Camp Mulla’s Rise and Fall

Camp Mulla has been credited with shaping the Kenyan hip hop scene, since their rise to recognition in the late 2000s.  Their self-proclaimed roots are in hip hop, but they have harnessed an audience from using “house,” “electronic,” and R&B genres of music.  They call their style of music “254Low” or “2-5-Flow,” an homage to Kenya’s calling code of +254.  Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Camp Mulla is composed of 5 members, varying from producer to song writer to performer to manager.  In 2009, “Mykie Tooni,” “Shappa Man,” and “Taio Tripper” co-founded the group.  

Michael Mutooni, also known as “Mykie Toni” or “Tuchi,” is the brains behind Camp Mulla.  He is recognized as the group’s CEO, manager, and official “hype man.”  Responsible for the social media and business side of the operation, Mutooni is not necessarily seen on stage, but it an important part of the group.  “Shappa Man,” who’s real name is Benoit Kanema, was the group’s first rapper.  Shappa Man distinguishes himself in hip hop because of his unique, raspy voice.  He also is famous for his catchy punch lines and confidence on stage.  Known by “Taio Tripper,” Matthew Wakhungu is another co-founder and rapper of Camp Mulla. “Taio,” for short, is known as the group’s main songwriter and rapper.  Later, Marcus Kibuksoya, more commonly known as his stage name “K’ Cous,” joined the group as a song writer and the head producer.  Lastly, the only female of the group and youngest member, Karun Mungai, or “Miss Karun” rounds out the group, as she is the lead vocalist and also a song writer for Camp Mulla.  All five artists of Camp Mulla bring something different, yet fundamental to the group’s success in the music realm.

In 2010, Camp Mulla released their first single as a collective group called “Party Don’t Stop” from their album Funky Town, also notably their only album as a group.  This record quickly amassed much success and was nominated for a variety of awards.  While much of the attention was positive, with that success came critique as well.  Because of their distinctive sound, which used a lot of “electronic” genre techniques, many regarded “Party Don’t Stop” as a very American hit.  The record also was only in English, something not many Kenyan artists had done before.  However, others are quick to respond that because their sound was foreign, Camp Mulla was revolutionary in shaping the hip hop scene in Kenya.

Despite their success, Camp Mula announced their split in mid 2013, citing various differences. Today, many of the artists, have solo careers, however in 2017, the group reunited for a concert in Nairobi. 

Some speculate that the group is working on a second album, but it has not been released.

Follow their social media accounts to keep updated:

Octopizzo’s Quest for Hip Hop Greatness

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.

http://octopizzo.com/

http://octopizzofoundation.org/index.html


Rapping In A Native Language

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Raj (Okemwa Rajiv) is a Kenyan Rapper that raps in his native language Kisii. The Gusii language (also known as Kisii or Ekegusii) is a Bantu language spoken in the Kisii district in western Kenya, whose headquarters is Kisii town, (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania).  His unique style of rap is a mixture of Kisii, a blend of English, and Swahili which is his Kisii flow. Historically, Kenyan hip hop was initially in Swahili and English. But Raj feels that it would be great if everyone was rapping in their own native language. Raj raps about relatable issues and want to be an inspiration to youth going through the struggles they face everyday. He said in an interview that “We need to embrace our African culture including the language.” https://www.musicinafrica.net/magazine/5-questions-kenyan-rapper-raj. In February 2015, he was signed to Kaka Empire Management which he eventually left. Now he owns a studio called Music Bank where he produces his own songs. He has been inspired by artists, including Kenya’s Nyashinski and Sauti Sol, Nigerian Wizkid and South Africa’s AKA. Continue reading “Rapping In A Native Language”

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.

Continue reading “Stella Mwangi’s Koolio”

Here’s To US

Wangechi Waweru is a Kenyan rapper, singer, and songwriter. She was born on January 19th 1994 in Nairobi, Kenya. Growing up she knew she had a love for music. Wangechi has said that her passion for music derived from listening to Nazizi who is a rapper and songstress. She listened to African music from rappers such as Kalamashaka but she also listened to American music. At just the age of 12 she came to love music by artists such as Jay-Z, Kanye West, Notorious B.I.G, Lauryn Hill, and many more. Wangechi’s taste in music was very diverse and eventually that diversity fed into her own music. When she finally found her calling for music she released her first mixtape, “Consume Chakula ya Soul”, in 2013. She came into the rap game with a unique and versatile flow. Continue reading “Here’s To US”

Deeply Indebted

The well known rapper SHAD is another Kenyan artist who has defied the odds. SHAD was born in Kenya in 1982 but was raised in London, Ontario. His parents moved their family to Canada when he was just a year old. His parents were Rwandan so he grew up knowing a lot about his culture. The stories that his parents told him about their life and hardships in Rwanda always stuck with him. In an interview SHAD said “My mother continuously instilled in me a sense that my life, my presence, and my personal integrity were all rooted in a history—a history of Rwandan people who were (and are) full of goodness, complexity, dignity and fortitude.” Continue reading “Deeply Indebted”

From Nairobi to the Concrete Jungle

Simon Kimini, also known as “Bamboo”, is a well known Kenyan rapper. His parents are of East African descent. Although he was raised in Inglewood, California he is still a rapper who represents Africa. When Bamboo was 17 years old his parents sent him to Nairobi. There, he was able to obtain a record deal with his group K- South. As his success was growing in Nairobi he created a record label called Project 254 with Attitude and Tim Waindi, who are also well known Kenyan rappers. Continue reading “From Nairobi to the Concrete Jungle”

Diaspora Rappers

Diaspora based artists like K’Naan, Blitz the Ambassador, M3nsa, Wale, and French Montana, and Tabi Bonney have been covered heavily in this blog. There are several other first and second generation African MCs around the world who have not been covered as much in this blog. As students in the Hip Hop and Social Change in Africa course this semester are discussing Diaspora based artists, here are some of the artists those students are looking at. In the coming week students will be putting up posts on these and other African MCs that are based outside of the continent. Continue reading “Diaspora Rappers”

Tonicah – “Dream Chasers”

Tonicah is an upcoming Kenyan-born hip-hop artist that has garnered recent fame with her single “Dream Chasers”. It is not unknown to anyone that the number of women in the hip hop industry, especially in Kenya, is not as high as the number of men in the industry. In hip hop videos we often see women as nothing more than props where their bodies are sexually objectified accessories. Tonicah not only sets herself apart with her casual style (as opposed to provocative clothing we see in men’s hip hop music videos), but with her socially conscious music influenced by poetry and jazz music.  Continue reading “Tonicah – “Dream Chasers””

Fena-menal

Fena Gitu is a well known controversial rapper and singer from Kenya. Growing up in musical household she grew to have a love for music. At 23 years old she has managed to make an impact on her society. She is a free spirit who clearly doesn’t care about how society says women should act.

Society says that women should dress and act a certain way. Fena Gitu has unique sense of style. You can see through they way that she dresses that she is defying gender norms. Gitu can be seen wearing vests, button ups, and a ties. Women wearing skirts and dresses is what is accepted in Kenyan society. Continue reading “Fena-menal”