.

Here’s a compilation of 10 of the hottest Hip Hop artists based on their work in 2016. There are some “new names” in here you definitely need to pay attention to, if you haven’t been doing that already.

  1. King Kaka

Kennedy Ombima who later progressed to Rabbit Kaka Sungura and now King Kaka did great last year. He dropped his mixtape, It’s The King, a statement declaring his stake in the Hip Hop kingdom. Word is, he went out of his way to market the tape so much that he did Kshs. 600K in 24 hours! He has a record label, Kaka Empire, backed up by his own clothing line, Kaka Clothing.

King Kaka was also part of the Blaze mentors as they toured major cities in the country mentoring youth. He’s currently part of the Blaze TV judges.

  1. Khaligraph Jones

Khaligraph has got to be one of the most consistent and hard working Hip Hop artists in the 254. He had a great year, got featured on M.I’s mixtape which made him popular with the fans. He mentioned Sarkodie on “The Khaligraph Jones” cypher saying people shouldn’t compare him to Sarkodie because he’s a minor to which Sarkodie responded. He also had several shows all over the country, was part of the artists who were motivating youth through Blaze, got featured on the Google ad and had not one but 2 brand endorsements with Tusker Lite and Tusker Lager. Looks like the OG is looking to release his album this year at his own concert, a trend that is slowly becoming the norm.

His freestyle, The Rise To Stardom (The Kristoff MWB Story), released this week on Monday has been the topic of conversation among Hip Hop circles.

  1. Octopizzo

When Octopizzo jumped on the remix of Bank Otuch with Luodollar, he gave Kenyans something to dance and chant to for the rest of 2016. It was probably through this co-sign that Vicmass’ career popped and he got more recognition. The Who Is King? fiasco was at the end of 2015 in December through to 2016 January and when he declined to perform at the concert, he released “Prezidential” which had a really nice video. When Khaligraph took subliminal shots at him on “The Khaligraph Presents” cypher, Octopizzo responded by dropping Utanisho which caused a fracas online and everybody was talking about it in the media. In December, he released “Refugeenius”, an album that featured some of the refugees in Kakuma. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but what’s for sure is that his videos are really impressive.

  1. Kayvo KForce.

When the Who Is King? beef was happening, Kayvo KForce, though unmentioned, came through and dropped a monster tune, Kill A King (KAK), where he called every rapper out by name. Many viewed it as one of the best responses that year. He kept dropping music throughout the year and even released his mixtape, Number Nane 808s, at an in-house club performance backed up by young talents in the game. It was in 206 that he released “Wataitana”, a Kapuka track that didn’t really sit well withwith Octopizzo who called him “desperate” to go commercial to which KForce responded with he really doesn’t care what Octo says, “Who died and made this n*gga King?”

He closed out 2016 with “Sipendi Madrama” a collabo between himself and Voste Wade. He might be deemed underrated but it looks like he has decided that 2017 is the year he breaks out for real. Two months into the new year and he’s already dropped 2 videos, I Do It (with DJ KillBill) and Sauce (with Reign and Keb). Once you check out the videos you can see the progression in video quality.

  1. MDQ

MDQ is one artist who is definitely not low budget. From her music videos, the type of car she drives and her entire demeanor, Muthoni oozes class and sophistication. Arguably one of the best Kenyan performers, when it comes to breaking bank for her (music) career, Muthoni The Drummer Queen will hold NOTHING back. Yes, that’s her, the CEO and founder of Blankets and Wine that was responsible for giving us Aloe Blacc, Estelle and Kool&TheGang in one year.

It was in 2016 that she was willing to fund her own tour, Me2MDQTour, in campuses across Kenya, a tour that unfortunately took a step back but it is also in 2016 that she bounced back with “Feelin It” joining her friends Mayonde and Blinky Bill. Slowly she schemed and released another fan favorite “Kama Kawaida” with Fena, Mayonde and Kagwe Mungai. Then she quietly drops “MINE” and the country goes crazy. Who’s winning?

  1. Lon Jon

Khaligraph Jones once declared on his Instagram that Lon Jon or LJ was one of his favorite rappers though underrated. Almost every Khaligraph fan wanted to know who this Lon Jon was. They found that he had a catalogue of great music and good visuals to match including international collabos with 2 of South Africa’s best; HHP and Tumi. In 2016 Lon Jon featured on ZJ Heno’s hit “Iz You Down” with Khaligraph Jones and Kayvo KForce. This was a collaboration plenty fans had been asking for and it only took one man, ZJ Heno, to make it happen albeit by chance.

Born Jon Friendrich, Lon Jon recently relocated to South Africa to be with family where he grew up and he’s been working. He got back into the booth with HHP and released “Ngotha” which was not only a big record in Kenya but in South Africa as well. Lon Jon says he’s working on his project dubbed “After School”. He’s had a few performances and looks like he’s rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kwesta and Cassper Nyovest.

  1. Raj

Raj’s claim to fame has got to be Ndizi Flow. This is the track that had people asking who this new kid was. What was even more intriguing was the fact that they were repping Kisii, mixing the rhymes up with the local language. The Economics degree holder showed last year that he has all it takes to appear on a list such as this. He dropped hit after hit with even better visuals. Later on in 2016 Raj decided to release a song a week with the tag #BAETuesday for a total of 18 weeks to build up to his EP launch in December. The show, BAE concert set to go down at Uhuru Gardens but unfortunately it was shut down by cops. He still went ahead to release Bae (Beautiful and Exquisite) EP anyway and recently just dropped the first video off it titled “Dancee”.

  1. Oksyde

Musambati AKA Chief Rocker put out his EP, Niko True, then embarked on a hood to hood tour to publicize it. While making rounds with his tape, he managed to sell about 700 copies, backed up by his team which is no mean fete for an artist in his callibre. He also put out a couple of videos, one with Chiwawa called Makilo, which is all about being fresh and flossing, War Ready with Junior Rebel and All Eyes on Me (All White) all in 2016. He’s been around for a while, though, so there’s plenty of content for the rapper repping Kangemi.

  1. Odinareh Bingwa

OD is a rapper from Diani who has managed to have his music spin across stations probably more than any other present day musician from the coastal region. He started off the year with, Pressure, a tune he claims is his most successful one yet. The trap tune featured on Trace TV and MTV Base way before it ever hit the local TV and radio stations. It was Pressure that got Odinareh noticed by MDQ and she says that she hopes they’re able to collaborate this year. He also recorded “Siringi”, produced by Pacho, and released a flashy “old school feel” video to back it up. He finished off 2016 by dropping Papa La Kusini, a mixtape he’d been working on throughout the year.

  1. Bilari Sir-Maluchi

Bilari’s 2016 was filled with work and some play. He proposed to his girlfriend while on a trip to Dubai but before he did that, he made sure he aligned himself with the right people. Formerly of the KForce camp and a JumpOff Freshmen alumni, in 2016 he wished in on the Who Is King? drama by releasing King Bilari. He then followed it up with Give It To Dem, Ushaskia featuring Naiboi, Wale Wazii and just a month ago, he released Songa Kando, all videos! If he keeps up with consistency and dope visuals, 2017 is looking bright for him.

Other Hip Hop artists worth mentioning are STL, who seems to be having a pretty good year already since the release of her self titled EP in October. A video surfaced up online of Teyana Taylor dancing to her song “Work” for the Reebok Commercial, “Set It Off” will be featuring on BET TV Series, Being Mary Jane and “Get Up&Go” will feature on Fox TV Series, Rosewood.

Ace Tha Don also released a tape called Bars 101, Poppa Don with an EP called Seven, Uneek with a mixtape called “Flight Delay” and Shukid with “Too Much To Offer”. Baby T also has a couple of videos out, the most popular one being “Cheza Mbali” featuring Sharama.

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.