Stella Mwangi fuses African and Western hip-hop to Represent her Experiences

Stella Nyambura Mwangi who goes by the stage name STL, is a 33 year old songwriter, rapper and singer. Stella was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but she and her family moved to Norway, when she was only five years old. Regardless of her relocation, her parents were sure to bring her up in a way that she stayed connected to her Kenyan roots. Stella’s relocation to Norway alongside her life experiences have definitely affected her musical journey. The Norwegian-Kenyan female emcee combines her Kenyan roots with her Norway roots to create beautiful pieces. She raps and sings in both English and Swahili, and this helps to cater to the needs of her geographically different audience. This fusion allows both Africans and Europeans to listen to her songs, thereby uniting them. In an interview with OkayAfrica, Stella explained how her experience with discrimination and racism inspired her music. According to her, she would write about these experiences in her diary and then convert that into “rhythm and poetry”. Not only does Stella address social issues in her music, but she does this while combining the different aspects of her African and Western roots.

STL features Kristoff and Khaligraph Jones in the remix of her song “Biashara”

In this music video, STL evidently represents Kenya, but she also includes Western elements. From the title of the song, to the languages used in the song, down to the other artists featured in this piece, the scenery and the dressing of the artists, STL represents her country Kenya, as well as the Diaspora. Biashara means business in Swahili. In the first verse, STL raps in both Sheng and English. Her ability to utilize Sheng, Swahili and English, combining and shuttling between these languages, exhibits her versatility and code-switching skills.

Apart from representing her country and the diaspora through the choice of language, STL also uses elements in the video such as her dressing, the setting of the video, the featured artists and so on, to display her diverse roots and experiences. For example, the music video of the Biashara remix was shot in Kenya. This is evident from the scenes and backgrounds. Next it can be noted that STL wears Western-based designs made from African prints. The ability to fuse Western and African aspects even in her dressing also allows her to represent Kenya and the diaspora.

In this video, STL features two other popular Kenyan rappers; Kristoff and Khaligraph Jones. Collaborations such as these aim to promote the Kenyan hip hop scene. Although the song addresses politics, the struggle for money, power and respect, the message is conveyed in such a manner that a wide audience can relate

STL is one of the artists that has been able to successfully fuse her Western and African roots, and use them to represent her country and the diaspora. This can also be seen in the music video of her song titled “Kuchizi“. STL also raps in Swahili and English in this song, but the video was shot in Norway, the video vixens are Norwegians and she dresses in a Western manner. STL’s ability to shuttle between the European and African music industries while addressing social issues and her experiences as a migrant and an artist in the diaspora, is one of the reasons she is successful in her field.

In conclusion, STL proudly embodies her Kenyan roots, heritage and culture, as well as her identity as an African female emcee of the diaspora. She does this in her music videos through her choice of language, dressing, the message conveyed, and even the artists she collaborates with. You can find out more about Stella Mwangi through Instagram, Twitter and Youtube.

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