In the video for his 2016 track “Prezidential,” Kenyan hip hop artist Henry Ohanga—more commonly known in musical communities as Octopizzo—communicates his desire for artistic and cultural eminence. Rapping in Swahili, Ohanga skillfully blends themes of Kenyan culture with the broader world, showcasing his unique talents and aspirations.
Intercut between scenes of Ohanga dancing through a warehouse and exploring the city at sunset in the “Prezidential” video, is a clip of former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi passionately addressing a gathered crowd. As the second and longest-serving Kenyan president, leading the nation from 1978 to 2002, Moi represents a national symbol of longevity and distinction, themes that Ohanga engages with throughout his music. In “Prezidential,” he seems to relate these qualities to his own work, suggesting that one day his influence might equal that of the esteemed leader. Ohanga’s catalog of references doesn’t end there, as in the same track he mentions such diverse and famed icons as Picasso, Beyonce, and George Bush, whose broad influences run the gamut from artistic to political.
There’s more to Ohanga than just a desire for musical greatness, however, as is clearly evidenced through the Octopizzo Foundation, a self-started non-profit that began in 2015 with a professed goal of aiding Kenyan youth “by assisting them to actualize their leadership qualities and utilize their knowledge for advancing their lives through their talents.” The foundation, which focuses on individual development through the arts, as well as Ohanga’s work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, speak to the breadth of the artist’s ambitions, and his commitment to using his expanding influence to advance causes of personal and international importance.
While “Prezidential” is populated with references to renowned global influencers, it begins and ends on the same note, with a shout-out to Kibera, the largest urban slum on the African continent and Ohanga’s birthplace. Even in his quest for a sweeping global legacy, Octopizzo doesn’t disregard his place of origin, but rather claims his identity with all the pride of a true cultural leader.