Ruyoga Delves into Identity and Self Worth

By Max Bone

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Ruyoga during a 2015 performance. Picture from Bigeyes.ug.

In his 2014 single titled Muhuliire? (Y’heard?), Ugandan hip-hop artist Ruyoga goes into depth on issues of identity and self-worth. He does so while simultaneously addressing some of the pressing topics in Uganda when the song was written in 2014.

Ruyoga opens the song by singing the words “Ugandan Ambassador, The New, Spokesman for Africa Future, International Black Figure- Seran dipped in Oil couldn’t wrap slicker.” While this phrase could be interpreted to have multiple meanings, it is evident that he is referring to either himself, or a different individual as being seen as a representative for Uganda on the international stage.

Ruyoga then continues the song by taking a dramatic turn in the topics of the lyrics by stating “Yeah, I’m saved now, Christ is my ad libber. Yet I’m still harder to serve than a bad tipper.” Here, Ruyoga begins to speak about his transformation to a Christian hip-hop artist. Yet, even after mentioning being “saved” by Christ, Ruyoga goes on to mention that he is “still harder to serve than a bad tipper.” In doing mentions both his origins and his current imperfection, the former being a central aspect of hip-hop and the latter being a cornerstone of born-again Christianity.

After mentioning the importance of his Christian faith, Ruyoga seemingly transitions to speaking of challenges he faces as a hip-hop artist. He states “My Global accent, I’m still getting locomotion. While others are causing friction or corrosion. I guess I’m rubbing off on them quicker than Cocoa lotion.” In short, Ruyoga speaks of individuals attempting to derail his success, and other challenges that comes with gaining global fandom as this emcee has done.

After repeating the chorus, which is in a mixture of English and the local language Buganda, Ruyoga directly addresses both his past and his fandom. He states, “Live in The Flesh, The Legend lives The Main Event, you can clap for me, Cause Everyone -Seems to have their own version of my Back story -It’s like they’re trying to make me larger than life- But ain’t a background that can make me larger than Christ.” In short, he is saying that despite his background he is now a servant of his faith, Christianity and that he is not a larger than life figure.

In a drastic turn from talking about his own meaning in life, Ruyoga goes on to speak about the desires that others in Uganda have. For instance, he states “everyone’s waiting to cash in on that Oil Money”, in reference to the oil exploration taking place in 2014 that citizens hoped would spur microeconomic growth in the country. Further, this can be seen as a direct criticism of the false hope some Ugandans placed in extraction of natural gasses from the country which  has yet to have any economic impact on the country.  

Ruyoga then goes on to mention hardships that some Ugandans face, and methodologies used to temporarily ease the suffering such as the consumption of liquor.  I essence, he compares his journey to finding meaning in life through his religion to other methodologies that he believes are faulty. Uniquely, this is the last verse before the conclusion of the song.

In short, in this In his 2014 single titled Muhuliire? (Y’heard?), Ugandan hip-hop artist Ruyoga speaks about his personal identity as a Christian emcee. Additionally, he compares his method of finding meaning in life through music to other methods. In conclusion, Ruyoga eloquently speaks about his personal journey and how it is given him meaning in life in a means that is relevant to many.

Watch the music video for this song here

Read more about the discovery and extraction of oil in Uganda here  

Max Bone is a student of African Studies at the George Washington University

HHAP Episode 23: Uganda’s Ruyonga on African/African American Relations, Black Panther, Politics, and Christianity

This interview with Ugandan artist Ruyonga, formerly known as Krukid, is an in-depth discussion on the artist’s perspective on the Black experience, relations between African Americans and Africans in America, his issues with the Black Panther film, being a Christian MC, and his perspective on laws and politics in Uganda.

Ruyonga studied in the U.S. in the early 2000s. He began rapping in Uganda before coming to the States, and he established an underground career in the U.S. and became known for his distinct sound and strong lyrical ability. After almost a decade in the US, Ruyonga returned to Uganda. He changed his name to Ruyonga and built his career as a Christian rapper.

After a long stay Ruyonga has an interesting perspective on being an African immigrant in America, and the tensions between African and African American communities. He talks about those tensions from an African immigrant perspective, and comments on the diverse racial and ethnic dynamics he saw in different parts of the United States. The conversation turns towards pop culture and race and Ruyonga has strong feelings about the Black Panther and the representations of Africans in the film, and Hollywood’s presentation of the Black experience.

Ruyonga also opens up about his views on race, Black pride, and feminism, as well as his views on the ways different groups of people have been pitted against each other. Part of the conversation includes the artist’s views on some of Uganda’s more controversial laws regarding women and sexuality, especially the infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Still a strong lyricist, Ruyonga now uses Christianity as the vehicle with which to express his lyricism. His latest release is Voice Of My Father, and follows an impressive body of work that spans over 10 years. Ruyonga is on

BandCamp at https://ruyonga.bandcamp.com

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/ruyonga/482094271

Twitter: @ruyongamusic

Episode Breakdown
7:30 “African American, American African”
9:30 “Pearl City Anthem”
11:45 “Hand of God”
12:40 Background and move to the US
14:00 The Black Experience
15:15 African & African American relations
23:42 The Black Panther movie & Hollywood
29:33 Black pride, feminism
32:00 The return to Uganda
35:45 Language
37:18 Christianity & politics

Continue reading “HHAP Episode 23: Uganda’s Ruyonga on African/African American Relations, Black Panther, Politics, and Christianity”

Episode 23 Promo

When the East is in the House…

Always wanted to hear the classic Blahzay Blahzay song “Danger” in a hip-hop track from East Africa. This is a video of images and footage of East African hip hop artists (Tanzania, Uganda, & Kenya) with “Danger” playing in the background.

Krukid EP review : Things Change

This EP album was made during the whole inner self conflict between Krukid and Ruyonga. Upon finding his new found faith he also decided to be known as Ruyonga and only Ruyonga. In a recent interview with NTV, he acknowledged the true reason of returning back to Uganda in order to truly be himself, “how could you represent UG if your not even there”. 

All this too is the opening song with strong political content; “small child big belly but hungry…super power drug dealers sell to the junkie, the fast food junk death dealer selling us junk meat, everybody s a user.. if we can’t learn from our past theres no future”. Here he speaks out about massive corporations using us as guinea pigs in order to help fund the recession proof upper class turning everyone else into addicted consumers.

Ding Ding Ding, is a very up beat and progressive song in comparison to his past works. Rhyming with incredibly fast ad libs and punctual punch lines, Ruyonga’s word play is top notch no matter what any body says. With amazing lyrical context at speeds comparable to Busta, this song is a perfect anthem song to get hyped to before a party, a test, or just to get pumped up.

He also reaches out and collabs with manifest as well Renelle. In the dotted line ft Renelle he speaks about the devil and how he is “always in the details” and “signing the dotted line.. please sign.. so your destiny could be mine” with subliminal messages of not falling for temptation because as krukid states “theres no money transfers into the after life”. 

Krukid will always be known as what was Ruyonga, but Ruyonga has grown into a true lyricist with crazy rhymes with lyrical power and beats that will make you move. He still represents Africa and his family in walk a mile speaking about his passion and how family was his motivation and the struggle of moving to the promise land, a recollection of his life until now, he touches base with what once was and looks toward the future.

Krukid: Black Immigrant Mixtape Review

The first time I listened to this, I didn’t like it, but now I understand it more and have grown to appreciate it. Starting off, this mixtape does not mention Africa much at all, besides referencing where Krukid came from in the first track entitled “Black Immigrant”. This song basically blends together his cultures of being African and African American. He can’t turn his back on the hood because he’s part of it, he feels he has to sneak around the government, and basically mentions the reality of living in the street culture.

Continue reading “Krukid: Black Immigrant Mixtape Review”

Krukid Bio

Straight out of western Uganda, Krukid, who was born as Edwin Ruyonga, stands out as one of Uganda’s more socially conscious artists. His father, a member of Bunyooro royalty, passed away when Krukid was very young, while his mother, a well-educated woman, sent him to study at an honorable Ugandan school. Though his date of birth is publicly unidentifiable, his success shot off in the early 2000s during his late teen years. Growing up, his musical inspirations included Bataka Squad, who are among the godfathers of Ugandan hip hop, Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, The Lost Boys, and The Wu-Tang Clan. For him, the hip-hop bible at the time was a Source magazine, which he tried to rob someone of once. In Form 1, secondary school, he developed a passion for writing rhymes and created his first proper rhyme by Form 3. As someone who had an active imagination and watched a lot of TV, he was able to translate his creativity into rap lyrics. His first encounter with hip hop was through a South African cable channel that showed in Uganda. But because hip hop wasn’t all that popular in Africa at the time and wasn’t well-represented, he and his friends later went on to form their own hip hop group called the Urban Thugz Crew (which was later modified to Urban Life). Their music style was heavily influenced by American rap in the 90s and prominent mainstream artists such as Dr. Dre and Tupac. The group’s success at a countrywide music competition allowed for Krukid’s immigration to the United States a few years later in 2002.

Krukid’s career was launched when his submission of a personal music sample to Rawkus Records allowed him to secure a deal with Cash Hill Records and release his first CD, Raisin in the Sun, in 2005. He was later selected to be on the Rawkus 50, a list of underground hip hop acts—an opportunity hundreds of American artists struggle for years to finally gain. Eventually, he formed his own crew, which originally consisted of him, Anti Heroes, and John Doe, whom he met him on tour for “Raisin In The Sun” during the East Coast tour. Then, he traveled to Cincinnati, developed connections, and expanded his crew with people like J Dub, Timeless from Florida, my boy Blast the Beats from Europe, we got couple other people. There, any producers found themselves drawn to Krukid’s the originality, creativity, and substance of his style. After his immigration to the US, he continued his work in Champaign, IL (where he currently resides) by opening for many mainstream artists, including Lupe Fiasco and the Yin Yang Twins. A couple of years back, Krukid formed the group A.R.M (African Rebel Movement) with Ghanain Rapper M.anifest and American producer Budo. Despite the fame and success, Krukid remained a strong, insightful rapper, focusing on addressing topics like corruption, poverty, violence, and conflict in his songs. For instance, track #9 off his third album raps, “Little foreign aid and no government housing,” “they made me a murderer when I was young, I got blood on my hands, when they killed my father and they raped my mother, and the first life they forced me to take was my brother’s.” On his perspective about the controversy of hip hop on whether it’s something that’s either dead or alive, he argues that it is very much alive and well though still underrepresented. Having released three critically acclaimed albums “Raisin in the Sun,” “Afr-I-can” and “Black Mixtape” while still on tour with the guidance of his world-famous record label, Krukid is steadily transforming the mainstream hip-hop scene by bringing a combination of cultural influences and fresh, new beats to the fore.

Biography of Krukid

Krukid’s actual name is Edwin Ruyonga and he is from the east African country of Uganda. I have not been able to discover his birth date or current age, but I assume when he got his big break in 2000 he was in his late teens. In Uganda, there weren’t many hip hop artists, so he was influenced by the American rap of the 90s that they were able to see from a South African channel they got on t.v. This included Tupac, Notorious B.I.G, and Wu Tang Clan. With the youth being exposed, music and music videos transferred over into Uganda. More exposure to this got Krukid fully engulfed in the culture of hip hop and he learned to express his thoughts and creativity through rap.

Krukid formed a group with his friends called Urban Thugz. They went on to win a countrywide music competition  and from that success, Krukid was able to release a single in Uganda. It brought him fame, but his mother being an educated woman, wanted her son to go to school. She sent him to the United States a couple of years later in 2002, and along with his education, Krukid continued to pursue music.

Once in the U.S, Champaign, IL to be exact, he continued his work  by opening for many underground artists such as Lupe Fiasco and The Roots. He moved to Las Vegas for a bit where he won best hip hop award at the Local Music Awards two years in a row. His success caught they ears of music talents and he was signed under Cash Hill. Under them he made his first album “Raisin in the Sun” in 2005. Krukid was then selected to be put on the Rawkus 50 which is a list of underground hip hop acts and released another album under Rawkus Records in 2007 titled “Afr-I-Can”. Recently, Krukid has formed the group A.R.M ( African Rebel Movement) with Ghanain Rapper M.anifest and American producer Budo who already released and EP and LP in 2010. Krukid is an evolving rapper, focusing on integrating all parts of his music into his message. He refuses to believe that hip hop is dead or will ever die because it is such a stong and powerful artform. KRukid knows you have to stay on top of the game in order to stay in the game. He strives to stay fresh and strong in who he is as an African, African-American, and hip hop artist.

Krukid: Afr-I-Can Album Review

Krukid really came through with this album. He put in his heart and soul into his songs and their content. I was very moved and impressed with most of the songs on this album. I could tell that his message and style had matured and that there was a general theme to the entire album. This was very different from his first album “Raisin in the Sun” where, to me, he seemed to just throw a lot of ideas together, not necessarily into a mess, but made it an outlet for his excitement from success. HE mentions Uganda and his roots more in this album, which was really interesting to hear. Starting off, his first song “African” uses some of another language. He literally just names off African countries, but as he does this he ties himself to each, saying he is each country and at the same time is African-American. I thought it was pretty powerful and really relayed his home pride. Krukid definitely enjoys rapping about women, but it’s not so much about tearing them down as it is appreciating them and his excitement of what he is able to do with them. I find it pretty entertaining to hear how much he looks forward to this. Krukid also talks about his experience in the city life. These two topics both reveal what he finds most rewarding about his immigration experience, along with his success. He works 24/7, spitting out tracks to make money and keep his dream alive, and has gotten, in return, play time. He doesn’t talk about the benefits in an immature way however, more as a matter-of-fact way and that he appreciates it.

The most powerful song on this album was “Invisible”.  Here Krukid talks about the horrors of his country and the fact that so many people turn their eyes away from the obvious events of kids becoming killing machines, and brutal genocides. As he rapped, he did so in first person, showing how much the violence affects him and his country. His message seemed angry that the goings-ons weren’t being seen or aided, and that he, hypothetically as a child soldier, was left on his own to kill his own family and be able to live a life after. This song and “City Life” were the main two that discussed social and political topics. It’s interesting because each is coming from a different part of the world; the social results of becoming an African-American hip hop artist, and the social and political aspects of warfare in his country.

Something I’ve noticed about Krukid is that he likes to build himself up, or is constantly trying to reassure the audience that he’s a rapper. This could be part of the status aspect of hip hop, but it gets a little annoying to hear that repeated. He should let his art speak for itself and let the listeners take what they can about the type of artists he is.

In the song “Real Talk”, Krukid has an interesting line that says something about even though he’s behind a steel mic, he’s still real. This song shows that he’s probably met some resistance and negative feedback from long time friends or others close to him. Sometimes, fame brings a lot of consequences, one of which can be to lose who you really are, but with Krukid recognizing that this could happen yet he is still staying true to himself, does show that that’s how he intends to be forever. He is not trying to sell out his style or words for another life.

Album Review – Krukid: “Black Immigrant Mixtape” (2007)

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with Krukid’s 2007 album “Black Immigrant Mixtape,” which was released around the same time as his subsequent album “Afr-I-Can.” Rather than the pure, relatable, and inspirational lyrics he’s offered in his previous albums, this one leans more to expressing sexual desire and reflecting on daily experiences and petty thoughts, and proudly proclaiming that he’s constantly been “ripping tracks because he’s goon with it” (Track #2 “Goon With It). This album resembles much of the type of hip hop heard on the radio for the past decade or so. I could even go further and label this album as a form of Negro art. The mundane beats and rhythms, the obscure tones and sounds, and the empty lyrics lead me to associate this album with aspects commonly heard and observed in US hip hop.  In contrast to Raisin in the Sun, the album prior to Afr-I-Can, this album does not intend to paint the reality of historical, cultural issues and struggles facing his country. Nor does it give the listener a sense of a black individual trying to voice his opinions on these problems. Instead, Krukid employs more profanity and sexuality in this album as he passionately raps about sex, women, and temptation.

Track 3 off his album, “Welcome to MySpace,” appears to be a promotional track intended to bolster his public image and spread word of his music (as the title might reveal). At both ends of the song, Krukid gives mention of the website link to his Myspace account and spells, with a lighthearted laugh, his name for “those who can’t spell Krukid.” Again, he raps in English all the way through with the general public as his intended audience. Similarly, in Track 13 “Money Maker,” Krukid is urging a woman to shake her butt, what he coins as her “money maker.” He raps, “Shake what mommie gave you, but first you need to do the vibrator. Shake, shake, shake, like a polaroid. Shake until it make money til it’s pouring coins.” An organ riff accompanies the African percussion in the background with a catchy hip hop beat. An elephant-like, trumpet solo in the background gives the song an exotic feeling and makes it very upbeat and catchy. This song encourages a woman to use what she was given,to “take advantage of it” because “it’s gonna advance your budget. It’d be a shame to let go of what it’s in your pants for nothing.” At the same time, this track resembles his third track as a promotional tool, for halfway through the song, he spells out a number “1800- GET SOME” and says that by dialing this number, he’ll give you directions to the place where you can see this girl “shake her stuff.”

Krukid has also sought to proudly and explicitly depict his pride in the success of his career by proudly proclaiming that he’s continuously been “ripping tracks because he’s goon with it” (Track 2 “Goon With It”) and offering to teach aspiring musicians or hip hop artists how to write good music on track 5 “How to Write 101.” As the name implies, this song was designed to be a manual on learning how to write good music.

I was completely thrown off track (so to speak) when I listened to Track 8, “C U Drink Anthem.” Here, Krukid opens with, “Yo! I’m an alcoholic. Part gentleman, part a**hole.” On women, he raps, “different day, different chick, get them loose once I get a little rum juice in them.” He cheers, “Coronas, I need to slow down. Right after we all order one more round.” The chorus repeatedly sings: “Get drunk, get wild, get f***ed up.” He also employs the word “brothers,” which may indicate he’s addressing his close companions aside from the general public at large. Similarly, Track 9 “Smash That” and the tenth called “Kramer” are songs about chicks, cash , strippers, and party nights followed by fights. In the latter track, Krukid reflects his experience at a party late at night—one that clearly illustrates the discriminative issues facing blacks. That night, he got into a fight with a white man, who “flipped them off and [dropped the n bomb.]The atmosphere started to feel a little thicker cause he wouldn’t stop screaming, “He’s a nigga! He’s a nigga!” This is perhaps the only place in his entire album where he compares his personal experiences to issues that are very much real in black culture.

The next song, “Royal Punch,” the shortest on the album, is one that explicitly raps about drinking liquor in a club and reflecting on having a sexual encounter with a woman: “when I get in a woman, I dig her out. Forget the throne, I want the crown of a royal drinker.” The final track begins with Krukid repeatedly telling his companion how “strangers sleep on him.” In terms of the music style, there is a strange, haunting contradiction when a woman is heard singing a 60s, soft rock tune in the background while Krukid raps in a quick-paced, rough tone.

On a whole, this album cannot compete with the originality, creativity, and inspiration vividly seen in Krukid’s other albums. It is merely a recreation of those mediocre US hip hop albums commonly associated with lewd sexuality and crude materialism. Krukid’s astounding ability to create meaningful, insightful lyrics that effectively elucidates issues facing Africans seems to be lost here, but nevertheless, his style remains unique and very much Kru.