Octopizzo: Changing the narrative of young refugees from the Kibera slums

This is the face of the Kenyan rapper changing the narratives about the Kenyan youths living in slums

Born in one of the largest slums of the world in Kibera, Nairobi, Henry Ohanga also known as “Octopizzo”, is set to change the narrative of residents of such areas. After completing his secondary school education, Octopizzo took computing courses, worked as an electrician and an actor, before diving into hip hop music and youth activism full-time. The 31-year old has released various singles, mixtapes and albums. Octopizzo has released 3 mixtapes namely S.O.N. (Strugglers of Nairobi), Y.G.B. (Young, Gifted and Black) and White Shadow. He has also released 3 albums including Chocolate City (which paints a narrative of his background and neighborhood), LDPC and Refugeenius. Octopizzo raps mostly in Swahili as he beliefs that most Kenyan rappers who use English, do so for commercial purposes. In an interview, he speaks against such hip hop artists.

This project by Octopizzo in collaboration with young artists drove a very important message

Using his international recognition in music, Octopizzo set to draw attention to his neighborhood. He used hip hop music as his voice to create awareness about the youth. He created a group known as Young, Black and Gifted which includes various young rappers, graffiti artists, dancers, poets and graphic artists. He also established a foundation targeted at youth empowerment and outreach. By using the revenue generated from his hip hop career, Octopizzo was able to support such non-profit organizations. As a hip hop artist and a humanitarian, Octopizzo also sought to promote the artistic talents of the youth especially young refugees, all while helping them to reach their artistic potentials. His dedication to using hip hop as an avenue for outreach is evident in his album Refugeenius.

One of the songs from the youth activism project and album Refugeenius.

The Refugeenius album featured young artists spitting lyrics that address poverty, war and social issues that young people face. This project was especially targeted to young refugees living in slums such as where Octopizzo grew up. The hip hop track above, Last Shot was a political message which was released in 2016. It featured Danton, a refugee of Congo who moved to Kakuma, Kenya.

Octopizzo has always said that his purpose is to spread positivity and create awareness about issues such as poverty in Africa. The Last Shot which is a cry for help, combines Swahili and English language to narrate a story. The lyrics in the track says that Africa is bleeding. It addresses issues including the South Sudan crisis, and other issues of violence, rape, malnutrition faced by various African countries. Apart from creating awareness about these issues, the song is a message to countries surrounding the affected countries to welcome their brothers and sisters.

Although Octopizzo has also released tracks that seem solely commercial, most of his projects are fusions of youth activism and hip hop in Kenya. More about Octopizzo and his works can be found through his social media: Instagram, Youtube, Twitter.

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