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2018’s finest

It has been an incredible year in Kenya’s music industry, with massive album projects littering the scenes. Alfayo Onyango samples the best outta 2018

Tonight, Kenyan rapper, King Kaka, will launch Eastlando Royalty — arguably the most anticipated music album in Kenya this year. The hype towards the awaited launch was heightened by the release of what has since become a major club banger single, Dundaing, which featured rapper Kristoff and produced by Magix Enga. Kaka, who is also a Remy Martin brand ambassador, has hit full gear in challenging for the Album of the Year title.

“This album is set to revolutionise Kenyan music. From the packaging, it’s a never done fete. We secured international features from Tracy Morgan, Talib Kweli and Romain Virgo. It is rare in the Kenyan music scenes to have an international star-studded line-up feature in an album,” Kaka told Spice.

Besides the spotlight being on tonight’s launch, this year has been an active period for the Kenyan music industry. We’ve witnessed industry veterans returning in the limelight with guns blazing.

Talk of Nyashinski’s hit-after-hit run, Sauti Sol’s record-shattering views on YouTube or the introduction of new promising artistes such as Lamba Lolo hit-makers, Ethic. A lot of great moments have given the industry a breath of fresh air, a symbol of growth in itself.

Has this been able to settle the debate of Kenyan artistes’ ability to produce full-length projects that can be sustainable over a long period of time? The jury is still out there.

The projects

From ‘musicality’, creativity, replay-ability, listening pleasure, impact, visibility and artistic consistency, we sample some of the best projects that have been released by 254 artistes in 2018.

In January, quick-rapping artiste, Boutross, from rap group AD Family, released the tape, Billy
Jean
. The lead single of the same title was produced by underground producer Le Mario. This project had hip-hop fans head’s ringing, as Boutross managed to compile 10 songs that cut across his love life and personal life experiences growing up in the city, as he strived to make a name for himself outside of AD Family.

Billy Jean was a showcase of styles that Boutross perfected. Without taking his foot off the gas, the release is arguably Kenya’s best trap project this year. It garnered 1,000 plays on iTunes in a week. That was tremendous,” says AD Family president, Musau Mumo.

Around the same time, Kenyan-American entertainer Barak Jacuzzi released Juice
Bar
2
. Production-wise, Jacuzzi always knows how to conjure up something special for his fans with his feel-good style and persona. The project was laced with club bangers and futuristic flows. Certainly, it has to be one of those projects you can listen to when looking to listen to good music and not dig too deep with the message.

Then entered Muthoni Drummer Queen (MDQ) with She in March. Nearly all the songs had highly conceptual music videos shot both abroad and locally.

Thus far, no one can really touch MDQ’s creative ability levels, as she is the only artiste in Kenya with a fully immersive Virtual Reality video. Through the She project, we were introduced to Kenyan message remix that featured rappers such as Shukid, Steph Kapela and Tunji, all who have been equally outstanding all year.

In April, rapper Octopizzo hit us with his fourth studio album, Next Year. The 17-track project has songs such as Pablo, Nu Afrika and Noma Ni and featured a number of artistes including Camp Mulla’s Taio Tripper and Canadian songbird, Nitasha Randhawa. At the time, Namba
Nane
rapper described the album as “one of the best pieces of words that I’ve ever put together.”

Blinking calligraphy

But we are yet to get the winner between Blinky Bill’s Everybody’s Just Winging It and Other Fly Tales and Khaligraph Jones’ Testimony 1990albums. These mega projects definitely make it on the list of best albums in Kenya this year. Both projects had ingenious story-telling techniques, coupled with compelling narratives relevant to Kenyan culture.

Sassy singer, Mumbi Kay, EP project called For The Culture was another huge release in 2018. With songs such as Soweto, Mumbi came out strong on this project, lacing it with Afro R&B influences. She hits the right notes at the right time and her diction could see her stand the test of time.

Eric Wainaina’s 13-track project, Dreams in Stereo, is another standout album release to colour this year with some awesomeness. During the launch event on November 3, the Afro pop musician described the album as “my best studio production effort to date, and with a very personal touch.” It features songs such as Hold Me Down, Long Time Coming, Okay, Don’t Bury Me and Hallelujah People and features popular artistes including Kagwe Muigai, Blinky Bill, Kendi Nkonge and John Nzenze.

On October 19, James Jozee of the Gogosimo Band launched his solo 14-track album, Hatua. In an interview with a local daily, Jozee described the project as “all about my growth in music; from where I was to where I am now. The album is for the young and mature; grown and sexy. It symbolises love, truth, and reality.”

Vallerie Muthoni has been exceptional this year. She dropped her debut EP titled Wavy Soul, with off-the-EP songs Brown Suga and No Chances making massive rotation.

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