Hip hop in Kenya, as around the globe, provides an ideal platform for artists to share their perspectives surrounding issues of social and political importance to both themselves and the larger communities they represent. Through their verses, rappers and MCs have the ability to traverse across barriers to challenge those in power and unify their communities.
In the track “One Day,” Kenyan hip hop artist Julius Owino, or Juliani, does just this, using his music to address the issues affecting Kenyans today and suggest the potential for a better future for the country’s people. The song, which was the first single off of his third album Exponential Potential, touches on the frustrations of a people that, according to data from the World Bank, continue to face devastating levels of poverty in spite of the progress that has been made in the past decade, with a total of 36% of the population still living below the poverty line. Furthermore, as stated by Oxfam International, “Less than 0.1% of the population (8,300 people) own more wealth than the bottom 99.9% (more than 44 million people).” The context of this pervasive economic inequality lends particular power to the song’s line: “Nawakilisha agony ya the 90%,” or in English I represent the agony of the 90%.
With the exposure that accompanies his musical platform, Juliani has sought to advance causes related to these contemporary issues. For instance, in 2015 he released the track “Wezesha Dada, Inua Jamii,” with the goal of promoting gender equality “by spotlighting inspiring initiatives making a difference to women and girls across Kenyan communities.” And that same year he spoke about the positive role of music during the United Nations’ Nairobi Peace Talks. These initiatives demonstrate the strength of Juliani’s belief in—as he raps in “One Day”—the possibility of “victory through misery” for his people.