By Max Bone
Ruyoga during a 2015 performance. Picture from Bigeyes.ug.
In his 2014 single titled Muhuliire? (Y’heard?), Ugandan hip-hop artist Ruyoga goes into depth on issues of identity and self-worth. He does so while simultaneously addressing some of the pressing topics in Uganda when the song was written in 2014.
Ruyoga opens the song by singing the words “Ugandan Ambassador, The New, Spokesman for Africa Future, International Black Figure- Seran dipped in Oil couldn’t wrap slicker.” While this phrase could be interpreted to have multiple meanings, it is evident that he is referring to either himself, or a different individual as being seen as a representative for Uganda on the international stage.
Ruyoga then continues the song by taking a dramatic turn in the topics of the lyrics by stating “Yeah, I’m saved now, Christ is my ad libber. Yet I’m still harder to serve than a bad tipper.” Here, Ruyoga begins to speak about his transformation to a Christian hip-hop artist. Yet, even after mentioning being “saved” by Christ, Ruyoga goes on to mention that he is “still harder to serve than a bad tipper.” In doing mentions both his origins and his current imperfection, the former being a central aspect of hip-hop and the latter being a cornerstone of born-again Christianity.
After mentioning the importance of his Christian faith, Ruyoga seemingly transitions to speaking of challenges he faces as a hip-hop artist. He states “My Global accent, I’m still getting locomotion. While others are causing friction or corrosion. I guess I’m rubbing off on them quicker than Cocoa lotion.” In short, Ruyoga speaks of individuals attempting to derail his success, and other challenges that comes with gaining global fandom as this emcee has done.
After repeating the chorus, which is in a mixture of English and the local language Buganda, Ruyoga directly addresses both his past and his fandom. He states, “Live in The Flesh, The Legend lives The Main Event, you can clap for me, Cause Everyone -Seems to have their own version of my Back story -It’s like they’re trying to make me larger than life- But ain’t a background that can make me larger than Christ.” In short, he is saying that despite his background he is now a servant of his faith, Christianity and that he is not a larger than life figure.
In a drastic turn from talking about his own meaning in life, Ruyoga goes on to speak about the desires that others in Uganda have. For instance, he states “everyone’s waiting to cash in on that Oil Money”, in reference to the oil exploration taking place in 2014 that citizens hoped would spur microeconomic growth in the country. Further, this can be seen as a direct criticism of the false hope some Ugandans placed in extraction of natural gasses from the country which has yet to have any economic impact on the country.
Ruyoga then goes on to mention hardships that some Ugandans face, and methodologies used to temporarily ease the suffering such as the consumption of liquor. I essence, he compares his journey to finding meaning in life through his religion to other methodologies that he believes are faulty. Uniquely, this is the last verse before the conclusion of the song.
In short, in this In his 2014 single titled Muhuliire? (Y’heard?), Ugandan hip-hop artist Ruyoga speaks about his personal identity as a Christian emcee. Additionally, he compares his method of finding meaning in life through music to other methods. In conclusion, Ruyoga eloquently speaks about his personal journey and how it is given him meaning in life in a means that is relevant to many.
Watch the music video for this song here
Read more about the discovery and extraction of oil in Uganda here
Max Bone is a student of African Studies at the George Washington University