From Hip Hop to Gospel Rap: The Evolution of Ruyonga’s Rap Style While Still Maintaining His Dual Identity

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Edwin Ruyonga, known previously as Krukid, is one of the most famous and talented hip hop artists in the African diaspora, whose style has experienced many shifts from the inception of his hip hop career in the United States to his 2 year break from the industry to his return in full force with gospel rap.

Ruyonga is a Ugandan artist based in Champaign, Illinois. He had a number of sources of hip hop inspiration growing up, like the Bataka Squad. Throughout the 1990s, he was exposed to Ugandan TV stations that played hip hop music and videos. In elementary school, he began to write small rhymes and absorb himself into hip hop culture at an early age.

Ruyonga grew up in a rather privileged family, as his father was a member of the Bunyooro royalty. His mother, therefore, could afford to send him to study in the United States, after which he pursued his musical career. While in the US, he released his Raisin in the Sun and after, obtained a deal with Rawkus Records, despite only having been in the US for about five years at that point.

At the beginning of his rap career, although Ruyonga did release songs like Raisin in the Sun that portrayed his experiences battling his dual identity as an African and as an American, he also released other songs that emulated typical American hip hop songs, like Tutuuse, that talked about women, sex, and living life, but also tried to reconcile his more conservative African and religious side with this newfound culture.  These songs, although different from his later style, helped him develop the charisma and talent that propelled his career.

While many of Ruyonga’s initial songs adopted a typically American style of hip hop talking about the typical superficial topics of most hip hop songs, after some time, Ruyonga began to incorporate social messages in his songs and heavily incorporate indigenous languages. This, you could say, was Ruyonga’s step up to Super MC: utilizing both English and Ugandan languages to relay complex and powerful messages in his raps, and effectively bridging his worlds as African and American. Ruyonga also treaded his dual identity as an African and an American by code switching throughout his songs. In Muhulire, not only does Ruyonga use multiple languages, but he also code switches between a more American accent and a typical Ugandan accent.

In late 2015, Ruyonga took a two week break from his career, during which he developed a deep sense of religiosity and spirituality, finding himself as a Born Again Christian. During this time, he spent time exploring his relationship with God and the Christian religion both in the United States and in Uganda. Because both the US and Uganda have strong Born Again Christian communities, Ruyonga was able to tap into both environments to find his way into gospel rap. He began writing again, and incorporating messages of salvation, truth, and light into his music. Hand of God, for example, talks about his journey out of the darker side of hip hop and his own life and into his religion.

“I went for gospel rap because I am a born-again Christian and my music is an extension of who I am,” said Ruyonga in an interview, “The message is that we have reached a time when one can worship God anytime, anywhere as long as your heart, mind and spirit has set itself to focus on Him.”

Ruyonga’s dual identity as an African and as an American has helped him evolve his style and rap priorities, introducing his fans to a variety of songs from gospel to socialy conscious music to standard rap. More than anything, Ruyonga has effectively used his transnational experiences to become one of the most versatile African rappers to date.

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