Stella Mwangi’s Koolio

Today I picked Kenyan-Norweigan rapper Stella Mwangi because I thought she ties in all of the themes we talked about in class very well. Additionally, I believe that her use of language in her song Koolio is interesting and bridges two different cultures together.

Stella Mwangi is a well-known Kenyan rapper that has even had her songs played in several films and American tv-shows. She also represented Norway at the international TV-song contest known as Eurovision in 2011. What I really thought was good was  about Stella is her use of Swahili and English in her songs, even though she’s lived in Norway.

In the very beginning of her song and music video “Koolio” listeners are introduced to Swahili “Inilekali kabisa, Twende kazi au sio”, which loosely translates “Let’s get to work, yeah?”. Then in her chorus and throughout the song, she talks about not being a ‘gangstar’, but looking like one; I thought it was interesting to see the continued mention of the word ‘gansta’ since it also ties back to this popularization of the ‘gangsta lifestyle’ that has spread all over the world. At the same time, in the video we can see that Stella’s use of the word shows her use of braggadocio as a female rapper on level with her male counterparts.

While her English throughout the song was used to probably reach the wide audience of listeners she has, the particular reference made to Rick James with the line ‘wild like Rick James’ may also indicate the particular influence American music like hip-hop and R&B has had in her musical career.

In the song “Koolio”, Stella also makes a reference to Kenyan culture and shows Kenyan pride by mentioning how she rides ‘the flyest bus’ known as ‘matatu’. In Kenya, matatu’s are buses that serve as shared taxis and are sometimes painted with colorful and vibrant portraits, slogans, or designs. I believe that her mention of matatu’s not only serves as a partial description of her life in Kenya, but attempts to give a positive perspective about life there as well.

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