Justin Bradford aka Justo Mzungu is a young American digital content creator with viral videos done in Kiswahili. He’s now making headlines as a singer with a new release titled Good Time. He chats with Chebet Korir
What inspired your latest release, Good Time?
I heard a similar track by Nelly The Goon called Kirimino that incorporated a funny sound bite and I really liked it. So, when I heard the rat on d haiwei by a drunken Kenyan motorist, I knew I could do something with it. He gave good advice that we should all ‘stop wasting a good time.’
Who produced the track and where did you shoot it?
My main man, Giggz, produced the track; he is a genius. The video vixens on the other hand are from Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya. They did such a great job. This is your third track in Kiswahili.
Do you plan to go mainstream with music?
I have always had the urge and desire to make music as much as I love to make people smile. I started out doing YouTube videos, mainly comedy. I enjoyed it because it makes people smile and laugh.
However, comedy only changes how someone feels while music changes someone’s life and that is my objective. I am full time on music right now. It’s my passion and I’m not going to settle for anything else.
Who are the Kenyan musicians you would love to collaborate with?
Nyashinski is my go to guy. He is original and I respect that. He isn’t afraid to experiment, and when he does so, it always works out. I would really love to collaborate with Khaligraph Jones; he’s super talented and the best rapper in Africa. Ken Wa Maria as well… His music just carries me.
I used to listen to him in Athi River where I used to live a few years back. There is something about the songs he composes that just make you feel life is worth living.
How did you end up in Kenya?
I came to Kenya as a service missionary and I decided to stay and hang out because I loved this country so much. People think because I came as a service missionary I have to remain as such. However, it was more like an assignment. That part of my life is over. I am now focused on building my life, developing my talent, doing what I love most and eventually starting a family.
Are you planning to settle down with a Kenyan girl?
Ha-ha-ha. Wacha tuone (we will see).
How easy was it to settle in Kenya and what drove you to love the Kenyan culture and language?
As the only white guy around town, I drew some buzz, people were always talking about me. I wanted to know what they were saying about me. That is what initially drove me to learn Kiswahili.
However, when I started speaking with people in their language, it really changed me as a person. People in Kayole were so nice to me; I have so many friends there. The Kenyan culture and the people can teach a lot of lessons to the stubborn people of the West.
Who helped you learn the language and phrases?
One of my best friends, Conslate, taught me most of my Kiswahili and phrases. She would cook for me, help with money when I was down and always be there to have a laugh.
She really changed my life and I appreciate her for it. We would spend countless hours with her family at her apartment in Kayole Corner. We would watch movies, laugh, listen to music and eat chapo. These experiences and being around people who used the phrases often helped me learn.
Do you plan to fully relocate to Kenya?
I would love that. I don’t enjoy living in America; it is boring. There are too many bills and people are often rude. If I was able to have a steady income and be stable enough to raise and provide for my family, I would love to live in Kenya.
Do you get criticism for embracing a different culture?
I am sometimes criticised, but the people who criticise me are the ones that need to listen to my message the most. Cultural appropriation is a real thing and I want to talk about that. That is part of my message.
Some people say I am a cultural appropriator, and that’s fine. I totally understand where they are coming from. I purposely push the boundaries of culture because it brings people together. Some people respect that, some people don’t.
I will continue, I don’t care what they say because my intentions are pure. I’m tired of seeing people cut off people from different cultures. Eventually a change will have to be made.
Other than ugali, what other Kenyan delicacies do you fancy?
I love all types of Kenyan delicacies. To me, they are all good. Kenyan food is so rich and the ingredients play a big part in that. It is hard to find such rich taste here in America. A lot of the food here is fake and processed.
Your advice to up-and-coming content creators?
Be different, express your message and take every chance you get seriously.